Back in the early 70’s, there was a popular song called “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band. The message of the song is about how signs were being used to control everyday life. “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” The implication of the song is that “signs” are a bad thing. To say the least, signs didn’t go over very well with a generation that didn’t want to be told how to live their lives. I guess it’s pretty much always been that way.
In the context of the song, I can see the point the Five Man Electrical Band was trying to make. Man does have a propensity to misuse things. However, as far a God is concerned, signs have been a pretty useful thing. In Daniel chapter 5, God used a very interesting “sign” to get the attention of Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans.
While in the midst of a drunken orgy, the king and his fellow partiers were using the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem, when the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and started writing on the wall. To say the least, this brought the king’s “celebration” to a very different level. Fear and outright terror filled the room, and we read the king’s “knees knocked against each other.” I must admit I’ve never seen that before! Belshazzar was, quite frankly, terrified! He wanted to know what this was all about.
But the “writing on the wall,” as we say, was a cryptic message that wasn’t understood by Belshazzar or any of the “wise men” of Babylon, bringing greater fear to the king. The queen arrived and urged the king to summon Daniel to give the interpretation of the mysterious writing from the finger of God. When Daniel was brought in to the king, he was offered great rewards from the king if he could read the message. Daniel refused any “rewards” and warned the king of what God did to his predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar.
The Most High had made it clear He would not allow any king to exalt himself over God. This is what Belshazzar was guilty of in his mockery of God during his orgy. So God used Daniel once again to reveal Himself to a pagan king. He was truly the right man for the job, for he was totally devoted to God and His Word. In chapter 9, Daniel knew (because of God’s Word) that his people would soon be free to return to Israel. Daniel knew His God, knew what He had done in the past and knew what He would do in the future. God always has the right man, for the right job, in the right place, at the right time.
It’s interesting to me that Daniel wasn’t there to see the finger actually writing on the wall. He didn’t need to be there. The “sign” wasn’t for Daniel, it was for the unbelieving Belshazzar. I’m reminded of Paul writing to the Corinthians, explaining that the sign of languages was “not for believers but for unbelievers” (1 Cor. 14:22). Daniel didn’t need to see the sign, he would know exactly what God was communicating when he saw the words, because he knew his God and His Spirit was in him (v.11).
The message the hand of God had written declared the end of Belshazzar’s kingdom. The king still tried to reward Daniel for telling him what God’s message was, but I have to think it was more of a bribe to stop God from doing what was written. It didn’t work. God’s Word always holds true. Belshazzar’s kingdom fell that very night and he was killed.
It’s somewhat disappointing when believers in Christ look for “signs” to confirm to themselves that God is really working in their lives. What for? He has already “given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). He has given us His “prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19). Let’s pay attention to the light He is shining. The handwriting is on the wall. May we learn of our God through the Word He has given us, to the end that we will know Him and are in tune with His Spirit who lives in us, all for His glory.