20 April 2013

Daniel 5:13-30

“And you, Belshazzar his son, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this!” (v. 22)


As the story of "the writing on the wall" comes to its climax, it is worth pausing to remember two things.

Firstly, our hero, Daniel, bears a name that in Hebrew meant "my judge is God", or possibly "judge of God". He is God's intermediary, expressing the way God wishes things to be. Secondly, the stories and visions in the Book of Daniel were almost certainly written after the Babylonian exile was over.

The tales of the first six chapters, of selfless actions in the face of execution and of powerful dreams predicting the downfall of kings, are all cleverly crafted with the benefit of hindsight. They describe times of real hardship but - through the words and actions of Daniel and his friends - also predict the kind of world the Jews believed God would achieve. For the people of Israel, following the Babylonian exile that provides the context for the Book of Daniel, it is a world that has the potential to come into being here and now.

On this occasion, Daniel displays none of the nervousness that he did when interpreting the dreams of Belshazzar's father (Daniel 4:19-27). It's as if, by being called upon to explain the signs and wonders God has sent to teach and shape the destiny of the Babylonians, Daniel himself has become more confident in the God he represents.

There's an echo here of what the Moravian Peter Böhler once said to John Wesley, "Preach faith until you have it. And then, because you have it, you will preach faith." For Daniel, a slave in exile, this has never been an easy call but here he interprets the mysterious writing on the wall fearlessly and, significantly, his fearlessness and authority are recognised and respected even by those who will suffer as the consequences of Daniel's prophecy.

To Ponder

  • Where (or in whom) do you see signs of the world God desires already present, here and now?
  • Who do you know who is respected for the way they express their faith, in words or in actions?
  • Have you experienced moments when you have been shown respect for your beliefs, even by those who do not share them? What happened?

Bible notes author

Laurence Wareing

Laurence Wareing is a Methodist local preacher and works as a freelance writer and media producer. He was editor of the Methodist publication Momentum from 2005 until 2010 and currently edits the website Singing the Faith Plus.