HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
Scripture: Daniel 5:1–31, 9:14
Memory verse: Daniel 9:14
"The Lord our God is righteous in everything he does."
Use the following story to show the importance of listening to and obeying directions.
James was on his way to visit his cousin John, who lived several blocks away. James decided to take a shortcut, even though his father told him many times not to go that way. It involved walking through several people’s yards, and James’ father didn’t think that was a wise thing to do.
James walked along, whistling and tossing his football into the air. Suddenly, two dogs appeared from behind a house. The bigger dog leaped into the air and knocked James to the ground. While he was struggling to get up, the smaller dog bit his arm and held on tight. James managed to stand up for a few seconds, but the bigger dog knocked him down again. James frantically screamed for help as he tried to keep the dogs away from his face. The dogs’ owner heard James’ screams and came running to help. He got the dogs off James.
The dogs had left some deep cuts in James’ arms and hands. The owner called James’ parents, and they took him to the hospital. James had to have several stitches and shots. All the while he couldn’t help thinking that none of this would have happened if he had followed his father’s directions.
Tell the students that following directions is important. In our lesson this week they will hear how God used a prophet to teach a mighty king about following directions.
Hearing God’s Word
Daniel had many exciting experiences during his life. Yet no matter what he faced, God was always with him and helped him. The name Daniel means “God is judge” or “God is my judge.” God used Daniel to preach God’s judgement when people refused to serve Him.
God Helps Daniel in Babylon
When Daniel was just a young man, he was taken from his home in Judah to the land of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, wanted Daniel and some other intelligent young men to receive training so they could serve in his court. God was with Daniel and helped him find favour with Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel became much respected in the Babylonian kingdom.
As time went by, another man became the ruler of Babylon. His name was Belshazzar. One night King Belshazzar held a lavish celebration or feast. He invited 1,000 men from the kingdom to enjoy the feast with him. While all the men and women at the feast were eating and drinking wine, Belshazzar had an idea. He ordered his servants to bring in the sacred vessels of gold and silver that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem when it was conquered. These vessels had been dedicated to the one true God and were to have been used only in worship to Him. Belshazzar decided to pass around the vessels so all the people at his feast could drink wine from them. What an insult to God!
Belshazzar was not finished. As his guests were drinking wine from the sacred vessels, Belshazzar began praising the idols he worshiped. Belshazzar had no respect for the one true God; he gave his praise to false gods.
Some people think they can do as they please and no one will ever notice. But our God is all-knowing. He knew exactly what Belshazzar was doing, and He did not like it at all. Besides being all-knowing, God is all-powerful. He got Belshazzar’s attention in an unusual way.
A Terrifying Interruption
While Belshazzar’s party was still going on, the fingers of a man’s hand suddenly appeared beside a candlestick and began writing on the plaster of a wall. What a terrifying sight! Suddenly Belshazzar was no longer in a partying mood. His face grew pale with fear and he began to feel weak. His whole body started to tremble. What was the meaning of this?
Immediately the king screamed for his astrologers and soothsayers. He promised a fine robe, a gold neck chain, and the third position as ruler in his kingdom to anyone who could tell him the meaning of the writing on the wall. All the wise me came, but not one could read the words or give their meaning. The mystery continued.
Daniel Interprets the Writing
When the queen heard what was happening, she hurried to the banquet house to talk to Belshazzar. She reminded him of Daniel who had interpreted dreams and visions during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. At once Daniel was brought before Belshazzar. Although he was offered the same gifts that had been offered to the astrologers, Daniel wasn’t interested in them. He said he would interpret the handwriting for the king without gifts.
Daniel began by helping Belshazzar remember what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar, the previous ruler of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had been a king of power and great wealth. But he became proud of all his possessions. He developed such a high opinion of himself, he began to think all the wealth and beauty of Babylon was because of his own power, not God’s. Shortly after that, God took his throne from him. Belshazzar knew all this, but he failed to learn a lesson from it. When he became king, he acted just as Nebuchadnezzar had. He had become proud and disrespectful toward God. He had even used God’s holy vessels in praising his own idols.
