This past Sunday our children experienced the story from the book of Daniel describing the boldness of three young Jewish men in the face of a king’s wrath. We learned that God helps us stand strong. With God on our side, we can face nearly anything.
So our story begins with a severe act of arrogance and humorous self-service on the part of King Nebuchadnezzar, whom I will from now on call “Nebby,” because of a certain vegetable retelling and because the other is tedious to type out. He builds a gigantic 3-story tall statue and demands everyone to worship it. Now, the Jewish Study Bible points out that the lists of officials and musical instruments may be a humorous addition, especially when read allowed. (I did this on Sunday, and the tediousness of the lists did start to become funny as I read the passages out loud to the kids,)
In the midst of all the music and bowing, a few people noticed that three men, in particular, weren’t bowing: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Daniel is conspicuously absent from this story, if you’ve noticed. Maybe he’s on a diplomatic journey? Maybe this was a later addition to the book?) And so these jealous officials who probably wanted the job the Jewish young men had snitched. Can we just say that snitching and gossip is probably the most damaging, petty activity we all participate in? Consider that an angry king is likely to kill more than just the ones irritating him – so these snitches are also selfishly risking their own lives.
Anyway, the king, angry as can be, calls up the three young men and gives them another chance. These young men, though, have an answer prepared. I stand by my statement I made in a class recently, the Jewish people have some A-grade smack talkers, and these three are near the top of the class with David and Elijah.
“We don’t even need time to consider, King,” they said. “Our God can save us. And even if He wouldn’t, we still refuse to worship your statue.” Check that for a second. They have faith that God can save them, but might not. They still stood by their decision. These aren’t fair-weather followers of God, these are die-hard, bad mamma-jammas that stake their very lives on Who they trust.
So, angrier than ever before, Nebby has the fires stoked even hotter, enough to kill the guards who throw in the young men, still wearing all of their clothes. I would have liked to have seen Nebby’s face at this point, expecting the choked screams of young men, instead to hear nothing but the fire’s roar, and maybe some nervously happy laughter in the furnace. He looks in and sees not three, but four guys and one is considerably different.
The men are brought out and must stand for inspection. No smoke smell. No burns. No singes. Not even one stray, crispy hair. Nebby is impressed and makes a decree threatening death and destruction to anyone who speaks a word against the God of the Jews.
This story is impressive, not least because it shows God’s tremendous power to save, even at the last possible moment. Our three protagonists had no idea that God would wait until they were actually in the most danger before acting, but I’m sure they were grateful that their faith had been recognized and blessed.
We face challenges every day. We face moments where we need to stand strong. We face the temptation to gossip and spread rumors, or lies. We stare down certain ridicule for standing up for someone being unfairly mocked or accused. We face flashes of anger where hateful words or actions flare up. We face moments of weakness where our secrets and addictions threaten to take over. These are moments when we have to make a choice to stand strong. for our own sake, and for others.
How do you model standing strong in the face of challenges? Do you risk being mocked instead of staying silent? Do you starve an addiction instead of giving in? Do you risk angering someone by telling them to mind their own business? What do your children see from your behavior? How do they see you standing strong with God’s help?