Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

December 28, 2003 / No. 3182

Dear radio friends,

          Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. 

          No, I am not speaking in tongues.  I am reciting the words that we find in Daniel 5, words that the hand of God wrote upon Belshazzar’s wall.  They are the word of God written for every one to see and to hear in the last days and hours of this year; a word of God addressed to man, whoever and wherever he is, from the Oval Office and the plush night clubs, to the street people and the nomad in the most remote corner of the earth.  This is a word to you and a word to me.  It is a word of God’s judgment concerning the kingdom of man, concerning this present world of sin and unbelief.

          Mene, means “numbered.”  The kingdom of this world is numbered by God.  The time for its duration is set and fixed of God.  There shall come an end.

          Tekel, “judged.”  The kingdom of this world is found by God to be wanting, empty, vain, lifted up in pride against the Lord of heaven.  It failed to do the one thing that it must:  glorify God!

          Upharsin, “smashed.”  The kingdom of this world shall be smashed in pieces, cut asunder, destroyed in the day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns and God alone shall be glorified in that day.

          That is the word of the living God.  It is a word, now, to those who have been given eyes to see and hearts to believe.  That word is this:  “Come out from among them, my people.  Touch not the unclean thing.  Be ready for the end of time.  Be ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Are you hearing the word of God concerning this present world?  Or do you live as one of the foolish ones — drinking and dancing before the word of God’s judgments?  Do you take into account this one truth in your life, that your breath is in God’s hands and your ways are before the living God and He must be glorified in you, either by eternal salvation or in just and eternal damnation?

          Not one of us can say that he is not aware of the relentless progress of time, for we stand again at the end of another year.  And the question is this:  “Are you ready?  Are you ready to stand before God?  Are you ready for the return of Jesus Christ?  Or do you take your place tonight with Belshazzar, king of Babylon, who, at the night in which his kingdom was being judged and destroyed, was drunk and partying?  Do you take your stand with him?  Or do you take your stand with the church of the living God and do you pray, “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, come to set Thy people free.  From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee”?

          The passage to which I am referring is found in Daniel 5.   It refers to the kingdom of Babylon in its last hours.  Babylon was the kingdom that had destroyed Jerusalem and taken God’s people captive.  It was the world power at that time.  It had held all other nations in subjection and had ruled over them.  It was a prefiguration of the antichristian kingdom that one day shall be established, the kingdom of man, built for man, in which man will be all glorious, the opposite of the kingdom of our God and of His Son Jesus Christ.

          Concerning the kingdom of man, God’s word is:  Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin — Numbered, weighed, and found wanting.  That is exactly the word of God that comes tonight.  The world also, like Belshazzar, is partying at the end of the year and reveling in drink and in every lust, shouting their freedom to cast God aside and to ring in the new year by putting one on.  We can hear them.  They are worshiping the gods of wood and stone.  They are thanking fortune, economy, luck for being so good to them.  They are sacrificing their bodies to sinful pleasures.  They are pouring their glasses full.  With drink, loud music, and cheers, they are drowning the sounds of God’s judgments outside the walls.  They do not want their party ruined by the reality — that there is no protection for AIDS, that the economy is fragile, that there are global uncertainties, that there is no such thing as safety, that there is friction among men, that there is cancer and there is crime and there is the breakdown of society.

          To that world in which we live, God speaks His Word tonight.

          We read in Daniel 5 that king Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank much wine.  It was a party at which was served up every carnal pleasure to excess.  It was offensive, it was foolish, for, as I said, Babylon at that very moment was staggering at the brink of total defeat.  At the walls of Babylon stood the enemy.  The judgments were upon them, staring them in the face.  While the king’s soldiers were dying and his realm was toppling, this playboy king is having a banquet.

          Belshazzar was the son of Nebuchadnezzar.  It has been some thirty or forty years since Daniel, God’s servant, has stood before his father Nebuchadnezzar and brought to that proud man God’s word.  But that word that Daniel had brought to the king, that God is God alone, had now slipped again into the background in Babylon.  Belshazzar the king is vaguely aware of it.  The queen, his mother, who knew about Daniel, had not forgotten.  Evidently Daniel has fallen into disfavor in the kingdom of Babylon and is living as a forgotten man.

