Though the physical stance of kneeling or posturing facedown before Jesus strikes the world as weird, the concept of bowing down before something—anything—really isn’t alien. In fact, we do this every day to our televisions, when we center our lives around must-see shows, as I very often do. There are many “gods” in our lives to which we inadvertently pay homage, often to the detriment of our relationship with the one God, Jesus. For example, when we put people on a pedestal and worship their seeming perfection, we are in fact bowing low to those people instead of to our King, Jesus. When we focus our thoughts on money and cling so tightly to it that the idea of giving it away makes us sick to our stomachs, we are making money into a “god.”
Bowing low to “little g” gods and giving over our joy, our hope, and our priorities to materials and people robs us of the true fulfillment we gain when we worship God alone.
When we bow down to God—and only God—we are not taking a stance that is degrading.
The almighty Creator of the universe, who is higher in stature and priority than any “little g” god we might entertain at the moment, sent His son, Jesus, to humbly serve us and then die on the cross for us. God did all of this for you and me so we could stand—could RISE UP!—in His glorious presence.
In the book of Daniel, we find an exhilarating example of how God raises up those who choose to bow low before God alone. To set the scene, in Daniel 3 we find King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who, caught up in pride and arrogance, commands his servants to build a giant statute made of gold—a “little g” god. This statue was set up on a plain, and all the people of Babylon (The Voice calls them Chaldeans) were commanded to attend the worship of this statue. If anyone defied the king’s command, they would immediately face death in a roaring fire.
The heroes of our story are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – three Israelites and friends of Daniel. As everyone in the country fell on his or her face before this idol, these brave young men stood in blatant defiance, fully aware of the very dire consequences of their action. They were willing to accept the consequences because they believed their powerful Lord would deliver them from the hot fire, one way or another.
The large golden image towered over a field of Babylonians. Loud noises of “worship” rang out, cueing every countryman to bow down. The hot fire roared, ready for anyone in defiance. And everyone fell facedown to the ground, probably trying to get even lower for fear they would be seen as not bowing down.
Can you see the three young Israeli men silhouetted as you pan over the field of Babylonians? Can you hear their hearts beating in prayer toward the Lord they faithfully serve, trusting in His protection?
Even though they were ultimately thrown into the fire, not even their hair or clothing was singed.
King Nebuchadnezzar actually stood astounded and changed his tune, praising the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Because they chose to bow low to God alone, because they bravely stood up and did not allow the pressures of the world to deter their laser-focused faith, God used these three young men in a mighty way. A powerful earthly king, who moments before was wrapped up in his own ego, now bowed low before the King of the universe and thus influenced his country to do the same.
At this point, we may not be in danger of a raging fire when we choose to worship God alone, but there are often cultural consequences when we take a humble posture before the Lord. When we decide to prioritize our obedience to the Lord over our own self-focused desires, people will take note. They may not “get” you. The cultural consequences can be subtle and sometimes they are very palpable.
- Your lifestyle of seeking after God rather than chasing ambition pleases God. Those around you may take it as complacency and snub you in the workplace.
- Humility is often taken for weakness. Those who don’t love the Lord may attempt to take advantage of your kindness and servant heart.
- Someone with a hurting heart who doesn’t know God’s love and grace sees Jesus in you. That person may lash out at you out of his or her own pain.
- Family members or old friends who know your past but don’t recognize God’s redemption in your new story may hold that old baggage against you.
- You might be passed up for a promotion at work because you stand on biblical principles and don’t claw your way up the career ladder.
But in God’s kingdom the first will be last, and those who serve Him daily, with humble hearts, will experience real, eternal blessings. Take heart; this present consequence of bowing low will pale in comparison to your joy when you bow low before Jesus on His glorious, heavenly throne!
Living an unusual life, making painful life decisions, working through the pressures of the world must not discourage us, for God grants us a holy promise in Scripture. Psalm 145 is like a rally cry for those feeling weary in the journey of making Jesus famous. When our days grow difficult and we face our own fiery furnace, may we find sparks—no, flames—of encouragement as God speaks straight to our need through His everlasting, ever-relevant Word.
