It’s Getting Hot In Here

What You’ve Missed…
* Jeremiah narrowly avoids death by stoning, which counts as a good day for anyone.
* Jeremiah continues to speak prophecies to Israel, though they don’t seem to like it much. And really, neither does Jeremiah.  (He actually tried to quit.)
* Also, it turns out Jeremiah was not, in fact, a bullfrog.  Nor is there any record of him helping anyone to drink their wine.
* Israel turns into Bayside High when Mr. Belding, I mean King Nebuchadnezzar, takes over and becomes buddies with a local kid named Zack Morris, I mean Daniel, who becomes the coolest kid in school, I mean Israel.  The crazy stories that ensue are perfect for countless after-school re-runs, I mean the Bible.

Day 219
Daily Reading: Daniel 2-3, Jeremiah 7

Before we get to the meat of today’s reading, I’d like to comment briefly on something the Bible mentions that I have beef with; Being a vegetarian.  Apparently Daniel and his tree-hugging buddies only ate organic veggies, and were healthier than all the other young dudes in the kingdom.  Thanks Bible for that “slight nudge” and free guilt trip to lay off the Double Quarter Pounders and Grilled Stuffed Burritos.  No wonder my mom loves you.

Moving on.  So King Nebuchadnezzar (gesundheit!) gets bored and decides to make a huge gold statue for himself.  Well, that’s what it says anyway, though I doubt he lifted a single finger to actually help.  (What good totally-egocentric-iron handed dictator actually does any work?  None of the great ones, that’s for sure.)  But apparently sitting around looking at a gold statue isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, so ol’ Nebs adds a new element to the equation.  He creates a law that says everyone has to worship the statue, and if they refuse, well, they become human bar-b-que.  (Alright Bible I get it.  Stick with the veggies.  Gotcha.  By the way…we are counting cheese as a vegetable right?)

So, as you Sunday school attendees know, three Hebrew guys refused to play along and were sentenced to be burned alive.  The names of those three guys?  The famous Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (whose real names are actually Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, but those are harder to say, and most of us have already memorized the other ones, which are catchier anyway, so let’s just go ahead and stick with those.)  Apparently, our boy King Nebulicious took it personally that these three dudes wouldn’t join in the idol worship.

“Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage.  He commanded the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual … So [the soldiers] tied them up and threw them in to the furnace fully dressed…and because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the men in.”  (Daniel 3:19-23)

That’s hot.  Really hot.  Like, Toyota hot, hot, hot.  I’m no stranger to a good marshmellow roast.  In fact, I sort of think of myself as somewhat of a professional mallow roaster (I have the burnt knuckle hairs to prove it…except, they’ve grown back healthy…so uh, you’re just going to have to take my word for it) but even I recognize that even the hottest camp fire I’ve ever been around is Busch League Boy Scout stuff compared to this thing.  The dudes died just by getting close to it?  Really…is that even possible?  Did they catch on fire?  Did they just melt?  Did their ashes fall into a neat little pile like in a cartoon, or did they simply go Kansas and become dust in the wind?  I don’t know.  But I do know that I can’t even imagine heat like that.  I mean, come on…I’ll be honest.  If it were me, I can see myself being scared out of my tighty-whities and backing out of the whole thing (after totally peeing my pants of course.)

How committed to their God were these three guys?  Not only did they not back out, they went into the flames confidently.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.  He will rescue us from your power…but even if he doesn’t…we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”  (Daniel 3:16-18)

Pardon my language, but those guys had balls.  Let me rephrase that.  Those guys had some serious faith balls.  They went willingly towards a ridiculously horrible death, simply believing God would save them.  They didn’t try to talk their way out, or work their way out, or even use the creative ingenuity God gave them (see Daniel 1:17) to figure out how to save themselves.  They literally just trusted God to do all the work.  Again, balls.

Turns out, God didn’t need them to say a special prayer, or atone for their sins the moment before death or anything, because He indeed did do all the work.

“‘Look!’ Nebuchadnezzar shouted.  ‘I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!  And the fourth looks like a god!’ … Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego stepped out of the fire…not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched.  They didn’t even smell of smoke!”  (Daniel 3:25-27)

So…what just happened?  I’ll tell you.  These guys just took bonfire partying to the next level by not just partying hard around a bonfire, but partying inside of it.  I mean, they even had a friend come over and hang out for awhile.  That blows all of your field party stories out of the water.  “Oh, you guys almost burned down Old Man Higgins’ field at your kegger last weekend?  I’d be impressed, except for the fact I almost burned down at the bonfire we had last month.  Yeah, I gave my buddies a high five.  IN the fire.”

I would now like to officially declare Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego Biblical Ballers.  (No pun intended.)  You, gentlemen, just showed us what it looks like to be a dedicated follower of God.  If I wore hats, they’d be off to you.

