Daniel 3:52-56

The One in Control

How do you react when you feel life is out of your control?

52 Blessed are you, O Lord God of our fathers;
and praised and exalted above all for ever.
And blessed is your glorious and holy name;
and praised and exalted above all for ever.
53 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory;
and praised and glorified above all for ever.
54 Blessed are you on the glorious throne of your kingdom;
and praised and glorified above all for ever.
55 Blessed are you, who beholds the abyss while sitting upon the cherubims;
and praised and exalted above all for ever.
56 Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven;
and above all praised and glorified for ever.

World English Bible

These verses began the brilliant hymn of praise to God. Read in its entirety, the prayer is praise and an imperative of praise by all creation. According to the story in Daniel 3, the words of the prayer were placed in the mouths of three Jews who served the court of Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian monarch who swept Judah's elders into exile. These Jews refused to bow down to the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected as a focal point of worship. For their punishment, the three young men were condemned to death in a fiery furnace. Instead of dying, they walked in the furnace unscathed and blessed God. As an interesting side note, a fourth figure joined the men in the furnace. This figure appeared like "a son of God." (Daniel 3:92)

For a centuries, the so-called "Greek" version of Daniel could only be found in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Old Testament. As such, these verses lie outside the canon of Protestant and Jewish Bibles, but remain in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles. Yet, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, this book was found in a dual language version, Hebrew and Aramaic. So, its place in the estimation of scholars and Church officials has grown substantially. Many Biblical scholars place the book's compilation around 160 B.C. This would have marked the same time period as the revolt of the Maccabees against Greek-Syrian king. When we compare the three heroes in the story to the narratives found in 1 and 2 Maccabees, we can see similar spiritual attitudes. Traditional Jews stood against the cultural pressures and royal dictates of Hellenistic overlords. These faithful would gladly die instead of compromising their religious identity or practices. A prayer of praise in a place of martyrdom summed up the spirituality of the times.

Does a hymn of praise in the midst persecution and evil make sense? Actually, yes, it does. Events like tragedy or persecution demand a choice. We can stand for what we believe or our character can fold under the pressure. When we stand, when we praise God in the face of evil, even death, we place ourselves completely in the hands of our creator.

As the old adage goes, "There's no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole." The heat of war is akin to the heat of persecution or tragedy, when our fate definitely not in our hands. Such times force a choice. Praise is an answer to the choice. It affirms the fact we are not in control, but it also lauds the one in control, God.

When do you praise God? Do times of trouble create an attitude of praise in you?