But if Not…

Courage under fire.  I am sure most of us have heard this idiom and are likely quite familiar with its meaning. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as “bravery while being shot at or while being strongly criticized.”[1]  This idiom is often used to describe how someone responds to a dangerous or adverse situation, specifically when that individual bravely presses forward in spite of fear, opposition, or possible death.

In the previous post, we took a look into Daniel’s choice to trust in and obey the Lord, and how God blessed that decision.  In this instance, Daniel did not have to stand alone in his decision to obey God’s law, but was joined by his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  In the second chapter of Daniel, we learn that after Daniel interpreted king Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the king promoted him to a high position within Babylon.  At the end of this chapter, we find the king granting Daniel’s request for his three friends to also be placed in prominent governmental positions.  Subsequently, these young captives, who had grown into adults, now held prestigious positions within the government.  No doubt, they married and started families, and they would have made friends in their new home.  God Almighty was indeed blessing them and prospering their way.  However, this did not mean they could sit back and simply coast through the rest of life.  More challenges were coming.  Would they be ready and able to trust God through the storm ahead?

All children of God experience highs and lows in life.  At times we have to sludge along in the mud, while other times we are able to soar above the clouds.  Life is an ever-changing journey, though one we do not have to walk alone.  However, we often choose to walk through the challenges by our own strength and intellect.  When life inevitably takes a turn for the worse, it seems so easy for us to become disheartened, self-centered, or even angry.  Why is that?  I suggest that perhaps it is because our perspective gets misaligned.  While we are enjoying the comforts of this life, those things we initially view as blessings from an all-loving and gracious Father can quickly turn into “our” coveted and precious possessions.  And, because we tend to forget that everything we have is actually a gift from God and we are simply stewards of His possessions, it is natural for us to become protective of and hoarders of those things we mistakenly think are our own.  If, for example, I could remember that my time is actually God’s time, then when interruptions come along and mess up my plans (not God’s), I might actually stop to see what God is doing in and through the interruption. This concept can be applied to countless areas of life…

…However, this kind of living requires Christians to begin learning how to walk in the Spirit instead of in the flesh (Gal 5:16), and how to see life from a heavenly perspective instead of an earthly one.

Back to Daniel, in chapter three we see a new challenge arise for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when the King constructed a huge statue and commanded the people to bow down and worship it.  These three friends knew there was only one true and living God, Jehovah.  To bow down and worship an idol would break one of the clearest commandments given to their forefathers, namely “Thou shalt have no other gods before me…Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God…” (Ex 20:3-5, KJV).  These three men knew what Scripture said; they knew what was right and wrong before God Almighty.

Of course, they also knew the penalty for disobeying the king of Babylon would be certain death.  I am sure the days leading up to this celebration were filled with mental agony and emotional pain as these three friends processed what was about to happen.  As we saw in the first chapter of Daniel, other captive Jews had not chosen to obey God’s law, but had decided to comply with Babylonian requirements.  Like them, it would be so easy to take the safer road.  But, to do so would be to go against the command of the Most High God.  For these three, there was no question about what they should do; but, what would they do?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to obey God rather than man, and in doing so they did not bow to the idol.

King Nebuchadnezzar was furious and insisted the men bow to his image.  After all, he was the all-powerful king of Babylon and no god could deliver them out of his hand.  This is where we find an excellent example of courage under fire.  The three friends bravely faced the furious king and boldly proclaimed that their God was more powerful than the king himself.  If their God chose to deliver them, He was more than able to do so.  Their next words give us a glimpse into their understanding of God, as well as their view of themselves.  While they knew without a doubt God Almighty was more than able to change circumstances and miraculously save them from a fiery furnace, He was not some type of genie they could command around at will.  He was the all-powerful God of the universe and they would not presume upon Him, but would instead trust Him.  They would remain loyal to Him no matter the outcome, because He was worthy of their loyalty and devotion.  In chapter three, verse eighteen they explain, “But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Dan 3:18, KJV).

How is our own understanding of God?  Do we see Him as He is, Most-High, Holy, All-Powerful, and always Good?  Or, are our eyes so full of this world that we have allowed Him to become less (in our eyes) than He truly is?  Let us take time today to meditate on who God is, taking time to stand in awe of His majesty.  We serve a Great God!  If we can get a proper vision of Him, we too will be able to stand with courage under fire, firm and unmovable on the Solid Rock, which is Jesus Christ. 

[1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary (online), “Courage Under Fire,” accessed June 26, 2020, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage%20under%20fire.