...AND HOW THEY BECAME OUR OWN
First, a reading from Daniel 3:
Then Nebuchadnezzar in a fit of rage demanded that they bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before him. So they brought them before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t serve my gods and that you don’t pay homage to the golden statue that I erected? Now if you are ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the statue that I had made. If you don’t pay homage to it, you will immediately be thrown into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. Now, who is that god who can rescue you from my power?”
(If you've never read the rest of the story, they make it through the fires of Babylon just fine.)
Has it ever struck you that we typically frame this story entirely in the sense of "Which God is the real God?" And thus we do not appreciate what it has to say concerning "What is this real God LIKE?"
Has it ever struck you that many Christians around us believe God to be much the same as that Babylonian idol? That many Christians believe in "God" in the sense of a mythic icon - one bound dynamically to a certain place (temple court, church), who demands of all, "Worship me... under these precise circumstances... and in this context... in a way that is comfortable and familiar to those around you... Or you're going to burn. You're going to fry."
Do we not see the danger
of promoting the
same God as Babylon
under a different name?
Do we not see that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are not just standing up to the Babylonian *version* of that God, but to that notion of God in general? Do we not see the lunacy of our arguing to people that only OUR bloodthirsty God is the real God? And where did we get the idea that worshiping the character and person of this God under one semantic or name is bad, while under another, it is good and necessary?
God is not a magic word.
And God is not looking for subscribers TO a magic word. God is the still small voice. God is the One gently reaching and moving us to see greater things with better eyes...
God is illumination. God is love.
While we often share this story of these three men being saved through the fires of Babylon, and while we often see its beauty on display as it shows the power of the living God-Who-Is-One to save... We don't often revel in what the story has to say about the character of the "god" being put forth by Babylon. We don't often see how similar it is to the character of the god so many of our brothers and sisters cling to.
You see, Nebuchadnezzar asked an important question.
He asked, "Now, who is that god who can rescue you from my power?”
I'll tell you who this God is...
Because this is the God who saves the persecuted and oppressed - who does not incinerate all those who were in opposition (though Nebuchadnezzar certainly does). This is the God who preserves the testimony of those standing up for justice and tolerance despite their captivity in Empire. This is the God who allows those who witnessed time, and doesn't force conformity under threat of immediate death. This is a God who always preserves a remnant of the truth - no matter how bad things get and no matter how many die beautifully under the thumb of the fearful and the ruthless who subjugate them.
...This is the God revealed in Jesus.
And for anyone who believes, this should mean that, in revisiting the Old Testament narrative, we see more than just the EXISTENCE of those Babylonian gods on trial... Because it becomes clear that there is a problem with the CHARACTER and NATURE of these gods under any name.
Through the lens of Jesus, we might see some of the false Babylonian gods with more clarity. Through the lens of Jesus, we might see some of our own false gods with more clarity as well.
Is Jesus the revelation of God we cling to? Is Jesus our understanding and experience of the God in whom - as Paul says - "we live and move and have our being"? Or do we still cling to some former "god," and merely place that idol under a different name?