Recently, former Deputy Speaker Prof Kindiki Kithure captured the nation’s attention with the phrase “the handwriting is on the wall” as the stalemate on debate of revenue sharing formula engulfed the Senate proceedings.
In what many took reference to sons of royalties Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga and Gedion Moi with the so called system and deep state, the story of King Belshazzar has become a staple of the public conversation. It is a metaphor for the general sense of disorientation, unease, and fear for the future that seems epidemic and that is having so obvious an effect on the national cast of mind in this election season.
The phrase may be ubiquitous, but how many of those who invoke “the handwriting on the wall” have looked closely at its source, the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible?
The story told there is a striking one. Recalling it in full might help us come to grips with whatever is being written on the wall at this moment in our national history, and in the history of the hustler Vs Dynasties debacle that has precipitated our political discourse.
Reflecting on that story might also help us identify a prophet who, like Daniel, could help kemyans translate “the handwriting on the wall,” understand its meaning, and thus know our duty us voters come the electoral moment.
The scene is readily set. The place: Babylon. The time: some two and a half millennia ago, in the 6th century before our era. The Kingdom of Judah has been conquered by the Chaldean king, Nebuchadnezzar, who, the Book of Daniel tells us, ordered his chief vizier “to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, handsome and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, competent to serve in the king’s palace, and to teach them the letters and language of the Chaldeans.” The most impressive of this group of talented young Jews was named Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, was a different matter, however: King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in front of the thousand. Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and silver which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem be brought, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. they drank wine and praised the gods of silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
Immediately the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstead: and the king saw the hand as it wrote…
It was, as we might imagine, an unwelcome interruption of the royal revels. Belshazzar was terrified and promised to make the man who could decipher the writing and its meaning the third ruler in the kingdom. The tenured academics and op-ed writers were stumped. Then the queen had an idea: Call in Daniel.
So the king summoned the young Jewish exile and promised him the third position in the kingdom if he could read the handwriting on the wall and explain its meaning. The eponymous book tells the rest of the story:
Then Daniel answered before the king: “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; nevertheless I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation..
“You have lifted yourself up above the Lord of heaven; and the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored”.
“Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this was the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
King Belshazzar is an intriguing character. He abruptly appears in Daniel 5 without introduction, biographical data, or explanation of his place in the succession of Babylon’s Kings. He appears and disappears in the brevity of one chapter of Scripture. Yet this King teaches a tremendous lesson to modern Christians and political leaders.
Evidentially he was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and the son of Nabonidus, the last King of Babylon. Nabonidus tried to redefine the hierarchy of the Babylonian gods. He wanted to exalt the moon god (“sin”) as the chief deity and thus replace “Marduk.” Such an effort was met with great resistance and the King had to move his royal residence to the city of Teiman. When he did this, he set Belshazzar as co-regent on the throne in Babylon. That Belshazzar was not the total sovereign is evident from his promise to make anyone who interpreted the handwriting on the wall “third” in the Kingdom
The narrative of King Belshazzar focuses upon the sovereignty of Jehovah God. Consider the major points in the account recorded in Daniel.
One, The feast.a thousand guests plus the King’s wives and concubines were assembled together for a period of drunken, boisterous partying. It was held in the royal palace and all the nobility were present. It was a period of celebration to the pagan idols and the feast could possibly have been in honor of a specific god. During this time Belshazzar sent for the cups of the Temple and drank from them to honor the pagan gods.
Two. The handwriting.
Suddenly appeared and instantly the mirth vanished. Characters were written on the wall and were visible to everyone present. All were seized with terror. The King was especially struck with fear. As the message was completed no one could discern its meaning. Daniel is sent for to interpret the writing.
Three, The reproof.
Before interpreting the writing, Daniel gives a solemn reproof to the King. The present King is an insult to the past Kings. Belshazzar’s arrogance is condemned and has led him to defy Jehovah and honor dumb idols. Following this rebuke the prophet interprets the dream.
Four. The interpretation.
With calm confidence Daniel deciphers the mysterious message. The words expressed a stern judgment upon Babylon and pronounced its doom.
