March 21, 2019
by Chris Brown
Daniel 3:19-30; Psalm 63:1-8When Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar constructed a golden statue with a requirement that all of the subjects of his kingdom assemble and bow down before it upon completion, we are all too familiar with the fate of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for their refusal to pay homage. Feeling taunted by the three men who proclaimed that their God would deliver them, a raging Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace heated “seven times above the normal”. And yet the God of Abraham, Jacob and Moses miraculously delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the flames, even appearing with them in the furnace.
Was Nebuchadnezzar’s rage or the fiery furnace hotter that day? Shadrach, Mechach and Abednego’s courage threatened Nebuchadnezzar’s vanity and ego. Incited by his peers, Nebuchadnezzar’s anger toward his Jewish subjects quickly turned to rage.
In our society today, we need not look too far to see examples of rage. Hardly a day goes by where we do not bear witness to some form of road rage, a firestorm of raging comments on social media, or toxic rhetoric from those in positions of power.
Psalm 63 is attributed to David when he was in the wilderness of Judah. David had fled a revolt from his own son, Absalom. In the dry Judean Wilderness, David longs to return to Jerusalem and the Temple. He speaks of a “thirsty soul” and God’s “steadfast love that is better than life.” The world rages today because it is thirsty. It is thirsty for answers, thirsty for trust, but even more so, it is thirsty for God’s steadfast love. And yet, while the world rages, God has not abandoned the world. God shows up in the fiery furnace with us or in the wilderness beside us.
Through disciplined practices and with God’s help of sanctifying grace, we are capable of self-control, one of the Fruits of the Spirit. The Season of Lent provides the Church with an intentional and needed opportunity to confront a world full of rage. In his sermon, Awake, Thou that Sleepest, John Wesley prays, “O God, in the midst of wrath, remember mercy! Be glorified in our reformation, not in our destruction.”