I suppose that I could find the same thing on the internet, but some of my old habits still linger. I used to collect, and still possess a great many different kinds of reference books. Quite often in the past when I went into a book store, whether new or used books, I would go to the reference section first. For example, I have a collection of different kinds of dictionaries – a crossword puzzle dictionary, two rhyming dictionaries, dictionaries for other languages, two thesauruses, books of anecdotes and quotes. One of my favorite reference books is called the “Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins.” In this book are listed hundreds and hundreds of common phrases and special words, followed by an explanation of their original source. Yesterday I opened it at random and my eye fell on the word “Gotham.” The name “Gotham” was originally applied to New York City by Washington Irving in 1807. The word was brought from England where it was originally applied to a village outside Nottingham, know as the “town of wise fools.” Calling New York “Gotham” is to call the inhabitants there “wise fools.” Of course, “handwriting on the wall” is also to be found in this book. The explanation is as we might expect, Mr. Morris tells us – This is an expression often heard as a portent of doom. “When the candidate saw the early returns from his normally safe wards, he knew from the handwriting on the wall that he was doomed to defeat.” This phrase was inspired by a line from the Bible – A Babylonian king was about to loose his life.

Now here is the thing that I’d like you to notice in regard to the common use of the phrase – It means that whatever that “handwriting” says is certain guaranteed. That candidate was sure to loose his re-election, and Belshazzar was doomed to die. The exit poles had demonstrated a trend which was not going to be reversed. And the hand of the Almighty God had declared His eternal, divine decree.

As I thought about this handwriting on the wall, it occurred to me that this is only a small part of a much larger handwriting – all of which is equally guaranteed. We often use the words “scripture” and “scriptures,” and most of us automatically picture the Bible. But that was not the case for the people of the Bible, because to them the word simply meant “writings.” Surprisingly, the word “scripture” is found only once in the Old Testament – right here in Daniel. The other 52 references are translations of the Greek word “graphe” – and in both languages the words simply mean “writings.” But Daniel 10:21 and all of the New Testament references clearly draw a line between common, secular writing and “the HOLY scriptures” – God’s words – God’s handwriting. The writings of men are temporary, mistake-filled and often frivolous, but the hand-writing of God is inscribed in eternal granite.

Using the illustration that we have here of a small portion of God’s holy scriptures – His writings – let’s remind ourselves of some of the other characteristics of God’s Word.

First and obviously, these words were GOD’S WORDS.
Initially everything about this revelation was of God. The people in that banquet room were not expecting any message from the Lord that day. In fact they were demanding that God send lightning down from Heaven, but they weren’t expecting any. These people denied that this God, who spoke or wrote, was anything more than the imagination of a few ranting fundamentalists. So this message on the wall wasn’t some sort of phenomenon of mass-hysteria. No one was looking for anything like this that evening.

Sinful man doesn’t have a “right” to hear the message of God. The Lord wasn’t obligated to telegraph the punch which was to knock out Belshazzar’s lights. We don’t have to know about, or to be warned about, judgment and hell. As Paul taught us in Romans 1, it is sufficient that our forefathers once knew the Lord, and rejected Him. God doesn’t owe us His revelation – and he certainly didn’t owe blasphemous Belshazzar anything at all.

When the message appeared on the wall, it was a divine – not human – message. It was prophetic, something which only God can do accurately. This wasn’t a guess about the fall of Babylon after “reading the handwriting on the wall” – this WAS the handwriting on the wall. This message was an accurate prophesy, because the object prophesied was guaranteed by the omnipotent God – Jehovah.

In this way, this handwriting on the wall accurately illustrates the entire Word of God. Again, the Lord doesn’t owe us any announcement of our upcoming death and judgment, but there it is. And certainly God isn’t obligated to love any of us, or to tell us when, or whom, He does. It is by the grace of God that we are able to hold a copy of the Word of God in our hands.

