You probably know the story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Remember? They are living in a foreign land, and are facing the peer pressure of an entire nation of people who are worshipping a false god. And their lives are at stake. If they don’t bow down they die.
And they don’t bow down.
The punishment for not bowing in worship is death. But it’s not just any death. They are to be burned alive in a furnace.
The story takes some amazing turns and you may remember that ultimately they are thrown into the furnace. As the King looks on he sees not only the three of them in the furnace, but also a fourth individual! Jesus has joined them in their fiery furnace. And they aren’t burning, they’re walking around.
Ultimately the king calls them to come out of the furnace and they are not burned at all and don’t even smell of smoke. God has rescued them.
Like I said, you probably know the story. But I want to consider something that takes place as the king talks with these three right before throwing them in the furnace. He warns them what will happen if they don’t worship the false god and tells them of the punishment that will await them. And then he asks what god will rescue them if it comes to that.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
God can rescue us. We get that part of what they are saying. Most of the time I think followers of Jesus live in that part. We strive to be people of faith and want to trust in the reality that God can and will rescue us. But what if he doesn’t? What then?
Most of us try not to consider that. We certainly don’t go into dire circumstances talking about it! But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have made a critical decision in the face of their trials.
If God doesn’t rescue us, he is still our God. If God doesn’t “fix it” we don’t stop worshipping him and following him.
It immediately brings to my mind the words of Job.
Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1:21
And again he makes an even more startling statement:
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face. Job 13:15
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have something in common with Job. They have made a conscious decision to worship God regardless of how—or even if he answers their prayers.
This is true worship. It’s the concept that the one we worship is worthy of worship because of who he is, not because of what he does for us.
But I have to wonder, how true is this for me? How often does my worship reflect a “what have you done for me lately” mentality?
How often do I willingly go into a circumstance that needs Godly intervention and consciously make a decision like this ahead of time? When was the last time I prayed to God for mercy and rescue and actually said to him, “But if you don’t rescue me, I will still praise you. Even if this costs me everything, I will still worship you and follow you.”
Have I ever done that? I think I have a lot to learn about true worship and devotion to God. It’s easy to forget that he is worthy of my praise, even if he doesn’t rescue me the way I think is best.