Friday, August 7, 2009

Not Gonna Bow

I read about King Nebbie and his fiery furnace today. God is speaking through His Word; I'm just not clear on all that He's saying to me specifically.

Today's passages, Daniel chapters 2 and 3, were stories, familiar but good to read again. I have to wonder at some of the characters and their mindsets. The Bible doesn't always tell us what people were thinking or feeling. But I have to wonder.

Take King Nebuchadnezzar. In yesterday's reading, he was so impressed with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. He found them to be wise and balanced in their judgment (Dan. 1:19-20). Then Daniel interprets a pesky dream, and seals his place among Nebuchadnezzar's officials. More impressive is Daniel's ability (God through Daniel) to show the LORD as supreme:
There are no . . . men . . . who can tell the king such things. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets . . . And it is not because I am wiser than any living person that I know the secrets of your dream, but because God wanted you to understand what you were thinking about. (Dan. 2:27-28, 30)

The king said to Daniel, "Truly, your God is the God of gods, the Lord over kings, a revealer of mysteries. . ." (Dan. 2:47)

Just three verses later, at the beginning of chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar makes a huge gold statue and commands everyone to bow down and worship it.

What? What happened to his realization in Dan. 2:47? Was that declaration just words?

Of course, Rack, Shack, and Benny refuse to bow down and worship the statue or any other god besides the LORD. Furious, the king calls them into see him and gives them another chance. They are, after all, his appointed officials. And I wonder: where was Daniel in all this? Surely he wasn't bowing down. Maybe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the only Jews singled out for not bowing. Maybe they were the only ones tattled on (Dan. 3:8-12).

The three men's reply is a great moment in the Bible, I think, because it gives such a timeless application for all believers:
"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. (So polite.) 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." (Dan. 3:16-18)

You know what happens. I think the New Living Translation is hilarious here when it describes the king as "so furious . . . that his face became distorted with rage" (verse 19). I have to wonder at the king's memory lapse. Was it really so long before this that Nebuchadnezzar encountered the Hebrew God's power?

I also wonder if Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah knew of Isaiah's prophecies, specifically chapter 43 when the LORD said, "When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you" (verse 2). That's what happened. The three men were "securely tied" and thrown "down into the roaring flames" (Dan. 3:23), but they weren't alone, and they didn't burn.

I love how God attended to every part of their situation:
*instead of three men, now there were four (and "one is like a son of the gods!");
*instead of securely tied, they were unbound,
*instead of thrown down into the roaring flames, they were walking around in the fire;
*instead of burned to death, "they aren't even hurt by the flames!"
all in verse 25.

I wonder what kind of relationship these three young men already had with the Living God. It wasn't like they were making deals with Him ("if You get me out of this one, I promise . . ." ). We know He had given them special ability to learn the literature and science of the time (Dan. 1:17), so I'm sure they were intellectual to some degree, and logical in their approach to life. They weren't sure He would deliver them from a burning death, only that He could. He is able. His deliverance of them from Nebbie's power could have been through death.

So many uncertainties. But they didn't bow.

Instead of trying to read their circumstances and find God's will through "signs," they stuck to His Word that never changes: "Do not worship any other gods besides Me. Do not make idols of any kind . . . You must never worship or bow down to them . . . " (Exodus 20:3-4). Even if they lost their jobs. Even if they lost their lives. They weren't going to bow. To anyone else but Jehovah.

Do I have that resolve? What would it be like to go on a safari through my life, an idol hunt?

Another blog series, probably.

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