“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it 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. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
As we gradually draw closer to Holy Week, our readings especially our Gospel passages recant the hostile exchanges between Jesus and the Jews. It is no longer a secret that they were plotting to kill Jesus. Why were they determined to eliminate Jesus? The same reason why King Nebuchadnezzar was determined to eliminate Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Jesus said to his persecutors: “If God were your Father, you would love me.” John 8:42. Put simply, the world hates us because we are children of God and we do not belong to the world. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego incurred the wrath of Nebuchadnezzar because they would not serve his idols and his golden image (which are symbolic of the material things of this world).
Most of us Christians today worship idols. How? As Jesus would say: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples… (but) … everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” (John 8:31&34). Say, for instance, you know that by telling the truth, you stand to lose millions of naira, would you rather tell a lie? Your fear of losing money makes you a slave to sin. Freedom is not a matter of doing whatever I like, it is being able to do what God wants of me.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego proved that were free by telling Nebuchadnezzar that even if God decides not to save them from the blazing furnace, they would never worship his idols. Their love for God was not conditional, they were not like most of us who worship God simply because of what we can get from Him.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not have a mercantile attitude to God. They were the type who go to church for the sake of money, for the glories or for the blessings. They were not the types who would jump from church to church or from pastor to pastor when prayers are not answered fast and according to their specification. They were prepared to remain with God through thick and thin.
Until we attain this height in our faith, we would remain baby-Christians, moved by fear and slaves to sin. Going back to the earlier example I gave above, a Christian who truly trusts God will never lie even when it seems telling a lie is the only way to make millions. He or she would continue to serve God by being truthful believing that God provides in His own time or that the essence of life is not in how rich a person is.
At the end of the day, God stood for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, not even a strand of hair was burnt despite being thrown into the blazing furnace. Their persistence paid off. In the case of Jesus, God willed that he should die. At times, God shows up as the fourth man in the fire but at other times, God leaves us to burn. We must have the type of faith to take whatever God so wills.
Jesus loved life. That was why he tried talking sense to his persecutors. He tried to defend himself, he tried to dissuade them for killing him. Nevertheless, as much Jesus loved life, he did not run away, he did not deny God. The passion of Christ teaches us that the path to heaven is not a smooth one but a rocky way.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, let not my love for life enslave me to sin. Amen.
(Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent. Bible Study: Daniel 3:14-28 and John 8:31-42).