That Mourns in Lowly Exile Here

Today we have the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego!  This is a classic children’s story complete with fiery furnace and noise makers.  On the podcast they suggested that today’s lesson be done complete with noise makers when ever the instruments of “the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble” are mentioned.  That could be a lot of fun.  The point of the story is that King Nebuchadnezzar was over the top.  Everything is officious.  According to the text not just his country, but “all the peoples, nations, and languages” were instructed to fall down when they heard the noise makers.

The king is over the top, the instructions are over the top, the king’s statue is over the top.  It is made of gold and 90 feet tall!!!  It tells you something about the personality of the king that he’s built such a large statue of himself, and then ordered everyone to bow down to it and worship.

Daniel is probably the last story of the Old Testament to be written.  It is set in the first exile of Israel, but most probably written in the second exile around 165 BCE.  During this time Israel is being persecuted by a regime located in modern-day Damascus.  This regime would not allow Israel to worship, would not allow them to circumcise their boys.  In short it had made being an Israelite illegal.

It is a classic piece of resistance literature.  It uses the most powerful weapon at it’s disposal, humor.  Dictators do not like humor.  Everything about Nebuchadnezzar is extolled in such over-the-top praise that he comes off as funny.  The formal proclamations of all the instruments is funny.  His proclamations are funny.  In this instance humor is very subversive.  Great humor always points out a larger truth.

In stark contrast to the pompous king are the three heroes of the story.  They answer the king in simple, humble language of faith, telling the king that if he has to send them into the furnace, they may be saved, they may not, but either way they have to be faithful to God.

And, lest you delegate this story to only children, it was used as the touch-point for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was imprisoned in a Birmingham Jail.  He thought today’s story was a classic story of civic disobedience.  There were powers in place in the 1960’s who felt that some people were less than human because of the color of their skin.  To submit to them, and bow down, was to give in to the powers of evil and be unfaithful to God.

So, back to Advent!  How is this an Advent text?  Advent is a season of longing.  In the first Sunday of this season we often talk about the second coming of Christ.  We long for that day when evil will loose it’s power, when people will no longer be oppressed, where there will be no more war, and no more suffering.  That day is not yet here, yet the reality of it has been established.  Jesus birth announced to the world that evil is done for, that it’s time of power over the earth is complete.  In Advent we join the world in crying out to God, knowing that God hears us and will deliver us.

Quotes for the Week

I work really hard at trying to see the big picture and not getting stuck in ego. I believe we’re all put on this planet for a purpose, and we all have a different purpose… When you connect with that love and that compassion, that’s when everything unfolds.                  Ellen DeGeneres

Canada has a passive-aggressive culture, with a lot of sarcasm and righteousness. That went with my weird messianic complex. The ego is a fascinating monster. I was taught from a young age that I had to serve, so that turned into me thinking I had to save the planet.               Alanis Morissette

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.                    Martin Luther King, Jr.

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.           Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reading: Daniel 3:1 & 8-30

King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 8 Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king.

14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” 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. 24 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.” 25 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.” 26 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. 27 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. 28 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. 29 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.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

Questions for the Week

When in your life have you felt as though you were going through a fiery furnace?

What is the injustice in the world that bothers you most?  What can you do to help combat that injustice?

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