King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshipped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘O king, live for ever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’
This scene reminds me of a song by Third Day called “Never Bow Down”. The Empire demands allegiance. It sets up an image and a test. Will you dance to the Empire’s tune? Or will you risk the Empire’s glare of disapproval? Will you instead seek God’s rhythm of life and move within God’s divine beats?
I’d like to think I’d be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and stand up to the Empire – as I write this whilst lounging on my ‘Swedish branded’ sofa, sipping an ‘American brand’ coffee, having consulted a Biblical commentary bought from an ‘American marketplace’ on the web, and really looking forward to the next ‘superhero universe’ movie.
Yes – I’d like to THINK I’d resist the Empire.
The Empire is quite persuasive as it uses rhetoric to play on our fears, our laziness, our busyness, our apathy, our lack of experience, etc. The Empire’s rhythm drives us forward to who knows where, but at least we are moving, right? And whether we like it or not, we find ourselves marching to its beat.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to march to that beat. The Empire (forgive me) struck back. A fourth figure appeared in the flames alongside them, playing a different tune.
Jesus is the “Lord of the Dance” as the song goes. His song sounds different. It’s a gentler swaying rhythm, that whispers life. Sometimes – if you stop moving to the Empire’s beat – if you google ‘Christ’ with your heart, you can hear Christ’s song. And when you dance to Christ’s rhythms, people notice. Some won’t understand. Some however might find themselves also moving to the ancient heavenly beats of God.
Love God, love neighbours, love each other. Go out, reach out, love enemies. Free captives and oppressed, bless persecutors. Open eyes, share the good news of Jesus the Christ. Holy God, You created us to walk and to dance with you. Sometimes our steps get muddled. God, we are sorry. Help us to keep in step with you and to invite others into Your dance. Amen
The Rev’d Angela Rigby is the Minister at Christ Church URC Tonbridge and St Johns Hill URC Sevenoaks.