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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

You can handle the heat...

If you grew up in Sunday school, you undoubtedly know of the story of King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The king had built a gold idol ninety feet high and nine feet wide and he ordered all to fall down and worship it or be killed. The consequence for disobedience was being thrown into a blazing furnace.

It was brought to the king’s attention that three Jews refused to worship the idol. After giving them a second chance to bow down, which was soundly rejected, Nebuchadnezzar was furious, heated the furnace seven times hotter than normal, and ordered the three men to be bound and tossed in. The soldiers charged with carrying out the order died from the intense heat of the furnace as they threw in the three men. What had made the king so angry? It was their refusal to follow his orders, instead trusting and believing in God as the ultimate authority and the only one worthy of our praise (1 Chronicles 16:25). In fact, they said to the king, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:17-18)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had an incredible faith. Not just that they would be delivered from certain death in a fiery furnace, but even if they were not, they would stand firm in faith on God’s word. WOW! Their faith was not contingent on what God could do for them, or even what He had already done, but it was based on what they could do for God, and what He was capable of doing (whether or not He did it). How often do we lose sight of what God is capable of and what we are called to do for Him? When deliverance isn’t certain, and even when it doesn’t come, that doesn’t change who God is. It doesn’t change the truth of His word. God is so much bigger than the reality of our world.

Another interesting part of the story is how apparently Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were among the minority (if not the only ones) who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. The Bible says that “all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold” (Daniel 3:7), but some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews, saying, “But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up." (Daniel 3:12) These three men stood alone, in spite of the fact that “everyone else is doing it”. How often do our kids do the “popular” thing or are afraid at being singled out or ridiculed for being different than the crowd…even when the crowd is wrong? (How often do we?)

It is the eve of a court date for my son. In some ways, I feel as if I’m standing at the opening to the fiery furnace. And I know it doesn’t end tomorrow, as there is still a long road ahead regardless of the outcome of the proceedings. Even more, I fear for my son who figuratively stands at the same opening. And I don’t have the power to pull him to safety.

Will I chose to cling to my faith in spite of the heat? I will…because I know even if I end up in the furnace, the Lord will be there with me. And I’d rather be in the furnace with the Lord than anywhere without Him. That would be the true definition of hopelessness.

I also wonder if both of my sons will walk the road less traveled and stand firm for what is right and true? Or will either of them follow the crowd, living for the moment rather than for God, and worshipping idols? Oh, I don’t mean ninety-foot high statues of gold, but the idols of today such as popularity, fame, money, and other treasures on earth. The Lord has called us to “store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where our treasure is, there our heart will be also." (Matthew 6:20)

I pray that my boys will find real treasure here on earth, not the man-made kind. I pray that they will put their faith in the treasures of heaven, and that the Lord will keep them from the fiery furnace. But even if they end up there, may the Lord walk with them through it, and may all who see what’s happened proclaim, “Praise be to the God of [these boys]… How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation." (Daniel 3:28, 4:4) I pray that for your children as well, and I encourage you that if you’d like for prayer by name, please respond with a comment, and I will add your child to my prayer journal.

Warm blessings to you and your family.

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