Old Testament passage for Thursday, November 28, 2013: Daniel 5:1-31
24 Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.
25 “And this is the inscription that was written:
MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
26 This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; 27 TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; 28 PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” 29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a chain of gold around his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. Daniel 5:24-29 (NKJV)
The short book of Daniel is full of dreams, visions, and divine interventions. Of interest is the fact that it all takes place far from Jerusalem. Israel is enslaved in Babylonian captivity. But that doesn't limit God.
The miraculous power of God is not confined to "holy territory". In fact, some of the greatest displays of God's power take place in pagan lands (Egypt, the Arabian wilderness, and Babylon in the Old Testament; Ephesus, Corinth, and Philippi in the New). This is token of the heart of God. He loves the nations. He sends us to the nations.
God's power is most evident in places where God's covenant people encounter a pagan world.
We have a common idiom -- "the handwriting on the wall" -- that comes from a story in Daniel 5. The phrase "handwriting on the wall" means "imminent doom" -- "a predetermined judgment is about to fall."
Belshazzar, son of Nebuchadnezzar, was thowing a huge, drunken party. He was using golden vessels stolen from the Temple in Jerusalem in this wild orgy. Out of nowhere, a hand appears writing strange words on the wall -- MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
That will just about shut down any party. Only Daniel count interpret the meaning.
MENE: "God has numbered your days and finished it." In other words, TIME'S UP! You're done.
TEKEL: "You've been weighed on the scale, and found lacking." You flunked your test.
UPHARSIN: "Your kingdom is about to be split between your two greatest enemies."
Why did God intervene in this pagan banquet? Two answers are usually given:
1. Belshazzar defiled the holy vessels taken from Jerusalem
2. Belshazzar's pride got the best of him (like his father Nebuchadnezzar)
Both of these hold some merit, but I would suggest a third. God rules the nations. He raises up one nation and puts down another. It is amazing to me that God's hand is at work even in those nations that do not know Him.
By His common grace, God has allowed nations a space to exist. He wants all men to know Him and to go to heaven, but He also loves the world and desires that men live righteous and good lives. When any government violates His mandate for existence, He will ultimately bring down that system. He rules the nations.
Even though the nations do not know God, yet by His invisible grace He has allowed them to exist. If they in some way reflect God's law, He will allow them space to exist. If they violate His law, He will warn them. If they descend too low, He will cause that nation to pass off the pages of history.
He rules the nations.
It follows that all nations will be dealt with in similar fashion to Belshazzar and Babylon. America included. So, let me ask a few questions.
1. Is God finished with America? I trust not! But don't get over-confident. God COULD bring our nation down if we fail to "measure up" to His mandate.
2. If God is weighing our nation, what is the standard? Babylon was weighed and found lacking. Is God measuring us? If there is a test, we MUST find out what He wants, if we expect to continue.
3. Is the division of our nation an evidence of God's judgment? Babylon was divided between the Medes and the Persians. A house divided cannot stand.
Let me conclude by making a call to prayer and meditation. Think with me about the answers to these three questions. Pray for God's mighty intervention. God bless America!