What Made the Difference? A Question About the Book of Daniel.

I’m currently reading Amir Tsarfati’s new book Discovering Daniel, which is of course about the book of Daniel. It is proving to be every bit as good as his earlier book, Revealing Revelation, and there will be a review posted when I finish it. In the meantime, it’s got me doing a lot of thinking, and one of the paths my brain went down is demanding extra attention.

If you’re unfamiliar with the book of Daniel, the brief setup is that, because of its continual sin against God, Jerusalem was sacked and its best and brightest youth (boys, not men) were packed up and shipped back to Babylon. Well, they may very well have been forced to march those hundreds of miles, but you know what I mean.

My thoughts.

All these Hebrew boys had been taken from their homes, dragged hundreds of miles to a totally new world, made eunuchs (something I can’t believe I’d never realized before), and indoctrinated into a radically different way of life. Every one of them had been completely stripped of his identity and, as far as we know, fallen into the trap that was Babylonian culture – except the four God ended up using in supernatural ways. 

What made the difference?

That’s been my question for a few days, and it’s one I’m still asking because I believe the answer is significant for us in our day and time. Why do some of our children stand strong when they get out into the new culture that is college or some other aspect of “the world” while so many others crumble? Why do people who have been attending church for years “suddenly” walk away, and not just away from church but away from God?

I see many factors at play. Clearly those we know as Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel had genuine convictions about what they had been taught all their lives, including the fact that theirs was a God they dare not fail. They had truly learned from their nation’s history, and surely understood why judgement had fallen on Jerusalem. I personally feel God had probably already done things to validate their faith, too, since that seems to be His habit with those whose hearts are true to Him. 

Regarding their steadfastness, I’ve thought of several potential contributing factors. All things considered, however, I really believe one of the biggest reasons they stayed so faithful to God was their group relationship. The Bible says a companion of fools suffers harm, and I have a feeling these four had guarded against such companionship, that for years they had been supporting each other in their faith and helping one another grow. It is clear from the book of Daniel that they continued to support each other, encouraging one another to stay strong in their faith in this new setting.

Some people like to say, “I can worship God as well on the lake as in church,” as an excuse not to be involved in church, but it can be very hard to continue serving God in a relationship vacuum. Like these four amazing boys, we need each other. That three-fold cord that can’t be broken? (Eccl. 4:9-12) You don’t find it among those who are out there floundering. You find it in companionship with other people who are “of like precious faith,” people who will build you up while you build them up. 

That is one of the big reasons these four held fast when their entire visible identity was ripped away from them and a carefully planned course of brainwashing implemented. I’m convinced of it. 

Today, we do have God living inside us, teaching us, strengthening us, guiding us, and in general making the difference, but we still need that strong connection to other believers. We must have those true relationships that help us stay strong no matter what the world throws at us. God designed us to need such fellowship, and He commanded us to seek it out regularly in Hebrews 10:25.

I’d say we don’t have a choice, but we do. We can do like the rest of those Hebrew boys did and let ourselves be molded by the world, becoming just like them and in essence unrecognizable to our God. As parents, we can let our kids do the same and watch them fall into the traps set in our universities and the other places young people hang out.

But why? Why would we?

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C

The View from Inside the Furnace

Our church is in the midst of a sermon series on the greatest Bible stories, and it started me thinking. If I were to preach on a Bible story, which would it be, and what would I say?

I decided I’d preach on the 3 Hebrew men and the fiery furnace. More to the point, I’d preach on the view from INSIDE that furnace.

Most of us probably know the story from the book of Daniel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down to the image King Nebuchadnezzar has commanded them to worship, so he has them bound and thrown into a furnace that is so hot it kills the guards who throw them in. However, it isn’t long before the king realizes something strange – there are FOUR men WALKING AROUND in the furnace, and the fourth looks like the Son of God.

So, being a snoop, I can’t help but wonder… What’s going on in there?

I mean, think about it. What has the fire – the fire that was supposed to destroy them – accomplished? It burned off their bonds, freeing them to walk around. Other than that, I see nothing. They’re inside it, yes, but they’re walking around with Jesus!

They are with Jesus! They have boldly declared that God is able to save them, putting their trust completely in Him, and HERE COMES JESUS! He doesn’t just rescue them; He rescues them and sticks around to hang out with them. What is He telling them while they’re in there? What are they discussing? Is He giving them encouragement, instruction, revealing what’s coming next?

There have been times in my life when I’ve been, through no fault of my own, thrown into a fiery furnace that should have destroyed me. What I’ve discovered is that, when I put my trust solely in Him as these three did, the fire ends up helping me grow instead.

When you’re in the furnace, you only have two things to look at – the flames and His face. Watch the flames and you’ll go down in them. Focus on His face and your life changes. Suddenly it’s just you and Him. In that setting, when God has your complete attention… It is truly amazing. In fact, I remember one time when I was in the midst of the fire and I begged Him to help me maintain that same walk even when I was brought out and surrounded once again by the distractions of the world. I knew my own weakness, you see, and my tendency to get distracted.

I think about those young men and wonder how they felt when they heard the king’s voice calling them out. What was their reaction? Did they ask Jesus, “Can we stay here with You for just a little longer?”

Could be.

Celebrating Jesus!
Tammy C