Sunday School Lesson: Handwriting on the Wall

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This lesson is from Daniel 5 where Belshazzar is punished for his pride and arrogance against the Most High God.  This lesson can be used for upper elementary students for Sunday School or used as a Children’s Church Lesson.  With simplification this lesson can be used for preschool age and younger elementary students. Following the lesson are additional resources to adapt to the needs of your class.

Bible Story: The Handwriting on the Wall
Scripture: Daniel 5
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 12 (U.S. 3rd – 6th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
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Lesson Objective(s): Students will learn that:

  • Our purpose in this life is to glorify and honor God.
  • Pride is sin because without God we can do nothing.
  • God rewards humility and punishes pride.

Memory Verse: Proverbs 20:11 Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right. (NIV)
Memory Verse Activity:
Teacher preparation – Purchase some wiggly eyes (preferably the larger size) at a craft store before class.
Give each child a wiggly eye.  Ask:  “Is there any place that we can hide from God?” (No) Why?  (God is everywhere and can see everything.) You may want to place this wiggly eye somewhere that you can see regularly to remind you that God sees you wherever you are.  Knowing that God sees us should bring great comfort to us and it should also help us to make wise choices that would please Him.
Let’s read our memory verse together.  It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, God sees everything you do and knows everything you think.
Pre-Lesson Activities:
As you wait for students to arrive have activities prepared that will engage them in learning and preparation for the Bible Lesson.  Some ideas for activities:  Have a Jenga/tumbling tower for students to play.  As they play talk about how a life that obeys God and follows His commands is like this tower.  It can stand strong in difficult circumstances.  If you and I want to please God and be used to point others to Him we need to walk daily with Him and remember that without Jesus we can do nothing. On index cards have statements of actions/behaviors that make us weak because we are trying to do things on our own. (Examples:  Skip reading our Bible, choosing to watch TV instead of memorizing verses for AWANA, sleeping late so there is no time to have a quiet time before school, making decisions without asking God for help first, etc.) When the card is read then a block is removed from the tower.  As each of the blocks is removed the tower will eventually fall.  That is what a life lived without God is like.  No one can stand strong without God.
Before class make  index cards or print out words/phrases from the verse and have the students put the verse in order.  They can time themselves and have competitions to see who gets the verse together the fastest.

