I missed church today. My whole family did, in fact, because we were actually already at church when I got sick and had to leave before the service started. So bummed. Liana was especially sad because she LOVES Sunday school and looks forward to it all week. But anyway...seeing just a few statuses (stati??) and twitters with quotes from the morning makes me think I missed a really good sermon, one that seems to go right along with what I wrote in my last blog. (If you haven't read it yet, please do. it's kinda long, though, just to warn you.) So I can't wait to listen to the podcast later this week.
Ok. Now on to what I really want to discuss today. I've been reading this novel called Babylon Rising, written by one of the same authors that wrote the Left Behind series. It's a little too complicated to explain it, but it has to do with Biblical prophecy, specifically from the book of Daniel. So I decided to start reading the book of Daniel. Daniel is not a book I have much knowledge about, except for the well-known stories of Daniel and the lions' den and Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. And those are the two stories I read this afternoon, since they come right at the beginning of the book.
A little background, in case you are unfamiliar: Daniel and his 3 friends were taken captive from Judah to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar overthrew Jerusalem in 586 BC. God blessed them and they found favor with King N. He made Daniel ruler over all of Babylon, and made S, M, and A administrators under Daniel. Here's where the fiery furnace comes in. King N made this giant gold statue, presumably of himself, and ordered that all people bow down and worship this statue when they heard music play. This presents a problem for S, M, and A because they serve God, who commands that we worship no other god or idol. Thus, they refused to bow and worship the statue. N is outraged and orders them brought before him, where he gives them one last change to bow; to conform to the world, as it were. Listen to their reply: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the fiery 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." Of course, you probably know the rest of the story. The irate king orders the furnace to be made seven times hotter, killing even the guards who threw them into the fire. But God did indeed rescue S, M, and A, without so much as the smell of smoke being on their clothes. When they are brought out of the furnace, the king says, "Praise be to the God of S, M, and A, 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...."
Wow. I told you, the Bible is full of some crazy stuff!! But seriously, some things are pretty clear to me about these men. First, knowing that God can, is different from knowing that God will. They knew God could save them. How did they know? Israel's history is full of God's mighty hand working on behalf of his people. They knew God could simply because he had in the past. However, they did not know for sure whether God would or not. "But even if he does not..." What a powerful statement! We like to say things like, "God, if you will just do this for me, I'll serve you," or, "God, if you give me a sign, I'll believe/obey." What God does determines what we do, how we respond to him. But Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego had already decided that they would obey the Lord regardless of how he chose to act in that moment. That's incredible. And it's not something that they just decided at that moment. Clearly they had made the choice to honor God no matter the cost, well before this moment.
I know I'm kinda weird in this way, but I often imagine terrible things happening to me, or to my family. In my mind I play out exactly what I would say or do, or feel. I even think about how I would respond to God in that imaginary situation. I've been through some pretty difficult things in my life, and I've responded both by choosing to continue trusting and serving God, and, I'm ashamed to admit, by blaming him and deciding not to trust him. I don't think I need to tell you which choice I would make again. But the point is, we have to decide to trust God no matter what the circumstances in our lives. It's not always easy. In fact, it may seem impossible at times; but it's always worth it in the end.
I know this is really long, but bear with me a little while longer while we talk about the king's response. He told everyone that S, M, A "were willing to give up their own lives rather than worship or serve any god except their own God." What are we willing to give up? Here in America we aren't yet required to make the choice between our very lives and obedience to God. But we do have to choose; perhaps between God and our reputation, our popularity, our money, our comfort, etc. Are we really willing to serve and worship only God, no matter the cost to us?? I like to say yes, because it's the answer I should give. But does my life reflect that willingness in my everyday choices? Let's just say that I will be much more mindful of this from now on, and I hope you will be too.
Thanks for reading.