So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men….Daniel 3:26-27
A Word of Hope
You probably remember the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The ambitious, empire-expanding, egotistic King Nebuchadnezzar makes a golden idol of himself and orders everyone in the realm to bow down and worship him—no exceptions. Offenders will be thrown into a fiery pit and burned to death. He gets word from some Chaldeans that certain Jewish appointed officials “payed no heed” to the executive order, holding fast to their allegiance to the one true God. Nebuchadnezzar confronts them, is enraged at their disobedience, binds them up, and throws them into the fiery furnace.
But then, as the King watches and waits for the miscreants to howl in pain and die, he notices that the flames do not consume them, and that there are not 3 but 4 people in the death-hole walking around unbound. Nebuchadnezzar takes this miracle as a sign of God’s power and exclaims: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted him” (28). Moreover, he pledges to punish anyone who utters blasphemy against God.
This story is a worthy focus for meditation during Lent. It is a narrative of autocratic political over-reaching, of individuals speaking truth to power, a story of political resistance because of one’s faith—even when it costs us greatly.
On a more individual level, it is a tale of faithfulness—even in the midst of the most harrowing times of our lives. Like the 3 officials, we all have times of being in the fiery pits. As Joyce Rupp reminds us in The Open Door: “[S]ometimes uninvited and unwanted life circumstances push the door open to our inner self and propel us inside.” But God is faithful. When the doors of our lives are blown open by crushing trials, that is the very time the “angels”—human or divine—stand with us, and our trust in God is forged with tensile strength. The development of such great trust does, indeed, loosen the bonds of our lives and sets us free.
Life-Shaping God, In the fiery trials of our lives, strengthen our trust in you. Amen.
Dr. Pat Saxon