Second – notice HOW THE LORD REVEALED His revelation.
“In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.” Obviously, the omnipotent God had a million ways in which to make this revelation known. He could have sent a courier from Jerusalem into the room carrying these four words. God could have sent an epileptic fit, in the midst of which Belshazzar could have seen or heard these words. The Lord could have sent an angel, carrying a sword already dripping with blood. He could have spoken with a voice like thunder. How did Nebuchadnezzar learn that his insanity was about to begin? “While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.” The same could have occurred in the banquet room of Belshazzar. How did Saul of Tarsus learn about his salvation and commission? What happened to Jacob, when the Lord first spoke to him, that first night after leaving home? What did Moses see on the day that he was commissioned to deliver Israel from Egypt. There could have been a barrel of wine in Belshazzar’s banquet hall which burst into flames with the words of God blinking on and off in the fashion of cheap neon sign. How did Elijah hear the revelation of God in days of his post-Carmel depression? It wasn’t in the wind; it wasn’t in the storm. It was in a still small voice. The Lord has a thousand ways of expressing Himself to us.

But on this occasion, God wrote on the wall. But it wasn’t that he simply made the words appear chiseled into the plaster. If that had happened then some one might have assumed that the words had been there earlier, and the heat of party had melted the putty and plaster which was concealing them. No, in this case the Lord wanted to get everyone’s attention, and in so doing reminds us of another aspect in the production of the Word of God.

God ordained that something like the appearance of a man’s hand do the actual inscribing. And thus it is with all the divine revelation – the appearance of a man’s hand. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” “The Holy Ghost spake by the mouth of David – Samuel, Moses, Daniel and all the others. Yes, a man’s hand was sometimes used to pen down the words of God, as did Moses on the second set of the tables of the law. And yes, a man’s mouth was used to speak the Word of God on many different occasions. But those words were “God-breathed” – inspired – not in the sense of encouraged, but in a special divine sense. “Inspired of God” is the Greek word “theopneustos” (theh-op’-nyoo-stos). The prophet had nothing to do with the origin of that revelation any more than the hand which wrote on the palace wall belonged to Daniel or some other living person. But the word “inspiration” is talking about more than just the origin of the revelation. There is an inexplicable divine life infused into God’s inspired words. God may have used a man’s hand, but the words were not man’s.

Obviously, Belshazzar could not read the words and DIDN’T KNOW THEIR MEANING.
Is any one language more perfect and precise than any other language? Is French, or Cyrillic, or Swahili a more exact language than English? What is the most complicated language in the world? I have to confess that I cannot read Hebrew, or Farsi, or Portugese. And it takes work for me to grasp a few Hebrew words and Greek phrases. We aren’t surprised that Belshazzar and his counselors couldn’t read the writing of God. But I don’t think that the problem was a matter of mere translation.

What was the language that God used that evening? I suppose that our first guess would be that it was Hebrew, and Belshazzar was ignorant of Hebrew. While he probably was, it seems reasonable to assume that some of those thousand lords with him would have had some ability to read Hebrew. In fact the language of the Chaldeans probably was not too dissimilar to that of the Jews.

Here we are getting into an area of which I am quite confused or ignorant, but Strong’s concordance says that “mene, mene, tekel, urpharsin” are Aramaic words. I’m not in a position to argue with the eminent James Strong. But the point is, these were not foreign words to the people dining with the king that night. As a result, I’m going to go to say that these common words had been made special to the Lord, and that there wasn’t a man in all the earth who had been taught by his parents to read them. I think that Daniel was given a divine and miraculous ability to read and explain them to the king. This was not a matter of vocabulary and grammar – it was revelation.

