Summary: Three men are loyal to God, but face the possibility of death. God is present in their trials and rescues them.
Daniel 3:1, 8-30 “Fire Walkers”
Wars are not won solely on the front lines; other tactics are used. In World War II the radio was used. Germany and Japan attempted to spread propaganda though such media personalities as Axis Anna, and Tokyo Rose. The BBC broadcast news on the European Front. During the cold war the United States used Radio Free America to spread its message. Within the words of all of these programs were frequently directions to resistance cells behind the lines.
Today terrorist organizations market their message over the internet—seeking recruits and giving instructions. The warped perspectives of closed societies are being challenged by the information that is available on the internet, and those societies are fighting to keep the internet out.
The book of Daniel is similar to the radio broadcasts and internet. It was written to instruct, encourage and inspire the People of God who were experiencing severe persecution. Though we live in a country that allows us to freely worship, the message of Daniel has a powerful message for us and a challenge to stay true to our faith.
REIMAGE THE SITUATION
The scene of the book of Daniel is from the exile, but it is believed that the book is the last book written in the Old Testament—written during the persecution of the Seleucid Empire around 160 BC. It was written to a people who lived in a land where it was illegal to practice their religion. The Jews could not practice circumcision or observe the Sabbath.
It is not obvious in a cursory reading of Daniel, but the writer pokes fun at the great powers. Nebuchadnezzar is portrayed as a pompous, verbose fool. His words are blabber. The list of all of the officials, in verses 2, emphasizes his mindless followers. All of the instruments listed demonstrate making a big to do about nothing. One of the most effective ways of disarming the great powers is to make fun of them.
Martin Luther once said, “I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him.” After 911, cartoonists poked fun at Osama ben Laden and Al Quada. Today the late night talk show hosts are having a field day ridiculing our elected officials in Washington D.C.
There are times when we blow our situations out of proportion. They are all that we see and all that we think about. Our obsession with them creates fear and paralysis in us. In order to counteract this, the writer of Daniel would encourage us to make fun of our situation—laugh at life. What we are experiencing is not the end of the world, and it certainly isn’t all powerful. Only God is all powerful.
KEEP YOUR INTEGRITY
In contrast to Nebuchadnezzar, the three Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, truthful and concise in their responses. They refuse to compromise their faith: they are men of integrity.
We are not necessarily persecuted for our faith but the forces of our society challenge our faith and our integrity as God’s People and disciples of Jesus Christ. Each of us is affected in different ways and it is important for us to constantly be aware of challenges that drain the vibrancy from our faith and tempt us to lose our integrity.
• There are elements in our lives that take away our joy and our thankfulness that we must stand against.
• There are two things that bind a community together—love or hate. Society often encourages us to hate those who are different, those who disagree, and those we consider our enemies. Jesus tells us to love our enemies. In love we can pray for our enemies and ask God to lovingly move in their lives. If we hate, we can’t.
• We are constantly confronted with a materialistic, self-centered society. I don’t think any of us will feel that God is asking us to sell all our possessions and give the money to the poor. But, we are challenged to be good stewards of the blessings that God has showered into our lives.
The writer of Daniel comforts his readers with the assurance that God will be with them whatever they face.
The furnaces were stoked to burn seven times the temperature they normally were. It’s so hot that the guards who threw the three men into the fire were killed. Everything was against the three men, but when Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace, there were four men rather than three. God was present with the men when they endured the fiery furnaces of life.
When the men climbed out of the furnace, their hair was not singed, nor were their clothes scorched. God gave them the victory.