Daily Reflections October 18, 2017
Compare today’s text to Daniel 1. There we find Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, transported to a new land, subjected to a new culture and even given new names. Daniel became Belteshazzar, Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach and Azariah became Abednego. As their former identity and culture was forcibly being removed they bravely decided not to accept the Kings rations. They instead adopted a diet of vegetables and water. They took this stand before the chief who was over them, and by God’s grace, the King never became aware of the issue. They had drawn a line in the sand and held it even against some slight opposition.
In today’s text, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have once again drawn a line. This time, however, the opposition they face escalates to the highest level. They are brought before King Nebuchadnezzar and charged with refusing to bow before the golden image he had made.
The King provides them a way of escape. He tells the young men that he will have his musicians play their instruments again and, so long as the men bow down on this occasion, he will forgive them their trespasses. However, should they stubbornly refuse, their rebellion would be punished. They would be cast into the furnace.
The response of these men is worth remembering:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV)
Three words in verse 18 have inspired countless sermons in church history, and rightfully so. “But if not.” The young men whose lives stood in the balance replied to the King, “Our God is powerful to save us and perhaps He will choose to do so this day. But if not, still we will not bow before any god but Him.”
Staring in the face of compromise, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego counted the cost and proceeded in courageous obedience. These men provide an Old Testament illustration of the worship that Jesus commended when he said:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23 ESV)
I believe it’s worth considering this chapter in light of chapter 1 because they are so clearly connected. These men had every reason to compromise. Their government was imposing a new culture and a new identity upon them. They accepted what they could – new names, for instance. However, they never forget that God held the ultimate authority over their lives. They held the line against the minimal opposition of the Chief of the Eunuchs (though, this undoubtedly did not feel minimal at the time...) and they proceeded to hold the line against the King of Babylon even while standing face to face with death.
Obedience in the little things so frequently leads to obedience in the big things. The habits and the trust that you establish in the small storms will prepare you for what you need in the hurricane.
Remember that as you stand for truth in the face of harassment from family members, co-workers and neighbors. Perhaps God is teaching you how to stand in preparation for a greater test. Perhaps God will stand you before a government one day. Will you hold fast to the faith? God is powerful to deliver you from danger and maybe He will. “But if not,” will you stand firm?
Pastor Levi denBok
God enthroned in the heavens, yet he is not far off (see Acts 17:27). He is near to his own (Psalm 145:18). Psalm 107 is about God coming to our rescue and our response of thanksgiving. Here is the pattern in this Psalm: trouble comes, we cry out, God rescues us, and we return thanks.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1 ESV)
The opening verse reminds us of the song we used to sing at the beginning of our worship services based upon Psalm 100:4, “I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter his courts with praise…” Those rescued from captivity remember and praise him.
This Psalm gives us four accounts of various types of people in distress. The first (verses 4-9) are those who wander in barren places. God’s Old Testament people were rescued from enslavement and captivity. God’s New Testament people have been rescued from sin’s captivity. God is bringing rescued exiles to our permanent home. He promised we would be with him in that perfect place forever.
He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. (Psalm 107:7 ESV)
For such hope, we thank God for his steadfast love.
The second (verses 10-16) and third group (verses 17-22) are experiencing the consequences of their rebellion and folly. We will reap what we sow. Yet, God is merciful even to the those who,
…rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. (Psalm 107:11 ESV)
…were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction. (Psalm 107:17 ESV)
For such mercy we thank God for his steadfast love.
The fourth group (verses 23-32) are those caught in the storms of life. These cried to the Lord and he stilled the storm. This reminds us of the Lord Jesus who showed his power and compassion for the disciples in their distress.
He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. (Psalm 107:29 ESV)
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:39 ESV)
For such deliverance we thank God for his steadfast love.
Our response in all circumstances is to be deeply grateful. This is the common refrain we see in Psalm 107:8 (and also verses 15, 21, 31). Behind God’s rescue is his faithful, covenant love.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!
The final verse challenges us to grow in wisdom and godliness by paying careful attention to this Psalm. We ought to count our blessings carefully considering the manifold ways God has blessed us in Christ. We have been rescued from sin. We ought to tell of God’s great faithfulness. We ought to enter his gates with thanksgiving. We ought to stand in the congregation and sing out songs of joy to the Lord!
Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord. (Psalm 107: 43 ESV)
Associate Pastor Jody Cross