          Nothing has changed in this world.  When Daniel comes (he is summoned that night to come before Belshazzar when the hand appears, writing those words on the wall), Daniel must remind Belshazzar of the same things he had spoken to his father Nebuchadnezzar about.  He tells Belshazzar that “the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.”  He tells the king that his breath, that is, his very life, is not his own but is in the hand of God.  He tells the king that all of his ways are before the eyes of God and that his whole duty was to glorify God.  Belshazzar had fallen back into the pride of man.

          Belshazzar, in his feast and in his refusal to reckon with the judgments that were before him, had not humbled his heart but had lifted himself up against the Lord of heaven.  He was a man who said, “The whole creation, its power and its glory, is for me.”  He exalted himself in God’s place.  He believed that he was a god.  He fancied himself free to do exactly what he wanted.  And he supposed that the whole nation and everything existed for one purpose:  for himself, and he could ignore God’s law and do as he pleased.

          Still more.  Belshazzar was a man who showed contempt for God.  He showed a profaning of the things of God.  We learn, when we read the chapter, that man cannot leave the holy things of God alone, that man is never neutral.  We must never believe that man can be neutral.  For Belshazzar has commanded that the vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem be used for their party.  That is emphasized in the chapter.  That was something like this:  A group of drunken thieves break into the church and steal the communion set of the church and use the communion glasses in their favorite bar to drink in the New Year.  That is the condition of the world tonight.  The condition of the world tonight is a contempt for the sacred things of God.

          To that world, God sent His message.  For we read in that chapter that the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote over against a candlestick upon the plaster of the wall in the king’s palace.  The emphasis in the passage is on the timing.  Then was the part of the hand sent from God.  At that very moment when the king’s heart was lifted up and he was merry and proclaiming his own freedom; when the drunken revelry had reached its height and it seemed they were incapable of one serious thought — then the mysterious hand of God appeared, snatching them out of their revelry.  A hush fell upon all of them, and dread and terror seized them all.  They all sobered up quick.

          That proud, party-making king turned as white as a sheet and his knees knocked and he could not get up.  For four words had been written upon the wall.  How powerful God is when He does nothing more than write.  When He takes a few fingers of His hands and shows them to man, when He turns off the music, quiets the laughing and the drunken revelry, and He takes man up into His hand and brings him to face the reality that He is God.

          God does that also tonight.  God does that through His Word, His living and abiding Word, the Word that is written with His own finger, the Word of the holy Scriptures, the inspired Scriptures.  Do you tremble and humble yourself before that Word?  Or do you go on in the stupor of sin and rebellion?

          The words that were written were:  Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin.  Although the words were written very clearly — on white plaster and illumined by a candlestick — nevertheless the king and his men could not read them.  It was a spiritual problem.  It was not a mental problem.  The scholars of Babylon were called in to read the hieroglyphics on the wall.  But they could get nowhere.  They could not read the words.  They could not interpret them.  It remained an unsolved puzzle to them because, though seeing, they did not understand.  It was not a problem of the eyesight.  It was a problem of a darkened heart.

          So also the Word of God appears very clearly today.  The handwriting of God appears over the world today in judgments and catastrophes.  Yet, to the world, it is a dark mystery to try to solve these things and to interpret as to what they mean. With a puzzled look, man looks at society today, and there is the handwriting of God all around him — the judgments of God, the breakdown of society, the destruction of children, divorce and remarriage, sexual uncleanness, crime on the increase, and all the rest.  And they say, “We can’t understand what this means.”

The handwriting of God appears over the world today in judgments and catastrophes.

          Then, even in the church, men with learned degrees in seminaries, they, too, come before the Bible and they pull long faces and lift their eyebrows and scratch their heads and mumble big words and they get nowhere and they conclude:  “We can’t be sure what the Bible is saying although it is written black on white.”  Even a first-grader, stumbling to pronounce the words as they read the Bible, could tell them:  “The Bible is saying that God is God, that He must be worshiped, that He must be obeyed, He must be loved and served, and that when men refuse to do so, they stand ready to be judged by the eternal God who is able to save or damn.”

          Daniel comes to interpret the words for the king.  Mene, Mene.  “God,” says Daniel, “has numbered thy kingdom and finished it.”  The years, the hours, the moments of the kingdom of man are fixed by God and will lead by God to their end.  For God has determined in His eternal counsel how long and how far man will go and when his time will be up.  He has kept record of everything.  Nothing has escaped Him.  He adds up all the figures.  You think that your destiny is in your own hands?  You are unaccountable for your actions to anyone?  “Not so,” says God.  “I have counted, I have numbered.”

