Yesterday I had the sweet joy of reading one of my favorite Bible stories.
I know, technically I can read it any time I want to. But yesterday it was my scheduled reading for the day. So with a grin on my face, I re-read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace (or Rack, Shack and Benny if you are a Veggie Tales fan). I'm not exactly sure why this is one of my favorite stories, I just know that it is. Perhaps it's because it is a reminder of my childhood, growing up in a Christian family. Perhaps it's because my children and I watched the Veggie Tales version until the tape wore out. I'm not really sure what draws me to the story but let me tell you my favorite part.
The background of the story real quick is this. God's chosen people, the Jews, have sinned greatly against him and as a result the countries of Israel and Judah have both fallen. Israel falls to the country of Assyria and Judah later falls to Babylon. The King of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar, has taken the Jewish people and their nobility back to Babylon to serve him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are members of the Jewish nobility, and after a time of training they are made administrators over the province of Babylon.
King Nebuchadnezzar builds a huge image of gold, over 90 feet high and he wants everyone in Babylon to bow down and worship this image. A big no-no for the people of God. Ironically though, most of the Jewish people are OK with this plan. The only hold-outs are Rack, Shack and Benny. They refuse. This infuriates the King and he orders them to be thrown into a fiery furnace where they will be burned to death. The fire is so hot that the guards who throw the three into the fire are killed by the heat. But miraculously Rack, Shack and Benny are not. In fact when the King looks into the furnace he sees not three but four figures in the fire. He orders to have the 3 come out of the fire and they emerge without a hair on their head singed. A true miracle. It is a great story. But I left out my favorite part.
Here it is, in verse 17, the King has told Rack, Shack and Benny to bow down or be thrown into the fire and they reply with this, "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..." Wait, here it is, my VERY favorite part, and THEN they say, "...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."
Did you hear that???
"But even if he does not"- even if God doesn't save us, even if God doesn't answer our prayer, even if he doesn't do what we desperately want him to do, what we know he CAN do, we will still bow only to Him.
This story ALWAYS makes he wonder if I pray like that. I hope I do. There are so many things I ask God for every day, safety for my family, protection, peace, health. The real question is not, "Will God grant me these things?", but rather, "Will I love Him just as much if He choses not to?". Will I love God just as much, honor him as much and bow only to him when I am facing a fiery furnace? Or will I do these things only when life is easy?
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew God was capable of saving them, but they didn't know if he was going to save them. But that didn't change their devotion to Him. "Even if he does not...we will not serve your gods". These are such inspirational words to me, this is my favorite part of the story.
My prayer today is this, "God, no matter what, even if you do not grant me what I so desperately want, I will bow only to you."
If you would like to read the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the fiery furnace you can find it in the book of Daniel, chapter 3.