Abuse as Idolatry
Daniel 3:1-6, “King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. (2) Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (3) Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (4) And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, (5) that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. (6) And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
Daniel 3:16-18, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. (17) If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. (18) But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Abuse is about power. Power wielded by God, who is the origin of all power, is perfect and life-giving. In the hands of evil men, it effects death. King Nebuchadnezzar was abusing the power God had delegated to him. He was demanding glory and honor that is reserved for God alone. He unlawfully commanded his subjects to worship him by worshiping his image. Daniel’s three friends refused. They saw the thing for what it was – a violation of the first and second commandments. The fiery furnace was right there, about to get heated up. The king, as do all abusers of power, accompanied his order with threats and fear.
We admire Daniel’s three comrades. We teach this story in Sunday School to our children. No one “bad mouths” these faithful young Jewish men for refusing to obey their abuser. Even though God had told the Jews, in regard to how they were to conduct themselves during the Babylonian captivity –
Jeremiah 29:4-7, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: (5) Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. (6) Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. (7) But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
…still, these three men refused to obey the king. They were bound by a higher covenant. They obeyed God rather than men.
Now, I have some questions. Abusers of all sorts set themselves up as gods to be worshiped. They demand that their victims bow down to them. They strike up the band by employing their many abusive tactics, and issue the order for their whole family to worship them – or else.
Why then is the Christian church so often telling victims of abuse that they must bow down and worship? Why is the marriage covenant with a wicked man being exalted over and above our covenant to the Lord – to worship and serve Him alone? “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego! You have upset the king. Go back and submit to him. He is your head.”
The Lord Himself came to the three youths, right there in the furnace, and delivered them. But notice that He came in the furnace. Would He have come had they bowed down? You know the answer to that. Their refusal to worship an idol was blessed by the Lord.
So why are we telling Christians who are being tormented and threatened by a self-proclaimed false god that they are to submit and worship him? In the end, the abuse of power is about putting a man in the place of God. It is our job as Christ’s people to declare loudly and firmly to such men – the Lord, He is God, and there is no other.