“Just Who Is Your God?”
Daniel 3: 13-30
13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
We continue with our series Faces of Our Faith and this Sunday we are reading from the Book of Daniel. Just like last week you might think that the “Face of our Faith” is Daniel, but it is not. It is about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It would be appropriate to ask, who are these men and what do they bring to our faith life this morning? Let’s begin by exploring the context in which this story is written. Daniel and his three companions are Jews, as youths they lived in Jerusalem. As a result of hostile takeovers, they became captives under King Nebuchadnezzar and were forced to live as exiles in Babylon. Hence, they are living in a foreign land, a different culture and a different religion. The Babylonians in general were polytheistic, worshiping over 2,100 different deities (gods). As best they could David, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego tried to maintain their worship of one God, the God of the Israelites.
When I first read this passage, it took me back to when our children were in Sunday School. There was a song they sung titled: “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.” I believe there were even hand motions that went along with it.. The chorus of the song goes like this, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego You didn’t worship the image of gold. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I want to live my life like you and be so bold. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego I want to live my life like you and be so bold.” I wonder how many of us when having to make a choice between the fiery furnace or bowing down to a golden idol would make the same choice Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did…They were bold and their faith strong.
It begs the question, Just Who Is Their God? This is the same question King Nebuchadnezzar asked!
As you heard me read this story perhaps you found yourself leaning two different ways; one that this isn’t a true story, it’s more like a fairy tale, or two, it’s irrelevant to my life. Who knows if this really happened but I do know there are many who have been bold and had a strong faith…people who metaphorically walked in the fiery furnace. Annalena Tonelli is one just such person. Listen to this story found on the website Epic Pew. Born in 1943 in Italy, Annalena was a lawyer. At 25 years old, she moved to Africa to work with the Committee Against World Hunger, an organization she helped found. Later in life she moved to Borama, where she founded a tuberculosis hospital, whose $20,000 monthly maintenance bills were funded by her friends and family back in Italy. She brought HIV AIDS patients to the Borama hospital because she believed they deserved to be treated like human begins and children of God. This move was not accepted well, and in November 2002, protesters threw stones into the windows of the hospital and chanted “Death to Annalena.” On October 5, 2003, Annalena was shot in the head and killed while working in the hospital she founded.” This is a true story. Annalena was bold in her actions and demonstrated again and again her strong faith. Just Who Was Her God?
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Sister Annalena leave with us amazing stories of faith and they inspire us, but stories of faith can be found right here, around us. Rev. Sue Krummel our Executive Presbyter, shared a story on the Presbytery Connect that makes me ask, “Just Who is their God?” Sue talked about in the churches that she served she often had a time for her congregation to remember their baptism. And in the remembering, offered them to take a small white stone and keep it to be an ongoing reminder of our faith in Christ. She shared a particular story of how this little stone impacted a decision one person made. I don’t think she said a name so we’ll call him Joe. Joe organized a company picnic where they played games competing against other companies. One event was the tug of war. T he winning team was determined by how much they pulled in relationship to how much total weight of the team. It makes sense doesn’t it…the heavier team would have an advantage. Well, the boss of Joe really wanted them to win…it was important to the boss. And it ended up Joe’s company did win. They took home the trophy and everyone was happy, including the boss. Later the following day, Joe recalculated the weight of the team and he realized that he had miscalculated…an error that would cause them to lose the event. What to do? Joe always carried this little white stone in his pants pocket and as he was struggling with what to do…his fingers touched the little stone. The answer was clear, he called his boss and corrected the mistake, their team did not win, and the trophy was returned. Just Who Is This God that Joe believed in?
Our acts of faith might be big, when our very life is on the line, or our acts of faith might be small, correcting a mistake and speaking the truth when it would have been easier to just keep quiet or walk away. Who is this God we worship? The living God we worship is a God who instills boldness in our hearts and courage in our actions. The living God we worship calls us to live our lives and every decision we make with the awareness that God is here, God is present…and only God is worthy of our praise and worship!
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego y
ou didn’t worship the image of gold. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I want to live my life like you and be so bold. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego I want to live my life like you and be so bold.” Amen