Daily Devotional reflections

As we journey through these uncertain times, each day Sean will seek to post a thought or reflection, a Bible verse or a prayer.

Friday 5th June


[Rembrandt, Belshazzar's Feast, 1635, (National Gallery, London)]

'mene, mene, tekel, parsin’

One of the themes we have been considering in our daily reflections is the impact of the Bible, including on our use of language. Take for example one of our more common everyday phrases: ‘The writing is on the wall.’ The phrase is used to describe a situation which is going to become difficult or unpleasant, or that something or someone is going to fail, unless we do something about it. In other words, action is clearly required. If we do nothing about it, we shall only have ourselves to blame. The phrase has also been a source of inspiration for great works of art, songs and movies, especially the theme tune to the 2015 James Bond film, Spectre.

The origin of the phrase can be traced back to a rather unusual and unnerving event recorded in the Book of Daniel. Dated around 539 BC, King Belshazzar was holding a great feast for a thousand of his nobles. During the feast, he ordered that gold and silver goblets that had been taken from the temple in Jerusalem by his father King Nebuchadnezzar be used for drinking. The story goes that as the drank from the sacred vessels and praised their false, pagan gods, a disembodied hand appeared out of thin air, and proceeded to write on the wall. The words that appeared were written in ancient Aramaic. They read: 'mene mene tekel parsin.’

The King was terrified by what he saw. The biblical account tells us Belshazzar turned white with fear, his knees knocked and his legs gave way. Even more disturbing, none of his advisors or enchanters or magicians could interpret the meaning of the words. (Even in Aramaic the words appear meaningless.) Eventfully, on the advice of his wife, the King sent for Daniel who gave the interpretation of the terrible vision. You can read the full story in our rather long Bible reading below, but essentially it was a message of judgment. That very night, the king’s life was taken and his kingdom divided between the Medes and Persians.


Daniel 5

The Writing on the Wall

King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. 2 While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father[a] had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. 3 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. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.
5 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. 6 His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.
7 The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. 9 So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled.
10 The queen,hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. 12 He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.”
13 So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? 14 I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. 15 The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. 16 Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”
17 Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.
18 “Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendour. 19 Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. 20 But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. 21 He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes.
22 “But you, Belshazzar, his son,[d] have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. 23 Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. 24 Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription.
25 “This is the inscription that was written:
26 “Here is what these words mean:
Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.
27 Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.
28 Peres Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
29 Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom.
30 That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians,[h] was slain, 31 and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two.


Some parts of the Bible do not make for easy reading. Daniel’s message to Belshazzar was that God’s patience had finally run out. However, we need caution here. The God of the Bible is essentially revealed as a God of love, who will do everything possible to bring us safe home to glory.
What lessons can we glean from this passage?
Does the phrase ‘the writing is on the wall’ have any relevance to your life at this present time?

Rev Sean Swindells
Cruden Parish Church


Remember those who are see ‘the writing on the wall.’
Pray they will have the courage, grace and wisdom to take the necessary action.

O LORD, hear my plea for justice. Listen to my cry for help.
Pay attention to my prayer, for it comes from an honest heart.
Help us to love our neighbours more than we love ourselves, respecting differences,
and embracing our commonalities to find common ground.
Break our hearts for the things that break yours.
Help us to be your echoes of mercy and whispers of love.
Use our hands to extend help to those who are in need of it.
Guide our hearts to an everlasting peace.
Help us to realize that an aching world is waiting for us, your followers,
to be instruments of justice, and stewards of Your Word.
In Your name we pray.

God of all creation, you hold the depths of the earth in your hands.
You are closer to us than the air we breathe.
Fill our souls with your wonderful love and light.
Give us strength and courage to reflect that love and light in the world.
Let us never shrink back from who we are in you or hide our light inside ourselves. Renew in us a sense of joy, painting the dark shadows around us with your light, your love and your salvation.
Hear us today as we pray for a world too often darkened by hatred, evil, power and greed.

Within our darkest night, Let your light shine.

God of power and might, your broken world cries out from the depths,
a world dominated by the darkness of war, terror, pain and suffering.
We think of the on-going and deepening conflict in Syria and the middle East.
We share the pain and anguish of those who have had to flee from their homes,
countries and livelihoods, who risk their lives,
desperate for a new start free from fear and war.
May they see your light, feel your strength and power
and know the truth of your promise
that we shall not be overcome by the dark shadows of life
or the darkness of human nature.

Within our darkest night, Let your light shine.

God of compassion and grace, we share with you our love and concern
for people in a dark place today.
We have on our hearts the friends and loved ones of the victims of violence and hatred.
We pray that they will find your strength
in the compassion and love of those around them.
We pray for tolerance in our society.
We pray for all people suffering racial abuse and hate crimes.
Let your light shine through the darkness of all their pain and their suffering.

Within our darkest night, Let your light shine.

God of life, we ask for your healing power
on those who are enduring pain and illness.
We especially think of those affected by Covid-19
and all those we name quietly in our hearts…
We think of those who’ve recently lost loved ones.
We remember that as we weep with the grieving,
we know your everlasting light shines with us,
in moments of great sadness and great joy.

Within our darkest night, Let your light shine.

God of love and hope,
Renew in us a deeper sense of who we are in you.
Help us to be aware of your presence each and every day.
Make us instruments of love and praise.
May our words, actions and lives be living examples
of your forgiving, healing, life-giving love.

(Prayer from Worship Words, by Karen Baxter)

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
you will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial
and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power
and the glory are yours
now and forever.


May God the Father
prepare your journey,
Jesus the Son
guide your footsteps,
The Spirit of Life
strengthen your body,
The Three in One
watch over you,
on every road