The phrase “the handwriting is on the wall” is casually used to denote events that seem destined to occur. Yet the original use of that phrase, from the Bible, was anything but casual.
During the time of Daniel, the imminent fall of the great Babylonian empire was foretold when a floating human hand appeared at a party, writing an enigmatic message on the wall. The occasion was a celebratory banquet, and some of the circumstances and attitudes are remarkably similar to an event that just happened.
What offenses transpired at Belshazzar’s banquet so long ago that incited the Lord to utter, in effect, “that’s it, your party is over”?
While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. (Daniel 5:2-4 NIV)
Then the bizarre hand appeared, writing MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN on the wall. Daniel, the man of God, was summoned to interpret, and he fearlessly gave the king the message that his reign was about to end. Here is the reason Daniel provided for that fatal message:
You have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. (Daniel 5:23 NIV)
Belshazzar’s defiant gesture of using the sacred objects from the temple was singularly consequential. It was a deliberate expression of mocking the God of Israel, who had allowed the Jews to temporarily lose possession of their land and their holy place.
In many ways, the issues resemble today’s. God intended to fully restore Israel back to their land at the proper time, just as he intends to do today with Judea, Samaria, and the Temple Mount. Belshazzar’s decision to make the strongest symbolic gesture possible to honor other gods and mock the true God led to his rapid demise. By drinking from those goblets, the king was declaring his uttermost contempt for any notion that God could fully accomplish what He had declared, the complete and comprehensive reassignment of the Holy Land back to the Jews.
Recently, a similar mocking banquet, with similar attitudes, and similar gestures, took place. The occasion was the 80th birthday of Shimon Peres, (and, conveniently, the 10th anniversary of the Oslo fiasco). In their speeches, Peres and Sharon and other luminaries took direct aim at God’s honor, just as Belshazzar did.
Rather than praising the gods of silver, of gold, of bronze, they praised the gods of peace, of palestine, of placation. Just as in Belshazzar’s day, they scoffed at the notion that God would completely restore all of the land to the Jews, as He has declared. Instead, they reveled in the “vision” of their own creation, a vision vehemently antagonistic to God’s own vision. The smug and self-congratulatory tone of the Peres banquet is equivalent to Belshazzar’s.
God has effected the modern return of the Jewish people back to the land, a process in which both Peres and Sharon have been active and primary participants for many decades. This process of restoration is not yet complete, and some people suppose they can stop it. They have seen God’s works, and yet refuse to honor Him. In fact, they greatly dishonor Him by not giving credit where credit is due.
This God of the Bible who wrote the handwriting on the wall because of similar attitudes, who has in fact done even greater things for Israel in these days, this same God was not honored by Peres and Sharon. Instead, they filled the gold goblets with adulation of their own capitulation, and scornfully imbibed the contents.
They have taken the symbolic objects and treated them with disdain. This time, however, those objects are not implements of gold, but implements of prophecy. They are trailers and towns, scattered on the ancient hills of Abraham’s sojourns. Just as Belshazzar scorned the objects representing God’s honor, Peres scorned the settlers, those who have been the pioneers in implementing God’s efforts.
In that fateful message that was long ago etched on the wall, the final word was a clever pun, perhaps even more clever than we have ever realized before this point in time.
“This is the interpretation of the message:
‘MENE’– God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.
‘TEKEL’– you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.
‘PERES’– your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”
(Daniel 5:26-28 NASB)
“Peres” means divided, but was also a play on words to indicate the Persians would defeat them.
How ironic, and not coincidental at all, that Peres is the name of the man who has been the prime architect of the policy that has brought so much misery to Israel. Perhaps a double play on words is prophetically intended here. Peres has divided the land that God deeded to Israel.
Peres and Sharon and all who have been instrumental in agreeing to surrender the land, that very special land that God swore on oath would be Israel’s eternal possession, have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. If God Himself has placed so much emphasis, according to His prophets, on His project of giving that land back to the Jewish people, if He has staked the personal honor of His Name on the success of this endeavor, then those in power who refuse to glorify Him will be discharged and deposed just as Belshazzar was.
This defiant dedition, this shocking sedition, is a path to perdition. The handwriting is on the wall.