Facing the Truth
“the truth will set you free”
Today’s readings: Dn 3:14-95; Dn 3:52-56; Jn 8:31-42
Today’s reading gives us an example of sufferance of consequences for collective guilt and a good lesson in Lamentations (Dn 3:14-51). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship the golden statue set up by King Nebuchadnezzar, who then had them thrown into the fiery furnace.
Azariah (Abednego is his Babylonian name) prayed: “Blessed are you, and praiseworthy, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and glorious forever is your name. For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper. You have executed proper judgments in all that you have brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our fathers. By a proper judgment you have done all this because of our sins; for we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you, and we have done every kind of evil. Your commandments we have not heeded or observed, nor have we done as you ordered us for our good. Therefore all you have brought upon us, all you have done to us, you have done by a proper judgment.” (Dn 3:26-31).
Israel had been unfaithful and had suffered the consequences. The Israelites were defeated and exiled to Babylon. Now the three were being punished for not worshiping a false god. Take a good look at Azariah’s prayer. First, he praises God in spite of their situation. Second, he does not blame God or question why God allowed this to happen to them. In fact, he affirms that what God allowed to happen was right. Third, he acknowledges the collective sin of Israel. The people did not obey God and departed from Him. This separation from God’s grace and protection caused them to do every kind of evil. Azariah’s prayer is the proper posture of one in Lamentations.
Azariah, after acknowledging collective guilt and holding God blameless, now reminds God of their covenant, asks for His mercy, and recalls God’s promises (Dn 3:34-36). Then he presents themselves “with contrite heart and humble spirit” (Dn 3:39). Finally he affirms his total trust in God and their obedience without reservation, and prays for deliverance (Dn 3:40-43). This is the process and essence of Lamentations.
God did deliver them, in a very miraculous way, which eventually led to the total turnaround of King Nebuchadnezzar (his metanoia) and to his acknowledging and blessing the one true God. Lamentations leads to deliverance and to the manifestation of His glory to the world.
What are the lessons for us?
· We must acknowledge our collective guilt. The one who says he is blameless is the one who does not understand what God is trying to teach us and work in us.
· We must not blame or question God. His ways are not our ways. He even allows injustice and persecution to accomplish His work in us. His ways are always just and are always designed for our good.
· We must trust fully in God for our deliverance and vindication.
· We must humble ourselves before God. God often has to bring us to our knees before we can let go of our own self-sufficiency and selfishness. We humble ourselves so God can exalt us in due time (1 Pt 5:6). We ask for deliverance and allow God to work this out in His own way and in His own time.
· We must always maintain hope in our heart. Hope is easy to profess when things are going not too badly. But it is when we are in the depths of desperation and even despair, when we see no way out, when we want to already give up, that affirming our hope in God finds real meaning and value.
Now a critical aspect of Lamentations is knowing and standing up for the truth. At times we sacrifice the truth for convenience, for glossing over issues, for avoiding conflict, for pushing our own agenda. But God and covenant are about truth. And our integrity in our work is all about truth.
Jesus says, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31-32). There is an important chronology here. First we live out our covenant and obey God. When we do so, we can be rightly called a disciple, a follower of Christ. As a true disciple, we will know the truth, for Jesus himself, who is the truth (Jn 14:6), will teach us and lead us. The truth then sets us free. This then accomplishes Jesus’ mission, which is to free the captives and the oppressed (Lk 4:18).
Jesus is the truth while Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44). We are who our Father is and we do what our Father does. “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham.” (Jn 8:39). Because the Jews were trying to kill him, Jesus said to them: “You are doing the works of your father!” (Jn 8:41), referring to Satan. Jesus tells them that if they were truly the descendants of Abraham, and therefore God’s people, “then do what you have heard from the Father.” (Jn 8:38).
Whose child then are we? It depends on how we uphold the truth, in all circumstances.
· Do we speak against, slander or put down others and thus deprive them of their dignity as a child of God in order to further our own interests?
· Do we readily and humbly acknowledge our shortcomings and mistakes rather than digging in or covering up?
· Do we attribute our success and the fruit of our work to God, even acknowledging that His work is done in spite of ourselves?
Action: Consider if you speak the truth at all times.
Prayer: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our fathers, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever; and blessed is your holy and glorious name, praiseworthy and exalted above all for all ages. Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, praiseworthy and glorious above all forever. Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne upon the cherubim, praiseworthy and exalted above all forever. Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven, praiseworthy and glorious forever.” (Dn 3:52-56). I praise you Lord for loving me and caring for me. Please never allow me to stray away from home, as I want to be with you, now and forever. Amen.
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)