The writing on the wall: Meditation for the fourteenth sunday after trinity
‘The writing on the wall’ has come to be a phrase or idiomatic expression widely used in language and literature as a portent of doom or misfortune. The phrase originated from the historical content of the reading of today.
Last week, we learnt that, for guidance and entering into well-being, the people of the Lord need to keep following in His steps and avoiding all distractions. The subject today is that God also gives warning to all people, keeping them from destruction. They, therefore, need to be sensitive to the signs, which God gives and avoid evil. If only we can read in between lines, we can see that the writing on the wall is there, even now. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”(Rom. 1:18-19).
In Nigeria, and the world at large, today, God has been giving us some signs of impending dangers if we do not change our ways.
Reflections on the Bible Readings for Day (Mattins)
The OT (Dan. 5) passage is an example of the arrogance of world rulers and their confrontation with God Who is the controller of history. Belshazzar obviously knew how God had humbled Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Dan. 4) and so acted out of spite (cf. v. 22) in ordering the wining with the holy vessels from Jerusalem. The bringing in of wives, particularly concubines, was the peak of the desecration saga. It was a deliberate act of additional provocation and insult to God and the Jews, especially as most ancient Eastern states, e.g. the Medes and Persians (cf Esther 1) were not allowing women at state banquets. Men and women were mostly segregated in the ancient Near East, except if the Babylonians had a different culture (which had not been established).
The writing on the wall at the climax of the insolence became the open declaration of God’s verdict. It brought Belshazzar to his senses, although too late. However, Daniel’s interpretation shows that the sign/writing had actually always been there, only that Belshazzar choose to ignore it. The lesson of King Nebuchadnezzar was very clear and, in itself, a writing on the wall that would not need the interpretation of the magicians or prophets. The blindness and negligence of Belshazzar made history to repeat itself.
The NT reading (Acts 25:1-12) is about the trial of Paul before Festus. The Jews plotted to kill him on the way and so demanded that he be taken to Jerusalem. But God led Paul to appeal to Caesar. This is another dimension of divine signification and human discernment by which we are prevented from destruction.The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC, is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.