Nebuchadnezzar Calls the Three Men from the Fiery Furnace, by C.F. Vos
Image provided by www.BiblePictureGallery.com
Jewish Lords' Witness
Our Church President made an interesting observation to me, in discussing this topic, that I wholeheartedly agreed with. We understand that the first 144,000 baptised members of the Lords’ Witnesses are to become Second New Covenant Kings in God’s Kingdom on Earth. We may not be the most righteous or charitable inhabitants of the Kingdom but through our bible research we have grown a keen knowledge and desire to fulfil God’s laws. Consequently we will be well placed to police those laws in the Kingdom as were the Hebrew Kings written of in the Old Testament. The difference in our latter case may be that we have now had the added input from Christ of the value of love to one and all so that, hopefully, we will not fall foul of the kind of errors made by those kings. Also I expect that we will have the First New Covenant Saints keeping a watchful eye over our actions to keep us on a just and uncorrupted course. Amen
A little while after having written this paper I fond myself watching the movie 'Trance'. One of the main characters from that film, one Elizabeth Lamb, made a statement of significant relevance to this topic of anger and I quote: 'To be angry is to be a victim. I've moved on now.'
Why Do I Write This Paper Now?
The subject of anger is very dear to my heart right now following on from the events I outlined in my previous two papers: ‘Doves and Serpents’ and ‘Witches’. Whilst I am normally a reasonably mild-mannered individual I have been known to go into a white hot rage when I sense a deliberately unjust or malicious action from another towards myself, a loved one or, indeed, complete strangers. The passage of time and my own spirituality usually act to calm me down although anything that causes a recollection of that action can often raise my temperature again. One of the problems that I have with my current circumstances is that they are ever present in the road in which I live so that, every time I set foot outside my home or am returning to my road, I am constantly reminded of the events that have set off the current angry episode.
My dear lady wife is unhappy at my current state of mind in this matter and, in that regard, made a point of providing me with the following two very timely Insights from her Dalai Lama 2015 Calendar which have provoked me into writing this paper:
Friday April 17th: ‘If your mind is overcome by destructive emotions, you can no longer think clearly. When you’re angry, your mind is filled with the negativity of the object of your anger, which is in fact largely your own mental projection. This is why tolerance and forgiveness serve to protect your sense of warm-heartedness.’
Tuesday April 21st: ‘Some people think [tolerance and forgiveness] are signs of weakness and that aggression is a sign of strength. But aggression follows from anger that, deep inside, is rooted in fear. When you have the confidence that you can deal with whatever arises, you don’t get angry.’
What Does the Bible Say About Men’s Anger?
Whilst I clearly cannot accept Tibetan Buddhism as anything other than a false religion, there is no doubt that there are many positive spiritual thoughts and actions arising from many sources other than the Fourth True Christian Church. The above quotes are two such examples of such spiritual insights that can only be God-given.
So let us see how the Holy Scriptures address this self-same subject of anger. The first quote I find comes from Ephesians 4:
26 "Be angry but do not sin;" do not let the sun go down on your wrath,
27 nor give place to the Devil.
28 The one stealing, let him steal no more, but rather let him labor, working what [is] good with the hands, that he may have [something] to give to the [one] that has need.
29 Let not any filthy word go out of your mouth, but if any [is] good to building up [in respect to] the need, that it may give grace to the ones hearing.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed to [the] day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and anger, and wrath, and tumult, and evil speaking be put away from you, along with all evil things. (Ephesians 4 GLT)
Now I find this more than a little interesting. Looking at verse 26 it initially states unequivocally that there is nothing innately wrong with our being angry. This matches my own thinking in the earlier papers on this website referenced above. After all both God and Jesus got angry (and presumably still do!):
9 And Jehovah [was] angry with Solomon, for his heart had bent away from Jehovah, God of Israel who had appeared to him twice,
10 and had given a charge to him concerning this thing, not to go after other gods; and he did not keep that which Jehovah commanded. (1 Kings 11 GLT)
5 And having looked around on them with anger, being greatly grieved over the hardness of their heart, He said to the man, Stretch out your hand! And he stretched out, and his hand was restored sound as the other. (Mark 3 GLT)
And we were made in God’s image:
27 And God created the man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. He created them male and female. (Genesis 1 GLT)
The fact that this statement is repeated in the above verse suggests emphasis. So we are much more like God than we might dare imagine. We are His children so if He can get angry then surely we are allowed to have our tantrums, at least to a certain extent!! This particularly when ones considers the following OT verses:
16 And they left all the commands of Jehovah their God and made for themselves casted images, two calves, and made an Asherah, and bowed to all the host of the heavens, and served Baal,
17 and caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire and divined, and used incantations, and sold themselves to do the evil in the eyes of Jehovah, to provoke Him,
18 so that Jehovah was very angry against Israel, and turned them away from His face; not one was left, only the tribe of Judah by itself. (2 Kings 17 GLT)
God was so angry with their idol worship that he disposed of half of the Hebrew nation. Not that I am suggesting that this gives us a similar licence for our own justified anger.....
