The expression “the writing on the wall” is often used in everyday language. –You probably first heard it from your grandmother. It is used to refer to ominous signs that warn of imminent collapse, failure or disaster. The expression is often quoted in literature and lyrics. But did you know that this phrase is actually a Biblical reference?
This week, in the GROzone, the children will be learning about King Belshazzar from the book of Daniel, chapter 5. In this story, a mysterious inscription appeared on the wall of the royal palace. “Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the plaster of the wall of the royal palace, next to the lampstand. The king was watching the hand as it wrote.” The king was struck with fear to the point of being temporarily paralyzed. After summoning several “wise men” of the kingdom, the queen remembered Daniel. When Daniel arrived, he was promised great rewards if he could translate the terrifying message. Daniel did not accept any gifts or favors, but reminded the crown how his own father, King Nebuchadnezzar, had yielded glory and honor to the Lord, and had been blessed for a time. However, his fortune and power eventually hardened his heart and pride overcame his faith. He lost his throne, his respect, and eventually his mind; and was cast out to pasture–literally!
After pointing out King Belshazzar’s own passion for riches and disregard for the power of God, Daniel proceeded to translate the inscription. The words that were written were: “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN”, which Daniel interpreted as a warning of the king’s downfall. MENE: God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. TEKEL: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. PERES: (singular of Parsin) Your kingdom is divided, and will be given to the Medes and Persians. Of course, with such an ominous and supernatural warning, the king immediately bowed down and worshipped God, and they all lived happily ever after…
Well, not quite. If you want to know, the king decided to clothe Daniel in jewelry and costly garments and proclaimed him to be ranked 3rd in the kingdom. Yet–that very night, King Belshazzar was killed. And–guess what? Eventually the kingdom was overtaken by the Medes and the Persians.
How many times have I said, “Oh, I am so distraught right now, I’m at the end of my rope! If I just get some good news out of this situation I promise I will never worry about God’s faithfulness ever again.” Then the good news comes. Do I remember to thank God? Do I keep my promise and let Jesus cover my future anxieties? Or do I take credit for somehow coming through the thing just fine after all, and then continue with my typical, indulgent, self-guided priorities? I think you probably can guess the answer.
This week the children’s service will focus on being aware of the positive and negative examples of people around them. By paying attention to what others experience (and how they place their priorities in life based on those experiences,) we can make better choices for ourselves. I think I will pay close attention to this lesson. Maybe…just maybe…I’ll see the writing on the wall–before it’s too late.