DANIEL 2:24-3:30 | 1 PETER 4:7-5:14 | PSALM 119:81-96 | PROVERBS 28:15-16
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Daniel interprets the king’s dream, and the record states that the king bows down before Daniel to thank him for revealing to him the meaning of the dream — one that is not entirely to the advantage of Babylon, but rather to its detriment because as per Daniel’s dream, the kingdom of Babylon would be eventually brought down.
Yet, the king understands that because of the revelation of this dream, he can prepare himself accordingly, and is therefore grateful for the information. In fact, so grateful is he for the information that he immediately “placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49 Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.”
But Nebuchadnezzar was a conceited man, and orders that a very large gold image be set up in the heart of Babylonia, and this image is to be worshiped by all his subjects. The official announcement concerning this stated:
“Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 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. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
And what did this mean for Daniel and his friends? Well, you guessed right: if there was one thing that the Hebrew children were forbidden to do, it was idolatry. The text does not mention Daniel in this particular context, only his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who had also been appointed in senior administrative positions in the land. And true to their faith, these three young men refuse to bow down to this image.
This meant only one thing: they were to be thrown into the blazing furnace!
But before that, they are summoned to the king who inquires of their disobedience, and this is the reply that the king receives:
“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.”
Is that sufficiently clear, King Nebuchadnezzar?
What happens next is nothing short of amazing. The flames from the furnace are so hot that the guards who are charged with binding the young men to throw them into the fire succumb to the flames and go up in flames themselves even as they throw these three young men in.
But what of the three young men? They are seen walking — yes, walking into the furnace, but it is not the figures of the three young men that are visible to the king and the onlookers: there is a fourth figure as well, a mystery figure. Who might that be? Surely, it must be the God that the young men had defiantly referred to!
The king immediately cries out to order that they walk out of the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do just that, and they step out of the furnace without a hair on their heads singed. Then the king says to them:
28 “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
And as if that wasn’t enough, King Nebuchadnezzar then goes on to promote these three young men in the province of Babylon.
We turn now to our reading in the first book of Peter, and find Peter exhorting his readers in the most sublime manner to love one another, and to serve in whatever way that one can. He says:
7 The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
Peter then goes on to speak to the sufferings that may befall those who bear the name of Christ. He says:
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
Next, Peter offers encouragement to both young and old, but starts out with specific advice to the young. He says:
5 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Also, in one of the oft-quoted verses, Peter says:
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
And with final greetings, Peter ends this missive.
Next, we turn to our reading of the Psalms, and find David voicing the frustration that many of us might also have experienced when he says:
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, “When will you comfort me?”
But David does not lose hope; rather, he assures himself and his reader with these words:
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
Finally, two verses from the book of Proverbs in which Solomon, wise king of Israel, records these thoughts concerning rulers:
15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.
16 A tyrannical ruler practices extortion,
but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.
May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word. Amen.