How is your life going? Is it humming along with business as usual, or has something interrupted your regular routine? It may be a happy occasion that has broken the normal rhythm, or it could be sickness or tragedy. Life has a way of letting us know we are not in control. And God often allows interruptions to turn our eyes to Him and away from the frantic rush we live in or the mundane schedule we cling to.
When we experience divine interruptions, it’s time to proceed with caution, to slow down and pay close attention, because God is speaking into the normalcy of our routines to capture our attention. These divine interruptions turn us away from the sameness of our lives and cause us to focus on something else. We will either focus on the situation itself, or we can look deeper to the God Who is calling our name, the God Who beckons us to break our routine to see Him and listen to His voice.
When business as usual suddenly ceases, we rarely know what to do with ourselves or how to respond. We find ourselves in the realm of the unknown and on the verge of change that causes us to feel unsure and even a little hesitant to proceed at all. In those times we will hear the voice of cynicism, fear and intimidation shouting for our attention. But, be still and wait until you hear the whisper of God’s voice. Depending on the nature of these disruptions of the normal, we may feel a surge of power and insight within our hearts, even an excitement to move in a new direction. Or we may feel we have reached the end and have no desire to go any further at all. But God is waiting for us to look His way and listen to what He has to say. What does He want us to do with this turn of events? What is He saying to us from the midst of the uncertainty? Some never hear Him speak even when “business as usual” is brought to a screeching halt. Others hear, but cling to business as usual as if nothing had happened.
Such was the case with Belshazzar, king of Babylon. God drastically interrupted his “business as usual”. Belshazzar knew about God because when Nebuchadnezzar, his predecessor, had conquered Judah, Judah’s God conquered Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar knew the whole story. Obviously, Belshazzar didn't learn from Nebuchadnezzar's experiences. Who knows how many divine interruptions Belshazzar ignored before this final interruption we read about in Daniel 5.
"Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.” While he was drinking, he commanded that the gold and silver vessels that Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of God’s temple be brought for them to drink from. So they were brought, and “they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king's palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.”
Can you imagine hosting a royal party and having it interrupted by a man’s fingers writing on the wall in the candlelight? The king was terrified, as any of us would be. He turned pale and was shaking uncontrollably. It was a sobering experience in every sense of the word. He immediately called for his “astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.” He must have thought he was still in control. After all, he had resources. He offered a high position to whoever could read the writing and explain the meaning, but none could do it. Belshazzar’s revelry had been interrupted by something terrifying that neither he nor all his lords and wise men could understand, explain or control.
Finally, Daniel was brought in, and he reminded Belshazzar how Nebuchadnezzar was given a great kingdom, but “when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him…till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven.” Belshazzar was living life as he chose, but that never goes on forever. He knew who God was and what He had done, but he chose to ignore Him. And now he was being called into account.
Then Daniel read the message sent from the Most High God, not the gods they were drinking to, but the One Belshazzar had excluded from his life and worship. “This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians."
What an alarming revelation! Belshazzar had been weighed in God’s balances and was not up to standard. The foolishness of Belshazzar’s heart was exposed and impending judgment pronounced. In all this, there is still no mention of him acknowledging God or repenting. Instead, Belshazzar proceeded to give Daniel the position in his kingdom he had promised as if life would continue on as usual. But before the night was over, Belshazzar had no kingdom. He was killed and his kingdom and power were seized by Darius the Median.
What if God interrupted our “business as usual” with a pair of balances in His hand? What if we were weighed in God’s balance today…right now? Would we be found wanting, or is our heart pure before God? We hear the warnings and are quick to agree with them, but are we continuing on with business as usual?
How many times has God interrupted us, but we refused to turn to Him? We can wait too long, and the mercy that flows so freely now will be ended. Right now, Jesus calls us to be cleansed by His blood and empowered by His Spirit. He may not call tomorrow. If we are too caught up with the world to turn our attention to God, we are flirting with danger. If we are friends of this world, we are enemies of God. Most of us know that, but are we truly living in the reality of that knowledge? Belshazzar was very familiar with the story of Nebuchadnezzar, but it didn’t change him. And he paid an eternal price.
Yet there are those who come face to face with a divine interruption and meet it with skepticism at first, but press on to move into the next level. Those are the ones who see God.
Gideon was an Israelite whose “business as usual” was living under the oppression of the Midianites and struggling to find enough food to survive. The Midianites had invaded Israel and now controlled them. They destroyed all their crops, sheep and cattle. Gideon was hiding by a wine press to thresh some wheat he had managed to find somewhere when he came face to face with the angel of the Lord who said, “The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour.” Gideon’s reply was, “if the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? and where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of.”
Initially, Gideon was skeptical and tried to hold on to business as usual because he saw no sign of God coming through, and he was a ‘nobody’ who could do nothing to change things. He argued with the angel that his whole family was poor and that he was the least in his father’s house, far from being a “mighty man of valor”. Finally he asked for a sign that God was speaking to him. He asked the angel if he would stay where he was until Gideon returned with a meal for him. He agreed to wait. When the meat and bread were brought, “the angel of the Lord put forth the end of the staff that was in his hand, and touched the flesh and the unleavened cakes; and there rose up fire out of the rock, and consumed the flesh and the unleavened cakes. Then the angel of the Lord departed out of his sight. And when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! for because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.” (Judges 6:21-22)
That’s what happens when we look for God in our interruptions – in spite of our unbelief, skepticism and circumstances. If we look for Him, we will see Him. Gideon was ready to listen after that, and “business as usual” was all but forgotten as he began to listen to God’s directions and follow them step by step until he finally led an army of 300 men that defeated the Midianites and freed Israel…just like the stories he had been told! Some of the things God told him to do didn’t seem to make sense and could have had disastrous results if God didn’t come through, but Gideon followed the Lord because he had seen Him. When his “business as usual” was interrupted by God, he accepted the challenge and obeyed God, leaving behind the oppression of the enemy and any doubts that God was still the God who his fathers had told him about.
When God interrupts our lives, we are at a crossroad of decision. Look and listen carefully before you choose your course. What would happen if we all opened our ears to what God is saying to us? How could He use us if we turned our attention away from “business as usual” to listen to God’s directions and followed them step by step…even when they seem to make no sense or could have disastrous results? What if we actually believed the stories we have heard about God’s power and faithfulness and acted on it today even if we have to take the “risk” of depending on God instead of ourselves?
What has interrupted your “business as usual”? Whether it is a heart full of joy or a broken heart that seems to be un-mendable, listen to God. He is speaking. Hear Him above the pain, above the laughter, above the shouts of the enemy, above the uncertainty. Hear His whisper and follow.