‘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.”’ Daniel 3:17-18
With these words of complete faith and trust in God, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego, three Jewish officials in the foreign city of Babylon answered King Nebuchadnezzar. You may remember this story from Sunday school, it is in the beginning of the book of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar is so confident in himself and his successes that he commissions a giant golden statue and demands, under punishment of death, that everyone worships this statue and him as the king. The three heroes of the story refuse, were thrown into the furnace, but instead of being burnt alive, they were saved by a fourth man who appeared in the flames, one ‘like the Son of God’ who walked with them in the fire and ensured they were unharmed.
Daniel recorded these events in around 600BC, he was also a royal official exiled from Jerusalem with Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. He interpreted dreams and showed immense wisdom. In his book he records how the King on seeing this miracle and the ‘Son of Man’ turns to God but then falls back in self-confidence and self-praise once more. After another fall into darkness, and another awakening into the light, he would finally praise God Most High:
‘Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.’ Daniel 4:37
We too have a choice to make. Are we going to let the storms and trials we see around us turn us towards God or towards ourselves? Are we going to choose to trust God, or are we going to choose the pride of trusting in mankind’s ability to solve and fix the problems around us?
The prophets throughout the Old Testament spoke messages from God to the people, words of encouragement and words of chastisement, a call to repent and turn back to God. They pointed to Jesus and God’s plan to save mankind from its own follies. Throughout wars and famines, conquests, plagues and enslavement the word from God through the prophets was always the same – turn to God, turn away from evil.
Jesus Christ is with us through every storm and trial. He has the power to save us and deliver us, even so, like these three men of old we have the choose to trust Him whatever the outcome.
John the Baptist’s message was one of repentance, Jesus’ message was one of repentance, the early church’s message was one of repentance. Turning towards God. He loves us.
Of course, we thank God for our modern healthcare, we follow the government’s advice and stay safe. We thank God for all those keyworkers who are on the front line in hospitals and care homes, or manning the tills, stocking shelves, keeping the schools going, emptying the bins, delivering our food, letters and parcels. We thank God for our politicians making impossibly difficult decisions. We thank God for the scientists working long hours, looking for inspiration and a breakthrough in providing a vaccine or accurate tests. But ultimately, we thank God that He is with us, leading us, guiding us. It is only God who can bring healing to our souls, and as we repent we literally turn around and turn to Him. Pray and ask Him to search our hearts now. God loves and cares for us all and He wants us to look after ourselves and His world by listening to His instructions.
‘The people living in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.’ Matthew 4:16
Can we echo those words from the Bible in Daniel? Put our names in place of theirs, hold our hands on our hearts and declare our complete trust in Jesus?
I, _______, declare that whatever challenge life brings me, I will turn to you. Whatever may befall, good or ill, I will declare your love and care and goodness.
I repent of allowing fear and anxieties to cloud my judgements and for not turning to you but trusting in myself, of not looking to you, my God and my saviour, but looking to manmade solutions. I repent of doubting your goodness in all things and trusting your ways are always just.
Instead I choose to praise you Jesus, my Lord and my saviour, who walks with us through all life’s trials and lifts us up when we fall. I choose to declare your power over all my life and your love for all mankind. Amen.
Revd Stuart Huntley