What did that strange message mean for the king of Babylon long ago? What should it mean for you today?
[Darris] Intoxicated by the splendor in the king’s palace, the lords and ladies present had no idea of the danger of the moment. Out of nowhere the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and began writing on the wall of the room.
The king and all present became so frightened they broke out in sweat and staggered at the sight of a floating hand scratching out a coded message on the plastered wall. When finished, the words, “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN” stood in stark relief, before the eyes of the astonished gathering.
What was this strange message? What did it mean for the king of Babylon? What does it mean for our world today?
Join us on Beyond Today as we present: “Kingdoms at War: The Handwriting on the Wall.”
[Announcer] Join our host, Darris McNeely on Beyond Today!
[Darris] Look around at today’s world. Let me ask you this question: Are we, are you, big enough, great enough to rise to the challenge of our time?
Let’s look at what is facing the nations today.
The Middle East is aflame. One nation, Iran, seeks to develop nuclear weapons. Their goal will continue despite a recent treaty concluded in Vienna, Austria stating that “Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful” and that “Iran will under no circumstances seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons.”
Now Iran is the same nation whose leaders incite its people to chant “death to Israel” and “death to America.” Its fundamentalist Shiite Muslim leadership sponsors terrorism throughout the Middle East; in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. No leader in the Middle East believes this recent treaty agreement with Iran will lessen the tensions of the region. Clear thinking leaders believe Iran will continue plans to develop a weapon of mass destruction. When they get it, they will use it to further their apocalyptic mission. It’s not a matter of if but when.
This goes along with what we’ve been discussing in this series of Beyond Today programs, Kingdoms at War. In part one, we saw that there are spiritual powers at work in our world today—things happening in the spirit realm affect what happens in our physical realm.
The rulers of Iran are fundamentalist Muslims who seek to establish Islamic rule in the entire world. World leaders led by America have unfortunately appeased this totalitarian regime.
Let’s look at another region. Europe has had a very rough period. The European Union has faltered in its plan to grow an ever closer utopian form of union among the nations of the European peninsula—a region that has seen so much war and strife in the last century. The goal of peace through economic and social cooperation has fallen upon a critical moment with the economic instability of Greece. EU leadership will be forced to correct this flaw, if not now, then at some point in the future.
What these two current world events mean can be understood by the story of the handwriting on the wall. Just as God was moving among the nations of Daniel’s day—rearranging the power structure then—so He is today, moving to accomplish His purpose in history among the nations. There is a greater spiritual purpose behind today’s headlines. That’s what we are saying in this series of Kingdoms at War.
I said earlier that we live in big times with large challenges. Again I have to ask, are we big enough people to rise to the challenge of the day? Are we big enough people to see the handwriting on the wall of our times and listen to its meaning? We live in very serious times. We have to be able to read the handwriting on our own wall. Just like Daniel did on that night in Babylon so long ago.
Let’s go back to the story I opened with. It’s told in the biblical book of Daniel. We have been progressing through a series of programs based on this most fascinating of biblical prophecies. The book of Daniel, in your Bible, is a story of kingdoms at war during one of the most crucial periods of all world history. The prophet Daniel lived at a moment of great change and upheaval in the world of his time. Daniel was an intelligent Israelite taken captive to Babylon when Jerusalem fell in the year 586 B.C. He found himself promoted to a key role in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar II, the king of Babylon and the Chaldean Empire that spread itself across the Middle East.
Daniel spent his adult life working in the courts of power of two kingdoms, the kingdom of Babylon and the kingdom of Persia. And God gave Daniel the gift of understanding to interpret dreams and prophecies and even the strangest of sights, the handwriting of a floating hand that appeared on the banquet room of Belshazzar the last Babylonian king. When we look at the events of that night, we can see the example of God’s gift to this devout and righteous prophet, a man who stood before great kings and witnessed to the glory and majesty of the God of Heaven.
Daniel’s example shows us what kind of person it takes to rise to the challenge of great moments in history and be an example of the power of the Spirit of God moving, not only upon the face of the earth, but in the noble life of one who humbly seeks to do God’s will.
In Daniel 5, we see the story. A hand appeared from nowhere and wrote on the wall of the king’s dining room in front of the hundreds of drunken guests. When the king saw this “…his face turned pale with fright. His knees knocked together in fear and his legs gave way beneath him.” (Daniel 5:6 Daniel 5:6Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
American King James Version×NLT)
The king cried out, “whoever reads this writing, and tells me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and he will be the third ruler in the kingdom” (Daniel 5:6-7 Daniel 5:6-7  Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.
