August 3, 2011

Thursday after the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps.65, 1 Sam. 3:1-18, Lk. 12:22-34
Evening - Ps.66, Dan. 3:1-7, Acts 21:27-36

Commentary

Daniel 2 closes with Nebuchadnezzar recognising the God of Israel, and honoring Daniel with wealth and position. Like so many "conversions," it did not last, and chapter three finds him setting up an idol to be worshiped by all in his realm. The worship was attended with great show and ceremony. A great band was gathered to call the people to worship (3:4) and the people bowed to their knees and prayed to the idol. Speeches were probably given by the religious leaders, extolling the greatness of Babylon and of Nebuchadnezzar. It is very possible that this was a new religion set up by Nebuchadnezzar to compete with the older Babylonian religions which had failed to interpret his dream. It is very likely that Nebuchadnezzar was installing himself as the head of this religion, and may even have been proclaiming himself as a messenger of the goods, or even a god himself. It is certain that he placed himself at the very center of this religion.

He did not require the people to stop worshiping other gods. He only required that they worship the idol in addition to whatever other gods they may have worshiped. This would have the effect of unifying the people around one god, and, of course, around Nebuchadnezzar. The polytheistic Babylonians would have no problem with the new religion. Even most of the Jews, long accustomed to accommodating their faith to the prevailing trends, would willingly and thoughtlessly worship the image. But three young, Jewish men, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, were about to face a major challenge which would show the power of the Living God to all, and encourage the Jews to return to Him in faith.

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