The Writing on the Wall

Have you ever heard the phrase the handwriting on the wall? Ever wonder where this odd little phrase comes from and what it means? Like a lot of our nomenclature that we take for granted this phrase comes from the Bible. It comes from Daniel five and it generally means that something is about to happen that cannot be changed. When people use this phrase they say things like “man, I should have seen the handwriting on the wall”. In the modern use of the phrase there is sense of being able to see what is going to happen based on our circumstances. In our passage however the problem is not seeing the handwriting on the wall, it’s understanding what God is saying through it. Even when we see God’s handwriting on the wall it is often beyond ourselves to understand what it is God is telling us.

In Daniel 5:1-12 we are presented with King Belshazzar, now, like kings like to do he held a feast inviting and the lords of the land. They were all drinking wine when Belshazzar had the great idea to drink from the Jews sacred temple vessels that his father had captured. Everybody was drinking from them; the king, his lords, his wives, and his concubines. While they were all doing this they were worshiping their pagan gods when the saw what they perceived to be fingers write on the wall. The king went white as a ghost (because he just saw the Holy Ghost) and called for his counsel to interpret the writing but they couldn’t. But then the queen reminded him of Daniel a man of God who had been known as a great interpreter of signs and dreams.

As we see in this story it is not nearly enough to see the handwriting on the wall, we need wise people of God to walk along side of us to help us understand God’s handwriting on our hearts. It is not enough to read scripture if we don’t know how to apply it in real time and in real contexts. In the face of a culture that calls us to be self-sufficient and individualistic this scripture hits us with the cold hard fact that we need our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us in our walks. Everyday God is writing on the hearts of humanity. Some days will call us to interpret God’s handwriting for others but some days require us to have the humility to ask for help. Without each other we are left bewildered and drunk with confusion unable to understand God’s call on us and love for us.


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