Thursday, October 03, 2013

Who Can Deliver You? Jesus Seen in Daniel 3

One of the most exciting things I've learned over the last several years is the way all of Scripture points to Jesus. For most of my life, I had this understanding that New Testament = Jesus, and Old Testament = morality stories about various characters, plus a handful of amazing prophecies pointing to Jesus (like Isaiah 9, for example).

But in reality, the entire Bible is about Jesus--from Genesis to Revelation, the writers are looking forward to His coming, describing His work here on earth, pointing back to His life and death, or anticipating His final return. Jesus Himself told the Jews that the Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament) "bear witness about me" (John 5:39). And after He died and rose again, as He walked with His disciples on the road to Emmaus, "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27).

When I began to read Scripture through this lens, I was amazed at how clearly and beautifully I could see Jesus in familiar Old Testament stories. So one of my goals for this month is to give you a taste of reading the Bible in search of Jesus, and inspire you to dig in and look for Him yourself!

If you attended Sunday school as a child, you're probably familiar with the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. These three friends, exiled from Jerusalem and taken into the king's court in Babylon, were determined to worship God alone, regardless of the wicked culture around them. When King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image and commanded that everyone bow to it, these three simply ignored him. Furious, the king demanded that they worship the image or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Still they refused:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v. 16-18).

At this point the king went ballistic. After ordering the furnace overheated to the point that just standing near it killed his own servants, he had Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego (can we just go all VeggieTales at this point and call them Rack, Shack and Benny?) thrown into the flames. But to his amazement, they were unharmed. They emerged without even smelling like smoke, and Nebuchadnezzar (to his credit) acknowledged the supremacy of their God above all others.

Typically our take-away from a story like this is along the lines of, "Be like Rack, Shack and Benny! Don't bow down to false gods--remain faithful to God and trust that He can save you from wicked men!"

This is true. It's good advice. But casting these guys as the heroes of the story falls far short of recognizing the glory of the true Hero of this and every story.

Some say that the "fourth figure" seen walking in the flames with the three friends (v. 25) may have been a pre-incarnational Christ; we don't really know. But ultimately Jesus did not just go into the fire *with* His people. He endured the flames *instead of* His people. Consider:

Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace after wicked men conspired against them. They chose to remain faithful to God, not knowing whether He would deliver them. As it turned out, they escaped unharmed.

...Jesus, on the other hand? He, too, was sentenced to execution after wicked men conspired against Him. Unlike the men in Daniel 3, Jesus had the power to save Himself, yet willingly submitted to the torture. He chose to remain faithful to God even knowing that God would NOT deliver Him. And He suffered the fullness of God's wrath, harmed beyond what any human has ever known.

Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were delivered as they trusted in God.

...Jesus, on the other hand? He was the only man ever whose trust in God was perfect, without wavering, never doubting--yet God did *not* deliver Him--because by His suffering, He could deliver forever those whose trust is weak and faltering.

I don't know about you, but that inspires my trust...and my awe, and my much more. King Nebuchadnezzar asks the question, "Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" (v.15) The answer is glorious: The God who will put His own Son, His very self, into your hands in my place. "He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again" (2 Corinthians 1:10).

 [This post is part of the series "31 Days of Seeing Jesus"--click here for a list of all posts.]

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