Wednesday, January 12, 2011


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   "...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?" Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it... But even if He does not... we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
                                                            Daniel   3:15-18  (NIV)

     This is a popular Old Testament story... one 'most everybody has heard at one time or another.  It's an example of great faith and obedience. (Yep - that pesky obedience crops up in nearly every lesson!)
 I remember hearing it in Sunday School as a child.  Of course, I didn't really understand it;  it was an example of a miracle from God, but I didn't get much more out of it...("When I was a child I spoke as a child, but when I grew up I put away childish things." I Corinthians 13:11)

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     One of the ten commandments is " You shall not make for yourself an idol... You shall not bow down to them or worship them...: (Deuteronomy 5:8,9)  Imagine the situation: the king. Nebuchadnezzar, had built a huge idol and ordered everyone in his country to bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego not only lived in Nebuchadnezzar's country, but also worked for him;  they had high positions in his court. So, their actions were highly visible... no "blending in" for these guys.  When everybody else bowed down, there were these three men who remained standing, refusing to bow to the idol.  Consequently they were tied up and thrown into a furnace so hot that it killed the soldiers who threw them in! (Ugh. What a job assignment.)
     But when Nebuchadnezzar approached the opening of the furnace and looked in, he saw  FOUR  men - unbound, walking around, unharmed, "...and the one looks like a Son of the gods." (Daniel 3:25   NIV)  Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the men be removed from the furnace. And when they were brought out the men were neither scorched,  nor smelling of fire. What an amazing story!
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   Listen to what Nebuchadnezzar said next!  "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.  There fore I decree that the people of any nation or any language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieced and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no god can save this way."  (Daniel 3:28,29)
     I wish I could say that this  was the end of Nebuchadnezzar's treachery, but it wasn't... he "had a ways to go..."  But, he did eventually find his way to God.  Read the book of Daniel and you will see... Regardless of how long it took for this courageous act to convince Nebuchadnezzar and/or any of the other people who witnessed this miracle of God, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were obedient to God's commandment and were rewarded for their obedience.
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      The ten commandments are still in effect today.  They are not the ten suggestions, although many of us act as if they were.  We tend to go through the list of commandments, seeing how we measure up, giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt,  hoping we are "okay".  Are we being honest in our self-assessment? On the surface we probably think we are okay with the idol worship commandment.  We don't build statues of gold or wood, expecting our family, friends, and neighbors to bow down to them... We're nothing like ol'
king Nebuchadnezzar, right???
      Well... wait a minute.  Maybe there are other things... subtle modern-day idols that we have slowly learned to bow down to without even realizing our backs are bent! Things like television. Possessions. One's children or grandchildren.  Sports. Alcohol. Drugs. Sex. Self-worship Movie stars. Rock stars. Maybe even a Christian band... The list could go on and on... People can make almost anything an object of worship.
     If you want to know where your heart is, look at these two things:  Look at your calendar to see where you spend your time. And look at your checkbook to see where you spend your money.  This will reveal your true relationship with God.

     "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  (Jesus speaking, in Matthew 6:21   NIV)

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