Fingers of a Man's Hand

 •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 6
There were great things going on in the city of Babylon. Mighty preparations had been on foot for some time past. Regardless of God and His righteous claims over them, heedless of His judgment so soon to burst upon them, the giddy, thoughtless multitude were about to abandon themselves to "lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." They forgot that soon they would have to "give account to Him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead." 1 Peter 4:3-53For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: 4Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: 5Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. (1 Peter 4:3‑5).
At length all was ready; the appointed day had come. "Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords." The invitations had gone out, the guests had arrived.
Now all are seated around the tables, gorgeously decorated with gold and silver, and laden with the choicest viands. Soon the wine goes round, and a loose rein is given to all the lusts and passions of the hearts—the human heart, the heart estranged from God, and filled with sin—the heart that is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked."
"Belshazzar, while he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king and his princes, his wives and his concubines, might drink therein."
Rash, foolish, and godless man! Do not think that your riches, your rank, or your human greatness and dignity, can deliver you from the hands of that God to whom you must give an account!
Suddenly the loud hum of voices ceases; the pealing laughter is heard no more; the stillness of death reigns in that banqueting-hall as, breathless, panic-stricken, and dismayed, every eye is turned towards the king.
What is the matter? What can have happened to turn the laughter so suddenly into dismay, the feasting into fear? "Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him"—and well they might, for the God whom he had sought to obliterate from his mind had interposed, and was now pronouncing the judgment that was to seal his doom.
But how came all this about? Listen! "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote."
The time for trifling is at an end. Matters have grown intensely serious; a solemn feeling of uneasiness overspreads that vast multitude, as they gaze with alarm upon these words, unintelligible to them, but written indelibly upon the wall.
Belshazzar is in dead earnest now. He cries aloud "to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers." But not one can help him in his difficulty. They can neither read nor explain the mysterious writing on the wall. And, dear reader, if you have never found this out, you will yet: that the world cannot help you in the hour of your soul-anxiety.
The alarm increases. It spreads from the king to his lords. Men and women that but an hour ago joined with the king in his reckless impiety, are now troubled in their thoughts and trembling with terror and alarm.
At length there enters the queen (not the wife, but the mother of the king), who it appears had not been present at the banquet. "There is a man," says she, "in thy kingdom." But Daniel breathed another atmosphere than that which enveloped the banqueting-hall of Belshazzar the king. He was a man of God, who walked with God, and lived for God; and this, dear Christian reader, is sure to make itself felt sooner or later.
"Then was Daniel brought in before the king." Rewards were offered, promotion was promised; but what cared he for inducements such as these? Conscious of the dignity of his position as the servant and messenger of the Most High God, he says, "Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation." Ah, yes! Daniel, who until now had been despised, forgotten, and ignored, was possessed of a secret that was hidden from all the wise men of Babylon.
Fellow-Christians, let us not hide our lights; let us not shun the cross; let us not shirk our responsibility to confess Christ; yea, rather, let us not lose the priceless privilege! Wherever our lot is cast, let it be known that we are His, and His alone! Let us aim at being somewhat like Abraham of old, who lived a life of communion with God, apart from all the follies and pleasures of the guilty cities of the plain, and to whom was communicated the solemn tidings of the overwhelming judgment that was about to fall upon them! How different the case of Lot, who chose them as his dwelling-place, and was well-nigh overtaken in their downfall!
But Daniel boldly and fearlessly addressed himself to the king's conscience. He reminded him of warnings already received, but unheeded. "Thou,... O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this."
And have not you, dear reader, been warned times without number? Is it with you as it was with Belshazzar of old? "The God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified." Here was the secret of the king's distress: God had been left out, God had been forgotten. And that God was now speaking to him in judgment: "God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Thou art weighed in the balances and art found wanting." "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain."