So much of my walk with God and His Word the last few years has been discovering the ways that the people I grew up thinking of as heroes of the Bible were actually broken, sinful people. They often did amazing things with God by their side, but they were nonetheless broken, sometimes following up those amazing acts with incredible acts of fear and sin. Another theme has been reading about how God reached out to people beyond “His people.” So when I began reading through Daniel to get ready for The Daniel Project, the thing that stood out to me was not the actions of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but the response of their captors – in particular, Nebuchadnezzar.
In The Fire, which was written for The Daniel Project, starts from the point of view of Nebuchadnezzar. While we like to think of ourselves as the people who don’t bow down to idols, what is much more common for us is to cut people out of our lives, because they won’t bow down to our idols. The song calls for us to confess those we have “killed with pride” and for God to save them from our wrath. We ask for God to “save us though we try to hide,” because though Nebuchadnezzar calls on the Most High God, he distances himself from God by calling Him the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and setting himself up as the protector and the one with power.
God ultimately calls Nebuchadnezzar to Himself, but as we discovered, Nebuchadnezzar has to walk through a lot of pain before he is willing to be humbled before God. Nebuchadnezzar’s story is much more reflective of our stories than that of the disciplined, lifelong exile, Daniel. But we are called to hold both stories in tension: the life of the exile, the life of prayer to which we are called and the stubborn, prideful life that, by the grace of God, is being broken down. Either way though, we are in the fire of exile, learning what means to follow God.
We do hold one thing different from Daniel and his friends though. They proclaim before Nebuchadnezzar, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” In our proclamation there is no “if,” because we are in the fire and Jesus, having come to be our sacrifice, is with us in the fire. He weeps with us through the pain and struggle of life. He celebrates with us in the triumphs. We are not alone.