Updated: Mar 20, 2020
“But if you do not worship [me], you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:15b-18)
Difficult situations draw out of us what’s been under the surface all along. They bring out the worst in us and the best in us. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were pushed to the point of death, and it was their loyalty to God that emerged.
First, they declared their confidence in God’s ability. Yes, their God could save them, even from the fiery furnace. One is reminded of the father of the sick girl who said to Jesus, “If you can…” Jesus was indignant. Of course he could. Do we believe that? Probably, yes.
But it’s the next part that startles me. They supply their own “if”—though not one with regard to God’s ability. It’s with regard for God’s willingness. “But if not…” What if God chose not to rescue them from the fiery furnace? Would they still worship him even if God did not answer their prayers? Definitely, yes.
These three did not go looking for trouble. They didn’t ask to be put in this position. They were not tempting God (see Luke 4:9-12). Instead, their simple faithfulness led them into a test of mettle—a situation which exposed what was really there under the surface all along.
Though quite a different situation, this pandemic is a test for us, a test of our faith. What will be revealed in us through this hardship and isolation? We might not bow to a statue of a king or some other idol. No, it won’t be that. But what about more information? Are we acting like knowledge will save us? What about entertainment? If we anesthetize ourselves with binge-watching, will that rescue us from the boredom and isolation? What about alcohol? Or perhaps you’ve made anxiety the Lord of your life.
What’s really under the surface?
If you’re like me, when you ask yourself that question and you look at your behavior, you find your faith looks rather shabby and weak. And in fact, maybe you’ve been avoiding the question because you knew all along what you’d find. You knew it was bad news.
“And [Jonah] called out, ‘Yet worthy days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them” (Jonah 3:4b-5).
Sackcloth and fasting are signs of grieving. You would find someone wearing them at a funeral or in the aftermath of a battle lost. But they are also a sign of repentance. And that’s because repentance begins with grief over our sin.
Now is the time for grieving and weeping. Now is the time to examine yourselves before God and his word, to ask, "What’s really here?” Now is the time to repent, to turn away from your sin and toward Christ in faith. And do not be afraid. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
So he calls, and so he will receive you. Will you receive him?
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:1-6, 23-24)