Friday, May 3, 2019

A Hope-filled Response to Conformity (Daniel 3:1-18)

Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful ruler of many lands from his capital in Babylon, ordered the construction of an ostentatious image of gold (Daniel 3:1). He then ordered all the peoples under his control to fall down and worship the image the moment they heard a patriotic song begin to play (v. 5). Any nonconformist was to be executed (v. 6).

At that time (ca 600 BC), there were Jews exiled to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. Three of them—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—happened to be important administrators in his government. Rival officials tattled on the three: These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up (v. 12, New American Standard Bible, here and following).

Certain important aspects of Olympianity are well displayed here. The ruler is the embodiment of Jupiter: Olympian god of politics. He orders an idol constructed to serve as the focal point for the worship of Jupiter and to strengthen his grip on people. He demands that devotion to Jupiter and him be demonstrated by a visually verifiable act of conformity.

With a lively sense of devotion to Yahweh, the only true god, these three young men understood the Olympian nature lying behind the king, his idol, and his command. They refused to betray Yahweh even when threatened by the king himself with death. In reaction to their defiance, the king himself betrays his own devotion to the false god Jupiter and rejection of the true god Yahweh when he asks, “and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (v. 15).

In response to the king, the three young men provide us with a hope-filled response for the ages: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (vs. 17-18).

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.
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