Daily Update #239

Daniel Chapter 3

This is an encouraging story about faith vs power.

King Nebuchadnezzar’s beliefs about who he was, and about how powerfully he was led him to erect a golden image. Everyone was to bow to this image during a time of worship. Faithful Jews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are put on the spot for refusing,v14. Worship this image or die is his threat. Nebuchadnezzar has a reputation for burning people(Jer29:22),the stakes are as high as they could be. Note the threat,  ‘If……, but if not……’, verse15.

Nebuchadnezzar makes the failure to worship this idol treason. He blends religious and political power together to build on his standing. People familiar with persecuted churches will no doubt be familiar with this toxic mix and it shows there is nothing new when politicians try to consolidate their power with religious fervour. For example:

In 1936 Herr Baldur von Schirach, head of the youth program in Nazi Germany, said: “If we act as true Germans we act according to the laws of God. Whoever serves Adolf Hitler, the fuehrer, serves Germany, and whoever serves Germany serves God.” In 1960 the President of Ghana had a slightly larger than life-size statue of himself erected in front of the national house of Parliament, with the inscription, “Seek ye first the political kingdom and all other things shall be added unto you.”

None of us could really say how we might respond without being in those situations. We may hope to stand firm, but there are many things that could draw us away. We would be wise to recognise and ‘weigh’ such attachments, how reliant are we upon them? Thankfully we do not live in that kind of regime, laws do not yet compel us to compromise our faith, though they possibly could under new laws. We should also remember those who have and still live under tremendous threat of persecution, many of them in the same region where this story takes place.(1)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s response was to stand firm. But not in their own strength. In fact not even on a verse of scripture. They stood on what they knew about God, that as the one true God, he was worthy of worship above and beyond that of Nebuchadnezzar’s gods, decrees and ambitions. We should note their answer, ‘If this be so…., but if not……’ We so often want to know the outcome in advance, we may even say I will trust God if…’ But there is none of that here, they even clarify, ‘but if not, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.’

Thankfully we know how this story concludes. God sends an angel to be with them in the fire, who protected them and demonstrated to Nebuchadnezzar that God was indeed willing to save them. Their hair and clothes aren’t even singed, v27.
Perhaps you sometimes feel overwhelmed because there is nothing you can do. We have few choices and feel boxed in. We might genuinely grieve the situation. We might wish things were different. We may even  grumble or be angry because this is not what we expected or calculate what we might lose. But what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego show is that whatever the outcome, they would not give up on God. They fully believed their lives were in his hands. Whatever happened.

(1) https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/world-watch-list/

Why not pray through Psalm 23 today to remind yourself of God’s faithful care. Maybe let go of one or two things or ideas that aren’t helpful and praise god that he is good, all the time, all the time, he is good.
We could also pray for the persecuted church and those we know who remains faithful instead of fearful.

Merciful Father, we cry to you from the depths of our concern for those wrongly imprisoned or held captive: for those trying to secure their release, that the ways of peace and diplomacy may prevail over acts of violence and aggression, that their captors may know a change of heart; through him who was sent to proclaim liberty for captives and to set free those who are oppressed, your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen