Shall We Bow Down?

Shall We Bow Down?

The story of the three children of Israel in the fiery furnace in the
third chapter of the Old Testament book of Daniel is rightly considered a
religious classic. It has had an enduring popularity and importance for those
of Jewish and Christian persuasions. It’s also been a favorite passage for
exposition in pulpits as well as the inspiration for much religious art and

One of the major points that is often emphasized when the story is
brought to our attention (such as in a sermon) is God’s miraculous deliverance
of those who were brave enough to be faithful to what they knew was right.
The three men had been tied up and thrown into a furnace of fire, but God sent
an angel to preserve and deliver them from death. A dramatic and remarkable
event, indeed.

But one thing that especially impresses me each time I read this Biblical
passage is the statement of the three men in verses 17 and 18: “Our God is
able to deliver us … but even if he doesn’t we will not serve or worship
your gods.” Even if he doesn’t. They had received no promise from God for
deliverance. They were simply convinced about what was right and were willing
to stand for the right rather than bow down to the Babylonian idols even if it
meant for them a painful death. They had to buck the pressure of the crowd
(“everybody” was doing it, why not them?), the governmental authority (I made
this image, and it’s the law that you bow down to it!), and their own natural
desire for self-preservation. Although they were delivered in the end, they
weren’t sure that they would be — they were literally facing death, yet their
moral values were more important to them than their own temporal lives.

It’s easy to “stand up” for right when there’s no cost involved. But
when the whole world around us is trying to squeeze us into its mold; when
resistance may cost us our reputation, our friends, our material goods, or
even our lives; it’s then that we see the real strength of our inner
convictions and our commitment to act accordingly.

Idols exist in abundance today in our own cultural environment. There
is the widespread worship of wealth and prosperity, the great god Mammon (it’s
even written “In God We Trust” on the face of our currency). Many worship the
great god Nation (“It’s my country, right or wrong.”). And many desperately
crave the acceptance and respect of some “in” group, the great god Party.

The reverence and respect of the majority for the idols of today creates
an intense pressure on us to conform to the common worship. For those who
resist such worship, the cost can be high. For those who develop a simple,
non-materialistic life-style; for those who take a critical stance toward the
wrongs and injustices they see in their government, their society, their
world; for those who realize that the acceptance and respect of the “in” group
is not worth seeking. But the one who wishes to live completely from God’s
perspective should be prepared to pay the price, for “all who wish to live
godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (II Timothy 3:12)

It’s not easy to stand against the idols of our society, especially when
so many Christians are bowing down around us. But how else will the idols be
seen for what they really are? God doesn’t promise to always deliver us from
the cost, but to always give us the strength (if we really want it) to stand
up for the right rather than to bow down to false values and priorities.

Charles Shelton

Computers for Christ – Chicago