Five. The end. The pronounced punishment came. The prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah were fulfilled that very night of the riotous feast the city of Babylon falls to defeat before Darius’ army.
it’s worth noting as a disturbed Kenyan that the tragedy that befalls the great Babylonian Empire began with its leader’s character.
Regardless of what society’s popularity polls and political pundits say, “character” DOES make a difference!. From a study of King Belshazzar we discover the following traits that will ruin a nation. These traits will exist in the Ruler of the corrupt nation because they are existing in the hearts of the citizens!
The best prevention from a blasphemous Ruler is a citizenry with hearts of devotion for God. How tragic is a nation where these traits are evident:
The King was disrespectful to Daniel and scornful toward God. Belshazzar was old enough to have heard of, and possibly seen, the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar. Yet he learned nothing from the incident. The King had learned nothing from the past! He was only concerned about the immediate. To him the past meant nothing.
How sad is this attitude! Especially tragic is these group who are always stirring quarrels and endangering unity/harmony. These are poison to the life of the congregations where they are found
Belshazzar took pride in the splendor of Babylon yet he had not designed or constructed it. His pride was vain and his security was false.
c. Ignorance.Belshazzar’s pride was founded in ignorance. He wilfully refused to learn the lessons of Babylon’s past. Nebuchadnezzar had spoken of the true God in heaven. He could have read from Isaiah and learned of Babylon’s ultimate defeat, but he did not do so. He welcomed ignorance and found a comfortable security. (deep state and system) Yet he was led to damnation and destruction.
Belshazzar did not realize that his blasphemy was so serious. Many today do not realize they are guilty of blasphemy. Ignorance is no excuse.
d. No Restraint.
Whatever restraint Belshazzar had was thrown away on the night of the festival. Even the pagan mind could acknowledge that some things were “holy” to worship. However the King removed all limitations and desecrated the sacred. He took the holy cups of the Temple and treated them as if they were ordinary things!
Such a release of restraint is a common practice in our modern society. All over our nation there are cries about how certain changes and fads are compromising our country’s constitutionalism and rule of law , There is no longer an awe of the holy; a respect of the sacred! The constitution and rule of law,The boundaries of Holy Scripture are thrown aside, neglected, ignored, or “redrawn” to include what God never included
“Belshazzar is perhaps the supreme Old Testament parallel to the rich fool in Jesus’ parable”. The King did not consider God. He did not anticipate the judgment of God. He was so engrossed in living life the way that he desired that he failed to remember Jehovah was the sovereign of his life! As a fool, this King had rejected the history of the past. He thought the past lessons had no meaning for him in the present!
The modern “Fool” is very much like Belshazzar. The past is ignored. God’s sovereignty is ignored. The judgment of God is erased from memory. All is lived for the moment and is directed by Self!.
Here is the taproot of Belshazzar’s problems! This trait explains why the King became such a “fool”! He allowed his ways to be directed by selfish desires. If anything prevented his “needs and desires” from being satisfied, it was quickly rejected. This selfishness is seen as the King led those present at the feast in honoring idols. Belshazzar was interested ONLY in HIS gods!
This trait is pronounced in our modern society. Many will say they believe in God but they believe in a “god” that is not in the Bible! This “god” that they worship is really a reflection of their own strong desires for that which is perceived as giving them comfort and pleasure! If they are told about Jehovah God of Scripture, they are repulsed because that God does not fit their “needs.” Thus, selfishness redefines the God of Scripture to become a “god” of personal convenience.
When Belshazzar saw the hand writing on the wall, he was perplexed, frightened, and shaken to the bone! He had been made aware of the judgment of God. The foundations of his life were shaken. Such a depiction should have brought Belshazzar to conversion. However, the King’s heart became even harder! Even confronted by the presence of God, the King remained devoted to Self and antagonistic toward God!
When the King realized the terror he faced, he was desperate to do anything or find anyone who could answer his dilemma. He promised everything he was able to give. He wanted out of his trouble. He was prepared to offer anything in exchange for his soul. He trusted in human resources; human potential. The splendid city and glorious past were of no use. All he had trusted for security was worthless.
