The God Who is Able

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“…and who is the god that shall deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:15

 
Of all the questions that King Nebuchadnezzar could have asked, this is the most appropriate. I have to thank the king for asking this question and setting up this whole situation to demonstrate the answer. Because there is no god who can deliver us. But there is one God who can. And it happens to be the same God who placed King Nebuchadnezzar on the throne for such a time as this, whether the king wants to give Him credit or not.

 
Now I have no idea whether this image, this grand idol, that he made was of himself or a god of his choosing. I’m not sure if that really matters. But to set oneself up as a god is a pretty dangerous image of oneself to have. And there will come a point when the one true God will show Himself just that. Hopefully, that’s before it’s too late for the self-elevated ones, that it’s while there is still time to turn to Him instead.

 
But there is more to this story than Nebuchadnezzar’s self-image or than setting up idols. It’s a story of a whole society falling down before a false idol at the command of a “strong man” because of fear. Why would the people fall down before this idol? Because they were afraid of being thrown into a fiery furnace. They were afraid of death. They were afraid of losing their life, their families, their wealth, their position. Rich or poor, they would lose it all by the power of death. So all the people fell down at the sound. Every people group represented bowed. All those people. All except three Jews.

 
Now there were other Jews who did bow down. I know that because there were representatives from every group, from every nation that was there, from every language that was represented there. That’s what was meant by all. And that makes me wonder. How long of a warning did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have to prepare? Did they lie awake at night knowing this moment was coming? Did they discuss what their response would be with fellow Jews? Did their stomachs turn thinking about it? I mean, even Jesus tormented over going to the cross so much so that He sweat drops of blood.

 

What of these men? Was it easy to remain standing when the whole world around them bowed down? I think I would have to be delusional to think this was easy for them.
Yet I do know that these men had made a resolve earlier in their lives, along with Daniel, to glorify the Lord. And it appears that the same resolve remained foremost in their lives. So, because of this resolve, it was told to the king that there were these particular Jews in high position, these three upstarts, who had disregarded the king, who didn’t serve his gods, and who would not bow down and worship the image per his command.

 
You just don’t do that or tell that to a king. He was enraged and commanded they be brought before him. “Is this true? I’m going to give you a second chance, but if you still don’t, it’s the furnace for you!” And I’m wondering why he would give them a second chance? Did he not truly trust the Chaldean accusers? Did he know the character of these three Jews? Even in his fury, did he actually care? Why didn’t he just throw them right in? Was truth and justice actually important to him?

 
The second chance was not accepted. Why not? I think to understand what is happening here, we have to jump back to chapter one and remember who these three young men are. These three young men are not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Those are their Babylonian names and we’re going to see how important that is. But even more important are their Hebrew names. Shadrach’s real name was Hananiah. It means God has favoured or God is gracious. Remember that. Meshach’s real name was Mishael which means “Who is like God?” And Abednego’s real name was Azariah, meaning “God has helped.” Hold those thoughts. See, names were very important in the ancient world. Names were a representation of who you were. This is what these young men had been brought up to believe and to live in their lives.

 
But now, enter captivity, and Babylon thought, “Ha, the jokes on you guys!” The goal was to meld them to the new culture. So they were given new names. Now pay attention here to the irony of the new names. Hananiah, “God is favoured” became Shadrach, “Command of the Moon-God.” Mishael, “Who is like God?” became “Who is what Aku is?” And Azariah, “God has helped” became Abednego, “Servant of Nabu (the Babylonian god of wisdom).” That’s a funny joke, isn’t it?

 
But the problem was that changing their names didn’t make them forget who they really were. They remained God’s children, regardless of their new names. Which brings me to their answer to King Nebuchadnezzar. I looked back at some of the Jewish translations of 3:17 as well as the King James Version, and do you realize it doesn’t say God is able to deliver us? It says, “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, He will deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and out of thy hand, O King.” (Daniel 3:17 JPS) At first I thought, I don’t like that. But now it makes so much sense.

 
It’s like they were setting up Nebuchadnezzar and all of Babylon. “Let’s see who is the god who is able to deliver. Is it yours? Or is it ours? Who is God? Let’s see. If our God whom we serve is God, He will be able to deliver us from the fire and from you. If your gods are god, then we are doomed. If you are god, then we are doomed. So let’s see who is the true God? Let’s see if the Moon-god, or Aku, or Nabu are able here or if only God is able. Let’s see who the joke is really on.”

 
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were doing more than taking a stand of faith here. This was about more than three young men being strong on the part of their God. This was about displaying who God was before a whole nation. This was taking back the glory of God who had been ridiculed since they arrived. This was giving God the chance to shine as God before and over this pagan nation and all those that were bowing down to it. It was an opportunity to see God for who He really is and not just what we want to make Him to be.

