Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Babylonian Idol vs. the Fiery Furnace

1. Start with Storytelling

Apparently King Nebuchadnezzar fancied himself a sculptor. He crafted a golden Idol, and installed it in some field in Babylon. Then he invited a bunch of celebrities and dignitaries to a fancy dedication of said idol. While they were assembled there, the herald made a decree that whenever they hear the Babylonian band play, they have to fall down and worship the idol. Anyone who failed to do so would be thrown into a fiery furnace.

So when the people heard the Babylonian band play, they all fell down and worshiped the king's idol. All except the Jews. Some Chaldeans noticed and were a bit put out. They went to the king and reminded him of his policy and its penalty. Then they pointed out that three of the top leaders in Babylon were Jews, yet have disregarded the king and do not worship the golden image. The king flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him.

"Is this true?" he asked,"that you won't serve my gods or worship my idols?" He continued, “Look, I like you guys. I’m going ot give you one last chance. If you'll be ready to fall down and worship the next time the Babylonian band plays, then all's well. But if not, I'll have you thrown into a fiery furnace this very hour." Then he threw in one final dig: "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" In other words, “I’d like to see somebody try and rescue you now,” asserting his own power.

Our heroes replied that they'd do nothing of the sort, and that God would protect them. With one caveat: But if not..we'll have you know that we still won't worship your lousy idol. (Two can play at this stubbornness game.)

Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage that his whole countenance changed. All at once he ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual, and commanded the mightiest men in his army to tie them up and throw them into the burning fiery furnace. The fire in the furnace was so hot that the men who led them there died. Shadrach. Meshach and Abednego fell down, bound, in the middle of the fiery furnace.

Then all of a sudden Nebuchadnezzar jumps up and says, "Hey, didn't we throw three guys into the furnace? Well, I can see four, and one of them looks for all the world like the Son of God." Then Nebuchadnezzar calls to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and asks them to step forward. All the celebrities and dignitaries are standing there watching, as the three men emerge, completely untouched by the flames...they don't even smell like smoke!

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who have sacrificed themselves in honor to serve and obey Him. Anybody who speaks ill of their God will be chopped into pieces and buried in a dunghill.” (He still has a bit to learn about charity.) And all three were given promotions.

And it is still the same today.

2. Sketch the Skeleton

v. 1-5 Idolatry established as standard
v. 2 Officials support position
v. 6 Punishment for those who don't follow suit
v. 7 Everybody follows suit
v. 12, 16-18 Covenant people refuse to lower standards
v. 18 Submit to God’s will (But if not...)
v. 19 Punished severely (threatened certain death)
v. 24-25 Christ ministers to them in the midst of the fiery furnace
v. 27 Emerge unscathed, even untouched.
v. 28 Witnesses observe power of God
v. 29 Witnesses seek God
v. 30 Resultant blessings

The pattern that develops is one of pointedly choosing a way that is oppposite of the world’s, and perhaps suffering for it. Submitting to God’s will regardless of consequences, even if it means sacrificing our lives. Enjoying the peace only Christ can bring. Witnessing to the world.
We are Missionaries by example, simply by keeping our covenants in a troubled world.

3. Single out Specifics

Note the arrogance in verse 15 when King Nebuchadnezzar says “Who is that god that shall deliver you?” This is reminiscent of King Noah in Mosiah 11:27 "Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him? And Who is the Lord, to bring such affliction upon my people?" And also of Cain in Moses 5:16 “Who is the Lord, that I should know him?” This is not good company to be found in! The difference here is that King Nebuchadnezzar did ultimately come to know the Lord and His power, and was humbled by it.

4. Strive for Synthesis

Something worthy of exploring might be “What are some examples of Idol Worship we see today? No golden statues, per se, but what other forms of idolatry are prevalent and even standard practice in today’s world?

One great question to ask ourselves might be “What is MY fiery furnace? and then, “In what ways did Christ minister to me in the midst of those trials?” And perhaps even, “What effect has that had on those around me?

Example: I was given a Priesthood blessing with a promise that some of my emotional scars would disappear to the point that it would be as if I had never been wounded. This has come to be true.

5. See the Savior

The obvious place where we see the Savior is with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the midst of the fiery furnace.

The men killed by the flames of the furnace alludes to Transfiguration: That no man can stand in the presence of God except he be changed spiritually. Shadrach and friends could withstand the heavenly fire, but their executors could not.

We also see Him when Shadrach and friends assert BUT IF NOT, submitting to God’s will by the giving of their lives for what they know to be right. The difference here is that when Christ submitted and accepted the bitter cup He was not rescued. He carried it through to the death, atoning for each of us in the process. We have a rescuer and a Savior, yet He did not. He later showed forth his marvelous power by taking his life up again and resurrecting, creating a way for each of us, regardless of life’s circumstances and trials and disease and affliction, to emerge with perfect bodies in the resurrection.

I know that the Savior lives. I know that he comes to us in our trials.
I’ve felt him minister to me in the depths of my own fiery furnaces. I’ve seen him deliver me from pain, sorrow, heartache, and sin. I know that he sacrificed himself and his life for each one of us. I know that he expects each of us to stand as a witness for him, as living examples of his teachings and his atonement. I know we can hear His voice as we immerse ourselves in his scriptures.


Cari said...

Beautiful lesson. Excellent structure. Perfect example of how to teach with scriptures, likening them, as we have been counseled. I'd love to have experienced the delivery.

Brillig said...

This is powerful stuff, my dear friend. Thanks for pointing me in this direction tonight! I'm glad I got to catch a glimpse of today's brilliance.