One of my favorite stories growing up in the church was the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found in Daniel 3. We used this story in Sunday School for the kids last week and the story caught my attention once again.
In the story, King Nebuchadnezzar creates an image out of Gold and commands everyone to worship it. Yes, this is the story where three servants of God refuse to worship the image and are subsequently thrown into a ridiculously hot furnace. Even the soldiers throwing them in get killed. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego just stand around in there like it’s a cool Spring day. What’s more, there were three men tossed in and there were four walking around safe and sound. I’ll admit that’s something that would have made an impression on me if I was the King. Click on the link above and read the whole story.
God’s protection on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is miraculous and is usually what we focus on in that story. My mind, however, got caught by the golden image in the beginning. The King fashions an image of gold and commands everyone to worship it or face the blazing furnace. Naturally, everyone falls down in worship . . . except our three heroes. It had to take that threat of death, right?
I know this is a few thousand years ago, the Babylonians had their own gods they worshiped and idolatry was rampant, but what do you think was said in private? Surely there were at least a few that privately said something along the lines of, “What? So the King makes a god out of gold and we have to start worshiping? Surely he knows that we know that he made it up. I’m not an idiot and I know full well that the image is not a god, just a pile of precious metal.” And yet, the threat of death wins out.
Then again, maybe folks actually believed it. Maybe they were that gullible. But not today, right? Surely we would get wise to that old trick in a hurry! Nobody in their right mind is going to erect an image of gold and demand we worship it. No, today they’d be more subtle.
Today the King would demand we worship things like wealth, power, sex, or drugs. Of course, not everyone can be made to worship something so obvious. So the King would also offer up golden images of our family or our work or even our church. Anything can become a golden image if we allow it to become our object of worship.
This is an issue of priorities. God first . . . always. Our number one task for every day is to worship God in all we do. I can worship God by loving my family. I can worship God by loving my church family and serving in a leadership capacity. I can worship God by giving my best at work (See Colossians 3:17). Yet when we allow anything else to become our top priority – when we allow something to come between us and God – it becomes, for us, a golden image that demands worship.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had it all figured out. They knew the image wasn’t real and they could have just pretended along with everyone else. They could have, but they didn’t. Instead, they stood up and said, “If I can’t worship God through the activity I am participating in, then I need to step away.” Colossians 3:17 is a rule to live by.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”