The Handwriting on the Wall

When we embrace the gospel message of Jesus Christ we become saints, sanctified ones, “set apart for God’s holy use or purpose.”  How does God view that which He has sanctified, but not being used for its holy purpose?  Let’s get a snapshot look in Daniel chapter 5.

“Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.  When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, in order that the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them.  Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them.  They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone.  Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing.  Then the king’s face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together” (Dan 5:1-6).

Belshazzar, the king of Babylon, during a great feast brought out the sacred vessels stolen from the temple of God and profaned them by drinking from them and using them as items of worship to his pagan gods.  During this profanity, a man’s hand appeared and wrote an inscription on the wall.  It read, by Daniel’s interpretation, “God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.  You have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.  Your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (Dan 5:25-28).  Sure enough, before the night was out, Belshazzar was killed and his kingdom passed to Darius the Mede.

Why this punishment for Belshazzar the king?  Listen to Daniel’s summary of the king’s actions.  “Even though you knew all that happened to your father, Nebuchadnezzar [made to live like a beast of the field because of his pride], you have not humbled your heart, but have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven.  They have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see, hear or understand.  But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan 5:22-23).  Belshazzar exalted himself by using the holy things of God in idol worship.  As a result, his kingdom was taken away and he was slain; all because he chose to desecrated the holy things of God.

Viewing the Old Testament as “examples written for our instruction” (I Cor 10:11), here’s the application that I take away from this story.  Your body is a holy temple.  Do not desecrate what God calls holy, what God purchased with the “precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Pet 1:19) by worldly living.  When we live in sin, we are treating Christ’s death – Christ’s substitution in our place – as trivial.  And it is a dangerous thing to desecrate or trivialize the holy things of God.  Remember, saint, your label over and over in the New Testament is “holy one.”  Live your life worthy of your holy calling (Eph 4:1).

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