This week, we're looking at the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace and why King Nebuchadnezzar only called three men out of the fire when he clearly saw four walking around in there. So far, we've looked at how Nebuchadnezzar's fear of an angry God might have kept him from wanting to meet this son of the gods. We've also seen how it might have been easy for the king not to think about God at all and think the faithful Jews were enough to get him the kind of understanding he sought.
Today, we'll introduce a third possibility: maybe Nebuchadnezzar didn't think the son of the gods would listen to him. Maybe he didn't think this God would actually come out of the fire if called. Maybe he just didn't think he had standing to talk to this God at all.
The thing that has always been unique about the Christian God (Judeo-Christian God if we follow His thread through history to before the time of Jesus)is His personal relationship with His people. None of the other gods offered that. None of the other gods operated that way. That's not how the world thought that gods would or should act. And it remains one of our greatest obstacles in convincing the world of our God's very real love.
It's strange, right? Nebuchadnezzar was watching with his own two eyes this son of the gods be physically present to His faithful people, literally helping them right there, right then. This son of the gods stood in a blazing hot furnace with three relative no-name men who called on His name. And as he sits there watching this son of the gods answer the men who called on Him, Nebuchadnezzar still doesn't think this son of the gods will answer him.
Maybe, like we said on Tuesday, he just didn't think he had the standing that these "faithful" Jews had, but let's be honest - these are faithful Jews in exile because of the unrighteousness of their people. They aren't saints. They are fallen men just like the rest of us, clinging as tight as they can to something they know and believe and trust in. We can't let Nebuchadnezzar excuse himself by saying that he's just not as righteous as these men and so God probably doesn't care about him.
We can't let the world hold onto this excuse, either.
But they do. You know they do because you've heard them use it. They don't think God listens to them. They don't think God cares about them. They might watch God work in your life and think how great that would be, but they aren't even willing to try their own relationship with Him because they don't have an understanding of God as being that close to His people. Maybe to His faithful people, His saints, whatever....
And that's why we have to be diligent about narrowing the gap between those of us living the Christian faith and those right now on the outside of it. Because they look at us and think there's something special about us, and for whatever reason, we feed right into that. We put our participation on display and call it righteousness. We emblazon our homes, our cars, our office spaces, even our bodies with the marks of our faith so that it doesn't take much for the world to identify us as Christian...if they want to. We make it so that when they look at our faith, they see our goodness.
Then we wonder how they never come to understand the goodness of God.
If this world doesn't know how approachable, how near, how loving, how invested our God is in His people, it's because we haven't shown them. It's because we haven't made that the talking point of our faith. It's because we haven't centered our faithfulness on His goodness enough for them to understand that our faith isn't about our faith, but about our God.
If this world looks into a blazing furnace and sees our God walking around with us and doesn't think He would do the same for them, we are failing our world and doing a great injustice to our God. If this world sees the son of the gods (the Son of God) coming to our side and thinks, "Man, I'd love to meet that God, but there's no way I could ever speak to Him...there's no way He would ever listen to me," then we are failing our world and doing a great injustice to our God.
There is every chance that Nebuchadnezzar looked into that furnace and saw a god saving His people and still thought to himself there was no way that God would ever save him. And there are a lot of persons in our world watching and thinking the same thing. Which is why it's so important for us to declare Him, to always be pointing to who He is, to making sure there's no way that someone looks at us and thinks God's goodness is because of who we are.
Because we are all but exiles, living in a foreign land and wrestling with our own unrighteousness, clinging as tight as we can to something we know and believe and trust. Thankful, and blessed, that He clings back.