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Thursday, November 08, 2018

Even If

You all know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Dan 3). They're the Jewish exiles held in Babylon who refused to bow to the king's idol. Their enemies tattled on them and they ended up in the king's court for failure to yield. The punishment was to be a fiery death.

You all know the outcome. Given the option to bow or die (Dan 3:14-15), they told the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter" (Dan 3:16). Nice start. They assured him that God could deliver them from the fire. Brave. And then they said this: "Even if He doesn't, we will not serve your gods" (Dan 3:18). "Okay, guys," some might counsel, "that's really brave and all, but don't you think it's over the top? I mean, if God doesn't save you, you'll die."

You know the rest. The king had them thrown into a fire so hot it killed the men that threw them in, but the three didn't die. They weren't singed. And they weren't alone (Dan 3:24-27). Nebuchadnezzar changed his tune ... happy ending.

A couple of applications here. The original problem was not God; it was idols. They had two alternatives -- worship the idol of their day or follow God even if He didn't save them from the consequences. They chose the latter. We face the same question today. We have "the idol du jour," so to speak, all around us. The top one these days appears to be "If it feels good, do it." That is the ultimate good, the ultimate god. If you comment on it, question it, or deny it, you can expect to face the fire. "You're supposed to be affirming, embracing, encouraging!" You're supposed to bow. Maybe it's the modern "given" -- "same-sex marriage." Just as real as the king's golden idol -- not real at all -- we're still supposed to bow and worship. Or maybe you're running up against the tyrannical god, gender dysphoria. In this one, you need to, much like those ancients at the feet of a hunk of metal treated as a god, surrender your sanity to believe that male and female are only figments of your imagination. Unless, of course, you collide with the she-idol of the day, feminism. Surrender or die. There are lots and lots of these idols around. Sexual immorality, money, power, entertainment, the current value system (whatever it might be today), marketing schemes, the ever-present "fit in with the crowd" -- lots and lots of idols. You have two options -- worship the idol at hand or follow God even if He doesn't save you from the consequences.

There is a second application here, like unto the first. These three guys held their ground. They went into the furnace. If we are to be what God's wants, we need to go into the furnace. If we are to be witnesses for Christ, we need to go into the furnace. If we are to see God's miraculous hand at work, we need to go into the furnace. If we want to be completed, perfected, we need to go into the furnace (James 1:2-4). Avoiding the furnace won't help. Trusting in courts or kings or the world to save us won't do. We need to go with God on this, and even if He doesn't spare us from painful consequences, we need to stand with Him against a world rife with sacrosanct, cultural idols. We need to tell our culture, "If it is so that our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, then He will deliver out of your hand. And if not, let it be known to you that we will not serve your gods or worship the idol which you have set up" (Dan 3:17-18). Because the worst thing that can happen to us is not pain and death. The worst thing that can happen is that God is not glorified in us. At all costs.

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