Today is Wednesday, April 1. Welcome back to our Lent Journey podcast! My name is Gina, and I’m leading you today in our scripture reading, reflection and prayer.
Theme: God deserves our loyalty simply because of who He is
Scripture: Daniel 3:14–20, 24–28 (Living Bible)
To establish the larger context for this short story, we should recall that before this story occurred, the nation of Israel had repeatedly and for generations rebelled against God’s explicit command not to worship any gods or idols except for Him alone. Over and over they had hurt Him by prostituting themselves to other gods, gods who had not done all the wonderful things that He had done for them. He had rescued them from centuries of brutal enslavement in Egypt, performed numerous miracles that provided for all their needs during 40 years of transition in the desert, before granting them a land or prosperity as a nation of their own.
For all those amazing things God did for them, in return He got rebellion. He received faithlessness. There were even periods of time when His people completely forgot about Him, so that whole generations had never even heard of Him.
From the very beginning, God had warned them that if they broke their end of the covenant relationship they had agreed to with God, He would stop protecting and caring for them. So, when the Babylonian Empire swept through the region, and conquered their nation, carrying off half the people to slavery in Babylon, God was good on His word. Now, these three young Jewish men found themselves exiled in Babylon.
When the king decided to unite all the diverse nations he ruled under an empire-wide religion, it was on threat of death. Every citizen of his vast domain was coerced to be part of his new religious cult.
The problem was that, ironically, idolatry was what had gotten the Israelite people into this situation in the first place. Back in Israel, they had had the freedom to worship God if they chose, and they had chosen not to. Now they were stripped of that freedom. If they didn’t worship this new god, they would be killed—in an agonizing way.
They might have said, “Look, we don’t have a choice. It’s do this or die.”
They might also have said to themselves, “We’ve already been abandoned by God for our generation’s refusal to worship Him alone. We’re here, in slavery. We’ve completely messed up. What’s one more mistake? We might as well just go all the way and worship this idol, too.”
But, the three Jewish men decided that, rather than compound their generation’s sins with more personal sins, they would stop cycle of sin and rebellion here and now. It was time to do the right thing, even if they died for it. They knew they did have a choice. No matter how awful it was, they had a choice.
My favorite part of this story is when they tell the king, “Our God has the power to save us from your threats. It doesn’t mean He’ll do it, though. And that’s OK. Even if God doesn’t save us, and we die for our loyalty to Him, we’re still going to be loyal. Our obedience and loyalty is not contingent on God saving us. It’s because God deserves our loyalty. Period. Full stop.”
Sometimes, we think that if we just obey God and do the right thing, we are guaranteed to avoid any discomfort, inconvenience, or sacrifices. Countless stories of Christians obeying God over the past 2,000 years prove that’s simply not true. People refuse to participate in corruption at work and lose their jobs as a result. People speak up against injustice on behalf of the vulnerable, and then draw the anger and retaliation of those committing that injustice.
Around the world, in every generation, faithful believers have been tortured, discriminated against, imprisoned, or killed. They haven’t gotten the happy ending that we see here, when God dramatically rescues the three men from the blazing fire in full view of the king and all the people.
It’s wonderful that for these three men, God showed up to demonstrate his glorious power and might to rescue them from the king’s punishment. But the three men didn’t expect to be rescued. I’m sure they were weak with fear at the prospect of being burned alive. But their decision to turn the tide of their nation’s sin by obeying God and accepting the consequences showed their love for and loyalty to the one true God.
That’s what obedience to God looks like. He asks us to trust Him, and to give him our allegiance. But, most of the time, God does not assure us of the earthly outcome of our obedience. He does, however, assure us of His presence with us in our obedience, the strength to do what He asks, and of an eternity spent in His glorious, loving, and joy-filled presence.
The bottom line is that God deserves our loyalty and obedience. Because He is who He is. Because He is our great, mighty, and loving God. Because He is the only God.
- Why have I put my faith in God? Is it because of what I think I will get out of it? Or is it simply that He deserves my loyalty and obedience because of who He is?
- Is there any area where I have been afraid to obey God because I fear losing something I value?
- Where might God be asking me to live out my loyalty to Him this week?
Our mighty and powerful God,
You deserve all the worship and praise we have to offer. You deserve all the glory. You alone are worthy of our complete allegiance. You deserve all that we have to give You, our entire selves. You deserve all this just because of who You are. Because You are God. You created us. Everything we have, our lives, the air we breathe, are gifts from You. Even if You never give us another thing, we owe You our complete loyalty and obedience now and forever.
Help us not to lose sight of all that we owe You. And thank You that You don’t coerce us to worship You. You give us the freedom to choose. No matter what happens, no matter where our obedience and loyalty leads us, You are good and gracious to go with us into the earthly rewards here and now, or the fires and trials that might await us. You will sustain us through all things, which is more than we could dare to ask or deserve.
You are good. You are our everything.
We love you.
In the worthy and glorious name of Jesus we pray. Amen.