Ever hear the expression “The writing is on the wall”? It’s something we say when a situation becomes so serious that everyone can see a disaster is coming. Or, wonder how “knee knocking” came to represent fear? Both of these phrases actually originate from the Old Testament book of Daniel in the Bible, when God provided warning signs that disaster was coming upon the ancient empire of Babylon.
THE WRITING IS ON THE WALL
In the prophetic chapter of Daniel 5, we learn that Babylon was known for pride and pleasure: Characteristics that are also glorified in our culture today. During one of King Belshazzar's wildest parties, God shows up in an unusual way:
"The fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking." -Daniel 5:5-6
And with that, we get the origin of the sayings, the writing is on the wall and knee knocking fear.
DANIEL INTERPRETS THE WARNING SIGN
After this miraculous and bizarre moment, the King called all his enchanters, astrologers and diviners - but nobody could interpret what the writing meant. Finally, the Queen remembered the prophet Daniel, who was 80 years old at that point. Daniel interpreted the writing, which was a warning to the king and to Babylon that disaster and judgement were coming. The empire was divided and would fall. The kings days were numbered and his reign would be brought to an end.
God delivered a harsh warning, and with wisdom, Daniel was able to interpret it. Honestly, this is a heavy message. Like it was for the Babylonians, it is sobering when we look at our lives in light of God's prophetic word.
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS
This powerful and unusual chapter of the Bible calls us to open our modern-day eyes to recognize warning signs of disaster, both in our nation and in our personal lives. The truth is, death could happen at any moment. Shortly after God's message to the wicked King Belshazzar, this prophecy came true, and the king was slain. The empire of Babylon was taken over by the Medes and the Persians. Likewise, every nation in this life is temporary. All leadership and power are temporary. Is God's writing on the wall for America? Is God's writing on the wall for you?
Ultimately, the nation of Babylon faced judgement for its' sin. However, because of the good news of the Gospel, it's not too late for us to turn from our sin. To repent and turn to Christ. When any nation repents of its' sin and turns to the Lord, God is good to forgive sin and heal the land. 2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that "God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God's goodness into us!"
THE GOSPEL: HOPE FOR SINNERS
While our sin, the sins of our culture and the sins of our nation are great in the eyes of the Lord, there is hope. It's not too late for us. God remembers to forget our sin because of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (John 3:16). So, remember the promise of the Lord and turn to him today, confessing your sins and accepting the grace that only He can offer.
To continue learning how you can stand firm in a culture of compromise, check out these additional resources from Liquid Church's series, The Daniel Dilemma:
- Article: Standing Firm When Your Faith Is Tested. We live in a world that is increasingly hostile toward God and biblical truth. So, how do you stand firm when your faith is under fire? Click here to read.
- Article: How To Show God's Love To Others. Based on the book of Daniel, this article provides 4 steps we can all take to balance God’s law with God’s love. Click here to read.
- Message: Grace & Truth. In part 1 of The Daniel Dilemma, Pastor Tim Lucas introduces us to a young man forced to live in a fast-changing and godless society-- the prophet Daniel. Daniel persevered in a corrupt culture that closely resembles our own—and emerged as an influential force in God’s redemptive plan. Click here to watch.
- MESSAGE: Prioritizing Loving Well. In Part 3 of The Daniel Dilemma, Pastor Nithin Thompson encourages us to play the long game when it comes to loving well. Click here to watch.