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Daniel 5-7The Message (MSG)

The Writing of a Disembodied Hand

1-4 King Belshazzar held a great feast for his one thousand nobles. The wine flowed freely. Belshazzar, heady with the wine, ordered that the gold and silver chalices his father Nebuchadnezzar had stolen from God’s Temple of Jerusalem be brought in so that he and his nobles, his wives and concubines, could drink from them. When the gold and silver chalices were brought in, the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines, drank wine from them. They drank the wine and drunkenly praised their gods made of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone.

5-7 At that very moment, the fingers of a human hand appeared and began writing on the lamp-illumined, whitewashed wall of the palace. When the king saw the disembodied hand writing away, he went white as a ghost, scared out of his wits. His legs went limp and his knees knocked. He yelled out for the enchanters, the fortunetellers, and the diviners to come. He told these Babylonian magi, “Anyone who can read this writing on the wall and tell me what it means will be famous and rich—purple robe, the great gold chain—and be third-in-command in the kingdom.”

8-9 One after the other they tried, but could make no sense of it. They could neither read what was written nor interpret it to the king. So now the king was really frightened. All the blood drained from his face. The nobles were in a panic.

10-12 The queen heard of the hysteria among the king and his nobles and came to the banquet hall. She said, “Long live the king! Don’t be upset. Don’t sit around looking like ghosts. There is a man in your kingdom who is full of the divine Holy Spirit. During your father’s time he was well known for his intellectual brilliance and spiritual wisdom. He was so good that your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, made him the head of all the magicians, enchanters, fortunetellers, and diviners. There was no one quite like him. He could do anything—interpret dreams, solve mysteries, explain puzzles. His name is Daniel, but he was renamed Belteshazzar by the king. Have Daniel called in. He’ll tell you what is going on here.”

13-16 So Daniel was called in. The king asked him, “Are you the Daniel who was one of the Jewish exiles my father brought here from Judah? I’ve heard about you—that you’re full of the Holy Spirit, that you’ve got a brilliant mind, that you are incredibly wise. The wise men and enchanters were brought in here to read this writing on the wall and interpret it for me. They couldn’t figure it out—not a word, not a syllable. But I’ve heard that you interpret dreams and solve mysteries. So—if you can read the writing and interpret it for me, you’ll be rich and famous—a purple robe, the great gold chain around your neck—and third-in-command in the kingdom.”

17 Daniel answered the king, “You can keep your gifts, or give them to someone else. But I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means.

18-21 “Listen, O king! The High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom and a glorious reputation. Because God made him so famous, people from everywhere, whatever their race, color, and creed, were totally intimidated by him. He killed or spared people on whim. He promoted or humiliated people capriciously. He developed a big head and a hard spirit. Then God knocked him off his high horse and stripped him of his fame. He was thrown out of human company, lost his mind, and lived like a wild animal. He ate grass like an ox and was soaked by heaven’s dew until he learned his lesson: that the High God rules human kingdoms and puts anyone he wants in charge.

22-23 “You are his son and have known all this, yet you’re as arrogant as he ever was. Look at you, setting yourself up in competition against the Master of heaven! You had the sacred chalices from his Temple brought into your drunken party so that you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines, could drink from them. You used the sacred chalices to toast your gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron, wood and stone—blind, deaf, and imbecile gods. But you treat with contempt the living God who holds your entire life from birth to death in his hand.

24-26 “God sent the hand that wrote on the wall, and this is what is written: mene, teqel, and peres. This is what the words mean:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your rule and they don’t add up.

27 Teqel: You have been weighed on the scales and you don’t weigh much.

28 Peres: Your kingdom has been divided up and handed over to the Medes and Persians.”

29 Belshazzar did what he had promised. He robed Daniel in purple, draped the great gold chain around his neck, and promoted him to third-in-charge in the kingdom.

30-31 That same night the Babylonian king Belshazzar was murdered. Darius the Mede was sixty-two years old when he succeeded him as king.

Daniel in the Lions’ Den

1-3 Darius reorganized his kingdom. He appointed one hundred twenty governors to administer all the parts of his realm. Over them were three vice-regents, one of whom was Daniel. The governors reported to the vice-regents, who made sure that everything was in order for the king. But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom.

