Entering Suffering

August 26, 2020 

Daniel 3:19-25

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.

21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 

There are people today who say, “Look at all the suffering in the world today, look at all the injustice… if there was a God, he would not allow all this to happen.” Therefore, they conclude, there is no God. 

Others throughout history have taken God’s people and caused them to suffer in order to prove God does not exist. Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, Hitler, put millions of Christians to death because they wanted to show the world their contempt for the God of the Bible. They taught others there was no God, but their contempt for God’s people was proof that in their own thinking they knew there was a God. 

But does suffering in the world prove there is no God? Does suffering prove God doesn’t care about us, or that he is not all powerful? These are the questions that are asked in every generation, especially in our time today. 

Does God care about racism? Does God care about homelessness? Does God care about injustice and violence? Does he care about disease and cancer? Does he care about covid19? Does God care that people are suffering because of all these things? 

Nebuchadnezzar created a contest between good and evil as he bound the Hebrew young men for the fire. The contest? Will God save? Will God show up to save his people when they are faced with suffering and death? The answer surprised him. The answer caused him to rethink everything he thought he knew about the God of Israel. The answer made him realize this God is different from all other gods in the way he saves. 

What happened? God was in the fire. God did not overpower evil, he did not keep them from the evil, he walked through the fire with them. Our God enters into our suffering with us. Our God suffers too. 

No other god suffers. No other god enters into suffering and saves through suffering. Only the God of the Bible. When the human race was suffering because of sin, God became man and suffered with us. When the time came to defeat death, Jesus entered the furnace in our place. No other God saves like this God. 

Johnathon Edwards said that when Jesus was in the garden he was sweating. Why? He said, “The furnace door was open, and he was facing the heat.” Jesus entered the furnace of the fury of God’s wrath against sin. Jesus had been in the furnace before, with the Hebrew children, but this time he took us with him. Paul said when Christ died on the cross, he included us too. When he died, we died. Jesus died for all of us, he included us in his suffering, he included us in his death and in his resurrection we all have the hope of resurrection life. No other God saves like this God.



Furious

August 25, 2020 

Daniel 3:19-25

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.

21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 

Notice how Nebuchadnezzar is described by Daniel. He was furious. His attitude towards Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was good one day and then when they did not accept his decree, when they refused to go along and bow down to his cultural icon he became furious with them. 

I don’t know if you have watched our government officials and mayors in charge of our major cities in the news lately, but they too are furious. The protestors are furious. The political debate on both sides of the isle is furious. The rioters and looters destroying property and participating in violence are furious. 

It seems like the time for people to “agree to disagree” is over. If you don’t agree with their position, they get furious. How can we as Christians live in a furious society? The answer is seen in this passage by Daniel. 

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.” 

They were not furious. They were quiet and respectful. They did not defend themselves. They were willing to be cast into the furnace rather than comply with the demands to worship the statue. Nebuchadnezzar was furious, they were calm. Nebuchadnezzar was ranting and raving and heating the furnace seven times hotter and they were trusting in the God they loved. What were they doing? They were living out their faith in a real and tangible way.

They knew God could rescue them if it was his will, but if not… they were willing to suffer and die for what they knew to be true. They were not furious. 

How do we live out our faith in a furious culture? We continue to love. We continue to give. We remain calm in the face of opposition and rely on God to defend us. We look to be of service to people around us who are hurting. When others are tearing things down, we look to build things up. We encourage one another. We sacrifice for the sake of others. We share the hope of Jesus Christ. 

When the furious people of his day arrested him, he did not defend himself. When they railed on him, spat on him, pulled out his beard, beat him and whipped him… he did not resist them. Instead he suffered and died to pay the price for their sins and my sins. He was thrown into the furnace for us, but the Father did not leave him there. 

He died so that our sin could be forgiven, he was raised to life on the third day so that we too might have life. Will we suffer in this life from the hands of furious people? Why should we be any different than believers from every other century? Jesus said don’t be surprised when the world hates you, they hated me without a cause. 



Consequences

August 24, 2020 

Daniel 3:19-25

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.

21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to take the consequences for their beliefs. They were living in a pluralistic society, but they were unwilling to worship the idea that all religions were equal to one another. They had liberty to worship the God of Israel but with that liberty came the demand to fall down and worship something else, something along side the worship of the true God.

The law was given by God to the people of Israel: “You shall have no other gods before me.” They understood this commandment, no other Gods before, after, or alongside the worship of the only true God.

Nebuchadnezzar is commanding them, for the sake of unity, for the sake of getting along with everyone, for the sake of peace and safety… submit to his world view and bow down to their world system. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego say no.

Didn’t they know the consequences that would fall on them for their civil disobedience? Yes, but they considered their relationship with the one true God to be more valuable than anything Nebuchadnezzar had to offer. It was worth suffering for, it was worth dying for. They put their lives on the line for their faith in God.

Are there times when we as Christians have to stand up and defy the worldview our culture if forcing us to follow? Think about all the things we are asked to accept alongside our worship of the God of the Bible. Abortion on demand is defined as a woman’s right to choose, the killing of millions of babies in the womb is not just condoned but encouraged. Homosexuality is not sin, it is an alternative lifestyle, to say otherwise is considered hate speech. Prayer is outlawed in school, on the football field, in the locker room, at graduations. Seeking God is encouraged, but don’t find him, because if you declare him to be the one true God, the one who gives us absolute truth you will be asked to set those views aside for the sake of getting along.

In days past, Christians were allowed to hold these views as long as they held them privately, but today we are being told to declare our allegiance to the world view.

Are you against racism? Then bend your knee to Black Lives Matter and join their cause. Do you care about the environment? Then get on board with the global warming movement – join their cause. Are you against sexual discrimination? Then join the LGBT movement – join their cause. Are you against police brutality? Then get on board with Defunding the Police, another movement – join their cause. Are you against political injustice? Then protest in the streets and join the demonstrators in all the major cities who are willing to burn and loot and destroy for political change.

What do all these groups have in common today? You can no longer speak out against them, they are “untouchable” when it comes to criticism… because when you do, there will be consequences.




Daily Devotions 2020