The Parish Magazine June 2023

Serving the communities of Charvil, Sonning, and Sonning Eye since 1869

Serving the communities of Charvil, Sonning, and Sonning Eye since 1869


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Standing firm in faith<br />

About 600 years before Christ, King Nebuchadnezzar of<br />

Babylon swept south with his army, overran Judah and<br />

conquered Jerusalem. He sought out the noblest of Jewish<br />

youths to take to Babylon where, for three years they were<br />

taught to think and act like Babylonians, but four of them<br />

stood firm in their faith.<br />

<strong>The</strong> aim was to make wise courtiers out of the captives who<br />

would then faithfully serve the king so their names were<br />

changed to honour the pagan Babylonian gods — their<br />

Jewish names honoured God. One of their stories is told in the<br />

Old Testament Book of Daniel.<br />

Daniel and his three friends names were changed to<br />

Belteshazzer and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. However,<br />

they stood fast to their faith in God while those around them<br />

wavered.<br />


Things came to a head when Nebuchadnezzar built a huge<br />

golden 90 foot high idol and assembled his musicians. When<br />

they played, everyone had to lie down and worship the idol.<br />

If you refused you would be thrown into a fiery furnace and<br />

burnt to death.<br />

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have nothing to<br />

do with worshipping a pagan idol — thou shalt have no other<br />

gods — so into the furnace they were thrown.<br />

<strong>The</strong> furnace was stoked so hot that the soldiers escorting<br />

them died from the heat as they approach it.<br />

<strong>The</strong>n something remarkable happened, a fourth person<br />

appears in the fire and saves them from even being scorched.<br />

Nebuchadnezzar calls the fourth man an angel of God.<br />

This was not the first time an angel of the Lord, or God,<br />

appeared in fire, it happened to Moses when God first called<br />

him, it happened during the wanderings in the desert when<br />

the Israelites were at night guided by God in a pillar of fire,<br />

and when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples on the day<br />

of Pentecost.<br />

We are not told who the fourth person was, and that is not<br />

important. What is important is that God was with Shadrach,<br />

Meshach and Abednigo in a powerfully visible way. It was by<br />

God’s hand they were led out of the fire, and it was God that<br />

Nebuchadnezzar recognised and to whom he decreed that<br />

everyone should give glory to.<br />


As Christians we believe that God’s hand that will lead<br />

us is Jesus, for he is the way, the truth and the life. And this<br />

is one of the reasons why some have felt it necessary to dig<br />

deeper into who the fourth person in the furnace was to show<br />

that he was Jesus. Some of their arguments make sense. For<br />

example, one link to Jesus is said to be in Paul’s second letter<br />

to the <strong>The</strong>ssalonians when he writes: <strong>The</strong> Lord Jesus shall<br />

be revealed from Heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire<br />

taking vengeance on those who know not God, and who obey not<br />

the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. <strong>The</strong>se shall be punished with<br />

everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the<br />

glory of his power.<br />

Whether it convinces you or not, there is an undeniable<br />

similarity with story of the fiery furnace in Daniel. Jesus who<br />

comes with fire destroys the wicked but does no harm to the<br />

<strong>The</strong> <strong>Parish</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong> - <strong>June</strong> <strong>2023</strong> 17<br />

Mosaic of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in a fiery furnace in<br />

Westminster Cathedral Jozef Sedmak, dreamstime.com<br />

righteous writes Paul, while Daniel says the fire killed the<br />

soldiers but not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.<br />

This is also is the point of the parable of the weeds that<br />

Jesus told. On the last day, the unrighteous will be weeded out and<br />

thrown in the fiery furnace while the righteous will shine like the<br />

sun in the kingdom of their Father, said Jesus.<br />


So what relevance to us does a story from 2,600 years ago<br />

about God leading three people to safety and of one at some<br />

unknown time in the future when Jesus returns to finally<br />

rid the world of evil? Well, they are, of course, both relevant.<br />

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego not only lived in a world<br />

surrounded by paganism but their captors were trying to<br />

indoctrinate them into their ways of evil. <strong>The</strong> parable of the<br />

weeds paints the same picture in the future, where a good crop<br />

is spoilt by evil seeds being sown among the good.<br />

Today the good in the world that God created for us is being<br />

nibbled away by the evil that Jesus promises to deal with at<br />

the end of time. Because there is so much of it everywhere,<br />

and because so many people around us accept it as the norm,<br />

it can often be easier for us to comply with such evil in the<br />

world than to stand firm against it. It’s often easy for us to bow<br />

down and accept it, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego<br />

were expected to do. But surely however hard it may be for us<br />

to stand firm in our faith it can’t be as hard as it was for those<br />

three who were prepared to face the fiery furnace rather than<br />

disobey God.<br />

And as God provided someone to lead Shadrach, Meshach<br />

and Abednego to safety, he will do the same for us if we stand<br />

firm in our faith. In fact, the good news is that he has already<br />

provided not one, but two people, for us —Jesus who is the<br />

hand that leads us to an everlasting life with God the Father,<br />

and his Holy Spirit who guides and comforts us and gives us<br />

the strength and the courage to reach out and grasp the hand<br />

that Jesus is holding out for us. For this we should constantly<br />

be thanking God. Amen.

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