4-5 The vice-regents and governors got together to find some old scandal or skeleton in Daniel’s life that they could use against him, but they couldn’t dig up anything. He was totally exemplary and trustworthy. They could find no evidence of negligence or misconduct. So they finally gave up and said, “We’re never going to find anything against this Daniel unless we can cook up something religious.”

6-7 The vice-regents and governors conspired together and then went to the king and said, “King Darius, live forever! We’ve convened your vice-regents, governors, and all your leading officials, and have agreed that the king should issue the following decree:

For the next thirty days no one is to pray to any god or mortal except you, O king. Anyone who disobeys will be thrown into the lions’ den.

“Issue this decree, O king, and make it unconditional, as if written in stone like all the laws of the Medes and the Persians.”

King Darius signed the decree.

10 When Daniel learned that the decree had been signed and posted, he continued to pray just as he had always done. His house had windows in the upstairs that opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he knelt there in prayer, thanking and praising his God.

11-12 The conspirators came and found him praying, asking God for help. They went straight to the king and reminded him of the royal decree that he had signed. “Did you not,” they said, “sign a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man except you for the next thirty days? And anyone caught doing it would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

“Absolutely,” said the king. “Written in stone, like all the laws of the Medes and Persians.”

13 Then they said, “Daniel, one of the Jewish exiles, ignores you, O king, and defies your decree. Three times a day he prays.”

14 At this, the king was very upset and tried his best to get Daniel out of the fix he’d put him in. He worked at it the whole day long.

15 But then the conspirators were back: “Remember, O king, it’s the law of the Medes and Persians that the king’s decree can never be changed.”

16 The king caved in and ordered Daniel brought and thrown into the lions’ den. But he said to Daniel, “Your God, to whom you are so loyal, is going to get you out of this.”

17 A stone slab was placed over the opening of the den. The king sealed the cover with his signet ring and the signet rings of all his nobles, fixing Daniel’s fate.

18 The king then went back to his palace. He refused supper. He couldn’t sleep. He spent the night fasting.

19-20 At daybreak the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. As he approached the den, he called out anxiously, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve so loyally, saved you from the lions?”

21-22 “O king, live forever!” said Daniel. “My God sent his angel, who closed the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me. I’ve been found innocent before God and also before you, O king. I’ve done nothing to harm you.”

23 When the king heard these words, he was happy. He ordered Daniel taken up out of the den. When he was hauled up, there wasn’t a scratch on him. He had trusted his God.

24 Then the king commanded that the conspirators who had informed on Daniel be thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. Before they hit the floor, the lions had them in their jaws, tearing them to pieces.

25-27 King Darius published this proclamation to every race, color, and creed on earth:

Peace to you! Abundant peace!
    I decree that Daniel’s God shall be worshiped and feared in all parts of my kingdom.
    He is the living God, world without end. His kingdom never falls.
    His rule continues eternally.
    He is a savior and rescuer.
    He performs astonishing miracles in heaven and on earth.
    He saved Daniel from the power of the lions.

28 From then on, Daniel was treated well during the reign of Darius, and also in the following reign of Cyrus the Persian.

A Vision of Four Animals

In the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream. What he saw as he slept in his bed terrified him—a real nightmare. Then he wrote out his dream:

2-3 “In my dream that night I saw the four winds of heaven whipping up a great storm on the sea. Four huge animals, each different from the others, ascended out of the sea.

“The first animal looked like a lion, but it had the wings of an eagle. While I watched, its wings were pulled off. It was then pulled erect so that it was standing on two feet like a man. Then a human heart was placed in it.

“Then I saw a second animal that looked like a bear. It lurched from side to side, holding three ribs in its jaws. It was told, ‘Attack! Devour! Fill your belly!’

“Next I saw another animal. This one looked like a panther. It had four birdlike wings on its back. This animal had four heads and was made to rule.

“After that, a fourth animal appeared in my dream. This one was a grisly horror—hideous. It had huge iron teeth. It crunched and swallowed its victims. Anything left over, it trampled into the ground. It was different from the other animals—this one was a real monster. It had ten horns.

