WEDNESDAY OF THE FIFTH WEEK OF LENT
READ: DANIEL 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
King Nebuchadnezzar said: "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you will not serve my god, or worship the golden statue that I set up? Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made, whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet, flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe, and all the other musical instruments; otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace; and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue that you set up." King Nebuchadnezzar's face became livid with utter rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual and had some of the strongest men in his army bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and cast them into the white-hot furnace. Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and asked his nobles, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" "Assuredly, O king," they answered. "But," he replied, "I see four men unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire, and the fourth looks like a son of God." Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him; they disobeyed the royal command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God."
"I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me." This is the First Commandment. And in our reading today, we see the witness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who live by this commandment, even to the point of accepting death in a fiery furnace. Their words, "we will not serve your god" can and should be a reminder, a challenge, and an encouragement for us.
We may not be asked to worship a golden statue, but every day of our lives, we are invited to worship other gods. Sometimes the other gods come in the form of entertainment--Netflix, online shopping, social media. Other times, the other gods can be people in our lives. The other gods can be sports, money, notoriety, success, sin. And perhaps the greatest other god is our own self: our comfort, our schedules, our desires. The other god is anything that we place ahead of our relationship and our commitment to our God, the true God.
We can each probably easily identify the other gods in our lives, but the hard part comes in saying, "We will not serve" to these gods. Why? Because sometimes we are spiritually lazy. Sometimes we just don't feel like putting in the effort of re-prioritizing our lives. Sometimes we are crippled by fear of what people will think or what it will cost to actually put Jesus first, to actually love Him above everything else.
But more often than not, we worship other gods because we forget who our God really is. We forget that what every other god offers just can't compare to what He offers us. We forget that "our hearts are restless until they rest in you, O God" (St. Augustine). Has anyone in your life loved you with truly unconditional love, at every moment? Has your i-Phone ever brought you peace beyond all understanding? Has your favorite show ever been able to speak to you the words of eternal life? Has your bank account ever been able to offer you salvation? And yet, so often we place these "gods" ahead of the One who does offer us these things.
God wants our worship. Not because He is in need of it, but because He loves us and He knows the freedom, the joy, and the peace we will find when He is first in our hearts. Today, let us ask for the grace to see the things, the commitments, and the people that we are putting ahead of Jesus. And when the struggle comes, as it certainly will, let us take heart. Let us remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, "unfettered and unhurt, walking in the fire" and believe that when we make these hard decisions, these decisions to put Jesus first, ahead of all else, we can be assured of one truth: that we do not make that decision alone. It is then that He is closest. "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name: you are mine. When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you" (Isaiah 43:1-2). You are His. You are first in His Heart. And He wants to be first in yours.
What are the other gods in your life?
What scares you about saying "we will not serve" to those gods?
What things would have to change in order for you to put Jesus first in your life?
Why do you find it worth it? What does Jesus give you that nothing else does?
R. Glory and praise for ever! "Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; And blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages." "Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. "Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever." "Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne upon the cherubim; praiseworthy and exalted above all forever." "Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven, praiseworthy and glorious forever." R. Glory and praise for ever!
How will you say no to one "other god" today?
When we say 'God' we confess a constant, unchangeable being, always the same, faithful and just, without any evil...He is almighty, merciful, and infinitely beneficent. Who could not place all hope in him? Who could not love him when contemplating the treasures of goodness and love he has poured out on us?