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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Daniel 3:19–30           

Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics, their trousers, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. Because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But 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.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them.

Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. (NRSV)

So often our prayers try to tell God what to do. We say things like “God, help me find a parking space” or “God, make my sister feel better again.” Even Jesus said on the night he was betrayed, “God, let this cup pass from me.” God can do these things, and sometimes God will do what we ask, but there are times when God has a different purpose in mind and wants us to endure, persevere, and face the challenge. In Daniel 3:19–30, God could have taken the fire away from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but instead God allowed them to face the fire, even when it was increased seven times. Instead of taking the fire away, God stayed with them as they endured and faced the fire. By doing so they were allowed to experience God’s protection, fellowship, and peace.

We all face fires of one kind or another, and when we do, it can be difficult to find God. It can be challenging to know what God is trying to tell us when the answer to our prayer is not the one we were seeking. But in those moments we should seek God all the more to discern what God is trying to tell us. Trusting God with faith and confidence, we may find that God’s way can lead to a more perfect light and understanding, one that we could not have imagined. When we face a challenge with God, God may not take it away, but God will be with us throughout the journey, no matter what. God will be with us in the fire, God will be with us at the cross, God will be with us at our death, and God will be with us in our rising. We will never be separated from the love of God in this life or in the life to come.

Living God, thank you for your love that embraces and holds us through any challenge. Amen.

Written John W. W. Sherer, Organist and Director of Music

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