 
Nebuchadnezzar had asked, “who is the god that shall deliver you out of my hands?” “Our God, Sir, if He alone is God is the One who is able to deliver us. If He is the true God, then He will deliver us from the furnace and from you. If He is not God, He won’t be able to deliver us and we’ll burn. So throw us in, because we’re putting our whole lives into the belief that He is God. We’re willing for you to use us as the guinea pigs, we believe so strongly. Because if it isn’t so, we might as well burn in the furnace anyway, because what would there be to live for?” That’s my paraphrase. You can check out Daniel 3 for their recorded words.

 
The king was so infuriated that he heated up the furnace seven times hotter than usual. He had them thrown in right there. It was so hot that the three guards tossing them in, where killed by the heat. But in they went. And among those amazing circumstances, Nebuchadnezzar is alarmed because though he sent three men inside the furnace, there were now four walking around inside, not burning up! And the other advisors saw and acknowledged it also. And none of those inside were hurt, and “the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” In other words, the fourth man resembled divinity, specifically God as though he were the son of God. Now maybe, Nebuchadnezzar was just saying he resembled divinity as in any son of any god, but I don’t think so. Don’t forget the play on words that was going on, and they all realized the play on words. It wasn’t a mistake. The Babylonians were mocking the God of the Hebrews and now the God of the Hebrews was turning the tables.

 
At that realization, Nebuchadnezzar calls the three men out of the furnace. They come out without even a smoke smell and no evidence of having been in the fire. Their hair and cloaks and bodies were unscathed. And right away, the king speaks, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed’nego, who has sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king’s word, and have yielded their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God…because there is no other god that is able to deliver after this sort.” He didn’t know Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s real names but He saw their real God. He knew he hadn’t just seen any god. No god could do what God just did.

 
I guess here is what I get today, Lord. My outcome isn’t what I ought to look to. I ought to always be looking to Your glory.  How can I uphold You and Your image in the world around me when everyone else is bowing down before false idols? How I can I take my eyes off of me and focus them on You so that my actions shine You forth before people and draw them to You? How can I make my life and actions not point to me, but show You for all that You are? No matter what the world tries to feed me, do I really know who I am in You? Do I really know who You are? Do I really believe, “Who is like God?” Does my life demonstrate that? Am I willing to offer my life to give You opportunity to show who You really are? Would I be willing to die to not only my self, but to actually die if it would show the kind of God You are?

 
How long will I let the world use me as a pawn to mock You? Will I wear the name that the world gives me or will I display who I am in You by letting You be You at every opportunity no matter the cost? My name is important, but more important is Your name, God, because it’s all that You are. But You promise to give us new names, so special that only You and I know the measure of it, because it’s that personal. Listen, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the called out ones; to him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows except he that receives it.” It’s that personal, and so ought my relationship be with You God.

From God Alone (Vindication Part 2)

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“But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the LORD; their vindication will come from me. I, the LORD, have spoken!” (Isaiah 54:17) New Living Translation

How is that for a promise!  Your vindication will come for Your children, for Your servants.  You have spoken it and all that You have ever spoken will come to pass.  But I had better keep in mind David’s words in Psalm 24:3-4.  “Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place?  The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god.  They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior.”  So, if I’m looking for vindication, howare my hands and heart?

Maybe I really need to understand what vindication means.  I mean, how often do I really use this word?  And if I’m going to ask for it, well, I ought to know what I’m really asking for.  Why?  Because what if I’m asking for something I don’t deserve?  If I ask “amiss” I won’t get what I’m asking for.  I better make sure I’m lined up with the requirements.  So vindication is being validated, justified, upheld, rectified, or exonerated.  But it’s never something I do for myself.  This, at least in Your case, Lord, is something that You alone can do for me.  You alone can take my times of being misunderstood, unappreciated, ignored, questioned, oppressed, hurt, belittled, slandered, short-changed, and wrongly accused and set me above like one of Your lights so the world will know the truth.

But do I understand enough about vindication to know what You promise, Lord?  Do I have the right expectations?  Do I have Your expectations?  Maybe there are some things that I should know.  My brother in the Lord and wonderful teacher, Bo Barredo, shared seven things the other night that we need to know.  I would like to share them also, because when we receive a wonderful gift, it’s only right to share it.  So let’s start with the first.

Well, the first truth I’d like to share is that vindication comes from God alone.  Like I said, it’s not something I can do for myself.  There’s a reason I can’t vindicate myself before others.  I can’t stand as my own witness before my accusers.  You, Lord, established this precept, “On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness.”  (Deuteronomy 17:6)  You reiterate that again in Deut. 19:15, “One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  And it’s not just supported in the Old Testament.  Paul reiterates this precept in 2 Corinthians 13:1, “This will be my third visit to you. ‘Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'”  But you know, the witnesses matter.  And the only witnesses that can truly vindicate as we’re looking for are You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  My witness isn’t always true.  Other peoples’ witnesses aren’t always true.  But Your witness is ALWAYS true; You see into the heart of the matter every time.  Well, actually, I guess we have two Witnesses because the Lord is our Judge.  You, Lord, take the testimony of Your Witnesses, who dwell in us, and You vindicate us based on their testimony.