Daniel told Belshazzar the interpretation of the handwriting. (Ask a student to read Daniel 5:25–28.) First, God had numbered the days of Belshazzar’s kingdom and finished it. Second, Belshazzar had been weighed in God’s balance and come up short. Third, the kingdom would be taken from Belshazzar and divided between two kingdoms, the Medes and the Persians.
God’s Words Come True
That very night God’s words came true. Belshazzar was killed, ad Darius the Mede took control of the kingdom. Belshazzar’s sin had brought destruction. God showed the people once again that He is righteous, just as this week’s memory verse says. He is also more powerful than any person or power. (Repeat the memory verse with the students.)
What did the prophet Ezekiel say about someone who refuses to listen to God and does as he pleases instead? (Ask a student to read Ezekiel 18:20.)
This does not mean that God is going to strike someone dead the minute he makes a mistake or does something he should not do. God is patient. He loves us and wants to give us life. But those who refuse to obey Him also refuse the life He gives. Disobedience to God will finally bring death—eternal punishment.
Lessons for Us Today
We can learn several things from what happened to Belshazzar.
Ask: “How are people today a little like Belshazzar?” (Allow responses.)
Satan is still busy trying to trick people into becoming too proud of their achievements and refusing to thank God for what they have. He causes them to become too busy trying to become rich or popular to even think about God. He even wants people to use what God has given them--their bodies, talents, and possessions—in ways that do not honour or please God. But these things are wrong, just as they were in Belshazzar’s time. They lead to death and sorrow. Only God’s way of righteousness leads to eternal life and true happiness.
Ask: “Do you think God keeps a chart on which sins are graded as ‘little’ or ‘large’?” (Allow responses.)
All sin is equal in His sight. We can’t say, “Well, cheating on my science test was wrong, but it is not as bad as some things other people do.” Sometimes non-Christian friends will try to get you to do things that are not right. They may say, “Oh, it is not that bad. Who will ever know?” But God always knows. He knows our thoughts and our actions. All sins are the same in His sight, whether we see them as small or large.
Jesus Gives Us Hope
None of us is perfect. All of us have fallen short of God’s righteousness. (Have the students look up the following Bible verses: Romans 3:23, 6:23, 10:9, 10:13.) There is hope for us. We do not have to be like Belshazzar. Jesus took the punishment for our sins, and if we will accept Him as our Saviour, we will not have to suffer eternal punishment for our sins.
Ask: “How can we receive Jesus?” (Allow responses.)
Perhaps some of you have been doing things you know are not right. You may have compromised what you know is right in order to be popular or impress others. Some of you may never have given your lives to Jesus yet. God is more than willing to make you clean and righteous before Him when you turn from wrong and ask Jesus to forgive your sins.
Accepting God’s Word
Stress to the class that God wants to give everyone eternal life, not eternal punishment. We can receive this gift of life by admitting we are sinners, being truly sorry for our sins, asking Jesus to forgive us, and following His instructions in our lives.
Hararghe Oromo Prayer
Lord, the Hararghe Oromo really need your help. The deception of Islam has blinded their spiritual eyes. Their bodies, which you knit together when they were in their mother’s womb, are being destroyed by chewing khat. Addicted to sin and a drug, they need a deliverer.
The Psalmist David prayed, “Part your heavens, Lord, and come down...Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me and rescue me” (Psalm 144:5,7). Lord, you did it for King David; I believe you can do it for the Hararghe Oromo.
May messengers, sent by the Holy Spirit, live among them to build relational bridges. Through those relationships, may Jesus be introduced to the Hararghe Oromo as the resurrected Christ who personally was victorious over death, hell and the grave. May they see Jesus as God’s hand reaching down to them, and in Him may they find deliverance from sin and bondage to khat. In Jesus’ powerful Name, I pray. Amen!
Remember: HANDWRITING ON THE WALL
Memory verse: Daniel 9:14
"The Lord our God is righteous in everything he does."
1. The name Daniel means “God is my judge.”
2. God knows exactly what I am doing at all times.
3. Disobeying God will finally bring eternal punishment.
Pray for God's Messengers to be Sent to the Hararghe.
Study 5 | All Peoples/The Prophets | africaatts.org/go-teach