The Writing on the Wall
What was the great difficulty as to the writing on the wall (see Dan. 5)? The language was Chaldean, and those who saw the characters were Chaldeans. We might have supposed then that the mere letters must have been more familiar to the Chaldeans than to Daniel! But the magicians, the Chaldeans and the astrologers “could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation” (v8).
It is not the way of God when He communicates anything to put it in an obscure form. It is a grotesque idea that God, in giving a revelation, makes it impossible to understand. What is it that renders all Scripture so difficult? It is not the language. A striking proof of it is found in this: if anyone were to ask me what part of the NT I conceive to be the most profound of all, I should refer him to the epistles of John. Yet if there be a part of the NT more than any other couched in language of the greatest simplicity, then it is these very epistles. The words are not those of the scribes of this world, neither are the thoughts mysterious or full of foreign, obscure allusions. The difficulty of Scripture lies in the fact that it is the revelation of Christ, a revelation for souls that have their hearts opened by grace to receive and value Him. Of all the disciples, John was the most favoured in intimacy of communion with Christ, and thus he is used of the Holy Spirit to give us the deepest thoughts of Christ’s love and personal glory. The real difficulty in Scripture then, consists in its thoughts being so infinitely above our natural mind. We must give up self in order to understand the Bible. We must have a heart and an eye for Christ, or Scripture becomes an unintelligible thing, whereas when the eye is single, the whole body is full of light (see Matt. 6: 22). Hence, on the one hand, you may find a learned man, though he is a Christian, stopping short at the epistles of John and the Revelation as being too deep for him to enter into. On the other hand, you may find a simple man who, though he cannot altogether understand these Scriptures or explain every portion of them correctly, at any rate is in the enjoyment of them. They convey intelligible thoughts to his soul, and comfort, guidance, and profit too. Even if it is about coming events, or Babylon and the beast, he finds there great principles of God that have a practical bearing on his soul, even though they are found in what is reputed to be the most obscure of all the books of the Bible. The reason is that Christ is before him, and Christ is the wisdom of God in every sense (see 1 Cor. 1: 24). It is not, of course, because he is ignorant that he can understand it, but in spite of his ignorance. Nor is because a man is learned that he is capable of entering into the thoughts of God. Whether ignorant or learned, there is but one way—having an eye to see what concerns Christ. Where that is firmly fixed before the soul, I believe that Christ becomes the light of spiritual intelligence just as He is the light of salvation. It is the Spirit of God, of course, that is the power of apprehending these things, but He never gives that light except through Christ. If a man has an object before him that is not Christ, then he will be incapable of understanding the Book which reveals Christ. He is endeavouring to force the Scriptures to bear upon his own objects, whatever they may be, and thus the Scripture is perverted to suit his ends. That is the real key to all mistakes about Scripture. Man takes his own thoughts to the Word of God and builds up a system which has no divine foundation.
To return then to the inscription upon the wall. The words were plain enough: all ought to have been intelligible, and would have been, had the souls of the Chaldeans been in communion with the Lord. I do not mean that the power of the Spirit of God was not needed to enable Daniel to understand it, but the fact remains that it is a vital thing for the understanding of the Word to be in living communion with the God who is making known His mind to us. Hence Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders “And now I commit you to God, and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20: 32, my emphasis).