Here’s the context: As an act of judgment against his people Israel, God handed over Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon. In consequence he carted away temple fortune – the dedicated utensils of gold and silver from the temple treasury. God gave Nebuchadnezzar enormous power, but at some point he became too big for his breeches. After a bout with insanity, he learnt humility and acknowledged the sovereignty of God – seven years of rabid insanity.
Upon his death his son Belshazzar ascended the throne. Power soon got to his head too. One day Belshazzar threw a banquet – a state dinner. Present were all the nobles of his kingdom. In a state of inebriety he ordered the procurement of the goblets taken from the temple in Jerusalem for use at the party. He didn’t stop there. He began to propose a series of toasts with the goblets: toasts to different gods. He toasted the gods of gold, silver, bronze and wood with the dedicated goblets from God’s temple. This proved too much of an insult and God sent an autonomous hand from Heaven to deliver a message. The hand wrote three coded words on the banquet wall – MENE TEKEL PERES. Interpreted, Belshazzar’s days were numbered. He was murdered that very night.
But then the question arises – why did God send a hand to pronounce judgment? Why not an angel, or a prophet? What is the symbolism of the hand? God is known for heavy use of symbolism. He ALWAYS does things with a view to history – whether pre history or post history. That is why innocuous Old Testament events take on deeper meaning in the New Testament. For example, the rock that Moses struck in the desert (from which water gushed out)…That rock symbolised Christ. (1Cor.10:4). ALL history merges into a single narrative called the Son of God. And so when God sends a bio robotic arm to make an inscription on a wall, we must pause and think.
The first time we come across the phenomenon of a scribbling finger in scriptures is with reference to the famous 10 Commandments. Exodus 31:18 MSG: “He gave Moses two tablets of Testimony, slabs of stone, written with the finger of God.” Thus the 10 Commandments were written with the finger of God. The hand is thus a legislative insignia of the supreme law giver – the One who declares a decree. With this at the back of our mind let us properly situate the phenomenon of the writing finger in Babylon.
In toasting the gods of gold and silver with God’s utensils, Belshazzar became a “Messiah defier” according to Psalm 2 (MSG). Concerning the Messiah, the Son of God, God makes some very powerful statements: “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations as Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like potters’ ware. Now therefore, O you kings, act wisely; be instructed and warned, O you rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with reverent awe and worshipful fear…with trembling [lest you displease Him]. Kiss the Son [pay homage to Him], lest He be angry and you perish in the way.” Belteshazzar paid no heed to this. He defied God and perished!
Again we come across the “finger of God” with respect to yet another defiant king – Pharaoh. To bring him to his knees God unleashed ten plagues upon Egypt. In the 3rd plague, God commanded Moses to strike his rod upon the dust of the ground. The dust turned into mosquitoes [gnats]! When the magicians of Pharaoh tried to replicate the feat they could not. In obeisance they pronounced, “This is the finger of God!” Exodus 8:19 AMP
And so the phenomenon of the finger of God in the Old Testament was governmental. In its sub specie aeternitatis (it’s essential form or nature), it was either legislative or subjugative. But it takes on a different hue in the New Testament. In John 8, we see the story of a woman caught in adultery. She was brought to Jesus by the religious figures. What should be done to her, they asked Jesus. Under the Laws of Moses she must be stoned to death. Jesus stooped down and began to write on the ground with His finger, as if he didn’t hear them. When they persisted with their question, He rose up and said to them: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then He bent down again and went on writing on the ground with His finger. Conscience-stricken, one by one, from the oldest down to the last they left. None was without sin. And so we see the deafness of the God of mercy to the strident condemnations of the old laws. We see the writing of a new law – a new code of grace and mercy. It overwrites the legalisms of the laws of Moses. We see the God who saves sinners from the harsh judgments of the laws of Moses.
Therefore there is now no condemnation (no adjudging guilty of wrong) for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life [which is] in Christ Jesus has freed us from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:1-2). Jesus cancelled and blotted “the handwriting of ordinances (laws) against us”. He obliterated the legal decrees and demands which were in force and stood against us, hostile to us. All sins forgiven, the slate wiped clean, that old arrest warrant canceled and nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14 MSG).
There is a new and living way. If you believe Jesus died for you and rose for you from the dead you will be saved. Please pray this prayer: Father I come to you in the name of Jesus. I know I’m a sinner. Please forgive me. Cleanse my sins. I acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen!
© Leke Alder | firstname.lastname@example.org