Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 14 2019 - Daniel 3 – The Fiery furnace

Nebuchadnezzar seemed to have been humbled by his dream of the giant statue with its head of gold representing him but which was then reduced to dust by the king and kingdom which God himself was going to set in place. But that humbling does not seem to have lasted long. Rather, the dream seems to have given him the idea of constructing a gigantic statue of his own, about ninety feet tall, this time made entirely of gold and entirely representing him. Nebuchadnezzar had fallen down at Daniel's feet after he had explained the meaning of his dream. Now Nebuchadnezzar demands that people from every nation and every language should bow down to his image. He declared that whoever did not bow down to the image when all manner of musical instrument were played would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

Daniel had been put in charge of all the wise men in Babylon and, "at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chief ministers over the province of Babylon" (2:49). These wise men, or "astrologers" owed their lives to Daniel, but his elevation over them and the promotion of his friends seems to have filled them with envy. They used the demand that all should fall down to worship Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold to raise an accusation against Daniel's friends – perhaps thinking that these were an easier target than Daniel, their boss.

Nebuchadnezzar was furious with rage when he heard that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow down to his image. When challenged by the king they replied (vv. 16-18):

King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

Nebuchadnezzar was blazing with anger and commanded the furnace to be heated seven times hotter. The soldiers throwing the three Jewish men into the furnace were killed by the heat but the three men were seen walking around unharmed in the furnace along with a fourth man who looked "like a son of the gods" (v. 25). The three men were called to come out of the fire and emerged without a mark on them. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the God whom these men served was more powerful than all the gods of Babylon. He then promoted these men.

God does not always intervene to save his people from trouble. Stephen was stoned to death and James, brother of John and leader of the church in Jerusalem, was put to death by Herod – though Peter was saved from prison. We cannot presume that God will rescue us from all pain and harm, but we can be confident that the Lord Jesus Christ is with us in every situation we are called to face. I believe that it was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus who was with these three men in the furnace and he has also promised never to forsake us:

This is what the LORD says …
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God. (Isaiah 43:1-3)

Living God, thank you that you came to live and to walk among us in the person of the Lord Jesus. Thank you that he endured the worst that human beings can inflict on one another and has promised to be with us in all our trials. Help us by your Spirit to have faith like the three men we read of today, to trust in you and to be faithful to you even in the most difficult of circumstances. May our words and actions bring others to acknowledge that you are the living God. 

Sep 14 2013 - Galatians 1:1-24 – Rescued

Paul’s letter to the Galatians may well be the first or oldest of all the writings in the New Testament. Paul is writing to the churches which he had planted during his first missionary journey. He writes to those who had joyfully received the message he had preached to them; to those who had eagerly placed their faith and hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now they were being led astray by other Jewish teachers who had told them that they must be circumcised and obey all manner of Jewish laws and regulations if they were to be accepted as being part of God’s family. They are being drawn away from the simplicity of the gospel.

Paul will have many critical things to say to the churches of Galatia. But his message to them is not a negative one. Paul is intent upon emphasising the blessings which God has freely poured out upon us in Christ, and that is how he begins this letter; “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Galatians 1:3-5).

Jesus gave himself for our sins. He took upon himself the punishment our sins deserved, setting us free from condemnation and reconciling us to God. But this wonderful message of forgiveness is only part of the story. He came to “rescue us from the present evil age” – from the things that characterise the present age; its obsession with money, sex, power and personal fulfilment. As God rescued Israel from Egypt, so God sent his Son to rescue us from the tyranny of this present evil age and to bring us into the kingdom of his Son. We are called to be kingdom people – to live by a different Spirit and to march to the beat of the heart of God. It is his grace that frees us and enables us to live this new life and it is his peace which gives us joy and delight in following Jesus to glory.

At least, that’s how it should be. But we can all too often be like Israel in the wilderness who looked back with distorted vision to the life from which they had been rescued: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5). “Surely,” we say to ourselves, “this present age is not really ‘evil’. We know that we will be rescued from this present world when Jesus comes again, but right now we just have to get on living in it as best we can.” With such self-deceptive arguments we allow the values of this present age to shape our own thinking and behaviour rather than being transformed by the gospel. We diminish the work of Christ and make light of the power of the gospel to make a real difference to the way we live.

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:2 The Message)

There are many ways to be turned away from the simplicity of the gospel and the freedom given us in Christ.

Father God, show me what it means for me today that I have been rescued from this present evil age to live in the freedom, grace and joy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peter Misselbrook