The Eternal sustains all who stumble on their way.
For those who are broken down, God is near. He raises them up in hope. (Psalm 145:14, The Voice)
Did you notice our key phrase in this verse? God promises that He will reach His mighty hand down and gently pull us up when we feel that the weight of our life brings us down. All throughout Scripture, God warns us that trials and drama will be a normal part of Christian life. God allows certain events to happen in our lives that we don’t understand. He allows us, even when we are serving Him faithfully, to go through pain and struggle. Our faith may begin to waver as our own fiery furnaces seem too much to bear. But just as Daniel’s young friends stood tall with firm belief that God was bigger than the fire, we must stand tall with full hope that God raises up those who worship Him alone.
This hope to which we cling means we look past any temporary feelings of discomfort in our present trial and drama, gazing ahead to God’s promises of ultimate joy.
Let’s take that final word, hope, in Psalm 145:14 and pair it with a passage in the book of James.
Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure.
And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line—mature, complete, and wanting —nothing. (James 1:2-4)
In my personal journey of rising up and living with a kingdom perspective, I’ve noticed a transformation of my attitude toward painful and difficult circumstances. When I wade past my initial reaction of despair or frustration, when I don’t allow myself to go down the road toward self-pity, God shows me that this time of faith testing is worth the present pain or heartache. Over the months and years, that initial snap reaction of despair when unexpected events happen in life has turned into hope and peace and joy, knowing that God is using the present circumstance to build my faith.
This building up of our faith is quite important to God. With His broader, bigger, kingdom perspective, each tough circumstance in our life can be used as a building block. Block by block God builds us up to resist despair or temptations, and readies us to be used by Him in mighty ways for His glory.
This excites me: James encourages us not to run away from the adversities in life. We are to face them head-on. The good news is that we don’t have to face life alone. God will never leave us. As we read in Daniel 3, there were not just three men seen in the fiery flames. Four figures walked in that fire.
Nebuchadnezzar could hardly believe his eyes. Shocked, the king jumped up and asked his advisors,
NEBUCHADNEZZAR – “Didn’t we tie up and throw three men into the heart of the fire?”
ADVISORS – “Yes, O king.”
NEBUCHADNEZZAR – “Then why do I see four men, completely unbound, walking around in the middle of the fire? They don’t appear to be hurt at all. And the fourth . . . he appears to be like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24–25)
Biblical scholars who have thoroughly interpreted this account say that this fourth figure in the fire was the very presence of God. In fact, it was the fulfillment of the promise God made in Isaiah 43:2. In Isaiah the Lord says:
When you face stormy seas I will be there with you with endurance and calm; you will not be engulfed in raging rivers. If it seems like you’re walking through fire with flames licking at your limbs, keep going; you won’t be burned.
God stood strong with those brave young men as they made the choice to worship Him alone. In the same way, we can trust that when we choose to live life with the main goal of honoring Jesus, when we stick our necks out and live differently, God stands right there with us. I can only imagine what words of praise arose from the lips of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego as they looked through the hot flames to see the God of the universe there, supporting them in their trial.
This life goal of rising up for the fame of our Lord may seem daunting at times as we evaluate our lives. It will cost us something to forsake our “little g” gods and to worship God alone. But let’s not forget that He rewards those who love Him and obey His commands.
- We find joy when we partake in kingdom work because we know the end goal of experiencing eternity in the glorious presence of our Abba Father.
- There is hope to grab hold of when our eyes open to a bigger picture beyond the temporary and fleeting, and we bow low at the majestic throne of our King.
- Freedom reigns when we allow God to break the chains that take hold of our hearts and minds and keep us in fear and anxiety. Bowing humbly before God sets us in the perfect place, with the perfect heart condition and the perfect attitude to be used by God and to fulfill our deep-seated need to make our lives matter.
Are you letting life’s distractions remove God from His proper place in your life? Meditate on the character and goodness of God. He is faithful! (Hebrews 10:23) Come join the conversation on our blog! We’d love to hear from you!