True Faith

In this mornings readings, the OT passage was Daniel 3.1-18. I have always loved this passage for several reasons but primarily because of the true faith -- the real, genuine, 'rubber meets the road' faith -- of Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael), and Abednego (Azariah). The type of faith in this passage is scoffed at today by many within the family. I hope we can learn a lesson from them. Here is that passage from the New Living Translation.
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the princes, prefects, governors, advisers, counselors, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. When all these officials had arrived and were standing before the image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, a herald shouted out, "People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king's command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace."

So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "Long live the king! You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the musical instruments. That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews -- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego -- whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They have defied Your Majesty by refusing to serve your gods or to worship the gold statue you have set up.

Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance. If you bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments, all will be well. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. What god will be able to rescue you from my power then?"

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."

This story comes to us on the heels of another story about a different statue. In chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a layered statue of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and then a combination of iron and clay. Daniel comes and tell the king that the statue represents the kingdoms of the world and that his kingdom is the gold part. But, his kingdom will be over thrown and this is represented by the silver part. And so on. Until we get to the iron and clay mixture. Here Daniel tells the king that the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that will conquer all the other kingdoms but it will never be conquered. King Nebuchadnezzar falls at Daniel's feet and proclaims that Daniel's god is truly the 'God of gods' because Daniel told the king what his dream was and what it meant.

But, it appears that the king missed the whole meaning of the dream! The problem of the statue in his dream was in the material. So, he builds his own statue and makes it entirely out of gold. He seems to have thought that if the statue was entirely made of gold, then none of the other kingdoms would conquer his kingdom. He was sadly mistaken.

Anyway, the part that gets me is at the last of the passage quoted above. The threats of the bullies are always the same. 'I'll friggin' kill you if you don't ...' Notice Nebuchadnezzar's last statement. After threatening to kill Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, he said, 'What god will be able to rescue your from my power then?' I guess he just didn't get the message of Daniel -- even though he said that Daniel's god was the 'God of gods'. He just doesn't understand the god of the universe -- YHWH.

But I love the response of the three witnesses: 'We don't need to defend ourselves. The god we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power.' Now, most people stop right there. They say, that is great faith. To look certain death in the eye and proclaim that YHWH will rescue them. But, in more cases than not, YHWH doesn't rescue them. The tyrants look upon the deaths of those people and mock them. 'What god?' they snear. But that is not all that those three said. True faith is the rest of their confession. True faith is, 'But even if he doesn't...we will never serve your gods or worship your idols.'

We need to get away from saying the people who pray 'if it be your will' are weak in their faith. After all, their faith might just be the greatest in all the family.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.



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