Are you tired? Take this time to rest. Relax every part of yourself. Breathe slower. Be ready for what God has before you today.
Daniel 3:19-30 (NRSV)
Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics, their trousers, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. Because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them.
Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Oh my, this story is troubling isn’t it!? I remember learning it as a child and of course not considering the reality of what is being described. The rage of King Nebuchadnezzar, the urgency, the oppressive smoke and heat, the death of the guards who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace. Troubling indeed. And yet. God uses the downright troubling to reveal God’s glory. God uses the downright troubling to turn the heart of an infuriated king. God uses the downright troubling to result in a national decree in favor of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Isn’t that just like God? To use the downright troubling to reveal God’s glory? To take the downright troubling and re-frame it? To take a terrible and unjust death and turn it into the empty tomb? To take the brokenness of my life and of yours and make it a thing of beauty and grace?
Yes, the story of the fiery furnace may be to me, a bit troubling. But thanks be to God that God lives in the troubling, making good come from where we cannot possibly imagine it existing.
God, you are good in the easy times and in the troubling. Open us to see you when we can’t even imagine you are there. Help us to know your presence and to feel you with us. For the grace of your unending presence, we are grateful. Amen.
Go with God!