A Fresh Cuppa: The Prayer of Azariah

Posted: March 3, 2019 by Ty in Brunch & Bible
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Standing firm in what one believes can be hard. There needs to be an internal discernment, are you simply standing firm because you fear change? Dislike the change agent? Or does it cross a non-negotiable ethical line of yours?  Stories like this crop up many times in the Hebrew Bible, especially during the two times of exile: Babylon and Assyria. This is one of the bonus features if you will from the time of Daniel, under King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as King of Babylon (and yes, it is also a good Veggie Tales movie, it’s the Children’s Pastor in me). As the King attempts to remove the ability of freedom of thought and belief by becoming the top of the pantheistic pyramid.

Will you bow to the golden statue?

Will you worship and do, what is a non-negotiable in your ethical compass?

23 But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” 25 He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”[e]

-Daniel 3:23-25 (New Revised Standard Version)

For the three, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego it appears quite a simple thing to stand firm in their belief and be rescued. Unfortunately, sanitized tales such as this can remove the struggle of faith. The internal questioning, the mulling, the contemplation, the praying.

What would you do? In today’s world it comes down to not necessarily being burned alive, but if it meant losing your career? Being black listed within a sector? If you are a politician being voted out of office or booted from a party caucus?

Would you blow the whistle on that which is wrong?

Between these scant three verses emerges the bonus feature within the Apocrypha of the Prayer of Azariah and Song of three Jews.

Verse 1 they enter the furnace, from 2 through 22 what you are reading is a whistle blowing memo to a media outlet in today’s world. They are admitting the FUBAR of the nation’s situation (insert any organization you know that you are trapped in a similar ethical quandary).  He lays out his heart, knowing what is wrong and why it is wrong, it is basically what a prayer of confession is. Then he points out the character of the Creator he serves, and that patience and mercy is needed to reignite what is right.

To blaze a new path, by stepping off the one that is being blazed (and in the furnace, quite literally).

Verse 23-27 literally brings us into the fire. For those reading the link provided, 49 cubits of flames is 29.40 Meters (let that sink in, for our American friends that is 96.5 feet), and naphtha is believed to be a type of petroleum product so it was a burning blue flame.

The Empire attempted to silence the whistle blowers, but the Angel (messenger) came in and essentially provided sanctuary from the blue flame, as a moist wind. There can be many storms created when we take a stand for belonging, love and what is morally and ethically true… but in the eye of the storm where you come to rest it is peaceful, that is the message here as you carry through the hard parts of the journey know where your sanctuary is and live into it.

Verses 28-68 is a Psalm, praising God, and calling for all of creation to praise God. Within the words it is seen that there is a balance within creation that exists in the heart of the Holy Mystery. It is the song that they were singing with the king looked into the furnace and did not see 4 burning, but dancing and singing.

It is a tale on those moments where we are confronted with a choose path a or lose it all, we have wisdom to rest in and contemplate with.

If we are willing.

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