With so much emphasis on tolerance of late, I was reminded of a king in the Old Testament who was not tolerant of anything or anyone that did not conform to his will. The king was Nebuchadnezzar. He was a tyrant that caused much heartache in the lives of God's people and his own people until He was humbled by the power of God a few years before his death.
In our world today, we are being pressed upon to be increasingly tolerant of things that in some cases contradict the Word of God. When confronted for non-compliance to the latest 'trend', most can count on being treated with intolerance for not bending to the will of those who would disregard all forms of reason and right. While there is much injustice present in our world today, there remain foundational principles in place that when openly disregarded and ignored bring about greater stress and distress upon our freedoms.
The present unrest we are experiencing as a nation is not new. It didn't begin a few weeks ago in our nation with what appears to be an abuse of authority. It has been going on for thousands of years. It was present in the country of Babylon when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were alive. These, along with other Jews had been carted off from Jerusalem and were in the process of being confronted with re-training on how to live in a foreign culture. (history repeating itself?)
These four and possibly more are first tested with tolerance concerning their diet (Daniel 1). After making some adjustments under the counsel of God's Spirit, the test they were faced with was successfully navigated in a way that their testimony was not compromised, and the power of God was on display in their lives. And many of the enemies of God noticed.
The next test of tolerance would be a direct assault on their devotion to God, as Holy God. You can read about it in Daniel 3, if you care to. Daniel's three most trusted friends are called out into the plain of Dura and commanded to bow their knee in allegiance to the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had constructed in the desert. At the first opportunity of compliance, all three remain standing as stiff as a post and there is nowhere to hide in the desert. Everyone else is on their face and yet these three Hebrew young people are seen standing instead of kneeling to a false god of man's design. These three are also standing out like a neon sign against a dark night. They are not looking for a fight with the king, but they are not lacking in courage to stand on the principles of their faith, either. Upon their non-compliance of the tyrant's command, all three are given a second chance. Doesn't that sound caring, even convenient? It appears as more of an attempt to conform the godly to more ungodly ways! With this second chance, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are also threatened with a horrible death if they refuse to comply. From Nebuchadnezzar's position, that would do the trick. That would tip the scale in his favor, especially with the young people of the day. After all, the threat of death will make the most determined examine their position more thoroughly.
What follows reveals the evidence that Nebuchadnezzar did not know God, nor did he understand the resolve of godly devotion that is prevailing in the heart of these three Hebrew teenagers. Nebuchadnezzar didn't convince these three, nor did he convert them because their convictions of holiness toward God held them firmly. Their hearts were established in love for God. There was simply no 'wiggle' room for a man who claimed to be a god and desired to be worshipped as such.
Carefully read the words of their collective testimonies. "O, Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, (being thrown into the furnace) our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. BUT IF NOT, LET IT BE KNOWN TO YOU, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18).
Three among thousands stood with conviction of faith in God, alone. Their response would mark them as a criminal for their non-compliance and intolerance of the ungodly mandates of man.
What I read a few days ago from the Word of God reinforced the truth that God is always able to deliver. The prevailing question that too often is ignored for the sake of convenience by most in the ranks of Christianity today is this, 'How will I respond IF God decides to not deliver me from the threat of physical death?' That is often the 'tipping point' that causes many to cave when pressed upon to be tolerant of a tyrant like Satan and his scheme to be worshipped as God. And like these three young men who stood in a sea of humanity, you and I need to have our heart 'set' on God because that will determine how we will respond to 'the fire' test BEFORE we are faced with the temptation of a tyrant!
Read again those words, 'BUT IF NOT' and consider, are you willing to let it be known to everyone around you that regardless of cost or consequence, you are determined in your soul to be loyal to the Lord only! These three Hebrews understood in their heart that God could deliver them. The real test of devotion and faith would be revealed IF God had something better in mind that would come as a result of their death in a fiery furnace.
In a culture that continually cries for increasing tolerance and compromise of biblical convictions, God's unchanging Word is a good reminder that He is able to deliver and often does! 'BUT IF NOT,' I have decided whatever may come, to follow Jesus! That's a declaration of devotion that demonstrates the power of faith in God!
How desperately we need that today, especially as it becomes increasingly difficult to hide in 'plain' sight? That is the difference between a good person who loves life and a godly person who loves the Lord with all their heart. That different kind of devotion is greatly magnified when we are faced with desertion by our peers while standing in the desert of the current world system largely governed by a tyrant called Satan!
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, stand firm, always abounding in the work of God!
Be filled with the Spirit and full of faith!
1 Corinthians 15:58