It has recently come to our attention that Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego have put forward the argument that any Israelite who bows down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue has departed the faith and become apostate. We do not know who appointed these three extremely wealthy and privileged men to stand over everyone else and act as though their personal opinions should be the rule everyone follows, but here are eleven reasons why you can bow down to the statue and still love the LORD.
- Bowing down to the golden statue doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to worship the statue in our hearts. We should bow down to communicate solidarity and love to our neighbors instead of judgment and intolerance.
- If we do not bow down to the statue, our neighbors will dismiss us as too rigid and will not listen to us share our faith.
- Nebuchadnezzar has been set over us by God’s sovereign will. Shouldn’t we obey the LORD’s servant as an expression of our humility before God?
- Can we be sure what the phrase, “You shall have no gods before me” means? Arguably, this golden statue is not a god but even if it were, bowing to it would not necessarily mean putting this particular god before the LORD. Why such a narrow interpretation?
- Also, that we are to “make no graven images” doesn’t really apply here since we are not the ones who made it.
- What about the younger generation? Our Israelite teenagers and young adults are learning new ideas from their Babylonian teachers and friends. If we refuse to bow to the golden statue, we risk losing our young people who will see us as exclusionary and narrow-minded.
- It is said that when the Messiah comes he will gather all the nations to the LORD and that the LORD’s house will be a house of prayer for all. Does that necessarily mean that all the nations will pray to God in the same way and under the same Name that we do? It may well be that this statue is one of the many ways the LORD makes himself known to the nations.
- Has it escaped your notice that the Law of Moses was written almost 900 years ago? It was only “found” in the Temple recently, during Josiah’s reign. Are we really supposed to believe that we have access to what Moses originally wrote? Shouldn’t we expect that the Law has been shaped by different scribes over the course of the centuries to reflect the needs of their own times?
- On that note, the context of our present exile is so radically different than the context of the wilderness and Sinai. We know so much more now about the nations around us and doesn’t it seem that some of what we read in the Law is inconsistent with what we now know?
- You might also wonder why Moses should be given such prominence. He wrote from a position of power and privilege. We do not hear much from the women and the slaves and those of other ethnicities. It seems that this requirement that we not bow to the golden statue is embedded in an entire system created by the elites, designed to silence the voices of women and the poor and the sojourner.
- Our Israelite neighbor who is very devout and kind and compassionate and learned in the scriptures plans to bow down to the statue when he hears the music play. He is a wonderful and pious person who loves the Lord and who just happens to also love other expressions of the divine. How can we say that the LORD would disapprove of such a good person?
For all of these reasons, after much prayer and seeking the LORD’s will, we encourage you to love your neighbors, respect their beautiful culture, and as an act of holy solidarity bow down to the golden statue that the most excellent Nebuchadnezer has made.
The Executive Committee of the Southern Kingdom in Exile