The recent events, carried along by not so recent ideas, have reminded me of the story in Daniel 3, in which a King fashioned his image of gold for all to beholden. All the peoples were summoned to celebrate the dedication, both rich and poor. Of course, celebration was not sufficient; idolatry is never satisfied with mere sentiment. No, more is required. Observe:
“That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:” – Daniel 3:5
Ye must fall down. Ye must worship. Failure to comply came with dire consequences:
“And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” – Daniel 3:6
And so goes the world as we know it. The cultural gods have summoned us once again to fall down and worship. Too many Christians have shuttered at the flames before them and have hit the ground and kissed the dirt. But do the gods notice? Do they even care? No, the worship has not been accepted. The sacrifice has been rejected. And it always will be.
Now, returning to the story. Three men were found among the cowering assembly, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And as some ever so watchful Chaldeans pointed out, “these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:12)” They had no regard for vain idolatry. No service to offer to false gods. No worship to bestow on things fashioned with human hands. The King’s anger and indignation burned. Death by fire it would be. “Who,” the King asked in rhetorical fashion, “is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” Their response was simple and resolute:
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. – Daniel 3:17-18
Gasp. What about the qualifications? A small compromise just this once? Why not just one small, teeny-tiny pinch of incense? Or at the very least a temporary profile picture change or #hashtag. They didn’t have to really mean it, just something to quench the flames. Nope, nothing at all. These men feared God more than they feared the ineffectual, cultural deities. They stood firm, no flattering, no flinching, no sunshine to blow. They were not opportunists.
An opportunist is a person who exploits circumstances to gain immediate advantage, whether it be life, good standing, or applause. Opportunistic men have flooded the market of our society, and sadly, the Church. Leaders are eager to make their deposits in the Bank of Woke. These are not men of strong conviction or any semblance of virtuous fortitude, rather, they are better likened to hunting dogs, quick on the scent but easily driven to and fro when the cultural winds change direction. They are not men to be emulated, nor are they men that should be on the front line. As Richard Weaver so aptly put it, a “hero can never be a relativist.” A man of conviction can stand in front of a furnace of culture and say with moral clarity, “No, I will not serve thy gods.” To quote the Puritan William Gurnall, “Do not claim that you are begotten of God and you have his royal blood running in your veins unless you can prove your lineage by his heroic spirit: to dare to be holy in spite of men and devils.” Opportunists cower at the thought.
It seems a new penance is born every day all around us. Appeasing the gods comes with options at least. Apparently, one little hashtag has the power to absolve sin, at least in the minds of those who swear they’re contrite. Contrite for what exactly? That remains to be seen, but it is out there somewhere floating in the cosmos like stardust, they can see it but it’s just out of reach. Guilt politics loves opportunists, easy scapegoats, ripe for the slaughter. But in the land of guilt manipulation, fear always drives these folks back to their knees, so happy to hear the flute and harp strike their chorus once more, too willing to fall down, hoping the cultural gods may cast their gaze on them once again. But the gods are not pleased. The gods have rejected their sacrifices. They would rather use them as footstools than utter, “your sins are forgiven.”
We need men of resolve. We need fathers who will teach their children not to kowtow to the gods of this culture, even as the furnace rages, and shout, “As for this house, we will serve the LORD.” We need shepherds who stand resolute, content to stand on the Word of God and to proclaim it boldly to the sheep, week after week no matter the cost. We need to pray for these men, pray for their boldness. We need men of courage in the public square and fathers at the gates. We need men who only bow the knee to King Jesus.
So, what happens when the cultural gods reject your sacrifices? They have and they always will; your penance is dust to them. Even false gods can smell false piety. Cast your eyes to Christ, our great High Priest. He has no pleasure in sacrifices and burnt offerings. Those who have been redeemed have “been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and He remembers our sins and lawless deeds no more. He now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, waiting until His enemies, those false gods, our enemies, “should be made a footstool for his feet.”
For Further Discussion:
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