Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon built an enormous golden statue and proclaimed "O peoples and nations of every language, you are commanded, when you hear the sound of horn, pipe, zither, triangle, dulcimer, music, and singing of every kind, to prostrate yourselves and worship the golden image." Then the King heard that three young men at his court, the Israelites Shadrach, Mesach and Abednego, refused to worship the statue. King Nebuchadnezzar summoned the three and threatened them: "If you do not worship it, you shall forthwith be thrown into the blazing furnace, and what god is there that can save you from my power?" (Daniel 3, 4-5 and 15-16)
The basic dynamic in this passage is witnessing. The three Israelites refuse to violate their faith (in this case, the commandment against idolatry). For this, they are threatened ("you shall forthwith be thrown into the blazing furnace"). Today, most of us face subtler demands and threats. Nobody is forcing us to worship statues, but there is a great deal in our society that is un-Christian or outright anti-Christian (specific examples will probably occur to each reader without my prompting, and are beyond the scope of this post). We aren't usually threatened with death for resisting these elements, but we may fear for our reputations or social standing. These may seem like small fears, but too often they are large enough to prompt actions or words we regret (again, examples will surely occur to every reader from personal experience). Nebuchadnezzar's challenge is timeless: "What god is there that can save you from my power?"
The young Israelites answered Nebuchadnezzar: "If there is a god who is able to save us from the blazing furnace, it is our God whom we serve, and he will save us from your power, O king, but if not, be it known to your majesty that we will neither serve your god nor worship the golden image that you have set up." (Daniel 3, 17-18).
This is a beautiful statement of faith. Against all worldly wisdom, the three insist that God can save them if he chooses and they make it clear that they will not worship the statue, whatever happens.
Nebuchadnezzar was angry. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and had the young men tied up and thrown into the flames. But then he was amazed by a miracle--four men walking in the heart of the fire "free and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a god." The three Israelites stepped out of the furnace and even "the hair of their heads had not been singed." (Daniel 3, 27).
At the heart of this Bible narrative is God's power to save. He does not simply lay down laws for His people, but he calls us to follow them and gives us the power to do so. He can save us from worldly powers, whether they are the fiery furnace in ancient Babylon or the weight of social disapproval today. All that is required of us is to be faithful and follow.
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