In chapter three of the book of Daniel, we find the famous story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the fiery furnace. We read how a decree was made in Babylon which said when music was heard from the palace orchestra everyone was to bow down and worship the idol that represented the king. Everyone did just that, except for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They would not bow to the king’s idol and were brought before him for punishment.
In verse thirteen of Daniel three, we read that King Nebuchadnezzar was in a furious rage when he heard they would not bow, but when they arrived he gave them another chance. After all, he was a reasonable man. Verses fifteen and sixteen tell us that the orchestra was all ready to play so Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could fulfill the law and bow to the idol, but the three still refused. In fact, they answered with an incredible amount of faith. They said, “Nebuchadnezzar … if the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of the blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Daniel 3:19 says, “Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the expression of his face changed towards Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…” Hmmm… “The expression of his face changed”.
Unfortunately, I think many of us have experienced something like this in our lives. The expression of someone’s face towards us used to be favorable, but now it has changed. Sometimes, the reason is obvious. Sometimes, not so obvious and we are left wracking our brain trying to think of what we have done or, what could have warranted the new expression, but we are drawing a blank. We want the relationship to return to the previous favor, but it is not happening. So, what should we do when someone’s face changes towards us?
Before anything, we need to see if reconciliation is possible. Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.” If you know the situation can be rectified, do it. If you are confused as to why their face has changed toward you, see if they are open to telling you what has changed. Sometimes, a simple misunderstanding can be rectified by open communication.
There are times though, when God has called you to take a stand and people simply will not comprehend it. They will not understand and it will cause them to look at you differently. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced such a situation. There was no way they could agree with what King Nebuchadnezzar required of them. Their God was the one, true God and required monotheistic worship. They simply could not worship any other god and stay in right standing with their Creator. They could not straddle the fence. A stand had to be made. The result? The king’s face changed towards them.
When our beliefs go against the grain of our culture, oftentimes we find people’s faces changing toward us. When we stand up against homosexuality, pornography, promiscuity, gossiping or grieving the Holy Spirit, some people simply do not understand why we are so “straight laced”. Their faces change toward us. Do we like it? No. Do we invite it? No. We simply cannot straddle the fence any longer. We must keep standing and grow deeper in our walk with Christ. We must remember First Peter 3:10-12. It says, “For the one who wants to love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and he must turn away from evil and do what is good. He must seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do what is evil.”
We obviously would rather have a human’s face turned against us than our God’s. We must pursue what is right before His eyes above all else. Many human faces may change toward us, but we must be focused on the face of our Lord.
For those of you familiar with what happens to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, you remember that they were not killed in the fiery furnace and that they, in fact, regained the favor of King Nebuchadnezzar. How did things turn around so quickly?
Daniel 3: 24-26 tells us. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisors, ‘Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?’
‘Yes, of course, Your Majesty,’ they replied to the king.
He exclaimed, ‘Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’”
This chapter goes on to tell us that King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that they come out of the furnace and declared that no one should say anything against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s God. Verse 30 tells us that the King then rewarded the three and they became strong leaders once again in Babylon.
What a turnaround! What in the world happened?! How did the face of the king go from being against them to being for them? The answer is simple. He saw their close walk with God. He saw that God was with them and they were safe in His presence. He saw that his fury did not matter. What mattered was their God. His focus turned from the three to their God.
When someone’s face changes towards us, we need to use it as a time to press in closer to Jesus. When someone is so focused on us, we need to be so close to Jesus that when they see us, they cannot help but see Christ as well. We need to be willing to be where He is, even if it means going into a blazing furnace, so that others can see Him.
Oftentimes, I want to run around and try to fix things, try to make people like me again, when in reality, if I simply draw closer to Jesus He will take care of it. He will draw people to where they need to be. He will draw them in to see that we are walking free with Him in the middle of great adversity. They might rejoice with us and help us out of the fire or, they may choose to not see the “fourth man”, but we are where we need to be. We are in the arms of Jesus. His face toward us is delight. That’s our goal: His face. Psalm 105:4 says, “Search for the Lord and for His strength; seek His face always.” If I am looking at His face, it is much harder to see others’.
Numbers 6:25 says, “May Yahweh bless and protect you; may Yahweh make His face shine on you and be gracious to you; may Yahweh look with favor on you and give you peace.” That’s our goal. That’s our focus. Let’s remember Whose face we want looking at us with favor. Let’s strive to walk with Christ even in the fire. Let’s press in closer to Him so that others may see Him when they are trying to see us.
O Lord, grant us the blessing of Your face shining on us. When others look at us in contempt instead of friendship, may we press in closer to where You are. Let others see You walking beside us, residing in us and un-fettering every chain as we walk unbound with You. O Lord, may all of our faces be ever turned towards Your grace. You are our only freedom.