12 September 2013

The Arm of Flesh

Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up?  I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.  But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.  Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!” --Daniel 3:14-19, 28-29 NLT

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's stand has always inspired me.  And, lately, I seem to keep running into this mountainous rock that is my knowledge of Jesus Christ, and the things He has taught me.  I know exactly how those three young men felt: not puffed up and pleased with themselves for making such a noble and impassioned declaration, but humble.  The spirit of what they said seemed to be: "You're welcome to do as you will with us, we're just not going to obey those decrees of yours. And whatever happens, we're not worried", with the feeling of "Have a blessed day," overlaid for good measure.  I feel strength in my testimony of The Truth growing surer and stronger, deeper and wider.  And it is good.

After the miracle, Nebuchadnezzar's conversion to belief in the Most High God is impressive . . . but his new decree is disappointing.  Yes, it's what everyone with a cause dreams of: a powerful person throwing their weight around to further your cause. And those same people rationalize that if that cause is the salvation of mankind, then so much the better!  Only trouble is, it neuters people's ability to make choices for themselves.  And as this life is a test, that leaves them pretty stuck.  Even though Nebuchadnezzer had stopped trying to physically destroy S, M & A, it seems to me that he just turned that destructive power towards his own people, but in a spiritual way.  It's like the enemy decided that if he couldn't burn the boys to a crisp, he'd happily trade that for the slow spiritual death of many, many others.  he's a tricky one, the old serpent. And we have to listen closely to the Holy Spirit so he won't catch us unawares.

God, I pray you would open my eyes to see where I am coercing or trying to force others to do good.  Temper my language, open my eyes, soften my heart, and make my ears to hear Your Word and Your Truth. Show me how to give freedom to those around me, the freedom that only comes in Christ Jesus.  In His holiest and most beloved Name, Amen.