These three young Hebrew captives, Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-Nego refused to bow down to the gods of Nebuchadnezzar. The king had an inflated idea of his own importance and demanded such acts of obedience. Anyone who refused to follow his command would be thrown into a furnace. The king had been told about the young Hebrews’ refusal and checked the situation himself. It would have been easy for the young men to deny the truth of the accusation – and live. Yet their belief in God was stronger than any other force and they were adamant in their refusal to do as the king commanded or even to respond to the accusations against them. They believed in the power of God and knew He was able to save them. But even if He did not do so, they knew they had to obey God and worship only Him, rather than follow the self-important commands of the king. They placed their situation in God’s hands and trusted Him to act according to His will and His plan. They had seen how He had honoured their obedience in other, lesser, ways (Daniel 1:8-17) and so were now able to trust Him in this life and death situation. They made no excuses. They just followed what they knew was right in the eyes of the Lord. This made the king very angry. He ensured that the men would have no chance of escaping the heat of the furnace. He was obviously watching as he immediately reacted when he saw what appeared to be four men walking around together. Nebuchadnezzar identifies the fourth man as one who looks ‘like a Son of God’. Although they had been bound, the three men were walking around. The fire had only burnt the ropes but had not harmed them at all.
After the writer of Hebrews had named many men and women of faith he continues that he does not have the time to list others. People whose faith was strong enough to be included in this list (yet who experienced times of weakness and failed to live according to their faith.)
- Gideon who destroyed the places of worship the Israelites had set up and who had a miraculous victory over the Midianites with a mere 300 men (Judges 6-7). Even so he had tested God with a fleece (Judges 6) and demanded gold after his victory over the Canaanites. He used this to make an ephod (a ceremonial artifact) which the Israelites worshipped (Judges 8).
- Barak who was victorious over the Canaanites, but only after Deborah’s encouragement
- (Judges 4)
- Samson who defeated the Philistines, yet who was susceptible to Delilah’s charms and was killed in his moment of victory (Judges 13-16)
- Jephthah, who defeated the Ammonites. He was included in this list in spite of making and keeping a rash vow which resulted in the death of his only child – a daughter. (Judges 11)
- David who was the great king of Israel, yet who also failed in his affair with Bathsheba and his role as a father.
The writer goes on to list the mighty acts of faith that were accomplished by the men and women who believed in God, as well as the conditions some of they had to endure. Yet not one of these people, named and unnamed, saw the promise of the Messiah and His sacrifice for every human being.
The author does not limit his list to just those named but to all who have gone ahead and have believed. He describes these people as a great crowd of witnesses. Whether they can see what is happening on earth or not is debated by scholars, but they are witness to God’s faithfulness for those who follow Jesus. The author encourages people to keep going, to avoid anything that may distract them and to focus on and follow Jesus. If these people could live such lives of faith without ever seeing the fulfilment of God’s promise, how much more should those who can look back on the cross be able to live in faith.
Jesus knew the time for Him to go to the cross was approaching. He set out with determination. Nothing would stop Him from the path that lay before Him. Jesus took an unusual route to Jerusalem. These Samaritans were not prepared to welcome Jesus into their village. Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another. Even so, James and John are indignant and offer to call down punishment on the villagers. But Jesus refused. He told them they did not understand the situation and affirmed that He had come to save the lost, not burn them.
As they travelled, they met a variety of people, each one offering to go with Jesus. Jesus was open and honest as He explained what such an offer would mean and how they would live, continually travelling, trusting God for everything. He wanted them to know what they would be experiencing. He invited some to follow Him. Each one made an excuse – not just yet – when this or that has happened. Jesus told them that following Him should be the priority in anyone’s life. It took commitment then and it does today. Jesus was more interested in the quality of people’s commitment than the number of those who went along with Him.
What do you hope for personally?
- Rejection, failure, shame, disappointment are all factors in our lives. Which one do you find the most challenging to deal with? Why do you think this is so?
- Parents love children, whatever the children are like. When you look around at other people and what they do and say, how do you feel about God loving even them? How do you feel about God loving even you?
- How can the love of God help you cope with the adversities in your own life and the lives of those around you?
- How can you share God’s love with those who are struggling today? Who needs help? What can you do as an individual or a group to reach out in love to such a person/people?
- People in the Gospel story about Jesus made excuses as to why they could not follow Him just yet. What excuses have you heard people make in this regard? What excuses have you made? How do you feel about such excuses at this point in time?
- How can you encourage young people to follow Jesus? Who does God bring to your mind at the moment who needs your help?
- What risk are you prepared to take to change your world and point people to Jesus?
- How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?
Pray for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.
You have discussed people and action you can take during this discussion time. What will you put into practice this week? Share your decision with the group and account back to one another next week.
https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/daniel-3/ https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/hebrews-11/ https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/hebrews-12/ https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/luke-9/