Scripture: Daniel 3:1-18
Key verses: (16-18) 16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
Reflection: I love this story in the book of Daniel. It reads like a children’s picture book: a testy king with a funny name, and three unlikely heroes willing to stand up to him. There are pompous advisors and repeating refrains of rules that sound sillier with each repetition: “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” The rule is stated. Then stated again as the people follow it. Then the advisors repeat it again to remind the king of the rule because three Jews haven’t followed it. Then the king states it again and asks why they haven’t followed it. He sounds smaller, needier, and more defensive each time.
In comparison, the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is strong and sure. They know whom they worship. And they trust God for their safety, no matter what. They don’t worship a golden statue or a king who demands fear and public adoration. They don’t have to make their God stronger or bigger or more ornate than the king’s. They don’t even try to defend themselves. They trust God to take care of the matter. And God does.
Nebuchadnezzar reacts true to character. Incensed, he orders the furnace heated seven times its normal strength. When he sees the men unhurt and protected in the flames, he is astonished. He makes a new decree that anyone who speaks against the God of the Jews shall be torn limb from limb. And he promotes the three men. Despite his recognition of God, he can’t understand what has happened through any lens except one of power. He can’t see any way to react but through more violence and threats. He completely missed the quiet steady faith that had saved the men before this story even began.
Prayer: O God, you are able to deliver us. Of this we are sure. Lessen our need for public affirmation. Break our reliance on power and violence. Strengthen our faith in you. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.
Author: Julie Hester
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].