          Tekel.  Daniel says that word means, “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.”  God has weighed man out.  He has put him in the scales of His justice.  On one side of the scale He puts His glory — that man should glorify Him in all that he does.  On the other side He puts man, his kingdom, his power, his glory, his wealth, and his honor.  And man is found empty, vain, light.  There is no content in him.  “You did not glorify Me,” says God to wicked men.

          Upharsin.  The kingdom is divided, that is, cut asunder, broken in pieces, crushed.  That is God’s Word to man and to nations and to all who would lift themselves up high against Him.  “You are in My hand.  And as a sinner you are found empty and guilty before Me.  You shall be broken in pieces.”  That is God’s Word at the close of this year.

          Do you hear that word?

          When our lives in 2003 are weighed in God’s balance, what is the result?  Of ourselves, we have that same horrible sin and pride.  What about the weight of one day?  Is it not empty?  So often, so empty in the balances of God?  Heavy?  Is it heavy with the fruits of repentance and conversion, the battle against sin?  Is it weighted down with the weight of prayer, acts of self-denial, and the desire to glorify God in all that you do?  Or is it empty with self-seeking, living for the earthly, the carnal, and the vain?

          Of ourselves, those four words would judge us, too.  They would judge all men equally.  But thanks be to God, God has written four other strange words in the Bible.  And He has placed them over the head of the church tonight.  Those four words, also which men could not interpret, four words written by God’s own hand in a strange language:  “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.”  Words which were equally piercing in the darkness.  They were cried out by Jesus Christ.  They mean:  “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  They are words that mean that by grace God has placed the sin of His children upon His own Son Jesus Christ, so that they might be redeemed and forgiven of their sins.  They are words that tell us that Jesus was forsaken for us so that we might never be forsaken of God.  Now the church is escaped from the Word of judgment because Christ was judged for them.  The Word of God of judgment will be fulfilled.

          We read that “in that night, Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans, was slain and Darius the Mede took the kingdom.”  The king Belshazzar, even though God had written words of judgment to him and had sent His prophet Daniel to interpret them, nevertheless, this king did not repent.  That is frightening.  The handwriting was on the wall.  He had words of applause for Daniel.  He gave Daniel great praise for the ability to be able to interpret.  He rewarded Daniel, he offered to Daniel all kinds of earthly riches.  But there was no repentance in his heart.

          On his Old Year’s Night, the last night of his kingdom and the last night of his life, that night found him holding gifts offered to Daniel instead of emptying his hands and folding them in prayer to God.  It found him in the midst of a thousand lords, all the party-goers arrayed in costly dress, drunk and surrounded with the world’s wealth.  They had their party hats and their streamers.  But they were not arrayed before God with a contrite heart and a broken spirit.  And God’s judgments fell upon them.

          There are a lot of Belshazzars.  God speaks in the ticking of the clock.  “Man, you are numbered by Me.  Your breath is in My hand.  Your sole purpose is to glorify Me.  So soon you must stand before Me.”  But apart from grace, men stand not with broken heart, not with sober reckoning upon life.  Apart from grace, a man will only grab more of the earthly things and respond, “Turn the music louder, drink more, toot the horns.”  But one day soon every man must stand naked before the hands of God.

          What is the Word of God?  Come out from among them, my people.  Do not be afraid.  Do not tremble in horror tonight before the Word of God, as awesome as it is.  For the Word is the Word of our salvation.  When the judgments of God are descending upon the world of sin, the church may look up and know that the kingdom of our God and all of its power in Jesus Christ is coming.  The kingdom that has been built in the blood of our Savior Jesus Christ to whom we belong.  For His Word to us is this:  The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.  And He shall reign for ever and ever as Lord of lords and King of kings.  The kingdoms of this world will pass away, but His kingdom shall endure.  That is the word sent to the church at the close of the year:  His kingdom is victorious.  For that kingdom we look and we see it coming closer.

          The time shall soon be when the Lord Jesus Christ shall descend and we shall be brought into His presence with exceeding joy.  Is that the kingdom that you seek?  Then hear, at the end of this year, these four words of God:  “Behold, I come quickly.”

          May our lives respond:  “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

          Let us pray.

          Father, as this year draws to its close, we pray that, as Thy children, we may look with uplifted heads in faith and hope for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We know that Thy kingdom is forever, that Thou art the God of wrath and judgment upon sin and the God of mercy in the Lord Jesus Christ.  May we look unto Him and live out of Him and be ready, as His children, for His appearing.  We pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.