“This is what these words mean: Mene means ‘numbered’ – God has numbered the days of your reign and has brought it to an end.” Daniel 5:26, NLT
Some years ago, when we were on holiday in Nepal and window shopping in the grounds of a temple, we heard a chant that sounded like “no money take me home.” Indeed, we are homesick for heaven only when we run out of money or health! The reality of heaven is eclipsed by our concerns and worries as well as by the attractions of this world. Heaven is only a virtual reality for we are afraid to talk about death and dying and forget that our days are numbered:
“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”1
When we do not number our days, we cannot grow in wisdom.2 We will be like King Belshazzar who forgot the life transforming lesson that God had revealed to his predecessor, King Nebuchadnezzar – that the Most High God rules over the kingdoms of the world and appoints anyone he desires to rule over them. Success led to pride and arrogance. He became complacent and overconfident. He was partying with 1000 of his nobles even though Babylon was under siege by the Persians. He worshiped his idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone with the sacred gold cups taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. He was oblivious to the fear of God – that it is God who gives the breath of life and controls his destiny. God sent him a dream to predict his death and downfall:
“This is the message that was written: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. This is what these words mean: Mene means “numbered’ – God has numbered the days of your reign and has bought it to an end. Tekel means ‘weighed’ – you have been weighed on the balances and have not measured up. Parsin means ‘divided’ – your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”3
That very night, King Belshazzar was killed and his kingdom was taken over by Darius the Mede. We need God’s grace to see the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom in the bible. King Belshazzar’s story is a revelation of the hard truth that God knows the length of our lives, how many months we will live and we are not given a minute longer.4 But the good news is that we have hope in all our years of struggle and would eagerly await the release of death if we believe that the dead can live again.5
The most important question is whether we believe that heaven is real. Jesus came to give us the keys to the kingdom of heaven in the Beatitudes6. Jesus came to show us the Way to heaven and taught us to pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth.7 Heaven is more than a destination after death. We begin the journey to the kingdom of heaven here on earth – a journey that continues after death. Then death is not leaving home but going home to our Heavenly Father.
When I woke up to the truth that my days are numbered, the mustard seed of the kingdom of heaven was sown in the Egypt of my heart. By faith in Jesus Christ I seek to walk by the Spirit through the wilderness of my life. By grace, I am to work out my salvation in the Promised Land by being the hand and feet of Christ. And in Babylon at the end of my life, the challenge is to be a witness of the unfailing love of God.
My task on earth is to live out my numbered days in the will of God so that my death will bear fruit in the lives of those I leave behind. I cannot be too comfortable living in this world – I need to be homesick and be prepared to go back home to our Heavenly Father. Only then will I not be fearful of death – to leave my earthly home.
The story of King Belshazzer encourages us to remember the Creator when we are young before the days of trouble come and the years catch up with us.8 Caring for the elderly sick has been a blessing for they have taught me the importance of living out the truth that our days are numbered. It is heartbreaking to see the dying suffering from futile treatments when their families refuse to see the “writing on the wall” that the end is near. To live fully in the face of death, the dying and their families need to face the truth that the days of their loved ones are numbered. At the end of life, we can live with hope when we seek God’s way for dreams of love and healing to become a reality.
When Christ is our everything in this life, we will have even more when we die.9 It is not a sacrifice to leave our earthly home. It is a sacrifice to postpone our going home if we are needed to help others grow and be joyful in their faith. On Valentine’s Day last week, the following thought came to mind:
God knows our hearts and will give us what we need to draw closer to Him at the right time and in the best way. All we need to do is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices through the discipline of silence. How we practice silence is not as important as a passionate desire for God. We need to fall madly in love with God. We need a restless desire for God to have a restful waiting on God. When redeeming love is the theme of our lives, we can sing of God’s power to save even in the grave:
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save:
I’ll sing Thy power to save,
I’ll sing Thy power to save;
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save.10
- Psalms 139:16, NLT
- Psalms 90:12, GW
- Daniel Chapter 5, NLT
- Job 14:5, NLT
- Job 14:14, NLT
- Matthew 5:3-10, NLT
- Matthew 6:10
- Ecclesiastes 12:1, GW
- Philippians 1:21-25, GW
- There is a fountain filled with blood, William Cowper