Since coming home to New Orleans, I've been part of a group of ladies studying the book of Daniel. Words cannot express how ideal the timing of this study is for me. To enter a study of Babylon while transitioning from a time in which I felt a lot of me was lost--lost to materialism, lost to a calloused heart, lost to selfish motivations--has been refreshing, eye-opening and wholly challenging.
When I got to the end of chapter 3 (the story of the 3 in the furnace), I was asked what might have been surprising to me about this story. Understand that I've heard this tale ad nauseam since I was a small child, so, unfortunately, it is not surprising to me that a mysterious fourth figure appeared in the fire. It is also not surprising to me that the 3 (along with their clothing) did not burn, even though the soldiers who threw them into the fire did indeed die because the fire was so hot. What was surprising to me this time around was the response of the King who ordered them thrown into the fire.
Rewind with me for a moment. This was not the King's first encounter with the One True God. Many years prior, the king had a dream that could only be interpreted by a messenger of the One True God. None of his other magicians or astrologers or wise men could tell him about his dream; only Daniel was given godly insight to explain the meaning. The King then, as a result, fell down to the ground in worship of Daniel (read carefully: in worship of DANIEL), proclaiming that Daniel's God was the greatest God--"the Lord over Kings."
But his admission was not to be taken as a submission.
Back to our original story. Years later, faced with another miraculous experience, the King again proclaims the greatness of this God. After the 3 emerge from the fire, the King decrees that there is no God like the God of the 3, and he orders that if anyone should speak against this One True God, that man should die. But again, his admission was not a reflection of his own personal submission. You see, this was my surprise. This great king, to whom God had revealed his absolute power time and again, was ready to defend the One True God, but he was not prepared to rescind his image of himself as the One Great King. He would acknowledge this God of Power, see him as at least equal to himself and worthy of the worship of his subjects, but the king himself would not bow.
And here I am, declaring there is a God in Heaven who is powerful. There is a God with a plan. There is a God who is Mighty and works on behalf of His people. I am echoing the words of the King: "There is no other god who can rescue like this!" I believe it. I know that it is true because I've seen this God act.
But will my knee bow? Is my admission of God's greatness with my mouth a reflection of the submission of my life, heart and pride, or simply a statement of intellectual understanding? Do I think I am God's equal? Obviously I know God is greater, but do I believe it enough to humiliate all of myself under his good and all-powerful hand?
The jury is still out. Of course I want to be in that place of great self-abasement, but I'm not. I want to be comfortable. I don't want to fight my own desires. I want to feed them. Deny myself? What on earth do you mean? I am rich. I am powerful. I am, and there is no other.
God is worth worship, but is he worth my worship? I don't mean on Sunday. I mean everyday. Every action and every motivation of my heart. Can I lower myself so that His glory can be seen instead of my own tainted, rotting image of myself?
I sure hope so. I certainly don't want to follow the path of that king. You can read Daniel 4 on your own to find out what I'm talking about. But I guess if that's what it takes, it would be worth it in the end.