The Wild Places Bible Guide – 15
March 29, 2019
Friday, March 29
Daniel 3:19-30 (CEB)
19 Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his face twisted beyond recognition because of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In response he commanded that the furnace be heated to seven times its normal heat. 20 He told some of the strongest men in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of flaming fire.21 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound, still dressed in all their clothes, and thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. (22 Now the king’s command had been rash, and the furnace was heated to such an extreme that the fire’s flame killed the very men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it.) 23 So these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell, bound, into the furnace of flaming fire.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in shock and said to his associates, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?”
They answered the king, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He replied, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around inside the fire, and they aren’t hurt! And the fourth one looks like one of the gods.”26 Nebuchadnezzar went near the opening of the furnace of flaming fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 The chief administrators, ministers, governors, and the king’s associates crowded around to look at them. The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn’t singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire!
28 Nebuchadnezzar declared: “May the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be praised! He sent his messenger to rescue his servants who trusted him. They ignored the king’s order, sacrificing their bodies, because they wouldn’t serve or worship any god but their God. 29 I now issue a decree to every people, nation, and language: whoever speaks disrespectfully about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s God will be torn limb from limb and their house made a trash heap, because there is no other god who can rescue like this.”
30 Then the king made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prosperous in the province of Babylon.
Points of Interest
- Watch out for adults who are upset when they don’t precisely get their way. There’s always emotional unhealth or abuse of power or both behind that.
- Nebuchadnezzar’s display of force is tragicomically rash. The strongest men in the army, the seven-times-more-potent capital punishment, the guards’ suffering all highlight that wounded pride and vengeance are at play, not justice. It’s like the villain’s threat to kill one hundred of the enemy for every one of his lost, or like the modern superpower’s unleashing of tons and tons of bombs to prevent or retaliate for its smaller experience of violence.
- When the execution doesn’t go as planned, things get really strange. First, there are four men, not three. Then the impotency of the flames – no harm to hair or clothing or skin at all. Scholars and mystics and poets have marveled over this scene, speculating on the presence of an angel or even a pre-incarnate Christ (a fancy phase for God showing up in the flesh, long before the birth of Jesus).
- Nebuchadnezzar hasn’t matured or grown through this experience – he’s as rash and emotionally immature as ever. But the power of God to protect the people he tried to scapegoat and eliminate has given him respect for their god and restored them to protection and favor.
- Many Christians read this passage through the experiences of explicit persecution members of their own faith have experienced – usually small and sometimes invented ones in this time and place, deadly and brutal ones in other times and places. I think that’s fair (not the invented persecutions, but the rest), but my imagination takes this application further. When any minority group is persecuted, I like to think that the God of justice is empathetic to their cause, suffering with them, and rallying forces to work for their favor. In my country and my lifetime, the scapegoated victim has usually been of non-Christian religious faith, as well as people of color, immigrants, or sexual minorities. May the God of mercy walk with and protect all who are scapegoated and done harm because of power people’s fears. We’ll take our final story of exile in two parts.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for any of your family and friends who are either unjustly victimized, for them to know God with them, and for God’s protection. Pray that God turns around any family or friends who out of their own fears, willingly participate in or stand silent in the face of the scapegoating of others.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Growing Hope – This week, the exercise will vary slightly from day to day. Each day, though, you’ll be invited to grow hope in your own wild place of exile – a loss that you or your culture has suffered, a dream that has died, some way that you don’t belong, don’t fit, or aren’t understood in your current context.
The temptation in exile is to a death of faith or a loss of hope. Today, follow the lead of this passage, asking God if there is any way you can stand in solidarity with people in your region who unjustly suffer. Perhaps your solidarity and hope can be expressed through your prayers or advocacy or service or civil disobedience.