The Finger on the Wall – Gospel in Life

The Finger on the Wall

Tim Keller |  May 14, 2000

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  • Purpose and Calling
Daniel 5:1-6, 17-31
RS 113-3


Daniel is a set of narratives about what happened when the Jewish exiles were taken out of a country in which there was a set of cultural institutions that supported the biblical God. They were taken into Babylon, which was a pluralistic society in which there were many gods and there were many moralities, all equally valid. The Israelites, who believed in the one true God, had to learn how to function in an unbelieving society.

Today’s passage from Daniel 5 will help us see how we should also live faithful lives in a secular world. Let’s look at these three parts of the narrative: the party; the great party crasher, Daniel; and thirdly, the fingers of God and the writing on the wall.

Daniel 5:1–6, 17–31

The story in Daniel 5 gives us tips on how to live in a mixed-up world, like the Jewish people who were living in Babylon. This chapter tells us about an old man named Daniel and a king named Belshazzar. It shows us what happens when we think too highly of ourselves and forget that God is in charge. When the king used special cups from the temple in a wrong way and then got a scary message from God, we see that disrespecting what’s important doesn’t end well.

1. The party

Belshazzar threw a big party even though his enemies were very close. It’s like he was trying to pretend that everything was fine. People often try to ignore their fear of death and of not mattering. They might look for answers in love, art, or religion, but without a strong sense of what’s right and wrong, and without believing in God, these things can’t really give us a reason for living. Without God, people might try to find happiness in things, which shows how hard it is to find real purpose and meaning in life.

2. The great party crasher

Belshazzar’s story reminds us that God’s truth is more important than anything we might think or know. This is still true today, even though we know a lot more than people did back then. The fact that Belshazzar was a real person shows us that we need to trust the whole Bible, even the parts that are hard to understand. Understanding ideas like sin, pride, and insignificance, knowing the difference between religion and faith, and understanding forgiveness are all important parts of understanding what Christianity is about.

3. The fingers of God and the writing on the wall

People who don’t believe in God often try to make themselves feel important. But believers can avoid this by doing more than just going through the motions of religion. As Christians, we’re supposed to show what God’s kingdom is like by being kind, helping to fix what’s broken, and serving others. When we live in a way that shows what’s coming and how important we are to Christ, we give people hope instead of judgment.



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