The Lord will be king over the whole earth. (Zech 14:9)
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The Fiery Furnace and Black Lives Matter

The book of Daniel is one of the most incredible in the Bible for those with an interest in prophecy. However, there are also some interesting passages about the lifestyle of a faithful follower of the Lord. Daniel 1 outlines the extreme faithfulness of Daniel and his three companions who refused to compromise on the tiniest details of their faith when taken in exile to Babylon. This even included following a religious diet, despite the fact that the temple and holy city were completely destroyed and they had every reason to believe their God had abandoned them.

The account in Daniel 3 contains another example of faithful living in an oppressive culture which concerned Daniel’s three friends (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego). An image of gold had been erected that symbolised the gods of the Babylonians and the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar – anyone who failed to bow down before it was to be put to death:

As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. (Daniel 3:5-6 NIV)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could not in good conscience bow before the image and were hauled before the King by those who wanted to harm them. Here, they gave a respectful, but faithful response:

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV)

As a result of their refusal to compromise, they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire where they are miraculously delivered in what we would suggest was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ. An amazing and inspiring account.

Although we would not want to push the comparison too far, we would suggest there are some parallels between this account and what is happening in many sports arenas in the western world. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement enjoys huge platforming power into our culture and many sports teams are requiring athletes to ‘take the knee’ before play in solidarity with this movement. Although we unequivocally support the notion that black lives matter, the BLM movement represents a social and political system that is clearly antithetical to the gospel. This is self-evident from their website and we have blogged about this before. As a result, while taking a firm stance against racism, the BLM movement should not be endorsed by the discerning Christian.

In this climate, it has been encouraging that there are a small number of athletes who have been brave enough not to ‘take the knee’ in the name of Black Lives Matter while still speaking out against racism. To the best of our knowledge, this small minority are often born-again Christians (although there are others).

Rugby player’s Billy Vunipola and Israel Folau are notable examples who have explained that they will only bow before God. Basketball player Jonathan Isaac is another sportsman who had made a stand for his faith. No doubt there are others.

It takes incredible courage for these young sports stars to adopt such a stance and not give in to peer pressure. Although they will not be thrown into a ‘blazing furnace’ they are certainly going to be targeted for hate and intolerance and have a lot to lose in the process.

In truth, the ‘taking of the knee’ is a very mild example of identifying who will endorse a particular belief system in our culture – however, it is certainly an ominous move that sets a precedent. We suspect there will be more signalling required in the days ahead that will separate those who are serious about their faith from secular culture. It is one thing to be a discerning Christian, it is quite another to be brave enough to take a stand in the intolerant climate of today. Those who do so will be richly rewarded by the Coming King!

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:28 NIV)

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