King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand.
Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed. Daniel 5:1-9 ESV
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. Matthew 16:1-4 ESV
One morning two young rabbits named Hazel and Fiver were out in the field feeding. Suddenly Fiver became very upset. He got the feeling that something terrible was about to happen, even though he couldn’t exactly explain why. He said that he saw blood all over the field where their rabbit warren was. Hazel tried to comfort him, but Fiver continued to be upset. The two rabbits soon stumbled upon a large sign that had just been put up in the field. This sign was what had given Fiver his bad feeling, even though neither he nor Hazel could read it. What the sign said was that there would soon be a housing development built on the field right over their rabbit warren. All the little rabbits could understand was fear.
In Babylon, as the time of exile continued, Nebuchadnezzar died and successors took his throne. When a successor named Belshazzar ruled, he had a big party. He brought out a lot of wine to drink, and he thought it would be a good joke to drink wine out of the temple vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had brought from the temple in Jerusalem. This was his way of making fun of the God of Israel and praising the false gods that he and his people worshiped. But while the party was going on, something terrifying happened. A hand–with no body attached!–suddenly appeared out of nowhere and began writing on the wall of the palace. King Belshazzar was very frightened, and he called all his wise men to come and help him understand this. But none of his wise men were able to tell him what the words meant or what this ghostly sign was all about. All the king knew was fear.
In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders often asked him for a sign. Jesus told them that they were able to read the signs in the sky, but they couldn’t read the signs of the time. He meant that they could have seen and understood that Jesus was the promised Savior if they had paid attention to all the signs of healing and teaching that he had given them. Jesus said that he would only give them one sign, the sign of Jonah. Jonah had lived in the belly of a big fish for three days, and then he had come out again alive. Jesus would be put to death and buried in a grave, but before three days were over he would come out alive, the way Jonah had come out of the big fish. When Jesus rose from the dead, he gave us the only sign we really need. We know that he has conquered sin and death for us, and gives us forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus’ sign for us doesn’t scare us, but it gives us hope and courage for every day and always.
Dear Jesus, thank you for giving us the sign of your resurrection. Please give us courage when things scare us. Amen.
Adams, Richard Watership Down London: Rex Collins, Ltd., 1972.