Tuesday, September 12, 2017
To Fear Nothing but Offending God
Dan. 3:19 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, 20 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. 21 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. 22 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. 23 But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
This passage reveals to us the egocentric character of Nebuchadnezzar. In the previous chapter we read about the way in which Daniel interpreted the king’s dream and saved the lives of all the magicians. Now, those people turned against the Israelites and found a way in which to inspire Nebuchadnezzar to bring to a climax his hostility against the citizens of Jerusalem. He is so furious that his face is distorted. Rage overcomes his senses as he considers the fact that he has not completely won a victory over these Israelites.
The three young men are whisked off to the overheated oven while dressed in their festive garb. The detailed description of their tunics, trousers, hats and others garments provide an opportunity for witnessing a miracle in which they would be able to celebrate the true God, and not the false one which was placed before them. These young men had no fear of Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, they feared nothing but offending God. Therefore, they were willing to suffer at his hands, and were thrown in the furnace.
We know the end of the story, for they are never harmed. Their festive clothing is not even singed! They became symbolic of God’s people who would put worship of other gods behind them. They learned to fear no other king, but the LORD alone.
Fear can be immobilizing. So many things in life can hold us in a vice-grip of anguish until we are unable to engage in the normal activities of life. What we learn from the Israelite men is that we should fear nothing but standing against God. When I speak of fear, I mean a healthy respect. God’s desire is to go with us through life and lead us to a place of eternal rest in a place of peace with God. Therefore, anything that blocks our pathway to that peace is gaining more of our respect, than God.
We don’t like to believe that there may be idols in our lives. Surely we are living our lives in complete service to God, and yet, fear is a very real issue these days. A recent article, “Prozac Nation is Now the United States of Xanax” talks about how anxiety is the new depression. Somehow our fast-paced and device-ridden world has created high levels of anxiety that are making life almost unbearable. This new disease is attacking people at a rapid rate and experts are trying to determine how we may tackle the problems.
What if fearing God might help with the problem? Respect for the laws of God and leading a Christian life just may create enough boundaries that they may stave off some of the anxiety. Putting down our mobile devices for hours at a time may help to change everything. Sending the children to play outside may reduce anxiety for a new generation. Spending time with people in face to face relationships may become transformational. Even more so, spending quiet time alone with God where we can cast all our anxiety on the Lord may relieve more stress than we could ever imagine.
In his first inaugural address Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” The fears of this world will be paralyzing, but a healthy respect of God will be freeing. We don’t have to fear the things of this world — success in business, material wealth, political power, but we do need to fear God and walk humbly before our God.
Offending God, by not giving God first place in our lives, is the thing we ought to fear. All the rest needs to be set aside as we seek to faithfully serve the Master.
Lord, may your peace wash over any anxiety which may begin to bubble up within my own heart and soul. Amen.