Bible Lesson:  Handwriting on the Wall

This lesson is only a guide to teach the lesson.  Each teacher has his/her own style of teaching.  As you pray for God to help you prepare for your individual class He will lead you to the style you need to use to reach the needs of your students’ learning styles.  This story is prepared to tell in a story-like format and the truths that are being taught are emphasized as the story is being told.  This lesson will be taught using  flannel graphs at different points of the story.  The story allows for the teacher to stop and have students to read a verse so they can participate and see for themselves that this story is straight from God’s Word.
Teacher preparation:  Bible and a hand puppet, flannels.
Our actions and attitudes are very important.  God created each one of us.  He has made us special and has given us different personalities, talents and abilities.  Although none of us are exactly the same we all have the same purpose in this life.  God created every man, woman, boy and girl to glorify Him.   Another way we might say this is that people were created to praise and worship God. When people live lives that try to please God He is honored. When people praise and worship God others are able to see how great and awesome He is.
Unfortunately when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden a battle began in the hearts of every person born into this world.  People have a choice to glorify/honor God or glorify/honor self.  To glorify/honor self is pride.  Pride is thinking you are better than you really are.  It’s also thinking that you had something to do with whatever you feel that you are good at.  Pride ignores the truth that God has given us everything we have.
Puppet: A visual illustration of how pride works in our life can be seen by using this puppet.  A person who wants to please God allows Him to be in charge.  It is like saying “God please control me and help me be the person you want me to be (slide your hand into the puppet as you explain)”.  With God controlling your life your words, actions and attitudes will be like His.  (Dramatize an incident that would show how God would have the student act in a difficult situation.) On the other hand, (take hand out of puppet) pride is when you don’t think you need any help at all.  You control your life (slide your hand back into the puppet) and say what you want and do what you want to do. (Dramatize the same difficult circumstance and respond how a student might respond without God’s power.) A life that is not controlled by God cannot do the things that please Him.  A life controlled by self moves away from the life that pleases God because it is not full of God’s power but full of the person. (Put puppet away.)
Without God we can do nothing. Only with God’s power can anyone do the things that please and honor Him.  Pride is the reason that Satan was kicked out of heaven.  He wanted to be God.  God could not allow sin in His presence so Satan was not allowed to live in heaven any longer.  Ever since Satan has been kicked out of heaven he has done everything he can to keep people from the purpose God created them for.  What is the purpose for every man, woman, boy and girl?  (To glorify God/praise and worship Him) Satan doesn’t want people to know how great and awesome the God of this universe is.
As we get into our lesson today I would like you to think about your life.  Are you living a life that allows God to control you so you can please Him and point others to Jesus or are you living a life filled with our own power and living to please self?  Pleasing self means you do what you want to do and ignore what you know God wants you to do.  In our story today we have an example of both kinds of people, one who lived to please self and the other that lived to please God.
(Provide Bibles for the students who did not bring one so they can follow along in the Bible.)
Let’s turn in our Bibles to Daniel 5 and find out more about these people.
Before Christmas we began studying about the life of Daniel.  Review with the students things they remembered from the studies from Daniel.
Daniel was a man who obeyed God in difficult circumstances.  Daniel served King Nebuchadnezzar for many years.  When Nebuchadnezzar died his grandson Belshazzar became king.  Belshazzar did not believe in the true God but instead worshiped many idols.  Belshazzar didn’t seek godly wisdom from Daniel; he chose to get wisdom from magicians and astrologers.  From this description would you say Belshazzar is a man who glorifies God or glorifies self?  (Allow students to answer.)
Because he lived to glorify self, Belshazzar lived his life without the True God has his authority.  He thought everything was just fine in his life.  At the time of our story, Belshazzar is inside Babylon surrounded by walls that were supposed to protect the people from enemies.  Enemies were surrounding Babylon and certainly Belshazzar knew about this.  He wasn’t afraid.  His confidence was in himself.  He didn’t think anyone could climb the tall and thick walls of his kingdom.  He kept the gates to the city closed and had everything the people needed to survive inside the city walls.  They had a river that ran through the city so there was plenty of water to drink.
Read Daniel 5:1-2.  Since Belshazzar wasn’t afraid of the enemies that were surrounding the walls, he threw a big banquet.  He invited 1000 of his important officials.  At this banquet the king and his guests were drinking wine.  As the Belshazzar drank wine his mind was not thinking clearly and he came up with an idea.  He commanded that someone go to the treasury where his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar kept the things that were brought home when he captured the Jewish people in Jerusalem.  When Nebuchadnezzar’s army attacked Jerusalem they captured God’s people and went into God’s temple and took many of the holy items that were inside the temple that the priests used to worship God.  Some of those items  that Nebuchadnezzar took were gold and silver goblets or cups that are used to drink from.  Belshazzar commanded that those gold and silver goblets be brought to him so that they could use them to drink wine from at his banquet.
Daniel 5:3-4. When the gold and silver goblets were brought to the king wine was poured in them and the guests at the banquet began to toast each other and praise the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.  Belshazzar’s behavior was very offensive and disrespectful toward the One True God. Another word for Belshazzar’s behavior is blasphemous (allow the students to say the word after you).  He was using items that God had called holy for use to worship and praise in His temple, as items to praise false gods, which are demons.  This act was sin in God’s sight.
Today if you are a Christian your body is God’s temple. When you believed in Jesus as Savior, the Holy Spirit came to live inside of you. Your body is His Temple.  He expects you to take care of your temple.  When you allow your eyes to see things that aren’t pleasing to God you are toasting your temple to unholy things.  When your ears listen to things that are sin against God you are toasting your temple that belongs to God to unholy things.  When you eat junk food all the time and don’t take care of your body, you are mistreating the temple of the Holy Spirit.  We must be careful to honor God and keep our bodies from unholy things.
Belshazzar’s behavior was offensive and sinful in God’s sight. His actions were very prideful.  Pride is sin and God has to punish sin because He is holy.
Daniel 5:5-9. As Belshazzar and his guests were praising their false gods with God’s holy items, fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall near the lamp stand.  Belshazzar froze as he watched this hand write a message on his palace wall.  The blood drained from his face and his knees knocked together because what he saw frightened him.
