Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego.
Aiding in children’s church today, the story of these three brave boys was on the docket. The teacher was asking thoughtful questions to get the children engaged, and the children offered their best Sunday School answers.
“Was it an easy choice for them to not bow down to the statue?”
A handful of arms shot up from eager children. “It was easy. We shouldn’t love idols,” and “We are supposed to only love God.”
The teacher handled the responses beautifully, aided by a gospel-centered curriculum that seeks to bring everything back to the Cross. Yet, my eyes pooled with tears then and are doing so again now as I type.
Three young boys who had been carried off to a foreign country and were under great pressure to conform. Away from their parents, away from the structures that had been used to establish them soundly in a certain worldview, stripped even of their given names. Under a powerful ruler seeking to strip them of their identity and supplant their convictions. Faced with countless choices carrying grave consequences.
The little ones I sat with today did not and could not realize that our lesson was about little ones like them. I longed for these children to not simply get the answer right but to understand the profound complexity of the choice those boys made in Babylon.
The choice was simple. They knew what to do. They had been raised to honor and worship the One true God; their parents had likely told them the historical national tragedies that had occured when God’s people went against the grain of the universe. They had bravely stood up for truth by refusing to eat the king’s food; as such, they had experienced personally that the God their parents had pointed them to was indeed present and powerful even to them. Simple, but not easy.
I imagine those three boys huddled up, eyes darting about in fear as they heard the edict. Whispering and confering with one another as they saw the huge statue being erected, in turns waivering and then gathering courage to defy the King and their peers. I imagine they had nightmares as they heard rumors about the furnace.
As an adult listening to the simple answers of the children in Church, my heart became heavy. These children have no idea how difficult discipleship will be; they cannot imagine cancer diagnoses or difficult marriages, nor should they. They don’t know yet how strongly the world, the flesh and the Devil will seek to check their convictions.
They rightly cheered with the brave phrase, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace,and he will deliver us out of your hand.” Yet, they did not understand the even braver beauty of the second phrase those boys uttered: “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods.” Daniel 3:17 & 18.
As quickly as my heart became heavy, my heart filled with hope and worship.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego probably didn’t realize the gravity of their theology when they were learning lessons from their parents and elders. They likely squirmed and giggled their way through sessions, as the children were doing today.
Yet, when the time came, these boys were upheld and infused with a God-enabled strength to obey despite dire consequences. The simple truths they had come to know and believe about the character of God upheld them in an incredibly complex situation.
The Scripture that these boys bravely proclaimed, “Our God is able,” was the very truth I was wrestling to believe in that moment.
Indeed, our God is able. He is able to do what neither I nor any human teacher can do for our children. He alone can convince them of the profoundly simple and simply profound truths of the gospel.
For now, they need to learn the foundational truths that are being stored up in their little tender hearts. They need not know right now the millions of strata that make up the gospel they see as so simple. Lord-willing, the Holy Spirit will spend the rest of their lives stretching their understanding of the simple, yet profoudly complex gospel.
In leading their tiny hearts to worship, my own tired heart was led to worship.