1st Sunday of Advent
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
I received my daily text message devotional yesterday and this is what it said; “when we choose deliberately to obey God, then He will tax the remotest star and the last grain of sand to assist us with His almighty power.” Oswald Chambers said this.
Obedience. It is not a word we use a lot in our culture or even in the church. When was the last time you used the word in a conversation or even thought about it in regards to your own life?
It feels like a negative word doesn’t it. Obedience. Kind of weighty and stern.
It feels like a word that shackles us and prevents us from doing, you know, whatever we feel like doing, whatever feels good.
I wonder if a little more obedience might be a good thing in our lives and in our world. What if we considered obedience as a spiritual discipline and rather than having it be a negative perhaps it actually might be a positive thing in our lives and our relationship with God.
Today’s bible story is about obedience. The fiery furnace and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And yes, it is kind of a weird, crazy story.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are Jews living in a foreign land. Babylon to be precise. They are in exile as a result of the deportation that took place when Jerusalem was conquered and destroyed by the Babylonians.
If you remember Pastor Torgerson’ s sermon from just last week on Jeremiah, the Jews were told to make homes, have children and settle into the land and the city that God had sent them into as exiles. They were living on planet exile.
So that’s what they did and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are very successful. They do well in this foreign land and they rise to places of some importance in the governmental hierarchy.
Then they are told, along with all the citizens that they had to bow down to a golden pole that had been put up by the King.
The three men refuse. Why. I’ll tell you why. Obedience to God. Obedience as a spiritual discipline. Obedience as trust. Obedience to their confession of faith.
They are devout Jews and to bow down to an idol violates the First Commandment. “I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me.” This is the most important commandment. That is why it is number 1. It all begins here folks. When we get this commandment right, when we are obedient to this first commandment, the life of faith takes on a whole new meaning and it looks different.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; he 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? 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?”
This is where faith meets life. Literally for Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego. When we are faced with tough choices, obedience to God makes a difference.
When was the last time you had to make a tough choice in relationship to your faith and in keeping the first commandment? How did you make the choice? What spiritual tools did you use in order to make the choice that would keep you in alignment with God’s will and work in your life?
I am struck by the response of the three men when faced with this tough choice. It actually doesn’t appear to be a tough choice for them.
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.”
What kind of obedience does this sound like to you?
Is it obedience out of fear or is it obedience that comes out of love?
What is the difference between the two and why does it matter?
Which is easier to practice?
Obedience out of fear or obedience out of love and what kind of obedience do you practice in your life?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego loved God so much, with heart, soul, mind and strength that the tough choice the king laid before them was in the end an easy choice. Because they were obedient to God out of love. And they got tossed into the furnace and God saved them.
They didn’t know what would happen but their obedience to God, their trust in God was all that mattered. They focused on the relationship, not the outcome.
I suspect we tend to focus too much on the outcome and not enough on the relationship.
We tie ourselves in knots worrying about outcomes but obedience keeps us focused on the relationship with God who always promises to be there for us and with us.
To be sure, you or I need not worry about being thrown into a fiery furnace, being a Christian is pretty easy in this country.
But there are plenty of golden idols that are set up in the public sphere and every day we are being invited and bombarded with the message that we need to bow down and worship those idols. I could name them but you know what they are.
How do you make those choices? And make no mistake, we do have a choice.
It really comes down to which gods you are serving and who has your heart.
Here’s the surprise. Obedience to God doesn’t enslave us or shackle us.
On the contrary, it sets us free because our lives are in complete alignment with God and the will of God in our lives.
Obedience requires spiritual maturity and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had it. It made what we would call a tough choice an easy choice.
I’m going to quote Oswald again. He says;
Spiritual maturity is not reached by the passing of the years, but by obedience to the will of God. Some people mature into an understanding of God’s will more quickly than others because they obey more readily; they more readily sacrifice the life of nature to the will of God.
When we are obedient to the will of God, we are giving up our right to ourselves and we are allowing God to be in complete control of our lives. When this happens, it becomes possible to make the kind of choice that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made. They chose the relationship over the outcome
Obedience to God is not a negative thing and the toughest choice we may have to make each day is deciding whether or not to be obedient and to trust that God is in control.
A spiritually mature person is obedient because she or he trusts that God knows what the outcomes will be and that we just need to concentrate on the relationship.
And because of that relationship, God promises to hold you and guide you through the fiery furnace Thanks be to God. Amen.
 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest
 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His highest