After reading this, walking on coals seems like kiddie stuff.  Not that I’m willing to try it or anything.

It’s Personal

What You’ve Missed…
* God seems to be an emotional wreck all throughout the book of Isaiah.  He seems more upset and angry with everything happening in life than most middle school students on their worst day of seventh grade.  (Yeah, it’s that intense.)
* King Hezekiah and King Manasseh are the only two out of like, a bunch of kings, to actually worship God.  Israel and Judah are mostly being governed by a string of total jerks, jugheads, and jack-wagons at this point.
* Jeremiah busts onto the prophetic scene and has a lot to say to Israel, most of which could be summed up by the song titles from New Kids on the Block’s 1988 album Hangin’ Tough, with sweet jams such as “Please Don’t Go Girl” and “I Remember When”. (No, seriously.  It’s pretty remarkable.  But mostly it’s embarrassing that I’m even aware of this.)

Day 212
Daily Reading: Jeremiah 5-6, 2 Kings 22, and 2 Chronicles 34

At this point in our story, life in Israel and Judah is pretty much like Jersey Shore.  Everyone just does what they want, when they want, leaving responsibility, consequences, and the bill for someone else who doesn’t have their incredibly well-styled head up their (probably) well styled butt.

But then we’re introduced to King Josiah, who is a fo’ real game changer.  And a fo’ real eight year old.  This kid goes against the grain and decides to follow God.  Eighteen years later (he’s twenty-six at this point for all you math nerds, I mean math people, out there) he makes an important discovery.  During a little spring cleaning, the local head priest discovers the Book of the Law (God’s laws given to Moses) and has it read to king Josiah, which brings about an epiphany.

“When the king heard what was written in the Book of the law, he tore his clothes in despair….The LORD’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words written in this scroll.  We have not been doing everything it says we must do.”  (2 Kings 22:11-13)

Annnnnnnnd now it makes sense why most the kings before him did whatever they wanted.   Apparently though they were God’s chosen people, they had no idea He’d given them some life guidelines.  It seems as though God’s law was more of an ancient way of life that most people didn’t put a lot of stock in.  Sort of like Han Solo thinking the Force was just a lot of mumbo jumbo, before shooting up the best bar in sci-fi history.

But unlike everyone’s favorite spice-smuggling space pirate, Josiah puts a lot of stock in the recently rediscovered Law and decides for himself to believe in and follow it.  I can relate to that.  A lot.

I think (and this is a gross generalization that I shouldn’t make, but will) many modern day Christians are in a similar boat to that of Israel and Judah (though they were in the desert, and probably didn’t have boats at all) in that many Christians sort of do the whole Christian “thing” without really investigating it for themselves.  That is, I think many American Christians simply live the way they are told to by their parents, pastors or youth group leaders.

Over time, that way of life has become mixed up in our culture in a way that I think has people missing the point of why anyone is even Christian at all.  Just like in Israel, where people believed they were God’s chosen ones not because they chose to be, but because someone simply declared to them they were, people today say they’re a Christian because they have some Christian traditions in their family, and have basically just been told they are a Christian by the generation before them.

That’s how it was for me for a long time.  I thought of myself as a Christian, mostly because of my upbringing in Sunday school and Wednesday night youth group.  But as an adult, I went my own way, doing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.  (Crap, that means I was pretty much a total Jersey Shore d-bag…just with video games vying for my attention rather than tons of hot girls.)

And that’s the whole reason this blog even exists.  Because last November, something in me wanted to start reading the Bible for myself.  To think about it for myself.  To take ownership of my relationship with God, and not to have it defined by what people told me it was supposed to be.  Much like Josiah, I have been amazed at what I’ve found.

So this story was a surprise to me, because it’s about a guy who thought he was following God from an early age, but it wasn’t until he was in his mid twenties that he even discovered what that even meant.  Discovering what God had actually said to His people changed everything for Josiah. (And it’s changing a lot for me too.)

It’s like Total Recall.  [Yes I’m only bringing it up because I just had my mind blown by the trailer for the new remake (and had my mind blown at the ridiculous hotness level of Jessica Biel.)]  In the movie, ol’ Arnie has a revelation when he discovers the true reality of what his life is really all about.  The only difference I can see between the movie and my and Josiah’s story is that neither Josiah or myself had a friend with an alien that looks like a heroin-wrecked Cabbage Patch Kid growing out of his stomach.  Nor were we super-spies who worked deep-cover espionage on Mars.

Other than that…it’s basically the same thing, really.

(In re-reading this post, I think it comes across a little confusing. Basically all I’m saying is that as a guy who decided to read God’s Word for himself, I liked the story about a Jewish king who did the same. I’m also trying to make the point that it’s important for Christians to actually do this as well. But Francis Chan says it way better. Way better? Much better? Either way, check out this great talk he gave recently.)