The Writing Is On the Wall

So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. (Dan 5:3-5)

One of the things that seems to argue against Christianity is the prosperity of those who reject it. If Christianity is true, then the universe was rigged by its creator to reward one kind of life and discredit another. Those who live out his values should receive the life he planned for them, and those who reject his values should end up in disaster. But what we see is often the opposite. We see people catapulted to wealth by pop culture, writing perverted lyrics or depicting sexuality in ways that devalue human life. The rich get richer and have lifestyles of luxury. They can do anything they want; their lives are one big party. We hear about lobbyists who make millions of dollars cutting crooked deals to gain political favors for their employers. Greed is good, apparently. Integrity seems to be a dead end. It doesn't look like this is working out the way it is supposed to. No wonder so many are drawn to the rich and famous, and why we want to be them.

Sin can lull you into complacency, into this idea that everything is going great. The world is a twisted place, rewarding evil and undermining good; the darkness hides corruption and allows it to grow. Media spreads an ideology that supports a worldview of superficiality and greed, while at the same time safeguarding our privacy in ways that allow us to disguise our sin. It seems like the perfect world for doing the wrong thing, the way it rewards self-centeredness and compromise. It's clearly not a world under God's direct control. Doing the right thing is not a cultural ideal any more; it's a roadblock to the good life. Christianity has never seemed more out of step with modern life than right now.

But then something happened—evil is exposed. Corruption comes to the light. Hollywood moguls are dethroned for their exploitation. Senators are unmasked for their abuse of power. Slush funds meant to silence victims and cover up perversion are made public. I sat at a business lunch a few weeks ago, and so many sitting around the table were amazed that this was happening, and a little mystified by it. But I get it. The universe is rigged. Evil is a dead-end. As dark as the world is, the Creator has made us to prosper when we follow him. The alternative is disaster. It's only a question when we see the writing on the wall.

In Daniel 5, we're invited to a scene of festivity, where an evil king celebrates his power by drinking from relics taken from the Jewish Temple. He toasts his false gods and mocks the true God, reveling in his sin, thinking he has it made. And then something happens. A ghostly hand appears, writing a series of words on the wall that make no sense. Mene mene, tekel, parsin. He calls in Daniel, the celebrated interpreter of dreams and servant of God, to divine the intent of the words.

The words are a judgment; the king's time is over. His kingdom was to be taken away, his life forfeit that very night. His sin and idolatry had led him to destruction; his revelry left him blind to his fate. Daniel explains his mistake, that “you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways” (Daniel 5:23). The lives we live for ourselves, hiding our sin in darkness and celebrating corruption, are a repudiation of the Creator of the universe. The system he created is rigged—against those who don't honor him, and in favor of those who do. In the end, evil, and all who pursue it, will go down. That end has come earlier for some than others.

In Psalm 73:2-3, David mentions how he almost stumbled when he looked enviously at the prosperity of the wicked. Doing the wrong thing can lead to wealth, fun, and luxury. It can draw any of us in, just like it lulls those who pursue it into complacency. But it's a dead-end. The writing is already on the wall. Follow the Lord and honor him with your life.

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