I have always loved the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, which I learned as a youngster. The Statler Brothers used to sing a gospel song about this story, which contained this chorus:
It still rings in my ears as I read Daniel’s account of the ordeal involving his three friends.
When we focus upon the reaction of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, the story is a wondrous example of faith in action. These men had real confidence in God that goes beyond their deliverance from the fiery furnace. When facing the question of whether to demonstrate fealty to an idol in order to save themselves, they were not moved by the apparent consequences of their decision. Instead, they seemed indifferent as to whether God would save them from the furnace. They understood that God was able to save them, but whether God would choose to do so would be His prerogative. They did not decide to follow God because He would save them, but because of the reality of who He was. What a demonstration of faith! As Paul would later observe, “whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” (Romans 14:8). I wonder what it felt like to enter that furnace untouched, and to be joined in the experience by the “fourth [man who] looks like a son of God.” (v. 92).
When we focus upon Nebuchadnezzar, we see a slightly different message coming out of this account. Nebuchadnezzar asked, “Who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?” I do not think he expected to learn the answer. He was surprised at the audacity of anyone who would not see him as preeminent. His initial reaction to that challenge was blind rage. Sometimes finding God can be quite a shock, particularly when we discover the foundation for our lives is crumbling and untrustworthy. Sometimes we are like Nebuchadnezzar, who was a bit of a slow learner when it came to the God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego.
The Gospel for today deals with the problems of other slow learners, who seem unable to shift their focus from the past to the present. As a result, they are unable to recognize the work of God who is in their midst. May God save us from our own blindness as to the works of God, and may He open our eyes to His works that are visible in our present reality. And may each of us recognize and accept God’s answers to our questions about who He is, responding with humility, gratitude, and openness to the future He has planned for us.
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