Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95
Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire.
Hearing them sing, and amazed at seeing them alive, King Nebuchadnezzar rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”
Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
“Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors,
and to be praised and highly exalted forever;
And blessed is your glorious, holy name,
and to be highly praised and highly exalted forever.
Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory,
and to be extolled and highly glorified forever.
Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne on the cherubim,
and to be praised and highly exalted forever.
Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom,
and to be extolled and highly exalted forever.
Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven,
and to be sung and glorified forever.”
Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean by saying, ‘You will be made free’?”
Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.”
They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are indeed doing what your father does.” They said to him, “We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.”
We read in the scriptures today the stories of men who, though slaves, are free and men who, though they think they are free, are in fact enslaved. Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego were Hebrews brought captive to Babylon in the Babylonian exile and trained for service in the king’s palace. They were captives, with no choice but to obey and serve their conquerors; yet because they worshipped the living God, they had the freedom to disobey their master’s command to worship his idol. And because of their faithfulness and trust, God not only delivered them from the tyranny of their king, but also delivered them from their shackles and from death by fire, entering into their mortal peril and walking with them.
In the gospel, Jesus talks to other Hebrews who do not have the faith of Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego, who do not recognize their God who has entered into their mortal condition to show them their peril and that He can deliver them. Not slaves to sinful men but slaves to sin, they resist Jesus’s call to live in the truth, to be convicted of sin, and to be made free. While Shadrach, Mesach, and Abednego made no defense to the king for themselves, the Jews to whom Jesus speaks have no shortage of defenses and deflections.
In our own lives, perhaps we can identify with the Hebrews of the Old and New Testament. When we’re in difficulties beyond our control and we’re feeling the heat, we have no choice but to rely on God. Other times, we rely on ourselves, and resist God’s attempts to gently and persistently tug at our hearts, insisting on our self-righteousness instead of confessing our faults and weakness and leaning on our Savior.
Remember today that, whether you are feeling oppression without or fighting the enemy of sin within, Jesus is with you. During these last weeks of Lent, make time for the sacrament of Reconciliation and ask Jesus to make you truly free.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for becoming human and speaking Your words of truth to us. When pressures from without and my weaknesses within make me a slave to fear, pride, and self-righteousness, help me to put my trust in You. Help me to love You, listen to You, and rely on You, and so live in Your freedom.