 The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spoke, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whoever shall read this writing, and show me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.
American King James Version×).
None of his trusted counselors were able to interpret the handwriting on the wall. In walked his queen and said to him, “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God. And in the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, were found in him; and King Nebuchadnezzar your father—made him chief of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers. Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel…now let Daniel be called, and he will give the interpretation” (Daniel 5:11-12 Daniel 5:11-12  There is a man in your kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar your father, the king, I say, your father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers;
 For as much as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.
American King James Version×).
Daniel was called in. He was offered the great reward of honor, with wealth and status for interpreting the handwriting. What Belshazzar did not understand was that Daniel was not a man who could be flattered or influenced by these symbols of power. Daniel had stood before this king’s father, Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel had actually warned that king, who was a powerful and a temperamental dictator who could have disposed of Daniel’s life with just a wave of his hand—that if he did not humble himself before the God of Heaven, he would become like an ignorant beast of the field reduced to eating grass with the barest scraps of clothing on his body. That did happen. And Belshazzar knew that it did. But Belshazzar had not learned the lesson.
So Daniel told him, “You have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven. [You] brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your lords, your wives and your concubines, have drunk wine from them. You have praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know; and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified” (Daniel 5:23 Daniel 5:23But have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before you, and you, and your lords, your wives, and your concubines, have drunk wine in them; and you have praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand your breath is, and whose are all your ways, have you not glorified:
American King James Version×).
This king, Belshazzar, this king was not big enough for the challenging times of his day. At that moment, the Persian Empire was at the gates of the Babylonian Empire. Persia, was now on the verge of replacing Babylon on the top rung of the ladder of nations. All this had been foretold by God through the prophet Isaiah, about 150 years earlier. Daniel was at this moment announcing to the Babylonian king that the God of Heaven was in charge of history and He was setting a new kingdom at the head of all the others.
What did the handwriting on the wall say? What should we learn from its message? We’ll come back to that in a moment. But first, let me tell about a free offer to help you better understand Bible prophecy.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s important that you discover much more about what Bible prophecy has to say on this subject. You can learn about this topic and much more by requesting our free Bible study aid offer: The Book of Revelation Unveiled.
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The mysterious handwriting on the wall—what did it say to the Babylonian king that night long ago? More important, what is the message we need to take with us today? We are living in a period of great change in today’s world. Nations and their power structures are realigning. Weaknesses are being exposed. Cultural shifts are taking place that are shocking to many. Where is it leading and what does it mean?
Let’s read on in Daniel’s book and understand. Belshazzar, king of Babylon in a night of drunken revelry had ordered the gold and silver vessels once used for a holy purpose in God’s Temple in Jerusalem brought into the room. These cups and bowls were then used as props in a mockery and affront to God. It was an action that went too far. Even God has a point with a culture when enough is enough.
Out of the darkness appeared a hand from God that wrote the following words across the wall of the banquet room:
MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
Daniel turned to the king and gave the interpretation of the inscription this way.
“MENE” he said means, “God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it.
“TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.”
“PERES:”—which is a singular form of the same word upharsin—“Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”
It was a listing of monetary units. Money. God was numbering, weighing and dividing out units of money in a graphic display of displeasure with the great nation of the time. Babylon, the great city and kingdom, a fierce and violent nation had been examined by God and found unworthy of continuing in power. It was being invaded and given to a new kingdom, that of the Medes and the Persians.
Why was money used here as a symbol of examination and judgment? It was very appropriate. Babylon was a wealthy nation that traded across the world of its day. Wealth and money flowed into the city making it the center of international finance. Babylon was a city that saw money flow into it like great gushing streams of water. The prophet Jeremiah had said that it was a people “who dwell by many waters, abundant in treasure” (Jeremiah 51:13 Jeremiah 51:13O you that dwell on many waters, abundant in treasures, your end is come, and the measure of your covetousness.
American King James Version×). Babylon, the temples of the cities served as both a place of religious worship to the many gods but also it was where the money centers took place, the financial institutions of the time. The priests were the bankers and the financial managers. Kings came and went, but in Babylon the priests controlled the purse strings and through religion they held control on the people. It was a singular arrangement that Scripture shows will be important for end time Bible prophecy.
