A lot is being said and written about immigration these days. It was a hot item in the recent presidential election. In recent days it seems to be a non-stop news item with President Trump issuing an executive order temporarily limiting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries suspected of harboring and promoting terrorism.
It is a matter of concern. On one hand we want our country to be safe and our borders to be controlled not letting just anyone and everyone into our country. On the other hand, we want people who have legal standing for living in our country, to be able to leave and/or be able to enter our country as needed. As God cares about just treatment of aliens, we do too. So pray that our leaders and country do what is godly in this situation.
Today we have another immigration crisis before us reported in the Book of Daniel. Daniel was a prophet of God who lived in the late 600’s and into the 500’s B.C. He was a Jew from the southern kingdom of Israel. He was an official in Babylon and he was a prophet of God.
How he ended up in Babylon is a bit of a story. You see, in 605 the Babylonians, who had already conquered the Assyrians, defeated the Egyptians in a place called Carchemish on the border of modern-day Syria and Turkey. Wanting to chase the Egyptians home and aware that a buffer between Babylon and Egypt would be good, the Babylonian commander, Nebuchadnezzar, who later would become king of Babylon, swept down into and with the Lord’s help, took control of Israel, including Jerusalem. When he returned to Babylon he took with him items from the temple dedicated to God to show that his gods were superior to the God of Israel. He also took with him some of the brightest and best of the royal and noble families. Among them were four young Jewish men to whom we know best as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Nebuchadnezzar, who became king when his father died, trained and nurtured these men. At the same time the Lord blessed them so that they excelled in everything and eventually rose to positions of power in Babylon.
Now fast-forward. A time comes when King Nebuchadnezzar, wanting to honor the Babylonians gods as well as to magnify himself, makes a gold image or statue that stands 90 ft. high. For the dedication of this he summoned officials from all over the kingdom. He then made the decree, “When the band plays, you fall down and worship the image. If you don’t, into the fiery furnace you go!”
The band played. The people bowed – except for three Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Some ask, “Where was Daniel?” I don’t know.)
Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian advisors saw this as an opportunity. They were mad that these immigrant Jews had surpassed them on the power structure. They were jealous. So they seized this opportunity.
They go to the King. “O King, may you live forever. You have decreed that when the band plays everyone should fall down. If they don’t, they are to be burned in the fiery furnace. Well, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not only don’t obey your decrees, they do not fall in worship to the image you have made when the band plays.”
The king was hot with rage. So he summoned the three men. “Is it true that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold that I have set up? Now, when you hear the band play, you bow. If you don’t, you will be thrown into the fiery furnace. Then who will be able to save you?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t even have to go through the drill of having the band play and while everyone else fell to the ground, they would remain standing. Instead, they acknowledge that they have disobeyed the king. But they frame their response in a way that they can give testimony to their God. Their testimony was two-fold. The first was: “If we have to choose between obeying you, O King, or obeying our God, hands down, we will obey our God even if it means becoming burned-up believers.” Secondly, the three men told the King, “We believe or God is capable of rescuing us if you throw us in the fiery furnace. And even if he chooses not to, we will not serve your gods or bow to the statue.” You see, not only did they know God’s power, they trusted in God’s promise to be with them and watch over them. They also trusted in God’s promise of forgiveness and eternal life in the Savior to come.
Let’s take a time-out from the account for a little bit. Just as the devil through King Nebuchadnezzar tempted and pressured Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to break his command, “You shall have no other Gods,” doesn’t the devil come to us and tempt us to do the same – to worship and bow to other things? It could be money, land, beauty, booze, power, prestige, places, people, pleasures, play things, etc. Sometimes the devil uses desire to entice us. He tempts us to put our hearts on one or another of these things promising that they will bring us blessing. At other times, the devil may use fear. If we don’t give priority to these things, we won’t get ahead. People will ridicule and reject us. They may hurt us.
The question is, “Do we always remain standing with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?”
No other god can save us than the God who is three and yet one – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No other god has come to earth and taken on human flesh as God the Son has in the person of Jesus. No other god has served as our substitute under the law and kept it to perfection for us. No other god has sacrificed himself on a cross to save us from sin’s curse and saved us to be his for time and for eternity. With his love and faithfulness, our God gives us reason to stand with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So don’t bow down to the call of the idols. Stand in worship to God – even if it means the fiery furnaces of life.
I’m not sure what was hotter – the king’s furnace or the kings anger. As I understand it the kings of Babylon kept a furnace burning to deal with disobedient people. When the king heard the response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, his anger, which was already hot, became even more intense. So he ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter.
Then he had some of his strongest soldiers bind up the three Jewish men before him and throw them into the furnace. The furnace was so hot, that the soldiers who throw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace, themselves were burned up.
As the king sat in his furnace-side box seat, uninterrupted by $5-milliion 30-second adds, he listened to hear the screams of the three men. But he didn’t hear them. He watched to see the three men burned alive. But it didn’t happen.
As he looked intently, he had to wonder, “What’s going on?” As he looked into the furnace not only did he see the three men loose from their bonds and walking around, he saw a fourth person “looking like a son of the gods.” He was seeing one of God’s angels whom God sent to rescue his servants.
Nebuchadnezzar called to the three men to come out. When they did the king realize that not only were the three not burned at all, their hair was not singed, their clothes not scorched, and they didn’t even smell like smoke. God had indeed rescued them!
God did similar things at other times. God saved Noah and family from the flood. He saved Israel from the Egyptian army parting the waters of the Red Sea. God saved Daniel from the lions; David from Goliath; and Paul and Silas from prison.
But don’t go home, build a big fire outside and then jump in it saying, “God will save me.” God certainly has the power to save us from anything. But God may decide, “If he/she is stupid enough to do that, they need to have a lesson “burned into their memory.”
So when I was eight years old, was walking out on a branch to a rope so I could shimmy down, and fell smashing my elbow with the result that I was in traction for a while, the Lord let me learn some long and pain-staking lessons about doing stupid things.
There are times when God will allow us to experience injury to test us, teach us, and to take us to places and people we otherwise would not visit or see. When he does, he always has a loving reason. At the same time, he is always with us to get us through these times.
But on the other hand, in Lansing, MI, one evening when I was going to late-evening Lutheran Fellowship Bowling league and the roads were icy, the did one of his miracles. As I came over a knoll and began sliding down-hill toward a main thoroughfare to the freeway on which I could see a steady stream of trucks going both ways, I realized I was probably going to die. Not able to stop, only to slide, I closed my eyes and prayed, “Thanks, Lord, for faith and forgiveness. Please take care of my family.” Suddenly I felt the care turn sideways as I waited for the crash and the sight of glory. But nothing happened. When I opened my eyes the trucks were going by me both ways on the right and the left. When there was a break in the action and my heart got back in my chest I preceded to go in the direction I was pointing and made it just in time to roll my usual 128 average game.
More than we realize, God’s rescues us from illness, injury, accident and crime.
And hasn’t he rescued us in the biggest way we needed rescue? He rescued us from the curse of sin – the fiery lake of burning sulfur described in Revelation. His life, his separation from his father while on the cross, and his death, made it possible that there is not condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:4).
So don’t be stupid. But on the other hand, don’t be paralyzed as you live your life. And don’t be afraid to stand with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The Lord will be standing with you.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.