If we are thrown into the furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. 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. – Daniel 3:17-18
My initial favorite story in the Bible was the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. I know that most people know them by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. I think it is worth the time to memorize their God given names and using them when referring to these guys. Hananiah means “Beloved of the Lord.” His Babylonian name, Shadrach, means “Illuminated by the Sun.” Mishael means “Who is as God?” Meshach means “who is like Shach?” which was comparable to the goddess Venus or Aphrodite. Azariah means “The Lord is my help.” Abednego means “Servant of the god Nego.” Which name would you prefer future generations to remember you by?
These guys had their freedoms completely taken away. Their parents were more than likely killed by the Babylonians and the only reason they were alive is because someone saw them as potentially beneficial to Babylon. Before they would decimate a country, the Babylonians had learned the art of extracting the best people a nation had to offer, giving them new names, treating them well, and basically turning them into their own citizens. The plan worked flawlessly until these three guys, along with Daniel, purposed in their hearts that they would not be defiled by their new normal.
It all comes to a head one day when the king builds an enormous gold statue of himself. He commands that the entire region bow when he gives the signal. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refuse to bow down. The king calls them forward, gives them another chance, and all his threat produces is one of the best God-honoring speeches found in the Bible. The king just knew he was going to get the final word when he had them thrown into the fire. What happened next would have been one heck of a sight to see. How many people got introduced that day to the God who delivers from the fire? What an introduction!
I’m sure the Jews living in Babylon loved the freedom that they had known as a nation/state. I would bet that none of them thought they could lose it in their lifetime. It must have absolutely sucked knowing what you had and what you now have. You can read in 2 Kings 25 how the last king of Israel, King Zedekiah tried to fight and keep their freedom. Nobody would listen to Jeremiah when he preached and flat out told them, “This captivity is from God, and this is going to happen.” Most of the Israelites refused to believe that God would really allow them to be taken into captivity. King Zedekiah’s weak attempt at fighting Babylon ended with his sons being killed right before his very eyes. Those same eyes were gouged out so that the last thing he ever saw was his sons being killed. Babylon was merciless!
Right in the midst of this Babylonian captivity, three young men being willing to go through the fire produced a God-exalting story that we tell in the year 2020. Do you find that absolutely astonishing?
Our world is changing right before our eyes. I love American freedom. But what if American freedom is coming to an end? I don’t know if it is or it isn’t, at least any time soon. But what if God has already appointed the time? Will anything you or I do stop it? I’m not trying to be a prophetic Jeremiah here at all, I’m just a guy on the internet. With all my heart, I hope American freedom lives on for me and my children. However, I know for a fact that eventually American freedom is coming to an end. Why should it not happen in my lifetime? Read Revelation 13. There is a “beast” that is going to have power over the entire world. We know that all earthly power is given by God. He has forewarned us in His book that it is coming. Believe it or not, there isn’t a Facebook petition, meme, gif, comment, or post in existence that you or I can make that will stop it. The real question is: Are you prepared either way?
There are 328 million Americans out of 7 billion 8 hundred million people on the planet. This means that we are 4.2% of the population. Yet, you would think from our overall behavior that we are the center of the universe. Forget persecution, just simply inconvenience an American, even an American who says they are Christian, and watch them respond. I’m not saying that I’m any different . . . I’m not. However, with all my heart, I want to be. I pray that my heart remains undefiled. I pray that no matter what happens I can say, “The God I serve can deliver me and even my whole country, but even if He does not, I still love Him, and I still follow Him . . . no matter what.”
Here is what I know for a fact: even if the worst comes out of all of this mess, God will be exalted. Opportunities to exalt Him will be abundant. Eventually, the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and his reign will be for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15). Until that time comes, may you and I not be found sleeping.
Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. – Matthew 26:41