Back to the story in Daniel though. Using the most elemental component of the Babylonian society, money, wealth, gold, and silver, God was showing the nation was bankrupt when it came to morals, culture, religion and government. In God’s measure of values, Babylon’s accounts had run dry. Spiritually they were done. In God’s system of righteous judgment, Babylon’s day in the sun was over.
Here is another lesson. We read in the New Testament that many of Jesus Christ’s parables deal with the use of money, or talents, or shekels to describe deep spiritual principles and lessons. A nobleman goes into a far country to receive a kingdom and he leaves “ten minas” or ten units of currency for his servants to use and to develop and grow. He returns and the nobleman takes account to see if the investment has grown (Luke 19:12-15 Luke 19:12-15  He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said to them, Occupy till I come.
 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called to him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
American King James Version×). Christ is teaching in that parable about growth in spiritual character by using a unit of money exchange. He does the same in other parables such as a “pearl of great price” or by buying a field to illustrate the Kingdom of God. In these parables, Jesus is teaching deep eternal truths through the units of money. How we value and use money and wealth, the things and the stuff of this life reflect our deepest spiritual character and values.
God judges us on these matters. Babylon was finished as a world power. Its influence would continue to flow however, through history and remains very much with us today. But in the moment of Daniel, there was a change of power. Daniel on that night, revealed to the king God’s message of judgement. And even in that moment the king did not understand. Belshazzar commanded Daniel to be clothed with purple, the symbol of royalty, and a chain of gold to be put around his neck and he proclaimed Daniel to be a third ruler in the kingdom (Daniel 5:29 Daniel 5:29Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
American King James Version×). It was all an empty gesture by a king who was completely out of touch with reality.
That very night, the king was killed and the Medo-Persian Empire came in. Babylon fell.
So I ask again, can we read the handwriting on the wall for our times? Can we discern what is happening among the nations of today’s world and see God’s hand moving through history even today? Nations and regions of the world are in turmoil. Danger is on the horizon. The cultural shifts occurring in America and other parts of the world give us great concern. We are standing at the crossroads of a rather confusing and sometimes chaotic landscape. The question: Do we have what it takes to stand up—to rise to the occasion and to meet these challenges? What will it take to stand against the howling winds of change and the shifting sands of our own day? We’ll examine that in a moment.
But let me again quickly remind you to request your free copy of our valuable study aid, The Book of Revelation Unveiled. This Bible study aid is going to answer so many of your questions about Bible prophecy.
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Here’s the question. Do we have what it takes to rise to the challenges today? Do we have the ability to stand in the face of strong prevailing winds of change and cultural shift that threatens to undermine our culture and our civilization?
Beyond Today is primarily an English-speaking program going out to America, Canada, Australia and South Africa. It is translated into Spanish and it’s aired far and wide on cable television and the Internet. But our primary audience lives in the developed world. And the handwriting is on the wall for our people—and they don’t know it.
Life is pretty good for most. Americans enjoy the highest standard of living ever known. The poorest among us live like kings compared to the people in other parts of the developing world, we have it very good. And yet even in the midst of the world’s wealthiest period, we have pockets of people who lack the basics and in real cases suffer from poverty. Social and economic problems we face in America and others nations reflect some very real effects.
We see racial strife erupting in the major cities of America, which reflects deep-seated anger stemming from a social structure that is not balanced, nor frankly reflects the values of godly biblical teaching.
There is a reason for this. We have cut ourselves off from God. We have not wanted to keep God and His laws in the center of public life for many decades. It has been a steady erosion of biblical values and teachings for more than 50 years. If you want to understand the reason behind the major events of recent times, the breakdown in whole segments of society or the headlong rush into a moral meltdown then look no further than three key events shaped by the United States Supreme Court. America’s highest judicial body has issued landmark rulings in three areas that reflect the country’s decline in the eyes of the God of Heaven.
In the early 1960s the Supreme Court issued two rulings in the use of prayer and Bible readings in public schools. The first, the justices ruled that official prayer had no place in public education. The second a year later, the court declared school-sponsored Bible reading and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer unconstitutional. Both rulings were highly controversial at the time. While the decisions did not rule neither for nor against personal expressions of faith, they were a part of a period of cultural change that continues to this day. Looking back at those rulings, it seems no one could foresee what lay ahead in America. It was a significant step away from certain moral foundations that held America together like no other force. The court was ruling on a matter of spiritual import for a nation blessed with a unique place in the world—a place made possible by the God of Heaven. For a government to dismantle prayer within the public life for its people is a major step toward removing God from all public life. Perhaps even worse, it is the admission that God is not primary in the life of the public!
