Thursday, 24 September 2015

Bible Reading: Daniel 3v8-15 'A People in peril'

At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘May the king live for ever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 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, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.’
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?’

As the three friends take their stand one of the interesting things we spot in the text is that the other astrologers hostility is expressed, in verse 8, in terms of nationality.  They denounce some Jews with a delight in their destruction.  There is a sense of glee and desire to destroy, perhaps prompted by envy at meteoric rise of Dan and co.

This places this incident firmly within the larger picture of the spiritual battle the rages around the physical events of history, something which becomes clearer in the later chapters.  God’s people are in exile holding on to hope of return, God is sovereign over all even in exile and yet there are still those who are trying to destroy them.  What is their crime?  It is being different, refusing to assimilate, to be the same as everyone else, seen in their refusal to worship the image Nebuchadnezzar has set up. They are distinctively God's people and will worship him alone.

Those who report them to the king couch their report in terms of obedience and faithfulness (v10-12).  They are not being faithful and obedient to the king, the inference being that they are subversive, unreliable and dangerous.  Why?  Because the three friends choose to be faithful and obey God not Nebuchadnezzar, it’s him they serve not you.

Verses 13-15 set up the point of tension – how will they react to these accusations and Nebuchadnezzar's reaction?  Nebuchadnezzar is furious, this is a public display against his despotic tyranny.  This is a refusal to recognise his power and authority.  And so he sets up one last test, an ultimatum in verse 15 “if you will…if you are ready to…”  It's now or never, bow or burn.

Verse 15 makes clear that Nebuchadnezzar is in direct opposition to God, he thinks he is the ultimate authority, that he has power over their life and death.  Again in the chapter we clearly see that the opposition of the world to God’s people, is the opposition of world to God.  Nebuchadnezzar reacts with fury to their stand for God, to their refusal to worship what everyone else worships.  The world has not changed, it is not for Christianity, Jesus words of warning that the world will hate his followers are still true.  The question may not yet be bow or burn for us but it is worship what everyone else does or face isolation, rejection, laughter, being labelled as a bigot and so on.  The question is are we willing to stand?

No comments: