Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Defy Nebuchadnezzar
Interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrate two forms of motivation for worship. One is coercion; characterized by the use of force, intimidation, or any kind of threat of punishment to compel worship; and typified by King Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of an image of gold he set up. The other is choice, a personal decision to worship God based on understanding our relationship with him and illustrated by the action of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in defying Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.
We discuss interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; regarding the image of gold that the king set up as god over Babylon. The interactions illustrate the contrast between two forms of motivation to worship. One is coercion, which is typified by Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of his image of gold. The other is choice based on understanding our relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied Nebuchadnezzar’s threat based on their choice to worship God.
Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. Abraham received the covenant from God on behalf of himself, his descendants, and all that receive Christ as the Messiah. God promised the Messiah for all people when he called Abraham to a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah: “… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:3]. Thus, his covenant with Abraham confers on every person the right to choose to worship him based on understanding that he will be God to all that will worship and serve him.
We discuss Nebuchadnezzar’s example to illustrate worship by coercion. Thereafter, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham as the Christian basis for worship by choice, using information from the gospel according to John to understand the promise of the Messiah extends God’s covenant to all people. Then, we discuss meanings of “worship and serve God” based on information from previous bible studies.
Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
We continue our study series on parent child relationships focused initially on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. In previous sessions, we looked at examples in which the message was clear to the parent. In the Call of Samuel, for example, Eli eventually understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. Similarly, each of the examples under Instruction to Parent for Child looked at a clear instruction to a parent to implement something for a child. The current study, in contrast, looks at an example in which the message was delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child knowing at the time that this was a message from God. We recognize the message today because of the benefit of hindsight based on accounts in the bible.
The example is drawn from the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob (also known as Israel). His father sent him on what appeared like an ordinary errand to go and check on his senior brothers tending flock in the field.
However, later events indicate that God used the errand to call Joseph to a mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young family of Israel to survive a severe famine and grow and prosper to become the nation that God promised their ancestors. The example provides opportunity to learn the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Furthermore, we learn from Joseph’s interactions with his brothers and other people that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. Also, Joseph’s behavior during the adversity help us understand that such person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.
The first step in coping with adversity is to commit personally and wholeheartedly to worship and serve God. Resign to his resolution of the adversity, and commit to living in his image, representing him in every human interaction, such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and elicit positive response from others. Furthermore, resigning to the will of God may include applying human effort to accomplish what you can while seeking his intervention. God will intervene to guide us out of adversity but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to position ourselves to receive and utilize his intervention.
We continue our study series on Samuel with a study focused on understanding how his mother Hannah coped with the adversity of childlessness. Hannah’s experience leading to the birth of Samuel was dominated initially by her bitterness due to not having a child after several years of marriage. Her husband’s other wife sought to take advantage of her condition. In contrast, her husband was kind and sympathetic and sought to comfort her into accepting barrenness. Hannah, therefore, was alone in seeking a solution to her problem. She dealt with the problem initially by nursing self-directed bitterness that she showed by weeping and often refusing food. However, one day during her family’s annual trip to worship at the tabernacle in Shiloh, she decided she could not continue to bear the problem in her heart. She took the problem to God in prayer and appeared to have left it with him because her demeanor changed completely after the prayer.
We examine her experience in this bible study to understand how she transitioned from wilting under the weight of childlessness to a feeling of being completely relieved of the problem even when there had been no humanly observable change in her situation. Also, we use the opportunity to revisit a previous bible study on David coping with adversity brought on him by virtue of a rebellion led by his son, Absalom. We see that lessons from Hannah’s experience and the lessons from David complement each other and provide useful insight into what a Christian can do to cope with adversity.
From both, we learn about wholehearted commitment to worship and serve God and total resignation to God’s resolution of the adversity in his way and at his time. From Hannah, we learn about living in the image of God as a manifestation of the commitment. And from David, we learn about diligence in human effort while resigned to seeking God’s solution through his intervention.
Hannah’s prayer aligned with God’s purpose and resulted in the birth of Samuel to lead the beginning of a new phase in the life of Israelites. She did not “know” God’s purpose to align with it by any deliberate human choice. Instead, the misery she felt from childlessness and her resignation to God as the only source of relief caused her to lift her spirit toward God, close enough to be guided to a spiritual understanding of her need that was consistent with God’s purpose. Based on her interactions with people and with God regarding the birth of Samuel, we learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity.
Interactions regarding the birth of Samuel provide opportunities to learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity. Hannah was grieved of childlessness and a feeling of loneliness due to people around her either seeking advantage from her adversity or asking her to accept the condition as a sentence to barrenness.
However, she did not succumb. Instead, she sought relief from God. In a moment of intensely focused prayer, she petitioned God directly and asked for a son that will be dedicated to serving God full time through all his life. Her prayer aligned with God’s purpose for a spiritual leader to unify Israelites through the next phase of their development. Though she petitioned God directly in the presence of Chief Priest Eli, when Eli scolded her for what he thought was drunkenness, she responded with humility and promise of obedience that moved Eli to join her prayer without knowing her prayer points. God granted her request in the form of the man we know today as Samuel.
LIVING TO RECEIVE GOD’S INTERVENTION We learn through the life of Ruth that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. She inherited an opportunity to receive a grand blessing because of being a descendant of Lot. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough. She positioned herself to receive fulfillment of the promise by living in the image of God; which manifested through her compassion, humility, sensitivity to needs around her, and persistent diligence in doing what she could to provide for the needs. Ruth married Abraham’s descendant Boaz; they had a son Obed, grandfather of David; and, thus established a family to link the lineage of Abraham and the lineage of Lot to David, a great grandfather in the lineage of the Messiah. Therefore, we learn through her life that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention, even fulfillment of inherited blessing.
We conclude the study series on Ruth by looking back at her life as an illustration that living in the image of God prepares a person to receive God’s intervention. Ruth inherited an opportunity to become a channel for fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, because her ancestral father Lot was co-beneficiary of the promise by following and assisting Abraham on a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah. However, the opportunity alone would not have been enough to ensure fulfillment of the promise through Ruth. Her life includes several events in which she took specific action that brought her closer to fulfillment of the promise but could have diverted her away from it if she had behaved differently. Understanding the Godliness of her choice in each case helps us learn that living in the image of God prepares and positions a person to receive God’s intervention.
As we discussed in a previous bible study under Keeping Watch, living in the image of God implies representing God in every human interaction such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Living in the image of God implies a person fulfills responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, willingly and diligently providing service to benefit others when God places a need in his/her path, or accepting service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness.
The life of Ruth provides specific examples of living in the image of God. First, she chose to live as a widow in order to comfort and assist her mother-in-law to cope with severe adversity. The choice brought her to Bethlehem from her home country of Moab. Second, her humility and sensitivity to the needs of her family led her to seek opportunity to glean for leftover grains. The search brought her to Boaz’s farm. Third, Boaz granted her preferential gleaning access in his field because of her humility, politeness, diligence and persistent effort; and his prior knowledge of her positive interactions with Naomi. In each of these events, she did something positive that advanced her toward ultimately meeting and marrying Boaz, with whom she established an ancestral link in the lineage of the Messiah.
RECOGNIZE AVOID AND REJECT TEMPTATION The temptations of Jesus help us understand aspects of a person’s life the devil may target and how it may disguise itself to operate on the targets. We discuss reducing temptation in our lives through prayer, recognizing and rejecting temptation through its attributes and potential disguise, and evaluating potential actions and events based on whether they will fit into or work against our general purpose of living in the image of God.
Nature of Temptation
How to Recognize Avoid and Reject Temptation
Temptation persists among us as the devil tries to pull each person away from living according to God’s purpose. As we discussed in several previous studies (e.g. Keeping Watch by Living in the Image of God), God creates every person to live in his image, i.e., represent him in every human interaction as his provider assistant and conveyor of his image. Representing him means your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Furthermore, you fulfill your responsibilities as God’s provider assistant by willingly and gracefully providing service to benefit others when God places a need in your path. Also, you receive service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness. This type of behavior pleases God and draws a person closer to God’s purpose. The devil wants to pull each person away from God’s purpose and devises schemes to lure people into committing sin by behaving in a manner that is opposite to living in the image of God.
Apostle Peter warns about the devil: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” [1 Peter 5:8]. He devours a person by luring them into sin, away from living in the image of God. Our first line of defense against temptation is to pray as Christ taught: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” [Matthew 6:13]. Although we know the devil’s objective is to lure us away from living in the image of God and will readily reject such objective when recognized, the devil succeeds a lot of times because of its disguise and stealth. Therefore, we need to reduce its access to our lives and understand its methods in order to recognize and reject its attempts when it does enter.
In this bible study, we discuss the nature of temptation based on a study of the temptations of Jesus. His temptations help us understand aspects of a person’s life the devil may target and how it may disguise itself to operate on the targets. We seek to understand reducing temptation in our lives through prayer, recognizing and rejecting temptation through its attributes and potential disguise, and evaluating potential actions and events based on whether they will fit into or work against our general purpose of living in the image of God.
KEEPING WATCH FOR GOD’S FINAL JUDGMENT means always living according to the mission for which he created humankind. God creates every person to convey his image and compassion in human interactions and relationships. He will determine who has fulfilled the mission and at time of final judgment will instantaneously separate them to inherit eternal life in his kingdom. The rest he will condemn to eternal punishment. This bible study discusses Christ’s teaching about keeping watch to be prepared for final judgment by living in the image of God always.
Christ Teaching on Living in God Perpetually
Christ taught us through his disciples to be ready at all times for God’s final judgment. He explained the judgment will occur instantaneously everywhere: God will separate the righteous (people that he has judged to have lived according to his purpose) from the wicked (people that he has judged to have not lived according to his purpose). No one knows the day or the hour: “…not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” [Matthew 24:36]. Christ used parables to explain that being ready for the final judgment means living in the image of God perpetually.
LIVING IN THE IMAGE OF GOD He had in previous interactions explained the meaning of living in the image of God through formal teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (This_Link), parables such as the Good Samaritan (This_Link), and demonstration of human service such as in feeding a crowd of thousands (This_Link). As we discussed in previous bible studies (e.g., This_Link and This_Link), living in the image of God implies representing God in every human interaction such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and provide opportunities for other people to feel God. Furthermore, you fulfill your responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, willingly and gracefully providing service to benefit others when God places a need in your path, or accepting service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness. Those that God judges to have lived in his image will inherit eternal life in his kingdom. In contrast, those that he judges to have lived a different kind of life will be condemned to eternal punishment.
READY FOR JUDGMENT In this bible study, we focus on understanding what a person needs to do in order to be ready for final judgment. Being ready means living a life that pleases God. We examine Christ’s teaching in the parable of the Faithful and Wise Servant [Matthew 24:45-51] and the parable of the Ten Virgins [Matthew 25:1-13] to understand the meaning of “being ready” or “keeping watch” in the context of human interactions and relationships.