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Ready to Stand

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego walking around in the fiery furnace is famous. Almost everyone has heard of it and I suspect those of you reading this have personally read the account in Daniel 3. As I read it again this morning, a number of thoughts occurred to me that I hope to keep in focus this year:
• It is possible to be a good citizen and not agree with everything our leaders are doing. “At Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:49) These three faithfully carried out their duties as citizen leaders. They helped the kingdom prosper as they kept it organized and functioning. They certainly didn’t agree with the religious foundation of the kingdom but they served the people with integrity.
• There will always be people who create agendas that are against God’s design for life. In this case, “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold . . .” (v. 1) and commanded everyone in his empire, “As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” (v. 5) Whether it was motivated by pride, insecurity, evil or short-sightedness, this new edict put three of the King’s best servants in a bind. The second of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:4-5)
• At some point, everyone needs to take a stand. The competing agendas on earth set up scenarios which require me to decide what I truly believe. Daniel’s friends could not worship the God of Israel and bow down to this image. In the same way, I will be faced with choices that cannot be reconciled. Taking a stand for what is true may be unpopular. It may even seem impossible. At times like these, the only reason for standing is deep-seated conviction. “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, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (v. 17-18)
• God is faithful. Of course, this story ends with a miracle. “They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” (v. 27) Even if the Angel of the Lord had not intervened and these three had lost their lives, they would have stood before their God with a clean conscience. In either life or death, they would have experienced the love, grace and provision of their God in the areas of life that matter the most.
I cannot predict when or where the challenges of life will be for me but I can be prepared to stand with the author of truth who has promised “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

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