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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, March 17, 2022  

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)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are best known for this passage’s dramatic account of their survival—how could they not be!—but the verses prior to today’s passage are perhaps the more saliant ones. The reason these men were ordered to be tossed into a furnace was because they refused an order from King Nebuchadnezzar to worship a golden statue that the king had commissioned—a prohibited practice in Judaism dating back to the golden-calf worship condemned by Moses in Exodus 32. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thus left with a choice: disobey God or disobey the king.

While our circumstances differ, the fundamental questions this passage prompts remain exactly the same as they did 2,500 years ago. What is the relationship between our faith and the laws/leaders of our day? To whom do we owe our ultimate allegiance? What are we willing to sacrifice for our convictions? For the author of Daniel, the answer is clear: we are called to follow God above all else, even at the risk of our health and well-being. I’d guess for most of us, though, the answer isn’t quite so clear cut—in no small part because we hope to never face as dire a scenario as these three did.

Following God does not merely mean martyrdom—sacrificing to put God first takes many forms and will always look different depending on individual circumstances—yet one of the truths at the center of this Lenten season is the immense sacrifice that Jesus made because of his deep love for us. Personal sacrifice is an unmistakable aspect of our faith, so may we continue to wrestle with what that looks like in our lives.

Holy God, remind me once again what it means to live a life dedicated to you—shaped entirely by your grace and love. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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