Feeling the Heat

            So last week we were reintroduced to Jonah (not Noah as I mistakenly said in last week’s summary), and this week we visit the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found in the Book of Daniel.  We hear the story about three men who, when under pressure to do something different from their convictions, stood up for their faith in God.  Even the threat of death by fiery furnace did not change their convictions.  Once again, an Old Testament story written long before the birth of Christ, has Jesus stamped on it. 

            King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue of himself built and required everyone in the kingdom to worship it.  Satraps (Persian princes), governors, magistrates, judges, and everyone who sat in positions of authority had to not only show hierarchical respect, but worship the king as a god.

            Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jews who lived in Babylonian exile because of Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem.  Over time, they had worked their way into the king’s approval and held positions of minor authority in Babylon.  But the locals never really trusted these outsiders.  And when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow to the golden statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians were quick to notice and deliver the news of their disobedience to the king. 

            Like last week’s story, human reactions in this context are not far-fetched.  Humans are communal creatures and we look suspiciously at those who don’t agree with us or act differently than us.  We seek to be around people who are like us and share things in common.  So when someone strays outside of the community norms, suspicion is raised (whether for legitimate reasons or not).

            The three men are brought to King Nebuchadnezzar and questioned.  The king gives them an opportunity to bow before the golden statue to make up for their past mistake, or be thrown into a fiery furnace.  But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego don’t give in to the threats.  They stand on their conviction of faith to the God of Israel as the heat is cranking.

            What are our reactions when we start feeling the heat in life?  When the pressure cooker starts boiling, where do we place our trust that might get in the way of God?  Who or what is directing our attention away from worship?  All of us have some type of golden statue at different times in life.  Maybe it’s a statue of money, careers, individuals, sports, or ourselves.  I think it’s a good bet that the statue that most often get’s in the way of our worship to God is ourselves.  It was the original sin and unfortunately, the human condition hasn’t changed.

            There will always be times when we are more interested in our own wills than God’s will.  But in the case of today’s story, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego put God before their very lives.  A miracle happened in Daniel chapter 3.  Thrown into a furnace that was 7 times hotter than normal (and more details from Scripture say that people died from the heat outside of the furnace!), the men were seen walking inside the furnace in the presence of a 4th man, like the Son of God.  How about that; it was a Jesus sighting long before he was born in Bethlehem!

            The men were let out of the furnace and not even their hair was singed.  King Nebuchadnezzar fell at their feet and ordered everyone else to worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Their steadfast commitment and proclamation to faith changed the lives of the king and many new believers.

            Zion’s mission statement is “Connecting to Christ, Connecting to one another, Connecting Christ to the community and the world.”  How are we testifying to Christ in that 3rd phrase?  It’s more than doing good stuff.  It also means saying Jesus’ name.  Do you have the conviction of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?  Let’s pray daily that God would give us the courage to proclaim our faith in Jesus when the opportunities arrive. Amen.