Saturday, May 26, 2012

Not as it should be

The plan should have worked perfectly, should have silenced once and for all that deep, secret nagging whisper in his heart that he was not as grand and as great as he wanted to be. And after all, was the point of being king, and having the whole bureaucracy of Babylon at your disposal, if you couldn’t get your plans to work out without a hitch? And, what was worse, he couldn’t even blame his bureaucrats for the problem. They had done exactly what he asked.

It had all begun with the idea of the statue, enormously tall, too tall to fit inside the city: the glorified image of himself made of pure gold, that the people might see and marvel at the greatness of their king, and all those officials, so full of their scornful self-importance would have to acknowledge he was greater. And wasn’t a king, such as himself, the mighty ruler of an empire, as great as any god? He had defeated all the surrounding peoples, their gods had surrendered in his favour, so wasn’t he greater than any of them? (Alright, there was the matter of the God of the Hebrews, who they claimed had let them be defeated as a punishment, and was in charge of the whole process, but that made no sense)  So, just as they went to the temple to worship the gods through their images, shouldn’t they give the same devotion to their king?

So, when the day came there they were assembled on that plain -- all the dignitaries of the Babylonian Empire from the satraps to the claptraps. They all knew what was required of them, the herald had proclaimed it: when all the musicians played they were to bow down and worship the glorious image of their king. Ninety feet tall it stood, unbearably bright in the sunshine, wonderful enough to provoke awe and worship in anyone. But to make sure they understood that this was no frivolous request, the fiery furnace had been assembled right at the front where they could not miss it,  and they knew what fate awaited any who disobeyed the command.

It should go perfectly, and he could feel the excitement mounting inside him. If worship did so much for the gods that they constantly demanded it, shouldn’t it do the same for him? The music played, jarringly, majestically, and he quivered with anticipation as he saw the people bowing down. Except .. what was this? In the middle distance three men remained upright.  Infuriated, he ordered them to be brought before him. When they came up, he recognised them – the three brilliant young Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. How dare they spoil his special plan, and set such a heinous example of defying his divine majesty!

His fragile honour was endangered, but there was a remedy for that! He would make an example of them, humiliating them with his rage before the whole gathering. But it had no effect. They would rather die than bow down and worship him! Well, let them die! That, at least, should have a salutary effect on all who watched. If any wouldn’t worship him from genuine admiration, then let them worship him from fear. These men were spoiling his day and would be destroyed. Then things would be just as they should!

So the furnace of his wrath was heated way beyond human endurance, and the three men were cast in. And that should have fixed things. But instead it was the final disintegration, for the men did not burn up into nothing, but rather walked freely among the flames, and a fourth one walked with them, and He was utterly glorious, like a son of the gods. Like a spear thrust through his vital organs, the king felt the agony of defeat. Here was a God who made both his statues and his statutes look like puny and ridiculous games. To try and pit himself against such a God was a pathetic absurdity. No wonder nothing had gone  the way that it should!

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