So I was praying. As I was praying I was basicaly giving God a list of my problems. I think it is good to bring our problems before God and, in a sense, give them to him. And by give them to him I mean to believe and confess to Him that we trust him to handle them. I wasn't doing that. I was doing the opposite. I was giving God my list of problems because I didn't trust him. I didn't trust that he was dealing with them, and I was following him around the kitchen reminding him of the broken light and that the garbage needed to be taken out and the shelves fixed and the....you get the picture. I was being a Nag. That is embarrasing. I'm a man.....I don't nag. And his response reaffirmed that I was being a nag. In a way, my experiences kept reminding me that I was nagging, as if in interacting with the world around me I started noticing him looking sharply at me and saying:
"you think I don't know this? Do you think I wasn't aware of all of this? And that I'm not working on it or don't have a solution? All I have to do is speak and it is fixed. I'm the guy who created everything. EVERYTHING. The world's smartest people have no idea how my creation works, thats how complicated it is, and you've been trying to figure it out for hundreds of years. And you are bothering me because you think I don't know how to fix a burned out lightbulb. Honestly? What's your damage dude?"
And with that he was telling me that I have to trust that he is going to save me, as Psalm 91 tells us he will, from the proverbial "fowler's snare." I have to trust that he will save me from ruin. I have to trust that although the fire is certainly so hot that it has killed several of those tending to it, my God will deliver me from the flames. But even if he does not, I am still victorious. Man, this sounds familiar....Ooohoho..waaait. I know this story!
The three guys with the funky names. Shadrak, Mishak and Abednego. They were going to get thrown into the fire, weren't they.
Man, I have to think that at least one of those guys, when they said that their God could and would deliver them, was probably thinking that he'd do it BEFORE they got thrown into the fire. And why wouldn't he, right? I mean, he was obviously right there. He had them in his hands the whole time. But that isn't what happened. Can you imagine being in a situation like that? That would completely stress me out. I'd think that I was on the brink of disaster and a painful, horrible death. I would think that I was in great, great danger. i'd start to say things like "My God", why have you forsaken me? They were actually never, not even once, in any danger. But of course you, I and they didn't know that when the story was progressing. We're shocked that there is a fourth person in the fire. haha....4 in the fire....
But God did know it. And here's the question, right? Why? To the outside observer at this point, it might even seems cruel, right? Why let your beloved suffer through such fear and anxiety, right? Well, no...not really. I mean, do these guys sound fearful or anxious to you? I don't think they were....I really think that they were counting on being saved, they had faith. Incredible faith. So much that they even had faith as they were falling down into this raging fire, faced with absolute certain death. I'd also imagine that they didn't all get tossed in at exactly the same time. I'm guessing somoene's feet left the plank/platform...or whatever they were thrown in from, before the other two. And even as the other two watch him get tossed in, they still had faith. Literaly to the very bitter, hopeless end. Because even as abednego watched Shadrak get tossed in.....and God not stop him from getting tossed in....he didn't bow down. He kept on believing. We know this because he was tossed in too. He wasn't excused and let go. Can you imagine that? Do you really think that any of these three guys thought that God would save them from the fire after
they got tossed in? That certainly would not have been my expectation. I might have even lost faith and still not bowed down out of a stubborn insistence to do the right thing, or a blind faith that it was the right thing to do....but that's not the faith these guys had....they had real faith that they would be saved. I can't imagine it! Honestly. I close my eyes and I stand in Abednego's shoes, and I see shadrak get pushed in. I start to smile, and I expect to see a bright white guy with wings catch him and put him back as everyone is watching, humbling my enemies before me and giving me the right to say "I told you so!" Then he doesn't fly back up. I'm starting to sweat a little now. I get this monster knot in my stomach .... I'm shaking. Maybe, just maybe, that angel is waiting for mishak b/c he's got two hands and, well, why not. well, I get pushed up to the plate. I peer over the edge. Shadrak and Mishak are nowhere to be seen. There is no angel waiting to catch my cloak with his teeth as I fall b/c both his hands are holding shadrak and Mishak. Nope, just that horrid, roaring fire. Wow, I think. God didn't save them from the fire...
