Sunday, July 18, 2021

Lessons from Sunday School (Volume 1, Edition 1): It's Hot In Here

Today I had Children's Church. We take turns doing one Sunday a month, and since COVID and the flood we've had one group for ages 5-18. When I say that children's church isn't my calling, I'm being honest. I struggle with relating with little ones sometimes, but I can honestly say that I learn something from them each day. 


Last night I still hadn't determined what I was going to teach about, so I turned to facebook for inspiration. So many of my friends shared their favorite Bible stories, and I thought back to my own childhood Sunday School lessons. I can still remember cherry Kool-aid in styrofoam cups, vanilla cookies on white napkins, stories told on the flannel board, and coloring sheets depicting the Red Sea and Moses in a basket. 

I recognize that not everyone was raised in church, and even those who were go through a period of reconciling their own faith. Religion vs. relationship is something that we all must come to terms with, and sometimes we find that what we were taught isn't necessarily exactly how we see things, but that's ok. I watched a Bible study today and the author said, "Before we can preach truth to ourselves, we have to know it," and that's why it is so important that we continue to study the Bible... in-depth, so we know what it says. 

With that being said, we can still learn a lot from those Bible stories that we learned growing up. As an adult, it's good to go back and revisit them, because we see things from a different perspective, with different experiences.


Today, I taught from Daniel 1 and Daniel 3, the story of The Fiery Furnace. We meet the three young Hebrew boys and their friend Daniel in the first chapter. They are captive in Babylon, a foreign land. Some commentaries that I have read said that the Babylon king brought the finest young men to serve as captive, and left others who may not have had as much potential behind. We don't know their exact ages, but they were most likely teenagers. Imagine you are taken into a strange land as a teenager. We don't know if their parents have gone with them. All we know is they are in a foreign land, at an impressionable age. 

Early in their captivity, they are faced with decisions that must be made. The King entices them with choice food. I don't know about you, but I like to eat good stuff. Daniel, who seems to be the leader of the bunch, felt convicted that the King's food wasn't what they should partake of, and "purposed in his heart..."

I don't know about you, but as a teenager, I didn't purpose much in my heart. I might have refused food, but it would have been more about fitting into a smaller size of blue jeans than making a stand. We are told that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (formerly known as Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah... their names had been changed from names focused on the One True God to names that focused on Babylonian gods) follow suit. Instead of the king being upset, they found favor in his sight. And because of their resolve, and because God is faithful, He gave them wisdom and knowledge and understanding. 

Fast forward to a period of time, and the king gets the great idea to make a huge golden statue for everyone to worship. Remember the 10 Commandments that all Hebrew kids grew up reciting? Thou shalt have no other gods... thou shalt make no graven images? Well, ol' King Neb surely hadn't heard that story. He made a decree that everyone in the land should fall down and worship the statue. Cue the music.. 

And everyone fell to their knees... except three Hebrew boys. 

Here's the thing. Those "boys" had wisdom and knowledge and understanding... so they also would have known about the King's decree that anyone who did not worship would be thrown in the fiery furnace "that very hour".


The King heard they had refused to worship, and he was outraged. After all, these had been some his chosen captives! No doubt they had even received special treatment... and then they made him look like a fool. 

He called them in. "Is it true? Did you not follow my instructions? Did you refuse to worship?" 

The KJV says, as he is questioning them, he says, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" 

One of the points I made today was that we have to be ready to answer regarding who our God is. I asked the kids who God was, and they said, "good" and "love" and I also added "faithful and just". 

The Hebrew boys stood tall in front of the King and were ready with their answer. They knew the fiery furnace was waiting, and they had to be afraid, but they were unrelenting. 

Daniel 3: 17-18, "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."

They basically said, "If God saves us, so be it, and if we die, so be that as well." I thought of Paul, who said, "To live is Christ, to die is gain."

So the King was outraged, and he ordered that the fiery furnace be made even hotter. They were bound by the strongest men to ensure they wouldn't be able to get loose, and they were thrown into a furnace so hot that the men who threw them in the fire were killed.

And then...

There was a fourth man in the fire. They were loose, walking around, and one like unto the Son of Man was walking with them.

Ever sat in front of a campfire for an hour or so? You come in and smell like smoke...

but these men weren't singed and they didn't even smell like smoke.

Friend, I don't know what kind of fire you are going through tonight, but I know we've all gone through some fire. You aren't there alone. You may not know what the ending is going to be, but God does, and He's there.

And you'll bring Him glory. When you stand firm, He stands with you. Ol' King Neb pulled those Hebrew boys out of the fire and immediately changed his decree, pointing that there was no other god like the Hebrew God, and declaring that all should worship Him.

Lots of lessons in just a few simple verses.

Hope you enjoyed this little retelling. What did I miss?

Also, I'm hoping to do these every Sunday, because there are so many great stories in the Bible. You can read this on your own at Bible Gateway. It's in Daniel Chapters 1 and the Fiery Furnace is in Chapter 3. You can choose a translation there, or switch back and forth like I like to.


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