The next point in verse 26 tells us that being angry does not give us the right to commit any sin. So, for example, we have no licence to take revenge on someone who has wronged us, except in circumstances to protect ourselves or our loved ones. Again I have covered this in the previous two papers.
Verse 29 above also presses one of my hot buttons. When in a rage I am prone to use coarse language which verse 29 requires us to desist from using even in trying circumstances. This is clearly a lesson I must learn and gain control over my response to my anger. Once again scripture seems to be confirming to us that being angry is fine but we must control our reactions to that anger.
Now verses 30 and 31 are of particular interest to me. Paul’s epistle was clearly being written to the Ephesian faithful who were described as ‘sealed‘. They would therefore be saved into the next system. Whilst they are being told to control their emotions and behaviour, it seems to recognise that even those ones are prone to react to their environment and fellow beings in a very human fashion. As a baptised Lords’ Witness I feel very much in a similar position. Subject to any serious misdemeanour, I hope my faith in our two Gods will cause me to be saved into the Kingdom. However this hoped for status does not appear to have removed any of my innate feeling of still being 100% human in my response to my surroundings. So there is hope for me yet even given my current angry state of mind. Paul’s epistle to the Colossian congregation further emphasises this notion:
8 But now, you also, put off all [these] things: wrath, anger, malice, evil-speaking, shameful speech out of your mouth. (Colossians 3 GLT)
It is interesting that whilst the Dalai Lama’s words are fully compatible with the above scriptures, the DL’s words tell us about the psychology of anger, particularly explaining the internalisation of the emotion of anger and the effect it has on the angry person’s own self rather than the object of his anger. On the other hand God’s Word talks about what is right and wrong without any psychological analysis. James’ epistle seems to provide further support for this understanding:
19 So that, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.
20 For [the] wrath of man does not work out [the] righteousness of God. (James 1 GLT)
Here we are being told that the one and only reason to control one’s anger is that it gets in the way of doing God’s will. In support of this Proverbs advises us not to associate with angry people in case it should rub off as a trap for us:
24 Do not feed a possessor of anger, and do not go in with a man of fury,
25 lest you learn his ways and take a snare for your soul. (Proverbs 22 GLT)
So here we see that anger can be a trap for us but again is not, in itself, unrighteous. In an earlier chapter Proverbs goes one step further:
11 A man's discretion makes his anger slow, and his glory [is] to pass over a transgression. (Proverbs 19 GLT)
Whilst this verse supports those previous, it also states that a better position is to forgive a wrong-doing without allowing it to anger oneself. A small misdemeanour I hope I can let go, albeit with a gentle warning perhaps. But a serious act against another I find more than a little difficult to ignore without an angry response. Ecclesiastes carries on the same theme whilst implying some of the internalisation of anger as per the Dalai Lama’s quotations. It also considers that such internalisation is none too clever:
9 Do not be hasty in your spirit to be angry; for vexation rests in the bosom of fools. (Ecclesiastes 7 GLT)
The following verses from Proverbs caused me to realise there is a common thread running through all bar one of the above four quotations:
31 The gray head [is] a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.
32 One slow to anger [is] better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. (Proverbs 16 GLT)
That point is that although anger is not of itself outlawed, it appears to be significantly preferable for any such anger to be slow and controlled when it does come forth. That is the thrust of verse 32. I could not, however, resist commenting upon verse 31 from my own personal circumstances, i.e. that of owning a 'grey head'. Whilst, at first thought, an older head should be a wiser and more discreet head (and often I can confirm that is the case), there is also the factor that, as one gets on in years, one's irritability increases as a result of the slowing down and more error prone workings of one's grey matter with the increasing years. That is certainly the situation in my case and is, no doubt, a contributing factor to my angry state of mind and why I felt it necessary to commit these last three papers to the internet for public consumption. Old age has its benefits of life experience for sure but, as for most beneficial things in this life, it does not come unencumbered.
