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The Handwriting on the Wall

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Have you ever heard it said that “the handwriting was already on the wall?”
Perhaps there is a greatly troubled juvenile young man:
Now this particular young man has not had the best upbringing.
His dad never really was in the picture very much.
He’s been in and out of trouble at school.
He’s gotten suspended 3 or 4 times for fighting.
He has major anger issues. He doesn’t do well academically. He doesn’t really participate in any athletic activities either.
So he keeps finding himself getting into constant trouble.
And now he finds himself … … in a gang.
He gets initiated into this gang by being tasked with committing various acts of shoplifting at different places like grocery stores and convenience stores, and he finds that he’s quite skilled at it.
Surprisingly, (for a while) he never gets caught.
Simultaneously, he begins experimenting with drugs and alcohol, eventually finding himself addicted to some particularly strong illegal substances.
Of course, he has to do increasingly brazen things in order to achieve his next “high” …
And eventually he starts resorting not only to shoplifting various things, but also violence as well.
It isn’t long before his delinquency spree catches up with him — He gets caught not only in the act of a violent robbery, but also possession of many of the stolen goods that he had previously taken, and the judge throws the book at him!
When did it start?
Well, it started way back when the original problems started surfacing all the way back to school …
And they progressively got worse and worse until the young man was entangled so deep in a web of delinquency that it finally caught up with him.
He played with fire, and eventually got burnt!
And many would say of him as they watched his downward spiral — “The handwriting was already on the wall!”
Another person finds that she has become increasingly distant from her husband of five years.
There was “Trouble in Paradise,” as the saying goes, and she begins to confide in a close friend from work.
A close friend who happens to be a male.
Things progress seemingly innocently at first.
He’s just “a shoulder to cry on,” so to speak — Someone to vent to.
And it proceeds that way for a matter of weeks.
All the while, this lady finds herself increasingly distant and resentful of her husband, and increasingly open to her new found confidant’s increasingly inappropriate advances.
It started as little inappropriate jokes, and then moved on to the occasional extended embrace, followed by things like, “If I were your husband, things would be different …”
Until eventually, as you might have guessed, the relationship develops into an affair, and a family is broken up, small children are heartbroken, and you know the rest of the story.
At what point was the “handwriting already on the wall?!”
Much earlier than these individuals might have expected …
And earlier than they cared to admit.
We hopefully all understand that in life there can be various WARNING SIGNS that show that, “Hey, something’s not quite right with this picture. Maybe I ought to take a step back an examine the situation and ask if what I am doing is right or not.”
We’d be prudent to HEED these warning signs …
But oftentimes people don’t — They just IGNORE them or explain them away.
This morning we want to look at the phrase “The Handwriting on the Wall.”
And I ask you as we begin this morning, are you familiar with the …

Origin of the Phrase “Handwriting on the Wall”

You may or may not realize that if comes from the Bible!
Let’s turn to the book of Daniel this morning, and we want to look at Daniel chapter 5.
As we are turning there, I want you to think about the fact that a LOT of our sayings/expressions in our vernacular actually come from the Bible!
For instance:
(I’m just going to list these for you, and if you want a fun Bible scavenger hunt-type study, then look them up and try to find what verses they are found and their Biblical meanings!)
Forbidden Fruit.
Fire and Brimstone.
Go the Extra Mile.
The Eleventh Hour.
An Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth.
Labor of Love.
Bite the Dust.
Weighed in the Balance.
By the Skin of Your Teeth.
Set Your House in Order.
Wit’s End.
A Little Bird Told Me.
A Drop in a Bucket.
Rise and Shine.
Can a Leopard Change His Spots?
Apple of My Eye.
You Reap What You Sow.
I Wash My Hands of the Matter.
The Truth Will Set You Free.
Those are 20 of them! How many did you recognize?
Another one … is “The Handwriting on the Wall!”
Let’s read in Daniel chapter 5, and let’s uncover the …

Meaning of this Text:

This is in the period of time when the Jews were in Babylonian captivity.
Daniel and his peers find themselves as eunuchs in the Babylonian King’s court.
They find themselves witnessing the happenings of Nebuchadnezzar, and his son Belshazzar, including Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams in chapters 2 and 4, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the fiery furnace in chapter 3, Daniel in the Lion’s Den in chapter 6, and Daniel’s own visions toward the end of the book.
Here in chapter 5, we’ve got the son of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, having a banquet in honor of the Babylonian false gods, and they drink blasphemously from the vessels that were stolen from the temple of God.
(Read VS. 1-4).
VS. 5-6 — This is where we get the expression “the Handwriting on the Wall!”
The king’s countenance changed!”
I imagine so!
Can you imagine over-indulging yourself at a party like this, and all of a sudden, and hand appears out of nowhere and writes you a message on the wall?!
My knees would be knocking, too!
V. 7 — This is the point in the story in which Daniel’s Joseph-like moment is coming!
VS. 8-12 — No one can figure it out, so the King’s wife remembers Daniel!
VS. 13-16 — Daniel is presented with the challenging task of solving the meaning of the handwriting on the wall!
V. 17 — I love this clue about the character of Daniel!
He wasn’t in it for the expensive gifts that the King had to offer!
No, he just wanted to proclaim the truth from Holy God!
VS. 18-21 — Daniel gives Belshazzar a history lesson!
VS. 22-24 — Daniel gets into the “why” for the handwriting on the wall!
V. 25 — Now we get into the message that was on the wall:
Mene, mene” — From the “mina,” a monetary term for “50 shekels” which comes from the verb “to number.”
Tekel” — From a “shekel,” which comes from the verb meaning “to weigh.”
Upharsin” — From the phrase “and half-shekels,” which comes from the verb “to divide.”
VS. 26-28 — Here is the more specific interpretation of the words, as you put all the words in the message together.
Mene — You’ve heard the phrase, “Your days are numbered?!” So were the days of Babylon!
Tekel — Belshazzar didn’t measure up!
Peres — You may wonder why in the first part (v. 25) we have the word Upharsin, but here, the word Peres?
I’m told that the reason is that Upharsin is the plural “divisions,” …
The U in Upharsin is the conjunction “and,” linguistically …
And the Pharsin is plural word for divisions (you can see with the letters that pharsin is a lot closer to peres without the U on the front).
Peres, then, is the singular from of the same word that means “divided.”
The bottom line being that Belshazzar’s time is up, and now his kingdom is going to be split between the Medes and the Persians!
Finally, VS. 29-31 — Belshazzar goes ahead and gives Daniel the purple robe and gold chain (even though he didn’t want it), and accepts his fate!
I have to give it to him on that part.
He doesn’t argue with Daniel or accuse him of lying.
He accepts “the Handwriting on the wall!”
THAT VERY NIGHT Belshazzar was slain, and the kingdom exchanged hands to the Medo-Persians!


Sometimes the handwriting is on the wall, brethren!
We need to pay close attention in life!
We need to heed any warning signs that do arise.
And most of all, we must realize that because of God’s eternal power and Godhead, we are all without excuse (Rom. 1:20)!
So if the handwriting is on the wall, and should any punishment come our way, we only have ourselves to blame for not following the Word and Will of the Lord!
And we too, in that scenario, would suffer a disastrous fate like Belshazzar.
But God doesn’t want that for us.
He wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth!
Won’t you do that today?
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