"I know You're able,
and I know You can;
save through the fire,
with Your mighty hand;
but even in You don't,
my hope is You alone..."
This week's Bible lesson includes the story of the three Hebrew boys -- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego -- and their time in the "fiery furnace." I love this story. I love these boys.
Mercy Me's recording of "Even If" always brings their story alive for me.
My favorite part of this story happens even before they are tossed into the flames to walk about unsinged - with "the form of the fourth." It happens in a conversation they have with King Nebuchadnezzar who has confronted them about their resistance to bowing down to his idols whenever they hear music -- even at the expense of being tortured and burned in a furnace:
"Is it true, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
O, Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not..."
Yup, that's the part I love. "But if not..."
Theirs is not a blind belief. It is not about, "God will deliver us from the fire -- we just know he will." It is about loving and serving God -- even if that means the immolation of their bodies.
There are two things that have inspired me in a new way from this story. The first is the king's demand that, "at whatever time you hear the sound of the the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that I have set up. And whoso falleth not down shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."
Isn't this what false laws about health, finance, relationships, government - threaten every day. At what time you feel pain, fall down and worship - listen to and heed the advice of - materials laws, or you will be cast into the furnace of death.
At what time you see a smaller number in your bank account, fall down and worship the golden image of false economic forecasts, salary projections, working for "the man," -- or you will be cast into the fire of poverty, hunger, homelessness.
At what time you hear the sound of alarming news, rumors, or opinions of any kind -- bow down to anger and resentment, or you will be vulnerable, thought ridiculous, or cast into a pit of despair that you will never get out of.
But these arrogant ultimatums have no power behind them. They can only attempt to threaten and bully us into capitulating to their demands. They cannot stop us from loving, extending our compassion, trusting in good, refusing to become bitter or hopeless. There is so much more to this insight -- but I will leave it there.
The second insight has to do with the boys' experience after having refused to bow down. The story follows that, "Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, their hats and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace." And Nebuchadnezzar seeing them walking about in the fire says, "Did we not cast three men into the furnace? Lo, I see four men loose..."
I have written before about this fourth man who is, as Nebuchadnezzar exclaims, "like the Son of God." But today's inspiration is about the men being loose from their bindings.
They cast these sweet boys into the fire, bound. But then, they are walking loose of those bindings. And later we learn that although they are still in the fire, loosed from the bindings -- coats, hosen, hats, and other garments -- those very bindings are not changed, nor do they even carry the smell of fire.
Even those bindings - which were used by the king's men to hold them captive - were spared from the effects of the fire. Because their original purpose was good -- providing cover from sun, protection from the elements, covering their nakedness -- they could not be transformed into the trappings of their captors, used for restraint, or contribute to their destruction.
Even the fire itself was good and pure -- cooking meals, providing warmth, heating water, giving light. It's goodness could not be bound up in a false garment of pain and destruction -- or have its purpose twisted by fear and hatred.
In her primary work, Science and Health with Key to the Scripture, Mary Baker Eddy writes:"
"The everlasting I am
is not bounded nor compressed
within the narrow limits
of physical humanity..."
Not only were they not bounded by their garments, but neither was their sense of "I am." Their consciousness of Love -- of being, was never bounded nor compressed within the narrow limits of physical humanity. They knew that neither the demands of the king, or the belief that their lives were bound to bodies, garments, or physical laws -- could constrict their right to love and trust God.
And when their trust in the "form of the fourth" was apparent, even the king and his princes, governors, captains, and counsellors saw that God was with them -- right in the midst of the fire. Nothing they had done to those boys, could separate them from God's loving presence. They had always known it, now everyone else knew it too.
The last six months have given us ample opportunity to say, "but even if..." Not as a means to an end: "if we say no to the king, we will be lifted out of this fire." But with a sweet sense of "God is here -- with us all -- in the fire." We are loose from the bindings of fear, false laws, and the demanding dictates of personal sense.
I love these boys. I am so grateful for their example of a deep-centered knowing, an unwavering sense that God was with them -- wherever, whenever, whatever -- always.
offered with Love,