In a loud voice he cried out, “Send for my magicians and astrologers!” Notice that when a person lives to please self they don’t look to God for answers first.  They try to figure things out for themselves and look to everyone but God for answers.
When his ‘wise men’ (a person is only truly wise when they are living a life that pleases God) were brought before him he said, “Whoever can tell me what this message on my wall says, I will clothe you in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck.  You will also be promoted to the third highest ruler in my kingdom.”
Belshazzar’s wise men went over to the wall and studied the writing.  They looked at the words and didn’t know what the message said.  This terrified Belshazzar and all his banquet guests were baffled. (For teacher:  Spiritual things can only be discerned by someone filled with God’s Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:14)
A life that honors God will seek wisdom from Godly people who will share God’s truth from the Bible.  Believers shouldn’t seek advice or guidance from someone who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ because they do not know how to please God since they don’t believe in Him.
Daniel 5:10-12. The queen heard all kinds of noise coming from the banquet hall and learned that Belshazzar had no one to tell him what the writing on his wall meant.  She came before the king and said, “O king live forever!  Don’t be alarmed!  Don’t look so pale!  There is a man in your kingdom that has the Spirit of the Holy God.  In the days of your grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar made him his top wise man because he had such knowledge and understanding and also the ability to interpret dreams and explain riddles.  You should call for this Daniel to help you with this problem.”
Many believe at the time of this time Daniel was possibly 90 years old.  Daniel had lived a Godly life.  He obeyed God in the midst of wickedness in Babylon.  He was known for his wisdom and understanding and obedience to God. He lived to please God and was filled with God’s Spirit.  Because of Daniel’s reputation the queen knew who could help Belshazzar understand the meaning of the writing on the wall.
Daniel 5:13-30. Daniel was brought before Belshazzar.  Belshazzar told Daniel that he had heard that God’s Spirit was in him and that he had insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom.  He told him about how his magicians and astrologers could not help him with his problem and since he had heard that Daniel was able to solve difficult problems he asked him to help him and if he could interpret the writing he would be given the purple robe, gold chain and become the third highest ruler in his kingdom.
Daniel wasn’t interested in the king’s reward and he told him that he could keep his gifts and give the rewards to someone else.  Daniel knew that God’s rewards were far more meaningful than this king who was living to please self.
Daniel agreed that he would read the writing that was on the wall and tell him what it means. First, Daniel began by speaking about Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar’s grandfather. (Daniel 4) He told of how God had given Nebuchadnezzar a great kingdom.  At one time in his life Nebuchadnezzar began to believe he was great and became very prideful. He believed that he was great because of all the things he had done. God punished his sin of pride by sending him away to live as a wild animal.  After 7 years of living like a wild animal Nebuchadnezzar realized that God is the Most High God who is the ruler over all kingdoms and sets kings over kingdoms as He wishes.  Nebuchadnezzar had sinned with pride, God had punished him and he turned away from his pride and God gave back the kingdom to him.
Daniel 5:23 Daniel looked at Belshazzar and said, “You are his grandson.  You know all about this and yet you have become very prideful.  You have set yourself up against the Lord of Heaven.  You have used the Lord’s goblets and have praised the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood and stone.  None of these gods can see or hear or understand.  You did not honor God who holds your life in His hands.  That is why He sent this writing on the wall.”
Daniel 5:26-28 This is what the writing says, Daniel replied:  “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin.  This is what the message means:  God has measured your life and you do not meet His standards, so your kingdom will be taken away from you and given to someone else.”
Belshazzar heard the message.  It wasn’t good news for him but he still rewarded Daniel for interpreting the message for him.
Remember at the beginning of our story I told you that Belshazzar felt confident that no one could penetrate the large walls surrounding Babylon?  Well the river that brought water into their city had to come from outside the walls. The enemy soldiers outside the walls dug a trench that drained the river water into a lake so the water was turned away from the city.  With the water no longer coming through the river into the walled city, the enemy entered the walls of Babylon through the dry riverbed.
That very night after Daniel gave God’s message to the king the enemies entered Babylon and took over Belshazzar’s kingdom.  Belshazzar was killed and a new king reigned in Babylon.  The new king was named King Darius who was a Mede. (Daniel 5:28)
God’s message to Belshazzar came true that very night.  God punished Belshazzar for his sin against Him.
Sin brings all of us down.  None of us have measured up to God’s standards.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  If we continue to sin against God we too face His punishment which is death (Romans 6:23).  If we haven’t believed in Jesus the punishment for our sins is an eternal separation from God when we die.  That place is called hell.  You can avoid this punishment by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross in your place so that you can have eternal life.  If you would like to know more about how you can do this please talk to us and we will show you from the Bible how you can be saved from the punishment of your sins.
Turn attention again to the memory verse for this lesson.  Say the verse together. We are all known by our actions.  What do people know you for?  Do they know you for your love for Jesus or do they know you as a troublemaker, disobedient, or disrespectful? If we are God’s children because we have believed in Jesus, God wants us to turn away from our sin so our lives will be a true reflection of Jesus to others.  He wants others to know that Jesus is real and they can come to Him to be saved too.  When we obey Jesus others can come to us for answers about Him and the Bible.  If we choose to live a sinful life our sin keeps people from seeing Jesus clearly in our lives.  What sin do you need to turn away from so that others can see Jesus clearly in our lives?
When someone has a question about God and the Bible will they come to you for your help? Let’s make it our goal to live our lives to honor God by living a life that pleases Him and shows others how great He is.
Close in prayer.

  1. What is the purpose of every person God created?
  2. Who is Belshazzar?
  3. Why was Belshazzar not afraid of the enemies?
  4. What did Belshazzar command at his banquet?
  5. How did Belshazzar disrespect God?
  6. What happened at Belshazzar’s banquet?
  7. How did Belshazzar feel when he saw the hand writing?
  8. Who did Belshazzar call for help?
  9. Who did the queen tell Belshazzar he should call for help?
  10. Why did the queen say Daniel should be called?
  11. What did Daniel tell Belshazzar the writing meant?
  12. How did God’s words come true that very night?

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