If in a Bible Quiz you were asked, ‘whose knees knocked together and why?’ what would you answer? The answer is in Daniel 5: this is a lesson of just how quickly humans can forget the power and presence of God in their lives or in those very near to them.

King Belshazzar was probably the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 5 tells of 1,000 lords gathered together by Belshazzar and drinking wine. They were using “the vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem” (verses 1,2). As “they drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone, immediately the fingers of a human hand appearing and wrote on the plaster of the wall …” (verses 4,5).

It was such a dramatic happening that “the king’s colour changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together” (verse 6). His wise men cannot interpret the writing, but the queen mother comes in (verse 10) and reminds him of the now aged Daniel. He is called and arrives to interpret the writing, a message of doom – “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (verse 27). His kingdom is to be overthrown by Darius and “that very night Belshazzar … was killed” (verse 30). How many will be “found wanting” when Christ returns?

2 Chronicles 23 provides similar lessons. We read of the boy Joash who was preserved to become king. He was guided by the aged priest Jehoiada and did great work repairing the Temple, which had been desecrated by his evil grandmother who had seized control of the nation and killed all the heirs.

“But Jehoiada grew old and died … He was 130 years old” (24:15); the then “the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king (flattered him). Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the LORD” (verses 17,18) and great trouble followed.

These events are lessons for us. This world has abandoned all meaningful belief in God – so will not God, maybe soon, create situations in which knees will knock together – and worse! The words of the prophets are that He will, let us heed the lessons of history.