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God is no Debtor

When did the world change? It can seem like we’re living in a dystopian dream where the fabric of society and the rule of law are crumbling around us. Those of us who’ve lived long enough to remember when schools opened with prayer (yes, even public schools) may be in a better position to realize how far things have descended.

We know, of course, that the world has seen this before – we just never dreamed we’d see it in America.

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace is one of the most dramatic accounts in the Bible. It’s the subject of children’s songs and Sunday School plays. Yet stop to consider what an extraordinary event it was!

How much courage did it take for these three young men to defy the King of Babylon – the most fearsome king on earth? They certainly knew that the penalty would be death and couldn’t have doubted that the king would most certainly carry it out against them. Despite that certainty, they stood alone among the bowing throngs of people and shouted their declaration loudly enough for everyone to hear them:

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said ... Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods." — Daniel 3:16, 18

How easy would it have been to simply bow like those around them and pretend to obey the king’s command? They could have secretly prayed to Israel’s God, easing their own conscience, and no one would have ever been the wiser.

But that was exactly the point – if they bowed, then no one would have known they weren’t worshiping Babylon’s demon gods. Their bowing would have been just as loud a testimony against God as their standing was for Him.

Given that choice – there was no choice. They knew surely that the consequences that King Nebuchadnezzar could enforce were nothing compared with the reward that God could bestow. Their defiance was non-violent and self-sacrificing, but it was not passive. They knew that even if it cost them their lives, it was more than a worthy exchange – nothing they gave could be more than God’s recompense to them. God would not be their debtor.

The way God came through for them was nothing short of spectacular. God didn’t save them from the fire, but He saved them in it! That’s what makes the story so incredible. God’s purpose for the fire was to show the world – beginning with King Nebuchadnezzar – that He is greater than the dangers that we face.

God will not be a debtor to us. He has already overwhelmed the infinite debts we owe Him. Yet He doesn’t rest on that astonishing balancing of the accounts – He will not allow us to outgive Him in any way. There is nothing we can give in wealth, service, or sacrifice that He will not repay even more richly.

May God give us courage like the Three Hebrews!

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