DANIEL 3:1- 30
8 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
DARE TO BE A DANIEL
Daniel lived over 2,500 years ago in a world incredibly different from ours. Daniel was taken by force from his own destroyed homeland and forced into a new culture. He then prospered in Babylon with opportunities and successes which quite likely were much greater than he ever could have found back in Jerusalem. Daniel, the Bible tells us, observed the laws, loved God to the point of being willing to sacrifice his life to continue to worship God, was a bureaucrat that was favored by his earthly monarchs, he interpreted dreams that no one else seemed to be able to understand. Daniel enjoyed God’s protection from certain death by miracles. It is difficult for us to envision such circumstances and outcomes in our own lives.
So the question is are there any instructions in his story for us ordinary Exile folk?
The outlines of this historic account call us to ponder the links with our own roles in God’s larger story and to remind us that God is the author our experiences. As we read the book of Daniel we take note of how God developed Daniel through his practices. Think about how God gave Daniel access, influence, and insight so that he could communicate God’s ways to the Babylon’s elite. One of thing I notice is that Daniel was a magnificent follower in the hands of God because he “assimilated” to the Babylonian culture as an active participant, (Remember Jeremiah 29 last week) yet all the while remained “distinctive” in his character and witness to God and God’s ways.
What can we learn from how Daniel navigated the situation of being “in” Babylon but not “of” it? You may recall Jesus said the same thing about his follows, that we are in the world, but not of the world.
Notice that Daniel was loyal. Daniel never betrayed his human sovereigns. He faithfully discharged his duties. Daniel expressed the meanings of dreams with trustworthiness, even when the interpretation could result in the King reacting with anger to such a dream interpreter. Daniel did not try to personally profit from the rise and fall of empires revealed to him by God. Daniel was faithful. Daniel studied and followed, as he understood, God’s law. Daniel followed God’s law quietly but firmly and consistently. Daniel was a witness. Daniel spread God’s word by actions more than words. He did not alienate, or isolate from, the culture around him. Daniel did not denounce non-believers publicly or castigate them in private. But he did openly refuse to adopt their law-breaking practices. All this to say that Daniel was a person of integrity.
How did Daniel resist allowing the culture to squeeze him into its mold, to not resemble the Babylonians in his thoughts, speech, and behavior?
He lived in a foreign land, under leadership who did not embrace the ways of God, and he was surrounded with ungodly influences constantly pressing in on him from all sides. Daniel we see, participated in their society, without being conformed to their ideals, without compromising his witness. Daniel was consistent. Daniel followed God’s laws in public and in private.
We see this in practices Daniel consistently engaged in: praying to God, consulting God-fearing friends and inviting them into prayer, praising and giving thanks to God, and lamenting sin. Daniel worshiped so unswervingly that the king even said to Daniel before he went into the lion’s den: “May Your god whom you always worship save you” (6:16).
What we are invited to take in is that there was only one Daniel, not a “Sabbath Daniel” on his Sabbath day and an “ordinary Daniel” the other six days of the week. Daniel lived out his faith seven days a week. In living this way he was consistently being “conformed into the image of God, instead of the images of Babylon’s idols.”
While we will never become supervisors of a Persian empire. It is quite unlikely; I suppose, that we will be called to experience a literal fiery furnace or survive a night in the lions den. Yet don’t you find in the story of Daniel that is amazing to consider that we as “strangers” (Exiles) in a land that does not wholeheartedly embrace God’s truth, that we can follow Christ with integrity to an even greater degree than Daniel because the Holy Spirit Himself now lives inside us? Jesus promised the gift of the spirit to be a power in our lives, a guide into all truth, and a vital presence so real that you we will never feel alone. “Thanks be to God!!”
How might God be calling you to position yourself under the influence of the Holy Spirit as you live in your own Babylon?
What spiritual formation practices might better position you to be conformed to the image of God, instead of the idols of our society?