This is a portrait of the utter despair that will overcome all who face the Lord’s terror unprepared! They have trusted in everything but God.
Belshazzar’s arrogance is pronounced! In his drunken condition the King cynically addressed Daniel. He saw God’s prophet as inferior because he was an alien captive. He saw Daniel as little better than the common slave. He despised Daniel’s age.
This single chapter offers insight to the “national sins”,
The Babylonian Empire had conquered the world. Her armies were victorious. Her wealth unparallel. Babylon, the capitol city, was well protected against a siege and had stores of food that would last for years. However, this security led the nation away from Nebuchadnezzar’s confession of God’s sovereignty. The very night of the feast, Belshazzar was killed and the splendid city was destroyed! Such is the “folly” of those who lean upon things for security other than God’s Word.
Daniel addressed Belshazzar as a covenant breaker, The might of the King did not void the power of Jehovah God! Belshazzar was guilty because he failed to live according to God’s will. Belshazzar simply turned away from the Truth that he should have obeyed. the words “you” and “your” are used fourteen times to underscore the King’s folly. He had thought he could place himself above Jehovah God. Such an attitude permeated the entire nation and brought the sudden punishment!
The King and nation refused to worship and honor Jehovah God .They demonstrated devotion to Self. This condemned them! blasphemy
Mankind is “incurably religious.” S/He will worship. The troubling question asks, “WHAT will mankind worship?” Belshazzar and Babylon worshiped metal, wood, and stone. That was idolatry. Modern man worships a “god” that s/he thinks is in the Bible BUT it is a redesigned God of the Bible. It is fashioned to fit man’s “personal” desires. The only difference between modern society and ancient Babylon is that modern man has become better at disguising his idols!
Babylon’s national destruction resulted because of the nation’s moral meltdown. In rejecting the God that Nebuchadnezzar confessed, Babylon faced horrible consequences.
Here is what happened to a nation that rejected God’s righteous rule:
a. TOTAL RUIN!
The hand writing on the wall bluntly judged the King and nation as having been weighed but found lacking. There was nothing in the nation that was worth redeeming – all was corrupt!
“The part was over!” Now Belshazzar realized too late that Jehovah God is the Universal Sovereign. A tragic observation – even when damnation is pronounced, Belshazzar shows no regret. There is no repentance demonstrated!
b. TOTAL DESTRUCTION
The historian Xenophon records that Babylon was captured that very night and the King were killed. After a lifetime Belshazzar had nothing! He had sacrificed everything for that which would give him pleasure on earth. He was unprepared to meet the great God.
c. TOTAL SUBMISSION!
Belshazzar learned the hard way that God requires total submission. This submission will be given voluntarily or compelled.A person, or a nation, may scorn God and redefine God’s Laws but such will only be done for the briefest of time. It may appear that some are escaping God’s punishment as they lessen Divine restrictions and encourage innovations to God’s commands. However these are on a slippery slope and will only descend into greater rebellion and ultimately greater damnation.
d. TOTAL DAMNATION!
The nation that rejects God’s Laws will perish. A nation had never endured once it began to redesign God’s Laws!
In looking at this somber chapter we find the following lessons that have a significant lesson for our lives and especially our nation.
a. The Summons – “MENE.” meaning “numbered.” It reminds us that earthly days are limited and accounts will be made. This figure is taken from the marketplace where products would be weighed and tested for integrity. The scales would be hand-held and objects would be tested. The scales that judge mankind are held by One who sees all actions; who knows all thoughts and hearts; who hears all words. He is impartial because He does not allow emotions to cloud judgment!
b. The Trial – “TEKEL meaning “weighed.” It reefers to being placed on the judgment balance. Eternity is not decided by fate, chance, luck, or emotions. Eternity is decided by reasoned judgment.
c. The Sentence – “UPHARSIN.” refers to “divided.” the punishment that is given. After our limited time on earth we will be judged by God’s truth and we will be sentenced accordingly.
It’s now incumbent upon you to verify and identify who is who in Kenya’s political laboratory that is depicted as Babylon. I remain your all-time socio economic commentator and political analyst Omondi George Olumwa Kidikibudi
THE POLITICAL BAROMETER