Daniel 3:19-30 (Part 2) – Showing Up The Bully On the Playground

Posted: May 30, 2016 in Book of Daniel

Daniel 3:19-30 (Part 2)

The Blazing Furnace

When you were a kid on the playground at recess and there was always this one bully that was bigger than everybody else who tried to impose his will on everyone on the playground. He was usually bigger and just meaner than everyone. He got his way by physical threats. No one ever stood up to this guy. You know the type. They would challenge everyone they came in contact with and no one dared to accept their challenges. I remember back when I was in the fifth grade and we lived in Elgin, SC. Back those days, I was small, but fast, and from about age 10 til I quit playing basketball regularly when I got married at age 18, I was a pretty good basketballer. I was a pretty good outside shooter. I had to develop that skill since I was small. I was one of the go-to guys on any church league team I played on. Back in fifth grade, my skills on the court were honed by the physical battles on the backyard court with my taller brother. We would have some mighty basketball games that would last for hours that would grow evermore physical each time and would often end a fight. So, I knew about physical play on the basketball court.

 

So when the fifth grade bully challenged the new kid to basketball game one-on-one during the first week of school at my new school in our new town, I was ready. You know these challenges when you are the new kid on the playground. The bully has to figure out where you fit in the socio-political order of the fifth grade. I was smallish so he figured I could be one of those guys that he terrorized. That was going to be measured this day on a basketball court. In the first few days of school, I had seen how he played basketball. He was an intimidator. He hacked and fouled and chopped on people when he didn’t have the ball and would just bump and run you over when he did have. Then, it was my turn to be challenged to see where I fit in the Blaney Elementary School landscape. I knew I couldn’t take him on in his bump and grind game so I would bomb away from the top of the key everytime I got the ball. And, on defense, I would not let him bump away at me. I stood my distance from him until he was about to shoot and then I would lunge at his shot. I did this the whole game. First one to 20 won. That day, I won 20-10 with 10 made jump shots. Never went inside on him and still won. He kind of looked at me and said it was a stupid game and that I cheated. Now, having played hours on end with my brother in the backyard, and both of us being students of the game, I knew the rules. I knew I didn’t cheat. As a matter of fact, there was no mention of rules in this game with this bully. He was saying I cheated because I beat him and I didn’t let the game be played on his terms. Being the new kid vs. the old established kid, it was easier for the other kids to believe that I had somehow cheated. Of course, all the talk led to a rematch the very next day on the basketball court. This time, he started guarding me as soon as I would get the ball in this half court game. He would start bumping as soon I took the ball out at half court. Beating on me and hacking me at half court. He used this tactic to take get out to a 10-2 lead. Then I figured out, hey if he’s gonna meet me at half-court, and he outweighs me by 20-30 lbs., time to use my speed. I started blowing by him for easy lay-ups. Finally, I tied the game at 16-16. And, because of the playground rule of having to win by four, I finally won the game 24-20. From that day forward, Bo Wilhelm and I became not best friends (because he was just an arrogant jerk) but we were respectful of one another. He didn’t pick on me and I became accepted in the political landscape of 5th graders at my school as one of the guys. When we would have pickup games of any kind, he would acknowledge his respect for me by picking me if he was captain. He would never admit that I was his equal athletically but there was that look of respect that us guys give each other.

 

My backyard grinds of 4-hour basketball games with my brother where we would just bang and beat on each other til we were too tired to play anymore had prepared me for Bo. Challenge accepted. Challenge won. Respect gained. My life at Blaney Elementary School in the fifth grade and a Lugoff-Elgin Middle School the next year would have been a lot different if I had not won that challenge on the playground those two days. Although my brother and I would have some shouting matches and fist fights during our battles on the backyard basketball courts of our youth, it was that hammering grind that prepared me to meet the Bo-challenge in fifth grade and show him who the better basketballer was.

 

It is that idea of the big bully having to recognize that someone was better than him at something was the idea that came to mind when I read this passage, Daniel 3:19-30, again today. Let us look at Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to the miracle in the fiery furnace as we  read it together here today:

 

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

 

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

 

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

 

25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

 

26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

 

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

 

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

 

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

 

 

Here again, we see Nebuchadnezzar singing the praises of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and Daniel. He had been shown up by the God of Israel twice now. He was the big bully on the block. He was the great and powerful emperor of the Babylonian Empire. The Babylonians were the bad-ass empire of the day and Nebuchadnezzar was the emperor. He was used to getting his way politically, and militarily. During those days, the empire was advancing and had won wars and conquered other nations. But, it is here, that he is again shown up by God Almighty. In his providence and might, God chose to demonstrate his power by sparing the lives of these three men. God suspended the laws of physics that he established for the world. Extreme heat and human flesh do not mix according to His long-established natural laws. He suspended these laws in this moment to demonstrate His greater power than one of the most powerful men on earth. It is like showing up the fifth grade bully on the basketball court. In this case, Nebby may not have ever come to believe in the one true God but he must have had to begrudgingly respect Him.

 

Then, what is the takeaway here for you and for me? We are not bullies. We are not emperors of pagan nations. I think the takeaway here is that no matter what God is greater than anything that we face. If He can raise Jesus from the dead, he is greater than anything that I obsess and worry about. If I am faced with a life-changing event, God is greater than that problem. If I am facing divorce, God is greater than my pain. If I am facing a change in my work situation and I do know what’s coming next, God is greater than my fear. If I am facing any seemingly insurmountable problem is greater than the literal and metaphorical bullies in my life and in my mind. All we have to do is trust completely in Him to deliver us through our troubled times. God has a tendency to show up and show out for those who trust Him. God has a way of demonstrating to us that it was only Him that delivered us. God has a way of showing those who oppress us that He is greater than anything that they can dish out at us. He demonstrates his power so that the bullies of our lives and minds must give begrudging respect to the great I AM. He is God and He is greater. He is bigger and better than anything our bullies can dish out at us. When the world is hacking and fouling us, He gives us the ability to hit the long range outside shot. When the world is bumping and beating on us from half court, He gives us the speed to get by it for the easy layup.

 

If you are suffering through hacking and fouling from the circumstances in your life or at the hands of the actions of others, be still and know that God will give you a way through it and will give you victory. All you must do is trust in Him and have eyes to see His glory on display through the way He leads you through your troubled times. The way through, the victory over the seeming and certain defeats of your life speak loud testimony of who our mighty God is. Others must then give Him respect and honor for what He has done through you. So, don’t give up. God will get you through this time of hacking and fouling and bumping and beating. He will give you the outside shot. He will give you speed for the layup. He will give you victory.

 

Amen and Amen.

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