Todays reflection is based on that epic Old Testament story in the Book Daniel of the fiery furnace, of King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – for the full reading click here.
After building a giant golden image King Nebuchadnezzar insists that at the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music all must fall down and worship the image. All goes to plan for the King until he hears that Jewish members of his Babylon Court Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to comply. Even when threatened with being thrown into a furnace they insist their God will save them, even if he does not they are prepared to die rather than worship anything other then their God.
So bound, the three are thrown in a furnace that has been turned up 7 times higher than usual, so hot the soldiers escorting them are instantly killed. The King is amazed that he sees them walking around the furnace, and not just three but a forth who ‘looks like a son of God’, they come out of the furnace without even a hair on their head singed.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
It is a wonderful account and often I reflect on the faith and strength of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – today I have been particularly struck by the actions of King Nebuchadnezzar.
The story begins with him self absorbed, self obsessed – god of his own life, the centre of the universe in his own mind. The story ends with him praising God, realising the world is bigger, better and more incredible than he could ever have imagined. Nebuchadnezzar sees the bigger picture.
In the last 2 weeks I have seen a huge change in the way people communicate and think, both within our church family and the wider community. Self isolation and social distancing has brought us together in a new and special way. We are reaching out in new ways, phoning friends and family more, crowdfunding and supporting others. We are staying in so that we can save other peoples lives, staying in so we can care for the amazing NHS staff who care for us. Standing and applauding the NHS, lighting canfles in windows all smacks of us being a better people, seeing the bigger picture – a much bigger picture.
We believe of course that the bigger picture leads us to a loving God, the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, the God who sent his son Jesus Christ to save us, to beat death forever. I encourage you all to look to that bigger picture .
As we continue in Passiontide I leave you with Isaac Watts incredible hymn that picks up our theme and looks to the biggest picture there is:
When I survey the wondrous cross On which the Prince of Glory died
My richest gain I count but loss And pour contempt on all my pride
Forbid me Lord that I should boast Save in the death of Christ, my God
All the vain things that charm me most I sacrifice them to His blood
See, from His head, His hands, His feet Sorrow and love flow mingled down
Did e’er such love and Sorrow meet Or thorns compose so rich a crown
Were the whole realm of nature mine That were an offering far too small
Love so amazing, so divine Demands my soul, my life, my all
Your friend and Vicar,