15 April 2013

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego!” (v. 28)


With the Book of Daniel, we enter a world of exile and persecution; a place where it is hard to hold onto one's values and beliefs and where community identity might easily be destroyed. We are in Babylon, where the leaders of Israel have been brought as captives by a more powerful nation. Within this testing place we learn what it really means to live in hope.

Half of the book (from chapter 7 onwards) is made up of Daniel's often apocalyptic visions of the world that the people of Israel believed God could achieve. The first half, however, tells stories about Daniel himself and his three friends. They are already attempting to live out that dreamed-of world despite the circumstances in which they find themselves.

As Jewish captives, the young, good-looking men have been trained in the ways of the Babylonian court. They are courtiers, and exist at the beck and call of a succession of autocratic monarchs. But now that they are part of the Babylonian world, how will they maintain their identity as believers in the God of Israel?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (names imposed on them by the Babylonians) have already followed Daniel's lead in refusing to conform to Babylonian dietary habits (Daniel 1:5-16). Now they refuse to worship a gold statue erected by King Nebuchadnezzar in his own image. He is furious that they don't even acknowledge his power.

Despite the very great detail with which their fate is described, we don't get to know the three men as individuals - only that they are not absolutely confident that their lives will be spared (Daniel 3:17-18). We learn more about those who watch their fate; we see the effect of their heroism upon the observers - not least the king who, failing to transform them, acknowledges the power of their testimony to the God who has made them who they are.

To Ponder

  • How do you express your faith within the communities or world in which you live and work?
  • It is sometimes said that Methodists (and other Christian groups) have lost confidence in who they are and what they stand for. What stories would you tell in order to rebuild a sense of hope?

Bible notes author:  Laurence Wareing 

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