I am on vacation until the 6th Aug. While on vacation I am posting some thoughts on Daniel…
Recently, two American missionaries in England were stopped from handing out tracks to Muslims in a Muslim area of England. They were accused of a hate crime. In England it has become improper for a Christian to try and convert a Muslim because it will OFFEND THEM! So Christians are discouraged to try and force an ethnic minority to believe in ‘Christianity.’ Part of that is because Christianity is seen as western, white, religion, but also because it is politically incorrect. Our Culture says that no-one has the right to tell you what to do or believe.
And that alone, challenges Christians to compromise aspects of our belief in God.
Christians are seen as bigoted, or fundamentalist, or unloving, intellectually stupid and even weak for believing in and trusting what scripture has to say and so we step back, and do not say the things we should say or do the things we should do because we are afraid of the consequences or what people will say to us.
If you see someone at school getting beaten up do you step in between them and stand with the person getting beaten? Or would you just slip by? Hey, wait a minute, you might say, that’s not fair. I could get beaten up – I would lose my reputation – I couldn’t make a difference – but you WOULD be making a difference to that one person and for most of us stepping in is just too much trouble for us.
So, what is it that makes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego NOT worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue?
How easy it would have been to just bow, shout and make believe that they were worshipping the statute.
Yet their action in NOT worshipping it is so noticeable that some of the dudes they work with tell the King that they are not obeying the command to worship the statute.
Now notice something here – they are ratted out by the people they work with. I don’t think Sadrach, Meshach and Abedego were the cool kids on the block – part of the gang. There seems to be some jealousy here. They were looking for a reason to drop the three into something that would get them into trouble. Maybe the three were vocal about their trust in Yahweh. Maybe they were known as the geeks or the egg heads because they did everything to the best of heir ability.
What ever it was they are not liked by their peers.
You know Jesus said something very interesting – he said in John’s gospel, that if the world hated him, its going to hate us. Does the world love you or hate you. Most of the time the world loves us because we really love, or at least like the world – that is not God’s way.
Now, as an aside, why does Neb decide to build this huge statue? It would have looked a little odd – ninety feet high and 9 feet wide – tall and skinny.
Remember the dream Neb has about the big statue with the head of Gold and the body of different metals and the feet of clay that Daniel interpreted?
Daniel’s interpretation of this dream, as we saw a few nights back, was telling Neb of the inevitable future.
Yet Neb here seems to have built this statue in an attempt to unify Babylon. The statue is not of different metals but of all gold – unified, one metal – and he demands that ALL worship it – a monotheistic religion – a one, unified idol to worship.
Yet our three guys refuse – they do not love the world - and they are brought before the King.
I do not know what your greatest fear is. What is the thing that will wake you up in a cold sweat? Disease, death, drowning, burning alive, spiders, snakes.
But imagine being brought face to face with your greatest fear. How would you respond? Would you pray? Would you acknowledge God’s power and love? Or would you break down weeping and crying like a baby, and try to get away?
Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego are faced with certain death.
And yet their answer is one of the most remarkable answers in scipture because it is filled with Faith – a faith that is a Christ based faith – a faith that we need to learn from and begin to live out.
Now V17 in the NIV translation is not that good. But the excellent TNIV has adjusted it – the TNIV says If the God we serve is able to deliver us, then he will deliver us from the blazing furnace and from your majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
Please notice something – the TNIV leaves room for doubt – IF THE GOD WE SERVE IS ABLE TO DELIVER – I find that so cool. Here are three men who have seen their country destroyed by Babylon, are captive and have, according to their culture, seen their god defeated. They are expressing normal, expected doubts – our God has been silent and so we are not sure he can save us – AND HERE IS THE AMAZING PART – despite not being sure of all of these things - THEY STILL WILL NOT WORSHIP THE STATUE.
THEY ARE WILLING TO DIE FOR A GOD WHOM THEY DO NOT EVEN KNOW HAS THE POWER TO SAVE THEM – BUT THEY KNOW HE EXITS AND THAT HE IS REAL AND THAT HE IS WORTHY OF WORSHIP!!
What faith!! What faith!!
Here are three things for us to learn about this kind of faith that Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego showed:
1. Our faith needs to be rooted in who God is – not in who we are or where we are. Faith based on our circumstances – hey, life is great, God is good; life is crap God is……. Is not a good place to be. If our faith is based on what is happening to us we will not benefit from faith nor will we be able to group as a Christian. Faith based on a God who is Lord of the Universe even though he seems silent should still be able to give me peace, even when we face our worst fears.
2. Our faith needs to be rooted in BOTH the power of God and in his goodness. God can be trusted. Therefore we need to be able to leave the decision of whether God will protect us or rescue us to Him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego say that their trust in God is not based on whether they are save dor not – he is God, he is Good – they trust that!!
3. Our faith should be about loving God for his person not for his performance. Too often we pray to God as if we are sending God coded signals to dictate his behavior like a performing pony. Instead we should approach God like loving parent who will do what is best for us. Can we, WILL we trust his decisions?
This is the type of faith we are called too. Resilient, (able to cope in tough situations) adaptable (able to survive the unexpected in life) and strong, able to face even our worst fears knowing that God is God.
There are times when we will want God to show up so badly, but we will say or try and think that it does not matter if that prayer or desire is not answered – when in fact it does matter and we silently get angry with God – and there are the times when we have prayed and then the things we asked for happens and we are totally stunned God showed up
Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego held the tension between “it really does not matter whether God shows up” and “we are totally shocked that he has shown up.”
They really didn’t care either way – it would not effect their thinking or decisions.
As the three are thrown into the fire, Neb sees a fourth person in there with them. God shows up and the three guys don’t faint shocked that God did rescue them.
Now if I was one of the guys I would popped my head out of the furnace and gone – “Nanananana”.
Who was the fourth person in the fire? Jesus.
And this was not just for the benefit of the three guys, although I am sure the three were vaguely happy to see God. Jesus showing up is for the benefit of Neb. Here was the second encounter he has had with the followers of Yahweh. Daniel not only interprets Nebs dream but tells him what the dream is and Neb is impressed and acknowledges Daniels God to be powerful. Here, he sees three followers of Yahweh completely protected from the fire, in a miraculous way and his response is good, but it is still not the right response. Neb says that the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abedego should be praised – but he still has not bowed the knee to God and that was the reason for this miracle. Sharach, Meshach and Abedego could have died and gone to be with God, but God is chasing Neb’s heart.
It is the kind of faith which these three Hebrews showed that allows missionaries to continue to try and lead Muslims to Christ. It is this type of faith which will help us when we stand up for those being bullied, or picked on, or beaten up, and it is the kind of faith which will help us to stand up for truth.
Is this the faith you have? Is it the faith you want.
You know, the true reward of faithful witness to God is not to be found in its results but in the experience of knowing the presence of God in the midst of the struggle.
Life will through at you some hefty knocks – some bad situations – times when your so sad you will hurt – and times when you will be SO happy you wish it would never end.
Living life with the faith of Christ – the faith that Sharach, Meshach and Abedego had – will help you pass through the hardest and the best of times knowing that God knows what is happening and all things are in is hands.