Updated: Aug 25, 2022
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:” – 1 Peter 2:9
The story is told of a little boy who was being separated from his family. War had broken out in his country and the invading forces had defeated his people. In an attempt to spare this young lad’s life his father had arranged for his escape. As the caravan transporting the little boy was pulling out his father rushed to his side, held onto his arms and said, “Son, never forget you are a prince. Never forget you have royal blood running through your veins.”
According to the Collins Student Dictionary ‘set’ means to arrange or establish, while ‘apart’ means individual or distinct. To be set apart therefore means, to be arranged or established for a purpose. In Daniel 3 we find the story of three young men who understood what it meant to be set apart.
“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” – Daniel 3:1, 2
The name ‘Dura’ is from the Akkad word “dûru” which means walled palace. The plain of Dura was to the southeast of Babylon. It was the perfect location for the occasion. This dazzling 90 foot image could be seen from various points throughout the province of Babylon. On the day of its dedication the king invited the most important persons within his kingdom.
By setting up this gigantic image Nebuchadnezzar was saying his kingdom of Babylon would rule forever, and not the kingdom of God. At the dedication of this image the people were forced to bow down and worship the image at the sound of the music. They were to obey man (Nebuchadnezzar) instead of God. If they refused then they would die in the fire.
However, not everyone followed the king. There were three young men who disobeyed. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were Hebrew captives (slaves) who were faithful to God. When we read Daniel chapter 2 were learnt that they had proven their faith in their choice of diet, and along with Daniel, were blessed by God. After a test they were found to be ten times better than all of Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians and astrologers.
It was at Daniel’s request after he had interpreted the dream that his three friends were set over the affairs of the province of Babylon. Now, they faced the greatest challenge of their lives. They saw the dazzling 90 foot image of gold that the king had set up. They watched as it was eagerly received by the crowd, and heard the shouts of admiration, but they knew that it was a symbol of rebellion against God. They heard the herald cry, declaring that at the sound of the music, they must all fall down and worship the golden image that the king had set up.
They were determined not to compromise in any way with the king’s demand. They wouldn’t even bend down to tie a shoelace, or to pick up something from the ground. They knew that in order to be clearly on the side of God, there must be a clear distinction between their posture and that of the crowd. They didn’t want anyone to be confused about whether or not they bowed down. So when the music played and everyone fell to their knees before the image and worshipped, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah remained upright, fearlessly obeying the King of heaven instead of the king of Babylon.
Because they didn’t bow they were taken to the king who was very angry by this time. However, they were not afraid. Trusting in God, they told the king that they would not bow to his image. They were confident that God could deliver them from the burning fiery furnace, but even if He did not, they emphatically declared that they would not serve Nebuchadnezzar’s gods, nor worship the golden image which he had set up.
Hananiah, “Beloved of the Lord
– Shadrach, “illumined by the Sun God”
Mishael, “Who is God”
– Meshach, “Who is like unto the Moon God”
Azariah, “The Lord is my help”
– Abed-nego, Servant of Nego (“Shining Fire”)
This made the king even angrier king. He immediately commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal. They must die! Next, he ordered the strongest men in his army to throw them into the furnace. They were cast by these mighty soldiers into the midst of the burning fiery furnace bound and fully dressed. However, God worked a miracle. These three young men were not harmed by the flames. Outside the furnace, the flames were so intensely hot that the men who cast them in were killed by its heat.
The Scriptures declare, “With God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26. With God: giants are conquered, cities are overthrown, and fire falls from heaven and consumes sacrifices. Enemies are destroyed while God’s faithful are untouched.
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah walked unhurt in the exceedingly hot furnace, accompanied by Christ. King Nebuchadnezzar called them to come out, using the Babylonian names he had given them. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came forth of the midst of the fire.“- Daniel 3:26.
Today we must also remember that we are set apart. We are reminded by Peter “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:” -1 Peter 2:9.
This means we were selected from a number of alternatives. Just as a shopper has a choice in selecting a cereal, God chose us to be his children. He didn’t choose us because we were special.
However, because He chose us we became special.
As “a royal priesthood” it means we belong to a king. This king is Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. As priests we are expected to serve others and tell them about God.
As “a holy nation” we are to live a pure life. We are to set high standards for ourselves. We should be honest, kind, loving and helpful.
As “a peculiar people” it means we are special. We belong to God. We are to be different from other persons and show them how to live.
We are to be happy and praise God every day. We praise God by giving thanks in worship. We praise God by talking about what He does for us. We are to, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:” -Psalms 100:4.
God called us out of darkness so we can be in the light. Darkness is the absence or deficiency of light. It is difficult to walk in the dark. We can’t see properly so it is easy to stumble and fall. It is not safe. When we are in darkness it is easy for someone to hurt us because we can’t see clearly. Satan is the prince of darkness and is our deadly enemy.
Therefore, God asks us to enter into His marvelous light. Light makes seeing possible. The light of Jesus Christ is astounding.
It is more than a flashlight
It is more than a candle
It is more than a LED light
It is a bit more like the light from the sun. When the sun rises its rays cover the Earth. The sun beams are strong, and powerful and give light to all. However, the sunlight is limited in its reach. If someone is in a cave, is underground, is in a dark room, a tunnel or a basement the rays from the sun will not get to them. However, the light of Christ is far reaching. It can go anywhere. Jesus is inviting you and me to be light bearers. He wants us to take his light to the world. He has given us His light and His power. Let’s remember to do what He asks us to do.
As ambassadors of Jesus our duty is to show the grace, love and mercy of God. Oh, let us always remember we have royal blood flowing through our veins.