Devotions on Daniel 3:1, 8-30–Fiery Furnace
November 27 – December 3, 2017
Monday, November 27, 2017–Fiery Furnace
“King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue … he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon” (Daniel 3:1).
Followers of Jesus have always struggled in the relationships with governing authorities. St. Paul, wanting in ensure domestic tranquility, instructed his readers to be subject to the governing authorities because those authorities had been instituted by God (Romans 13:1). Experiences through the millennia have demonstrated that relationships between believers and governments are far more complex than simple submission. There are times when governments are wrong and need to be opposed. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego realized the gold statue that the King erected was wrong. The church in Germany, in the years leading up to World War II, however, didn’t oppose Adolf Hitler.
Governments may claim to be directed by Christian principles, but the reality is that human greed is often a greater influence. Earthly governments are never the kingdom of God. As followers of Jesus, it is necessary for us to determine when we must act like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. There are national gods that we cannot worship. There are also governmental actions that are unjust, unequitable and simply wrong. We discover, as citizens and followers of Jesus, that patriotism is not the same as a “rubber stamp.”
Lord, empower us to be bold in our refusal to worship the gods of our nations and to stand against the injustices they frequently perpetrate. Amen.
Tuesday, November 28, 2017–Fiery Furnace
“’There are certain Jews … These pay no heed to you, O king’” (Daniel 3:12a).
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was meant to be a demonstration of what it means to be a Child of God living in an alien culture. Along with Daniel, they followed Jewish dietary laws (Daniel 1:11-12) and religious practices (Daniel 6:10). As Jews, the trio also refused to worship any other god but Yahweh. Their actions were both their identification and their witness.
As followers of Jesus, we have been richly blessed with a new relationship with God. We have experienced God’s love, grace and forgiveness in our lives. In a very real sense, we now live as “citizens” of God’s kingdom in an alien culture—much like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The question before us is how do we express our identity and witness? We no longer need to keep strict dietary laws. We are people, though, who have been commanded to love one another (John 15:12). Following Jesus’ example, we are also people who act graciously toward others and who live to serve. An old Christian song captures our witness with the words, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
Lord, forbid that we be timid in living out our faith. Rather, empower us to be bold and generous in our love and service. Amen.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017–Fiery Furnace
“’They do not serve your gods’” (Daniel 12b).
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is more than an illustration of the separation between church and state. It is a story about the clash of two opposing kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the Babylonian Empire. This story continues in the four gospels as the kingdom of God, in the person of Jesus the Chris,t encounters the Roman Empire. The story of two kingdoms continues today.
Nations promote a god of power and rule by might. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of love. The god of exclusion, “Us versus them,” is promoted by governments in order to inspire loyalty. Citizens of God’s kingdom live out the truth that we are all children of God and there is only “we.” Nations promote the god of individualism and success. God’s children live in community and strive for the advancement and the benefit of all.
As followers of Jesus, we are surrounded by many false gods—gods promoted by our governments and our cultures. We, though, have been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ and the love and grace of God. We worship the one true God and our words and actions reflect our loyalty.
Lord, move within us that we do not place our faith and hope in anyone or anything else but you. Amen.
Thursday, November 30, 2017–Fiery Furnace
“’If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire … let him deliver us’” (Daniel 3:17).
Akihito’s job was in jeopardy. A merger necessitated that several jobs be combined and others eliminated. When he prayed, Akihito asked that he might continue in his current position, yet he acknowledged that whatever happened God would be with him. Similarly, a routine mammogram revealed that Juanita had suspicious spots and possible breast cancer. She and her husband prayed fervently that the lumps would be benign. At the same time, they prayed that no matter what happened that the Lord would give them the faith and the strength to face what lay ahead.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego understood that there may be a cost to their actions. They were aware that the penalty for disobeying the king was death. They also knew that the Lord was capable of saving them from a fiery fate. If God didn’t move in the manner they hoped, they still bore witness to the truth that they were in God’s hands. God would never be separated from them.
Followers of Jesus are not masochists. We do not look forward to pain or suffering and naturally pray that such fates may be avoided. At the same time, we acknowledge that God’s ways are not our ways. We are in God’s hands and no matter what we encounter or endure, God will be with us through it all. Thanks be to God!
Thank you, Lord, that you are with us always. May whatever happens in our lives draw us closer to you. Amen.
Friday, December 1, 2017–Fiery Furnace
“But the three men … fell down, bound, into the furnace of fire” (Daniel 3:23).
Alan reported a bullying incident to the school authorities, which involved the football team’s quarterback and wide receiver. The disciplinary action against the two young men required that they be sidelined for the season. When the team lost the championship because of the action, Alan was shunned by his classmates. While protesting a demonstration by white supremacists, Binh was arrested when the police moved against the protestors. Binh spent the night in jail and was wrongly slapped with several fines. His lawyer expenses significantly depleted his saving.
It is easy to comfort others with the words, “Don’t worry it will be okay,” or, “Everything will work out in the end.” Many times such words don’t prove true. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves in the fiery furnace and there are time that we find ourselves in similar situations. As followers of Jesus, we have never been guaranteed a comfortable, charmed life. In fact, Jesus told his followers, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). God’s love and grace are free and our new relationship with God is at Jesus’s expense, but following Jesus may be costly.
May our loving response to your love and grace, Lord, motivate us to follow you no matter what the cost. Amen.
Saturday, December 2, 2017–Fiery Furnace
“’I see four men unbound walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god’” (Daniel 3:25).
St. Paul writes these words of encouragement to the Christians in Philippi, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 6:6-7). In the middle of great trials and tribulations, followers of Jesus can experience a peace that passes all earthly comprehension. It is the result of God’s presence with us—and not necessarily the resolution of our predicament.
This is the peace that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego experience and that the King saw. The Lord was with them in the fiery furnace. Their bonds of fear had been broken. The flames were still hot, but did not have the usual effect upon the three men. When the King saw what was happening, he was able to behold the Lord’s power and glory.
Miracles and positive resolutions to our situations are nice, but they are not necessarily what bears the greatest witness to God’s power and glory. It is when the people around us see how we, as followers of Jesus, react to our situations and live out our faith that they most clearly see God’s presence.
Lord, enable us to rest in your loving embrace no matter what happens. Amen.
Sunday, December 3, 2017–Fiery Furnace
“’Blessed be the god … who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him’” (Daniel 3:28).
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego served the king faithfully and carried out the responsibilities of their positions with integrity. The three men sought to maintain their identity as God’s children, while at the same time, working to benefit the country in which they lived. Though they refused to worship any god other than Yahweh, they did not assume a prophetic role and cast judgment upon those who worshiped false gods. Through their words and actions—expressions of their faith—people were able to experience God’s love and grace.
As followers of Jesus, our words and actions of love and grace are also what enable others to experience God’s presence. It is the ordinary, rather than the extraordinary and the everyday, rather than the rare that communicates most effectively the good news of God’s love and the reality of God’s kingdom to our world. The mundane is transformed into the holy, not so that others might be impressed by us, but rather that they might bless God.
Flow through our daily words and action, Holy Spirit, so that others may see God and give God the glory. Amen.