And, you know what? If I hadn't lost my faith that God would help me before that, I think that this is pretty much where it gets lost. But you know what? Abednego doesn't lose it. abednego is faced with the facts. The facts are that there is actually, in a wordly sense, no hope. I mean, this situation gives new meaning to the phrase "certainty of death." There was actually only one way that Abednego was possibly going to live. He had to bow down to the King and the idol. There was no longer any physical possibility of being saved apart from walking away from God. Don't you think that was a tough call?
I think it is or was. Faith is rarely ever easy. I certainly gets easier the more we get to know God and trust him, but never really easy. And yet Abednego made his choice. He chose to trust in God in the face of physical impossibility. He was faced with the choice of believing the facts or believing God. Not in God, because you can definitely believe the facts and believe in God at the same time. But Abednego actually believed God instead of believing what was right before his eyes.
Even as he's pushed over the edge, hurtling toward the pit, he holds on to his faith. And he hits the ground. Somehow, he finds himself standing up and looking around. That, in itself, is defenitely strange, as there is a raging inferno all around him.....and he's somehow remaining conscious and not instantly dead. Groovy. Curious....he sees Shadrak and Mishak galavanting around in here like its some kind of holiday or party or bahrmitsva or something. And then there is this other stranger.
Ok, so I don't think that is what any of them had envisioned. Do you? I don't think Shadrak, Mishak or Abednego thought that God would let it get that far. But they trusted him anyway. They trusted that he was going to show up and deliver them. And even if he didn't...which in a sense he didn't....they were still victorious. God didn't deliver them from the terrible situation. He got them through it totally unscathed. They still got tossed into the fire. But because of their faith, the fire didn't touch them. I think that is an important point. Its different than getting delivered from even having to get tossed in. Its the difference between having to walk through something difficult with God protecting you the whole time and getting delivered from having to walk through something difficult. And I think having to walk through the difficult stuff has purpose.
It shows God that we love Him and trust Him, and put his will, his desire, and his plans before ours. There was probably a moment where shadrak, mishak and abednego thought that living was better than dying, even if dying was what God had in store for them. But they didnt' give in. They believed that God's plan was the right one, not thiers. It also shows God that we trust in him and not in ourselves. By not giving in, by waiting for God to deliver them, these guys made a statement. And that statement was that although we can trust our own power to save us here, it is futile. Either we save our skin by bowing and lose our souls, or we make a run for it and get killed. They chose to trust that God had something in store for them that was better than these two alternatives, even though they reallly could not see or conceive of what it was. And lastly, waiting for God's deliverance in that situation ultimately, I am absolutely certain, increased thier faith. For real, if you can walk through a blazing furnace meant to kill you, unscathed, with God visibly right next to you, and not have your faith increased, than I think you are going to heaven as a piniata. So that the rest of us can beat you with sticks.
And I think that our typical vision of the aftermath of all this is funny. And the text doesn't help. It has them saying all these funky stuff lik "oh King....blah blah blah." Just reading it makes me think of these solemn guys with hoods and robes and stern looks on their faces. Which I really don't think was the case. These guys were all freinds. They knew each other and were close. And, oh yeah, they just wlked through a huge bonfire and weren't hurt. I'm guessing they were still coming down off a huge adrenaline high, they were sweathy from all the excitement, had huge smiles on thier faces, and were giving each others high fives and shouting stuff like "that was freaking Nasty!" They probably felt a lot like people feel when they sky dive or bunjee jump or free-solo their first 5.12a. These guys were pumped. And they were probably laughing and saying, dude, I'm so glad we trusted God instead of giving in or trying to run for it.
So what would you or I have done? Would you have trusted God as much as they did? I think we have to, and we can now that we see examples of it. You know that he'll pull through, no matter what the situation, if you're seeking after him, focusing on him and on what his will is, instead of what our will is, instead of what we want.