Posted on

This Week at St Mary’s

The Writing is on the Wall

 Recently, for Owen Patterson, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Tim Paine, the writing had indeed proved to be on the wall. It’s the Press which usually does the writing, predicting a ‘bad outcome’. In the story about King Belshazzar in Babylon (Daniel 5), a mysterious hand wrote on the wall during an orgy, draining the king, well, regent’s, face of blood. 

We all enjoy a good story, and the book of Daniel has a number. At one level, that’s what they are – good stories. For millennia they have been more than that, giving vital hope to people suffering under tyrannies, assuring them ‘the writing is on the wall’ for the regime. Like Belshazzar, each will be found to have been ‘weighed, numbered and found wanting’ – by God. The Japanese recognised the power of these stories, banning the reading of the book of Daniel and Revelation in their occupied territories during WW2. 

 It is striking how Belshazzar turns to a wise Jew at his moment of crisis. No one else had been of help. It’s common for people to see God as the last resort when things are tough. Better that than never. The story is clear – ‘the help you need will come from a wise Jew’. Christians are convinced that ‘wise Jew’ will be Jesus Christ, the Saviour, wisdom personified. 

The story ends with Belshazzar’s death, that very night. Herodotus and Xenophon, Greek historians, recount how Cyrus captured the palace on 11th October 539 BCE. It doesn’t sound as though Belshazzar had time to take responsibility for his pride and his actions. Another Son of the King, however, most certainly chose to assume total responsibility for all human exaltation, individual and communal. He was willing to die on the cross to face the writing which is on the wall for each of us, and redeem it to give a sure hope for all to be free from oppression. 

Tom Gillum

View Full Document