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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, May 1, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Daniel 3:1–18           

King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O King. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (NRSV)

Reflection
What really strikes me about this story is what the three men say to King Nebuchadnezzar. When the king threatens to throw them into the fire of the furnace, they do not say “Our God will save us.” Instead they say, in essence, even if our God cannot save us from suffering and death, still “we will never serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

They have a sense of what is right, and their commitment to doing what is right is strong. Even fear of pain and death will not make them do what they think is wrong. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the embodiment of fidelity to the truth and to right action. They are bully proof and can’t be threatened into wrongdoing.

The fact that God does save them from the fire, in some ways, distracts from an important message in this story. In fact, I remembered this story wrongly. Before rereading this story, I thought they always believed that God would save them from the fire. But their devotion and commitment was not based on rewards or miraculous salvation.

These three men didn’t know what God would do. In spite of that, they decided what they would do. They decided to do the right thing. They decided to worship God and not gold. They decided to worship God and not the power or the demands of a human king.

Prayer
Dear God, make me strong in my commitments to do the right thing. Help me to be brave in the face of danger and threats. Even when I don’t know the outcome of things, help me to know that you are with me, no matter what happens. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Minister for Congregational Life


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