The second, in 1973, the Supreme Court decided another significant landmark case: Roe v. Wade. This case legalized abortion in all 50 states of the union. It sanctioned the taking of an unborn life and labeled it a right guaranteed by the 14th amendment to the United States constitution. With this ruling, the Court entered the realm of judging when life within a mother’s womb is viable or not. Roe v. Wade set in motion a bitter public debate that continues to this day between those who lobby for a woman’s right versus those who support the sanctity of life which begins at conception. No other public issue has caused more division than this one. Since 1973, more than 55 million abortions have been legally performed in America alone.
It is inconceivable what this has meant to the loss of a quality of life in the land. But it has led to another appalling action. Aborted baby parts can be now used for other medical matters. This has led to the marketing, and the selling of the limbs and the organs of murdered children. Doctors and medical technicians have been shown on major news shows discussing the price of body parts laid out before them on medical trays. The thought and the sight of such scenes in America are appalling. Well might we ask, what has happened to our nation!? We are killing our souls and our spirit while living with such a morbid culture of death for so many decades. When a government does not protect its unborn life, it is deserving of the judgement of the God of life. That judgement is coming, and sooner than we might think.
The third ruling by the Supreme Court came in June 2015 with a ruling legalizing same sex marriage in all states. In this ruling the court made a sweeping interpretation that marriage for same-sex couples is again guaranteed by the Constitution. Let’s be plain about this highly charged social issue. The United States Supreme Court has stepped beyond its temporal bounds into the spiritual realm of the Kingdom of God. It has decreed that the divine institution of marriage as defined in the Bible as a sacred union between a man and a woman, and this is the only biblical definition of marriage, is superseded by the Supreme Court’s judgment. Human law now sanctions as marriage a relationship God never intended, the Bible specifically forbids and nature itself must reject as abnormal.
With these rulings, America has crossed a line that I have to wonder if it’s impossible to regain. We have gone from a ruling against prayer and Bible reading in public schools to sanctioning killing the unborn, to ruling against the biblical definition of marriage. In a little more than 50 years these decisions have taken us down a path of open public defiance of God in our most elemental parts of our life. We have done what those at the Tower of Babel did. We have erected a defiant tower of idolatry that says, we will not be ruled by this God, we will become gods unto ourselves. We have sown more than five decades of rebellion and today are reaping the whirlwind of death and confusion. We grope blindly trying to see our way forward not knowing that we are poor and blind and miserable and naked. We wait, wondering. Wondering when God will act with a fire of judgment upon us. It is a generation that has spewed venom into the body and soul of life.
I wonder, and I have to share this with you, just where God might be in His evaluation of our world and life among the nations today. God has to stand looking around and seeing the state of affairs and pausing in thought, wondering when to put a stop to this. I don’t know when that might occur but I do know that we must come to a place and the time in our lives when we must act to take ourselves away from this generation and turn toward God and change our ways.
I ask whether we are big enough for the challenge of our times. For you and me, the challenge is to turn away from this world and begin to live by the teachings of the world to come, the Kingdom of God. That in itself determines whether we can face the challenges with the only power that makes a real difference: God’s Holy Spirit and the teaching of the Kingdom of God.
Daniel in his day in Babylon stood for the Kingdom of God in the midst of the raging wars of the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia. For Daniel, the choice was clear. God’s Kingdom, the way and the truth he had known since a child, was true. The God he served was the one true God who lives, unlike the gods of stone and wood and silver and bronze that he saw in the temples of Babylon. For Daniel, the collapse of his own nation of Israel was done at the will of the hand of his God and served a greater purpose. The gods of Babylon were empty and worthless, unable to hear nor see and clearly unable to prevent the demise of Babylon.
Now is the time for you to be like Daniel—to read the handwriting on the wall of our time and seek to understand the will of the God of Heaven.
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The king and lords and ladies of Babylon were not great enough for their times. Are we? Are you, up to the challenge of our times? Too many tread endless circles of mediocrity and accept shabby lies and fictions of today’s culture as truth. The result is we build our homes on shifting sands. When the winds of difficulty blow, they may not stand. It’s a very sobering thought.
The time is now to take action. The time is now to see the handwriting on the wall and rise to a higher calling and a higher way of life. The time is now to seek the God of Heaven and to live.
The handwriting is on the wall. Can you read what it says and move to change your life?
That’s our program for today. Thank you for joining us. Remember to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today, I’m Darris McNeely. Thanks for watching!
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