Bow or Burn
A friend just returned from spending several weeks in China. He gave direct testimony to how Xi Jinping is elevating himself to the level of Mao Zedong in the adoration he’s demanding from his people. With Peng Liyuan, his famous, folk singing wife, at his side, he can match the glamour of competing power couples around the world. His selling point has been the China Dream, the great rejuvenation of the entire Chinese nation. His economy seeks to become number one and his navy exerts its presence from the South China Sea to the Mediterranean. His engineers and construction workers are building infrastructure all over Asia and Africa to create a new silk road.
China pride and sovereignty reigns supreme in Mr. Xi’s mind, and this means online censorship, arrests of dissidents, and increasing pressure against those who desire to bow before the true God. But all this personality cult is nothing new. More than five hundred years before Christ Nebuchadnezzar had a vision. In his nightmare he saw a dazzling, gigantic image, and Daniel revealed that he was the head of gold. Now in our next episode King Nebuchadnezzar decides he’s going to be the entire image.
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the district of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a decree to gather together the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other rulers from the divisions of the empire to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Then the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other rulers from the divisions of the empire assembled together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up and they stood before it. Then the herald proclaimed loudly, ‘This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language. As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and all kinds of musical instruments, you must fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has erected. Whoever does not fall down and worship will at that moment be thrown into a blazing furnace.’
Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, and all kinds of musical instruments, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language fell down and worshiped the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.” Daniel 3:1-7
Five times in only seven verses Daniel uses the title “King Nebuchadnezzar” in his Aramaic text. He drives home the point that this image is all about Nebuchadnezzar. The stress upon the gold underlines wealth, and the universality of the invitation to gather on the Plain of Dura proves this is about universal allegiance to the supreme leader. The irony is that anyone who has to threaten death to get the desired adulation they desire proves that it’s all manufactured and a lie.
As our text takes us into this gigantic crowd standing before Nebuchadnezzar’s Colossus, the challenge we all face is-- will we bow or burn. And this episode gives me a healthy distrust of any leader demanding absolute allegiance and adoration and threatening those who won’t bow to his or her authority.
LORD, I pray for my brothers and sisters in China who are under such increasing pressure again from the totalitarian state. Continue to give me a healthy distrust of any leader who demands absolute allegiance and adoration.
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