Today’s Reading: Daniel 3-4, Psalm 137
The number of captives taken to Babylon in the 17th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was 3,023. Then in Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year he took 832 more. In Nebuchadnezzar’s 23rd year he sent Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, who took 745 more – a total of 4,600 captives in all. – Jeremiah 52:28-30
Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem.
We put away our harps, hanging them on branches of poplar trees.
For our captors demanded a song from us.
Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!”
But how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to play the harp..
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you,
if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy. – Psalm 137
Let’s go back to where we left off in the book of Daniel, now in the context of the people of Israel and Judah being carried off into exile. Let’s look again at the bold courage of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When faced with the possibility of being thrown into the fire if they did not bow and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue, these young Hebrews said with confidence, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve IS ABLE to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. BUT EVEN IF HE DOESN’T, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will NEVER serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
Life will be much easier for this control freak if I can just learn how to say – “But even if He doesn’t…” (Daniel 3:18). Daily I have to let go of the reins and trust that God reigns. I must let go of my need to manipulate and control a situation and let Him be Lord saying – I know that the God I serve is able to save and rescue me by His power but, even if He doesn’t, I will never serve anyone but Him. I will trust Him.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a similar lesson to learn, again through the interpretation of a dream: A large tree was growing very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for the whole world to see. It had fresh green leaves, was loaded with fruit, and offered shade to wild animals and a home for the birds nestled in its branches. This tree was large enough to feed all people.
But then a holy messenger came down from heaven shouting, “Cut down the tree and lop off its branches! Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit! Chase the wild animals from its shade and the birds from its branches. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground…For seven periods of time, let him have the mind of a wild animal instead of the mind of a human. For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses – even to the lowliest of people.” – Daniel 4: 14-17
Daniel was frightened by the meaning of the dream, knowing it would be King Nebuchadnezzar who would be cut down and made to live like a wild animal for a time – until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses (Daniel 4:25). Daniel interpreted the dream and advised the king to stop sinning and do what is right – to break from his wicked past and be merciful to the poor.
Now let’s not forget the context here. Daniel is a refuge. He has been taken from his home into captivity and then, again, taken away from his family to be assigned to the royal service of King Nebuchadnezzar, a very selfish and evil man. Interpreting this dream took courage and the kind of faith that says – I believe my God will rescue me, but EVEN IF HE DOESN’T…
The dream got the king’s attention but his attitude remained the same and is revealed in this statement he made while looking out across the city: “Look at this great city of Babylon! By MY OWN mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.”
While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” – Daniel 4:30-32
Now the king reigning over God’s people, who were experiencing their sentence of 70 years of exile, was experiencing his own exile of 7 years. When his sanity returned and he was given back the throne, his attitude had changed. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” – Daniel 4:37. He had learned the hard way that God was in control and he was not, a lesson I have had to daily learn from my Savior and Lord.
Lord, I have no idea what you have ahead, but it is the desire of my heart to give you the reins. I want nothing more than for you to be in charge. No matter what I face, I want to say with confidence that YOU ARE ABLE. Lord, give me the strength in every situation to say “But even if He doesn’t…” I long to trust you THAT much! Reveal any pride in my life and replace it with humility. Help me to let go of the reins of my life, of my family, of my friends, of my job…and trust YOU – the God who reigns!
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were right to trust God. In anger, King Nebuchadnezzar did throw them into the furnace, which he had heated seven times hotter than usual – that’s how angry he was! But as the king looked into the fire, he saw four men walking around – unbound and unharmed! He called for the young Hebrews to come out of the fire and that is exactly what they did. The fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! – Daniel 3:27b
That is what our God is capable of. He can rescue us and chances are He will rescue us. “But even if He doesn’t…” are you willing to serve Him? Are you willing to trust Him even if there is a furnace ahead for you? Even if you don’t know how things will turn out in the end, are you willing to say with confidence that you will never serve anyone else but Him? Will you let go of the reins and trust in the God who reigns?