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(Part 27)


November 23, 2009

In today’s reading from the book of Daniel, three men of Judah, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), glorify and bless God with one voice (Dan 3:52-56). What occasioned this?

The three had been cast into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar for refusing to worship the golden statue he had set up. But God protected and delivered them, and they were not harmed at all.

Inside the furnace, Azariah prayed aloud. His prayer contains the various aspects of our theme for 2010.

The Almighty! Azariah starts and ends his prayer by acknowledging God for who He is. “Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and glorious forever is your name.” (Dan 3:26). “Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.” (Dan 3:45). At the heart of prayer that reflects our relationship with God, manifested by Azariah’s beginning and ending in his prayer, is an acknowledgment of God and His awesome majesty.

Reverential fear and humility. Because of who God is, the three have the proper posture: “we, your servants, who revere you” (Dan 3:33b); “we fear you” (Dan 3:41b). “But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received” (Dan 3:39). We stand in awe of God, which leads us to kneel or prostrate ourselves in humility before Him.

Justice and righteousness. Azariah confidently calls out to God because he knows what kind of a God He is. “For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper.” (Dan 3:27).

Redemptive suffering. What occasions the miracle is what the three have to suffer. They acknowledge that what is happening is due to the chastisement of God because of the sins of His people. “By a proper judgment you have done all this because of our sins” (Dan 3:28b). But after the extreme test the three had to endure, God reverses not only their situation but the situation of all Judah. King Nebuchadnezzar, who had commanded all to worship an idol, now acknowledged the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and gave protection to Judah in worshiping the true God (Dan 3:95-96).

What is our proper posture in the face of extreme suffering, in the face of seemingly impossible and hopeless situations? It is to trust in God (our theme for 2009). Why? The reason is simple: “those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.” (Dan 3:40c).

What is the basis for our trust? There are so many. Among these: (1) God is just and righteous. (2) In Him is “kindness and great mercy” (Dan 3:42b). (3) He does not “make void (His) covenant” (Dan 3:34b). (4) He keeps His promises (Dan 3:36). (5) He desires to manifest His glory to the whole world through His signs and wonders (Dan 3:43).

But aside from trusting in God, we must ourselves become just and righteous. We must obey His commandments (Dan 3:30). We must turn back from sin and every kind of evil, by which we have departed from God (Dan 3:29). We must “follow (Him) unreservedly” (Dan 3:40b), be in awe of Him, and maintain our relationship with Him in prayer. “And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we pray to you.” (Dan 3:41).

Suffering is God’s gift to His people. Those He loves He chastises and disciplines. But if through our suffering we are brought back to Him, and if we continue to trust in Him, then we will experience redemption. And redemption is not only for us, but for the whole world.

God acts in mysterious ways. He uses our enemies and delivers us over to injustice. “You have handed us over to our enemies, lawless and hateful rebels; to an unjust king, the worst in all the world.” (Dan 3:32). At other times He uses natural calamities to afflict us. At other times, like in the case of Job, He allows Satan to oppress us. We often cannot understand why God has allowed us, His servants who revere Him, to “become a shame and a reproach” (Dan 3:33).

But God merely wants our repentance and our turning back to Him, and for us to live out our covenant in faithfulness. So God delivers us to our enemies, but He also delivers us from our enemies. “Let all those be routed who inflict evils on your servants” (Dan 3:44a).

The end result, for ourselves and for our enemies, and indeed for the whole world, is the shining forth of the glory of God. “Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.” (Dan 3:45). The Almighty!

Even Nebuchadnezzar, the “unjust king, the worst in all the world” (Dan 3:32b), acknowledged that “there is no other God who can rescue like this” (Dan 3:96b). Indeed, he met the living God and experienced transformation. And he himself became an evangelizer! “It has seemed good to me to publish the signs and wonders which the most high God has accomplished in my regard.” (Dan 3:99). And God used him to proclaim His good news to the whole world, “to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on earth” (Dan 3:98).

In the end, King Nebuchadnezzar himself stood in awe of the Almighty.

“How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders; his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures through all generations.” (Dan 3:100)

We can never fully understand the mysterious ways of God, especially when we suffer. But God will accomplish His divine purposes for our lives and for the life of the world. We can only marvel and exclaim: The Almighty! Just and righteous is He!

Let us continue to bless the Lord, for He is “praiseworthy and exalted above all forever” (Dan 3:52a).

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