Why Read the Bible?

Seeing the Handwriting On The Wall – As told in Daniel, Chapter 5

People who never read the Bible miss a rich cultural heritage passed on and preserved for millennia. King Solomon correctly taught that “there is nothing new under the sun.” And yet each new generation arrogantly believes that they are the first ones to be in their circumstances or know truth. Because they reject historical biblical principles, many people no longer learn that liberty is an unalienable right that comes from God and in their ignorance sell their birthright for a mess of pottage.

Even today there are cultural differences that separate us from others. If an Australian Aborigine were suddenly transported to New York City and a New Yorker took his place in the Outback, which one would be most likely to survive? At least the Aborigine would know how to fight, could learn to raid garbage cans for food, and could sense danger, but what would a city boy alone know about how to orient himself by the stars, how to find food and water in the wild, or how to defend himself from wild animals?

In our hubris we have forgotten that people in the past also led full lives and had wisdom we can learn and receive guidance from. The Bible is one such source of practical lessons on life and recognizing what is important in human experience.

In the not too distant past even people who were not “religious” were somewhat literate in biblical knowledge. The writer Florence King wrote about having problems with Social Security. Finally she had an appointment with a supervisor and after once again explaining her problem the supervisor assured her she understood and the problem would be resolved. Miss King muttered, “I can see the handwriting on the wall already.” The supervisor looked at her blankly, then turned her chair around to look at the wall and said, “I don’t see any handwriting.”

Sometimes we don’t see “the handwriting on the wall” because we have never studied it enough to see its relevance to us.

In his book “After America: Get Ready For Armageddon”, Mark Steyn clarifies the story of Belshazzar, King of Babylon, and “the handwriting on the wall.”

Belshazzar had a feast for all his courtiers and brought out the gold and silver plates, utensils and goblets looted from the temple in Jerusalem and used them to drunkenly toast the gods of gold and silver worshiped by the Babylonians. In the midst of the feast a disembodied hand appeared and wrote the words, “mene, mene, tekel, upharsin,” on the wall. Belshazzar understood the words, but not why they suddenly were written during his big party.

No one ever explained to me what the words meant, I only knew the interpretation. Mr. Steyn explains that the words are names for units or weights of Babylonian currency, or as he says: half-dollar, half-dollar, penny and two bits.

Daniel the Jewish prophet was called in by the King to interpret the “handwriting on the wall.” The interpretation given to Belshazzar by Daniel is:

MENE: “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and hath finished it”.   TEKEL: “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”  UPHARSIN: “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Within a day Belshazzar was slain, and the Persians and Darius the Mede had taken over the kingdom.

I am grateful to Mr. Steyn for identifying what the words written on the wall actually mean and placing the story in the context of Belshazzar having wasted the resources of his kingdom, thereby destroying it. If we were to ponder just a little would this story have any relevance to our nation’s trillions, trillions, billions, and millions in debt?

Is anyone in Washington reading the “handwriting on the wall?”

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