Now Matthew’s epistle gave me some food for thought if for no other reason than there appear to be two significantly different translations of chapter 5 verse 22. I provide translations from the American Standard Version as well as the GLT bible by way of illustration:
22 but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire. (Matthew 5 ASV)
22 But I say to you, Everyone who is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to the Judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca, shall be liable to the sanhedrin; but whoever says, Fool! shall be liable [to be thrown] into the fire of Hell. (Matthew 5 GLT)
The key difference for me is in the phrase ‘…without cause…’ in the GLT version and which is absent from the ASV. The inclusion of the phrase appears to defend anger when justified. Apparently many of the best Greek manuscripts exclude these words although they were apparently included in some other early manuscripts. Either way, with or without just cause, we must all be careful not to retain our angry feelings towards others in an uncontrolled or unforgiving manner. Once again I think we are being told that anger is not, of itself, sinful but if left uncontrolled it can easily lead us into the path of unrighteousness. The Psalms seem to confirm this notion:
8 Abstain from anger and cease from fury; also do not inflame yourself to do evil. (Psalms 37 GLT)
God seems to be setting the standard for this in that He can be both righteous and angry although we mere humans cannot claim to be righteous judges of evil:
11 God is a righteous judge; and God is angry with evildoers every day. (Psalms 7 GLT)
And finally, on this note, it would seem evident that a quick temper would not allow the time for a person to consider a difficult situation in a careful and wise manner:
29 One slow [to] anger [is] of great understanding, but he who [is] short of spirit exalts folly. (Proverbs 14 GLT)
Anger Against Authority
Now up to this point I have been harping on about personal anger directed at a specific individual as a result of some misdemeanour acted out against a person or persons. And that, indeed, was my prime and original purpose in writing this paper. However, I have once again been moved by the Spirit to expand my thinking to anger that is directed at the human powers that be, despite my previous writings on the subject at Civil Obedience. Both myself and my brothers in Christ, apart from having our own individual grievances of one form or another, all have an anger directed at human authority figures and organisations. These would include the heads of state of pretty much any nation, leaders of political parties of all complexions, those of any association that is brought together for any endeavour that has any sizeable funding at its disposal, directors of large powerful commercial and financial concerns, leaders of the large established religions….. Have I left anyone out?
Now acting against these feelings are several scriptures that suggest a rather different attitude perhaps?
1 Let every soul be subject to higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, but the existing authorities have been ordained by God.
2 So that the [one] resisting authority has opposed the ordinance of God, and the ones opposing will receive judgment to themselves.
3 For the rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the bad. And do you desire not to fear the authority? Do the good, and you will have praise from it;
4 for it is a servant of God to you for the good. But if you practice evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword in vain; for it is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to the [one] practicing bad [things].
5 Because of this, [it is] necessary to be subject, not only on account of wrath, but also on account of conscience.
6 For on this account you also pay taxes, for [they] are ministers of God, always giving attention to this very thing.
7 Then give to all [their] dues: to the [one due] tax, the tax; to the [one due] tribute, the tribute; to the [one due] fear, the fear; to the [one due] honor, the honor. (Romans 13 GLT)
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready in every good work, (Titus 3 GLT)
13 Then be in obedience to every creation of men because of the Lord; whether to a king, as being supreme;
14 or to governors, as through Him having indeed being sent for vengeance [on] evildoers, but praise [on] well doers, (1 Peter 2 GLT)
Now at first sight the above scriptures would seem to suggest that we must all blindly follow our human governments’ requirements without question. However, perhaps we are not looking at the full meaning behind these scriptures. Matthew’s gospel has something rather different to say on the matter of the world’s governments:
25 But having called them, Jesus said, You know that the rulers of the nations exercise lordship over them, and the great ones exercise authority over them.
26 But it will not be so among you. But whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.
27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your servant;
28 Even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. (Matthew 20 GLT)
This seems to be saying that the world’s rulers were put in place for those that did not know God: the people of the nations. The manner of rulership over the disciples would be set apart from the nations in that they would recognise the true rule of law emanating from God and how it would operate specifically within their own ranks. Then further on in Matthew’s gospel we find the following famous scripture:
20 And He said to them, Whose image and inscription is this?
21 They said to Him, Caesar's. Then He said to them, Then give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God. (Matthew 22 GLT)
Now something that I had not considered in this scripture previously is that Christ’s words were directed at the Pharisees. Would He have said similar words to His disciples I wonder? Clearly we should not break any of the laws of the land except, I think, in circumstances where those man-made laws run counter to God’s laws. As if to prove this latter point we have the well-known (and somewhat lengthy) tale of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol and were saved from the heat of the furnace by the one true God for their trouble in the matter:
4 Then the herald cried with strength: To you it is commanded O peoples, nations, and languages,
5 at the time you hear the sound of the horn, the pipe, zither, the lyre, harp, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.
6 And whoever does not fall down and worship, at that moment they will be thrown into the middle of a burning, fiery furnace.