Again this parallels the divine Word of God – the entire Bible. There is a spiritual nature to the Bible which lifts it above the Chaldean, the Hebrew, the Greek and even the English in which we read it. It is not that we can’t grasp the vocabulary and grammar of the Bible. I am delighted when I hear some of our children reading the Bible reasonably accurately – sometime more accurately than I do in my excitement and anticipation of the message. But even though we may know the words on the page, the divine nature of the revelation that they reveal and conceal, takes that language up and onto a higher plain. I know that I Corinthians 2:14 speaks about other matters as well, but it also refers to the scriptures. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The true message of God must be spiritually discerned – spiritually recognized and understood. And those who are spiritually dead, like Belshazzar, couldn’t understand that message if he had a million years to work on it. The only way that he was going to truly understand any small part of the Bible was with God’s will and through Daniel’s help.

No, I am not saying, as do some false religions within Christianity, that the average Christian can’t read or understand the Bible. I’m not saying that I am the God-appointed interpreter of the Word of God, and that only what I say should be heard or believed. I am not telling you to throw away your Bibles because you must depend on me, alone, for whatever it is that the Lord wants to teach you. I am saying that only the person who is moved upon by the Holy Spirit will be able to grasp the words which holy men of God wrote when they where moved upon by the Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus told us that He was going to send Holy Spirt to be our comforter in His physical absence. And “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

Next we notice that the revelation spoke with the AUTHORITY of God.
Those four words expressed the unalterable will of the Almighty. They were words of absolute authority. “God hath numbered thy kingdom and finished it.” I suppose that the number was seventy, and the countdown was on. Sixty-seven, sixty-eight, sixty-nine. Sixty-nine point one; sixty-nine point two; sixty-nine point five; sixty-nine point nine. Sixty-nine point nine-one; sixty-nine point nine-five; sixty-nine point nine-nine. Now it is finished – history has been created once again. And there was nothing that could stop the clock or the will of God. “Thou art weighted in the balances and art found wanting.” Belshazzar you are an unrepentant sinner, coming short of the glory of God. “The wages of sin is death.”

“Thy kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” This is an interesting statement which we may return to, but if we don’t, let me point something out now. The king who replaced Belshazzar was Darius, the Mede. But the real power and the actual conqueror of Babylon was Cyrus, the Persian. They had an alliance, even though the Medes had earlier been conquered by the Persians. The Babylonians kingdom was actually divided and given to both the Medes and the Persians. I can’t explain the relationship between the Medes and Persians, but there was a very special union.

So the words written on the wall of that banquet room were absolute and unalterable. They were written with the authority of the Almighty God. But they are only a small part of all that the Lord has written for us to read and learn. The Book of Numbers is as absolute as “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin.” The Book of Psalms is as authoritative as the Books of Romans and Revelation.

And in that same regard they are all absolutely accurate. I sometimes say that the Christian shouldn’t question the accuracy of the Bible. While that is true, perhaps I should go on to say, “Go ahead and question it if you like.” As a Christian, you might bring down the chastisement of God upon yourself. Because usually that sort of thing is an expression of doubt – which is sin. But the point is that all the attacks and questions which have been thrown at the Bible over the last 2,000 years and longer, have all been paper wads rather than live bullets. Despite the attack of the Lord’s enemy, the Word of God has never yet been proven untrue or inaccurate. “Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin” was as guaranteed, as “today thou shalt be with me in Paradise” to the man who next to Jesus on the cross.

Now I’ll close with a point already made –

Both this writing on the wall, and the general revelation of God, can have a TERRIFYING EFFECT.
Not only can they be terrifying as we read the words and don’t grasp their meaning, but they should be even more terrifying when we do understand the words.

And herein we have an illustration of an earlier point – There is no indication that Belshazzar repented before God, even though he apparently accepted the truth. He honored Daniel, which seems to suggest that he accepted what the prophet had said. But the words that were explained didn’t seem to break through his inebriated and, still, rock-solid heart.

It is only by the grace of God that a sinner can be truly convicted of his sins. It is only by the grace of God that his heart can be broken. It is only by the grace of God that a sinner will ever repent and reach out for the salvation of the Lord.