A daily devotional walking through God's word together using The Bible Reading Plan at http://www.bible-reading.com/bible-plan.html. Our website http://alittlewalkwithgod.com.
Bible Reading Plan - www.Bible-Reading.com; The Story, Chapter 18; You Version Bible app Engaging God's Story Reading Plan Days 120 through 126
Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not exactly household names. Maybe Daniel, but certainly not the other three. Of course, if you’ve been around the church for a while, you might have heard the stories of these three young men and their exploits with a furnace. You might remember their refusal to bow and the king’s fury that put them into a furnace so hot that it killed the guards as they approached it. You might remember the fourth figured that appeared in the fire that resumed them from the flames so that they didn’t even smell like smoke.
But I don’t want to talk about Daniel and his escape from the lions’ den today or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their escape from the furnace. I want us to recall today that these three young men were exiles in Babylonia. I want us to remember how they got there in the first place. Then I want us to see what God’s upper story then and now tells us.
You’ll recall that the Israelites had every chance to return to God. He sent prophets and priests to try His best to get them to return to Him and follow His teachings, but they refused. They wanted to be like all the other nations around them and so they abandoned God and sought after the gods of the nations around them. Finally God withdrew His protection from the nation He built and they fell first to the Assyrians and then to the Babylonians.
These two ancient civilizations were pretty smart in their capture of their enemies, though. They dispatched their captives to several other nations and instead of putting them in prisons, put them to work. They became farmers and masons and musicians and in the case of the best and brightest, Nebuchadnezzar even brought them into the palace to teach them about the country and its government to make them officials in their new adopted land.
Many don’t realize that the same thing happened to thousands of those imprisoned in World War I and II. They weren’t just kept in prisons, but many were “loaned” to cities and farmers and industries as workers. Many were even paid and became close friends with their “employers”. The goal of the king was to assimilate the young into his kingdom to reduce any resistance. Rather than spark rebellions from poor prison conditions, he gave them meaningful work and good living conditions and showed them a better way to live than they had seen in their homelands under siege.
But one thing these a group of these Israelites failed to do was change their ways with respect to their God. You see, to be totally immersed in the new country meant believing the way the adopted culture believed. It meant adopting their gods as well. Start thinking like the local populace. But some of these Jewish captives, notably people like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to change their religious habits. They refused to let their faith in their Creator diminish.
Our culture bombards us with information every day trying to get us to ignore our God. The off color jokes at the water cooler, do I participate or stand up for God’s standards of morality and equality among all people? The sexual innuendos toward the waitress by my table mates, do I let it slide or remind them that sex is God’s gift for married couples to enjoy intimacy in their relationships and not to be exploited otherwise? Do I fudge my travel expenses just because everyone else does, or do I provide honest and accurate accounting because God expects it of me?
You see, it doesn’t matter what the culture we live in might think or do because we live here as exiles. We are not of this place. Even though I was born and raised in the United States, my citizenship changed when I accepted Christ as my Lord. I entered a new kingdom and gave sovereignty and allegiance of my life to Jesus. So this place is no longer my home.
Peter tells us we are foreigners and exiles, just passing through this place. If we remember that and don’t get caught up in the culture of this place but remain true to the culture of our Father and His Son, we never need to worry. He will take care of us.
Does that mean we’ll never have trouble? No, by no means. Just look at these three young men. They were probably teenagers when their first test came. Daniel said, “I won’t defile myself by eating the king’s food. Just give us vegetables and water.” Then I love what his three companions told the king when they refused to bow to the golden statue made in his likeness.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from your Majesty’s hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, you Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
That is faith. That is the testimony of so many thousands of martyrs who have given their lives for Christ through the centuries. It tells of the faith of so many today who are refusing to renounce their faith in Him even though they face the executioner’s blade or bullets. I would like to think my faith is strong enough to refuse to recant if faced with that situation. I’m afraid too many in our culture would not, just as was true in Daniel’s day.
Knowing I don’t belong here helps my faith. Knowing this place is just a temporary stopping point in my journey the garden God is preparing for us helps my faith. Knowing others have gone before me and have had the courage to stand before the crowd and kept their faith when others failed helps me to keep my faith. Knowing that if I can stand firm in the face of adversity that my testimony might help someone else stay strong as well helps me to keep my faith. Knowing God never fails and even though I can’t see how His upper story plays out in my lower story, I have the assurance that if I love Him and obey Him, all things work together for my good and His glory, I can keep my faith no matter what might happen around me.
We can go back to one of those very early lessons we had. Job never knew why he faced the adversities he faced. God never revealed to him the questions Satan raised or the contest God allowed behind the backdrop of heaven. God’s upper story encourages us because we know God will never allow us to face more than we can handle. God’s upper story encourages us because we know in the end we are rewarded for our faithfulness. But like Job, we often cannot see around the bend in the road and may never understand why we face the difficulties in life that come our way. But with God on our side, we can know that a better day is coming. We are only exiles in this world and one day He will come to take us back home to the place He has been preparing for us for an eternity. Take courage as an exile, a foreigner, a child of the King of kings. He will never let you down.