Summary: We will examine what it tookDaniel and his three friends to thrive amidst difficult times.
Thriving or Surviving
Feb 5, 2012 Dan 1
What does it take to not merely survive, but to thrive amidst difficult times? That is the uncomfortable question that jumped out at me through the pages of Scripture this week, in a story that I am going to tell you in a moment.
See, we are in the midst of a difficult time, removed from our facility, after having only partial use since July. Uprooted. Some of our ministries, like our weekly Wednesday night ministry designed to move us into our community and world with the love of Jesus, are on hold completely. Others, like our ladies Bible study and our youth ministries and our weekly worship service are in temporary locations. While still others, like our mission team in Bolivia right now, continue on. Last week I spoke about a need to come together, in patience and love and strength, and hold tight together. This week, I felt God pushing a little further. What does it take to not merely survive, but to thrive?
The year is 605BC. The nation is in turmoil. Young King Jehoiakim, at 28 years old, is making a royal mess of things. Literally, he did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God. (2 Chronicles 36:5). The prophet Jeremiah has been warning, begging, pleading the people to return to God, to give up their wicked ways, to treat the poor with fairness and to worship the Lord alone. So have others, like the prophet Uriah, who was threatened, fled to Egypt, hunted down and then hauled back to King Jehoiakim who promptly had him killed by the sword and his body disrespected (Jeremiah 26:21-23).
Jehoiakim has not been playing nice with others. Including the powerful nations around him, he shifted his allegiance from one to another, and now the massive Babylonian army is marching towards Jerusalem.
But my story is not really about him.
Four young friends sat together in their comfortable homes near the palace. Around their father’s tables, the conversation always seems to turn to Jeremiah and his prophecies. Is he right? Would our God really betray us, and allow our enemies to conquer Jerusalem? Did God not make a covenant with us, to always protect and always fight for us, to establish us as a people forever? Did God not promise our Father Abraham that we would be as numerous as stars?
The debate continued among the four young men as they lay around the table, popping olives into their mouths and sipping their wine. Children of the nobles, they had an excellent education, training in diplomacy, understanding of peoples and government and how to run a country. They knew the stories of their people, and the stories of their God: Father Abraham, Moses and Pharoah, King David; these they knew inside and out. They enjoyed good food and wine, security, wealth. And the luxury to sit around and debate together, as the army of Babylonia marched closer. Which they did, day after day.
Soon the Babylonians arrived. Soldiers clashed, swords clanged and arrows zipped through the air, the King put up a fight, but not much of one. Blood was spilled, but victory was easy. For the Babylonians, that is.
Mishael ran to find his three friends, and together they huddled behind closed doors. HE is actually here, the King of Babylon! I saw his horse riding through the gates of Jerusalem. Jehoiakim ordered the soldiers to surrender, and now they are going to meet. We have lost. Tension filled the room as the four together wondered what this might mean.
Then they heard weeping and wailing, and they ran out into the streets and saw people running away from the temple. Azariah grabbed one of them and the four held him against a wall. What is going on, they demanded. The Babylonians are in the Temple, they are looting it! The sacred objects, they are taking them, where will they stop? What else will they take?
Azariah let go and the man ran off, and the four ran towards the temple to see for themselves. It was a bad idea. They ran into the outer court of the temple and into the middle of the Babylonian soldiers, who quickly surrounded them. The boys struggled and fought, but were no match for the professional soldiers. They were taken captive, tied together and led outside the city walls to the Babylonian camp.
Days passed, the four went through various stages of anger, despair, confusion, resignation, and finally resolve. They sat in the dirt, able to see their home of Jerusalem but not sure they would ever set foot inside again. Daniel spoke: My friends, it appears the prophet Jeremiah spoke truth. Our God has given King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon the city. Yet Jeremiah also spoke of God’s faithfulness, that God would punish but then restore, and that we God’s people must return to God in humility and serve Him alone. I hereby vow to serve my God, and Him alone, no matter what may happen to me. Perhaps God will hear my prayer, and have mercy upon me. Mishael, Azariah, and Hananiah agreed and together the four made vows before the LORD.