In today’s reading from Daniel, three young men are thrown into a fiery furnace by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar because they won’t worship a golden idol. Still, “unfettered and unhurt” they walk freely in the fire, an angel at their side. They’re unharmed, saved by their faith in God.
Here’s Azariah’s prayer:
“Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our ancestors,and glorious forever is your name. For you are just in all you have done;all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper.For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you,
and we have done every kind of evil. For your name’s sake, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham, your beloved, Isaac your servant, and Israel your holy one,To whom you promised to multiply their offspring like the stars in heaven.
For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you.
But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received;As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bulls,or tens of thousands of fat lambs, So let our sacrifice be in your presence today and find favor before you for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and we seek your face. Do not put us to shame.”
(Daniel 3, 26,27,29,34-41)
The young men in the furnace are from a Jewish community in exile, with no priest, prophet or leader, no temple to offer sacrifice, but they willingly shoulder the world that’s come down from past generations. They also have sins and mistakes of their own.
Their world has become a fiery furnace, but the young men with few spiritual resources of the past still believe in God’s promises: they’ll have offspring like the stars in the sky and the sands of the sea. “We follow you with our whole heart, we fear you and seek your face. Do not put us to shame.”
Is their prayer a good prayer for our church today? Today can seem like a fiery furnace, with diminished resources but hoping in God’s promises, trusting and uncomplaining, we too can walk in the fire, “unfettered and unhurt.”