This isn’t anything new.  You did it for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that year that Nebuchadnezzar thought it was a bright idea to raise up a golden idol of himself and call all the people to bow down and worship it at the grand unveiling.  And here were these three young Hebrew men who had been taken as prisoners from Israel’s captivity and trained as “wise men” in the court.  But somehow, they kept their focus on the God of Israel and didn’t give in to all the teaching and the god’s of the culture.  Yet, neither were they bitter men.  I know that because of the way they spoke to the king.  Let’s go back and read from Daniel 3:14-30.

Now the mandate had gone out that whoever didn’t fall down and worship at the sound of the music would, at that same hour, be cast into the middle of a burning fiery furnace.  Well, when the music sounded and everyone bowed, there were three men left standing, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  And there were some “bitter” Chaldeans in the crowd.  Let me tell you why I say that.  These Chaldeans came to the King to accuse these Jews.  Now the Hebrew word used to describe how they did that is the word “qrat.”  Do you know what it means?  It means “chew up, devour.”  So the intent of their heart was “slightly” different than the intent of our three young men.  Now, these men were out for damage.  And they mixed truth with lie to enfuriate the king against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They told the king that these men didn’t regard his authority and that they didn’t bow to the image.  The truth is that they didn’t bow.  But believe me, these men understood totally and respected the authority of the king.

So the king calls these servants before him, and he’s really ticked off.  Yes, he’s really angry.  “Is it really true that you don’t worship my gods and that you didn’t bow down to my image?  I’ll give you one more chance to bow down and submit to my ultimate authority or else you go to the fiery furnace!”  Now, listen to their response.  “King, we don’t have to take time to think this over.  We know our answer.   We serve One God and He alone is able to deliver us from your fiery furnace, and He alone can deliver us from your hand.  But even if He doesn’t, we cannot and will not serve anyone else but Him.” (my paraphrase)  There was no disrespect toward the king.  There was only truth about why they couldn’t bow.  There was only upholding of the Lord.  No bitterness.  No resentment.  Just obedience and love for God.  Just faithfulness to the One who is above all.

And what did that get them?  Well, Nebuchadnezzar thought it was getting them death in the fiery furnace.  He was so angry he heated it up seven times hotter than normal.  His fury shone and his face raged against them.  The furnace was so hot that the men who tied their hands and threw them in the furnace died instantly from the heat.  But behind the closed door, through the window, Nebuchadnezzar was amazed.  “Weren’t three men thrown in?  Look, there is a fourth walking with them, and He is as the Son of God!”  I think his “visage” changed again right then.  He called the men out.  He had to call them.  I mean, who could release them?  No one else could come anywhere near them!  They came forth, the three, unsinged, no smoke smell, the ropes gone.  Stop and think about that.  Who opened the fiery door?  Who walked where the others were killed only coming close to the fire?  Yet here Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego just come forth out of the midst of the fire.

Why?  How?  Because God was vindicating them.  And in vidicating them, He was vindicating Himself.  They had stood up for Him.  But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were just men, just like us.  And in order for others to see God, well, they have to see Him and not us.  Maybe that’s what vindication is all about.  Maybe it’s about us being instruments of showing who God really is.  But first, in order to do that, I have to see and know who You really are.  Well, these men knew and they stood up for the truth they knew in You.  And You stood up and showed that truth to be TRUE before a whole nation.

And look at the result of Your vindication done Your way by Your hand and by Your power.  “Then Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded thier bodies, that they might not serve nor worhip any god, except their own God.  Therefore I made a decree, that every people, nation, language, which speaks any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.’  Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.”  How is that for vindication!  Not only were they delivered from the furnace, but Your vindication was a witness to the king and a whole nation.  Your witness, Lord, turned the heart of a proud king toward You.  And…You elevated the position of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Babylonian court!

Well, Lord, let me get that one point for today.  Let me understand that You alone are the One who provides vindication.  But let me also remember that my intent matters, the cleanness of my heart and hands matters.  And I think I want to ask You to remind me one more thing.  When I cry out for vindication, let it not be about me and my image that I’m worried about.  Let me cry out that You would be vindicated, Lord.  Let me cry out for You to be made great, for You to be proclaimed by my actions and my words.  Because it wasn’t about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, well, not in their hearts.  It was always about standing up and letting You alone be God in their life.  So let me follow in their example.  Let my life be about standing up for You and Your righteousness and all that You are.  Let me be willing to pay whatever the cost.  I want to trust in You no matter what is going on around me and I want to live in that trust.  And when others call me on that and try to knock me off that trust, well, Lord, vindicate me for Your glory as You give  me the strength to stand firm in You.