Originally published Wednesday, 06 December 2017.
I loved church when I was a little girl. We were not one of those families in every activity and at church every other day but we were there just about every Sunday and I loved it. I loved the tradition, the music and the hats. The only thing I loved more was Sunday School. It was in Sunday school where I was first introduced to our friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
You may remember their story from Sunday School too. They were the ones thrown into the blazing furnace and miraculously saved by God. But as we continue our study “Unshaken” about their testimony I want to point out that our focus is not primarily on their rescue from the furnace. This study focuses on why they were in the furnace in the first place.
See our three friends could have avoided the blazing furnace situation all together. They could have lied and manipulated their way out of this struggle but they don’t. Good thing for us because if they did we would have been deprived of one good Sunday School story.
But our friends were in the furnace because they selected to stand for their God with a boss like faith we admire. And I believe that the main reason why they have this strong faith is because they decided a long time ago that they would not bow to another God. They made this decision long before facing their blazing furnace.
In this week’s study, we learn that every journey towards an unshaken faith like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s starts at the same place: a decision.
The first lesson we learn from Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego about remaining unshaken is that you must first decide that you will follow God no matter what.
If you notice Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not hesitate to answer the king’s question. They immediately let the king know where they stood. There was no, oh we didn’t know about the idol or command. They saw the idol, they heard the edict, when they came to the king they were not surprised, they knew what he wanted. They saw everyone else bowing but even before all of that they had decided that they would only bow to their God. The One True God of Israel.
Now how do I know this? Well we can clearly see their decision to honor God in Daniel chapter 1. Upon arriving in Babylon, they were to be trained for 3 years and then they were to enter the kings service as we previously learned. At that point we read that their names are changed and they are presented with what the Bible tells us as “choice foods” to eat. King Nebuchadnezzar plans to indoctrinate these young men, to turn them from their God and their culture. He wants them to look to him for all their needs. And instead of ruling with an iron fist and forcing them to do it he takes a different approach. He treats them oh so well. He makes it difficult for them to want to go back to their god and Israelite culture. And one of the main ways he does this is by allowing them to eat the same food as him. Now during this time as you can imagine there would have been a vast difference between the quality of food that a royal would eat and a common person, so although Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are captives they are presented with the opportunity to live like royals.
But this is a dangerous place to be. When captivity treats you well. When not having freedom feels good. This is the same trick many of us fall for. When sin feels so good we don’t realize it’s the very things enslaving us. That’s the trick of Babylon and it’s the trick of our world today.
Many of us only think we are free because we feel good, because we look good, because we think we can do whatever we want but that is not freedom. Freedom is doing the will of God and any situation that prevents you from doing that has you captive. But Christ came that we might be free to worship the one true God. He grants us the freedom to say no, no the false gods and the delusional and fading pleasures of this world and partake in the eternal gift of having a relationship to God the Father. He grants us the freedom to not eat of the choice foods of the king and enjoy an even greater feast with Him, the true bread of life and living water.
See the problem with the choice foods Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are offered is that these foods were most like not prepared the way in which God required the Israelites to prepare their food, this food was most likely sacrificed to false gods, and to eat the kings food would imply a fellowship with the king and an acceptance with the Babylonia system which Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not. So Daniel kindly asks that they not be forced to eat this food. Instead they ate vegetables and water because it was important for them to honor God more than blending in, more than doing what everyone else was doing and more than doing what would have been much easier for them to do. An you know what, they came out of their training scrounger and better than everyone else that went through the training. Whatever you give up for God is never a loss Beloved.
From the beginning of their training in Babylon they had made up in their hearts to serve the One true living God. And I believe it was making that decision from the very beginning of this journey that strengthened Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to stand for God in the face of this fiery furnace.
This is an important lesson for us that we take a stand for God now. To decide now that we are all in because if we choose to be lukewarm or straddle the fence now we’ll be the first ones to turn from God then things don’t go our way or when life takes an unexpected turn. Now I know you don’t want to be a part-time follower of Jesus. After all He has done for us we want to be all in, with our whole hearts and minds and souls.
But each person’s journey to live fully surrendered to God always starts at the same place: a decision. And maybe in the past you have not always chosen God, but today is a new day, to I encourage you to make today the day you decide that no matter the struggle I’m standing for God.
As Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego approached King Nebuchadnezzar they could have come up with a lot of excuses. They could have reasoned that everyone else was doing it. They could have reasoned that since they are in leadership they needed to do it, at best they could have reasoned that they wanted to save their lives, or even that they’d bow and just cross their fingers and not really mean it. But we read of no excuses from our three friends. Only a decision to serve God alone. It was decided.
Let’s keep this conversation going Beloved? Comment and let me know your thoughts about church as a child? I’m curious to know if you found it entertaining, boring or something else altogether.
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