August 4, 2011

Friday after the Sixth Sunday after Trinity

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 69:1-22, 30-37, 1 Sam. 4:1-11, Lk. 12:35-48
Evening - Ps. 71, Dan. 3:8-18, Acts 21:37-22:16

Commentary

It is suggested to Nebuchadnezzar that Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego refused to worship the idol because they had no regard for the king (3:12). The idea presented is that they hold the king and his laws in derision, and openly refuse his laws only on the basis of their contempt for Nebuchadnezzar. The king is outraged at this, though he should have known better. He commands the men to be brought before him immediately (3:13). Perhaps the king remembers the service of these men, and that their God gave Daniel the interpretation of his dream. He offers them an opportunity to save their lives by worshiping the idol at the next service. But the king has also made his decree, and to back away from it now would make him appear weak. If people can break this law with impunity, why not others also? Of course, the only right thing for the king to do is to repent of his sin and idolatry and begin to worship the Living God. But his pride and rage will not allow this. Nebuchadnezzar has challenged God, saying He will not be able to deliver them from his hand (3:15).

The Jews' response to Nebuchadnezzar is direct. "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter" (3:16). They are simply saying they are not afraid to give a direct and honest answer to the king's question because they are not afraid of him." Their reply is essentially this: God is able to deliver anyone from anything, and He can deliver us from you. But whether He delivers us or lets us die in the furnace, we will not worship your idol or your gods (3:17-18).

There is a great lesson here for the Church in any age. Finding themselves in the midst of a pagan and unbelieving culture, these young men did not compromise with it. They did not join it, did not accept its values, did not become a part of it. They did not defile themselves with it, as we see when they refused the king's meat and ate only "kosher" food (1:8). Compromise would have been easy. Blending into the culture would have been easy. But they remained apart and separate. They remained true to God. We live in a similar situation and we are tempted to accommodate our lives and values to the prevailing culture. We cannot afford to compromise. Like Daniel, we work and live among the people of the world, and like Daniel, we seek their good and will be good citizens of the lands in which God has placed us. But our identity and culture is always that of the Church of Jesus Christ.

They also would not defile themselves with the religion of the worldly culture. Today we live in an age of accommodation and syncretism. Christians are importing doctrines and practices from other religions, and from the cultures in which we live. These Jews refused to do so and the Bible presents their refusal as pleasing to God.