Daniel 3:4-6 (the message)
A herald then proclaimed in a loud voice: “Attention, everyone! Every race, color, and creed, listen! When you hear the band strike up–all the trumpets and trombones, the tubas and baritones, the drums and cymbals–fall to your knees and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace.”
And in they went.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo would not bow down and worship this statue of the king.
Here’s the skinny:
God’s people, the Israelites, find themselves in exile in Babylon where the very cruel and eventually insane Nebuchadnezzar reigns. He orders the people to bow down to the ground and worship a statue of himself when the music plays. (WOW)
Three young Israelites refuse. They are indeed thrown into the furnace of fire and yet when they exit (alive!) they do not even smell of smoke. A fourth man is seen walking around inside the furnace with them!
Over the weekend we watched part of The Bible as seen on the History channel. (After a couple of episodes we decided Leah, our six-year-old, is not ready for this adaptation!) The flannel graph images of my childhood were quickly dismantled in the graphic details!
As I watched the story above play out I was struck by the scene where thousands of people are bowing, face to the ground, and yet three young men remain standing. They looked sorely out-of-place.
You could not help but notice their defiance. It was magnified by the surrounding compliance.
Yesterday morning I was thinking about the juxtaposition I find in God. The Greatness of God. The Holiness of God. The extreme power…authority…last-Word-in-everything of God.
Words spilled out, again a realization that I cannot ever contain Him. Really explain Him.
But I can experience Him.
He is magnificent.
Yet our expansive God is willing to impart Himself into the smallest places of our life. The singular, thread-bare details.
Creator so amazing, so hard to contain, makes Himself easily available. This is humbling because I know that I take Him for granted. I live the cushy American, sanitized version so often. The one where my deepest concerns most often reveal my own heart’s well-hidden idol.
The image of that grotesque statue stays with me. The image of my own imposing need to comply takes shape.
I’m learning, still learning, to stand up. Remain standing. Refuse to bow, no matter how sorely I stick out or how torturously uncomfortable I find it.
So many times the fire we fear will consume us actually frees us.
I think it will kill me to not worship with the masses…will isolate me to stand alone or with one or two other trembling ones…I view the cost of God-Alone worship as too high a price.
Yet in the fire…in the middle of said cost…is where I discover freedom. See, I have been laid low before my idol of approval too many times to count. I stand on shaky limbs…the imposing lack of validation from the ones I lean on pressing me lower and lower.
But another fires burns. Within me.
Holy Spirit wants to fan the flames of righteousness and God-Alone-Worship in our hearts until we stand up to our idols.
Even if it costs us.
I’m not sure I ever once considered standing up to my idol would cost my heart its dependency on others for validation. All others.
Yet how else in this magnificent experience of life will I taste total dependency on Jesus? Unless I am willing to be led into the cost, the furnace I fear, where I discover He is with me, most real to me, in the heat?
Only fear burns in the furnace.
How about you? Is there a larger-than-life need that presses you? Exacts payment at every turn? Do you secretly fear you can’t unwrap yourself from its coercion and power without living alone, standing out, facing the cost?
Only fear burns in the furnace, my friend.
So let it burn, within and without.