“As I was staring at the horns and trying to figure out what they meant, another horn sprouted up, a little horn. Three of the original horns were pulled out to make room for it. There were human eyes in this little horn, and a big mouth speaking arrogantly.

9-10 “As I was watching all this,

“Thrones were set in place
    and The Old One sat down.
His robes were white as snow,
    his hair was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
    its wheels blazing.
A river of fire
    poured out of the throne.
Thousands upon thousands served him,
    tens of thousands attended him.
The courtroom was called to order,
    and the books were opened.

11-13 “I kept watching. The little horn was speaking arrogantly. Then, as I watched, the monster was killed and its body cremated in a roaring fire. The other animals lived on for a limited time, but they didn’t really do anything, had no power to rule. My dream continued.

13-14 “I saw a human form, a son of man,
    arriving in a whirl of clouds.
He came to The Old One
    and was presented to him.
He was given power to rule—all the glory of royalty.
    Everyone—race, color, and creed—had to serve him.
His rule would be forever, never ending.
    His kingly rule would never be replaced.

15-16 “But as for me, Daniel, I was disturbed. All these dream-visions had me agitated. So I went up to one of those standing by and asked him the meaning of all this. And he told me, interpreting the dream for me:

17-18 “‘These four huge animals,’ he said, ‘mean that four kingdoms will appear on earth. But eventually the holy people of the High God will be given the kingdom and have it ever after—yes, forever and ever.’

19-22 “But I wanted to know more. I was curious about the fourth animal, the one so different from the others, the hideous monster with the iron teeth and the bronze claws, gulping down what it ripped to pieces and trampling the leftovers into the dirt. And I wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and the other horn that sprouted up while three of the original horns were removed. This new horn had eyes and a big mouth and spoke arrogantly, dominating the other horns. I watched as this horn was making war on God’s holy people and getting the best of them. But then The Old One intervened and decided things in favor of the people of the High God. In the end, God’s holy people took over the kingdom.

23-25 “The bystander continued, telling me this: ‘The fourth animal is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from the first three kingdoms, a monster kingdom that will chew up everyone in sight and spit them out. The ten horns are ten kings, one after another, that will come from this kingdom. But then another king will arrive. He will be different from the earlier kings. He will begin by toppling three kings. Then he will blaspheme the High God, persecute the followers of the High God, and try to get rid of sacred worship and moral practice. God’s holy people will be persecuted by him for a time, two times, half a time.

26-27 “‘But when the court comes to order, the horn will be stripped of its power and totally destroyed. Then the royal rule and the authority and the glory of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the people of the High God. Their royal rule will last forever. All other rulers will serve and obey them.’

28 “And there it ended. I, Daniel, was in shock. I was like a man who had seen a ghost. But I kept it all to myself.”

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

2 JohnThe Message (MSG)

1-2 My dear congregation, I, your pastor, love you in very truth. And I’m not alone—everyone who knows the Truth that has taken up permanent residence in us loves you.

Let grace, mercy, and peace be with us in truth and love from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, Son of the Father!

4-6 I can’t tell you how happy I am to learn that many members of your congregation are diligent in living out the Truth, exactly as commanded by the Father. But permit me a reminder, friends, and this is not a new commandment but simply a repetition of our original and basic charter: that we love each other. Love means following his commandments, and his unifying commandment is that you conduct your lives in love. This is the first thing you heard, and nothing has changed.

Don’t Walk Out on God

There are a lot of smooth-talking charlatans loose in the world who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was truly human, a flesh-and-blood human being. Give them their true title: Deceiver! Antichrist!

8-9 And be very careful around them so you don’t lose out on what we’ve worked so diligently in together; I want you to get every reward you have coming to you. Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.

10-11 If anyone shows up who doesn’t hold to this teaching, don’t invite him in and give him the run of the place. That would just give him a platform to perpetuate his evil ways, making you his partner.

12-13 I have a lot more things to tell you, but I’d rather not use paper and ink. I hope to be there soon in person and have a heart-to-heart talk. That will be far more satisfying to both you and me. Everyone here in your sister congregation sends greetings.

The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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