I sometimes feel like the handwriting is on the wall for me. In every reading of this story in the book of Daniel across my sixty years, I had never once identified with the king. Always with Daniel. But loss takes you to depths of self-analysis never before experienced.
“…the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand.” Daniel 5:5
King Belshazzar, in Daniel 5, was throwing a party. At some point, a human hand appeared and wrote on a plaster wall. This got the king’s attention, alarmingly so, and he became flustered—thrown off balance. The hand itself is what bothered him, not even the message. He couldn’t read the message. Yet.
“Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together.” Daniel 5:6
I think I know how King Belshazzar must have felt.
My color changed, my thoughts alarmed me, my limbs literally gave way, and my knees knocked together in the days, weeks, and months following Kim’s death. Her death was obviously shocking and alarming, maybe even like a hand floating in the air was for King Belshazzar.
We should always humble ourselves in times of difficulty. We should always seek to learn the lessons God may be teaching us. I identify with the king.
For Belshazzar, the hand wrote a message that had yet to be interpreted. He was fearful of the hand. His fear was warranted. Standing in God’s presence is a fear-inducing and awe-inspiring experience.
After failed interpretative attempts by enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers, finally the queen approached the king, respectfully, with some advice. She remembered the king’s father, King Nebuchadnezzar, and his chief over his magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers. His name was Daniel. Daniel, according to the queen, had an excellent spirit. He had knowledge, an understanding to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems. He could be trusted to read what the alarming hand had written on the plaster wall. No wonder I identified with Daniel to this point.
So, Daniel was summoned.
When he was brought before the king, he was offered a purple robe and gold if he could interpret the writing. He told the king to keep the gifts, but then he proceeded to deliver a confrontational, convicting message written by the hand on the wall. The king, Daniel said in Daniel 5:23, had “…lifted up [himself] against the Lord of heaven.” The interpretation ended in Daniel 5:27 with “…you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting…” Tested. Inadequate. Wanting. Turns out the message was more alarming than the floating hand itself.
“Sorrow makes deep scars; it writes its record ineffaceably on the heart which suffers.” J. R. Miller, The Ministry of Comfort
I often felt like I was being tested, weighed in the balances. I felt as if I had been found to be wanting. Not enough. Feeble. Weak. Inadequate. Unworthy to stand before God.
And I am.
I am inadequate and sinful. Needy. Wanting. But that’s the point. I need a Savior. I need grace. You and I need to be made into new creations. We are weighed and found wanting. However, in Christ, we are no more to be weighed and found wanting. Cleansed by Christ’s blood. By his sacrifice. Redeemed. Reconciled. Made acceptable by Christ himself. The old is gone. We are made new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17