7 Then at that time when all the people heard the sound of the horn, the pipe, zither, the lyre, harp, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, the nations, and the languages fell down, worshiping the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
8 Then at that time men, Chaldeans, came near and slandered the Jews.
9 They answered and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live forever!
10 You, O king, have made a decree that every man who shall hear the sound of the horn, the pipe, zither, the lyre, harp, and the bagpipe, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image.
11 And whoever does not fall down and worship, he should be thrown into the middle of a burning, fiery furnace.
12 There are men, Jews, whom you have set over the business of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, do not pay attention to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in anger and wrath commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.
14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said to them, [Is it] true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego [that] you are not serving my gods, nor worshiping the golden image which I have set up?
15 Now if you are ready, at the time you hear the sound of the horn, the pipe, zither, the lyre, harp, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, fall down and worship the image which I have made. But if you do not worship, in that moment you shall be thrown into the middle of a burning, fiery furnace. And who is that god who shall deliver you out of my hand?
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to return a word to you on this matter.
17 If it is [so that] our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, then He will deliver out of your hand, O king.
18 And if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and the form of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He spoke and commanded to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usual to heat it.
20 And he commanded mighty men of valor in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, [and] to throw [them] into the burning, fiery furnace.
21 Then these men were tied up in their slippers, their tunics, and their mantles, and their [other] clothes, and were thrown into the middle of the burning, fiery furnace.
22 Then, because the king's command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the middle of the burning, fiery furnace.
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was amazed. And he rose up in haste; he spoke and said to his royal officials, Did we not throw three men bound into the middle of the fire? They replied and said to the king, True, O king.
25 He answered and said, Behold! I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and there is no harm among them. And the form of the fourth is like a son of [the] gods.
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning, fiery furnace. He answered and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out and come [here]. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the middle of the fire.
27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's officials assembled. And [they] saw these men [on whose] bodies the fire had no power, and the hair of their head was not scorched, nor were their slippers changed, nor had the smell of fire clung on them.
28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said, Blessed [be] the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His Angel and has delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and have changed the king's words, and have given their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3 GLT)
And further on in Daniel chapter 6 we have the even more famous example of Daniel himself disobeying the law of the Persians and the Medes by bowing down and praying to Jehovah God even when faced with a trip to the lions’ den.
So in net terms I believe that my brothers and I are perfectly understandably angry at the anti-God, politically correct, vote winning and tyrannical policies that are put on the statute books of pretty nearly all of the nations of this world. This is notwithstanding that we still pay our due taxes (don’t we??). I should add that our anger extends beyond just national governments. It also includes the leadership of all large recognised religions. Jesus’ example of anger towards the Pharisees in the earlier quotation from Mark 3 gives us our justification in this I think. Clearly we are different from Jesus in that we are ourselves not entirely blameless but, nonetheless, I think we are entitled to our anger at what we see as the corruption of God’s Word within the world’s churches.
Deliberate Provocation from Others
Back to the issue that started this whole project off. How is one supposed to deal with a deliberate plot to provoke one?
21 Also, do not give your heart to all the words they speak, that you not hear your servant cursing you.
22 For also your own heart knows that you yourself have also cursed others many times. (Ecclesiastes 7 GLT)
These wise words from Ecclesiastes above suggest that one should not take the abusive words of others (not just one’s servants I suspect) too seriously. This particularly since one has probably said some things unwholesome to some others in the past. However when a particular and targeted verbal attack is made directly towards oneself I think this is a somewhat different matter.
Now let us look into this a little further. Paul’s epistle to the Galatian congregation reiterates the well-trodden ‘love thy neighbour’ theme and confirms the reality that infighting can destroy all those involved:
14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in [this]: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [Lev. 19:18]
15 But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5 GLT)
But who exactly is one’s neighbour? Let us have another look at the law on the subject in Leviticus:
17 You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall certainly reprove your neighbor, and not allow sin on him.
18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people; but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I [am] Jehovah. (Leviticus 19 GLT)
Well this seems to clarify the matter that your neighbour was one of Israel’s own people in Old Testament times which for me today would be represented by my brothers in Christ. So it would seem that any ill will I feel towards my next door neighbour, who is clearly a Godless man or probably worse, a witch or a demon, is not included in terms of my own judgement under law. If this is so then the only consideration I need to make is to not hold my anger within for the sake of my own state of mind and health, without any regard for the object of my contempt. However we need to read further on the subject in the gospel of Matthew:
43 You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor" and hate your enemy; [Lev. 19:18]
44 but I say to you, Love your enemies; bless those cursing you, do well to those hating you; and pray for those abusing and persecuting you,
45 so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. Because He causes the sun to rise on [the] evil and [the] good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.
46 For if you love those loving you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?
47 And if you only greet your brothers, what exceptional [thing] do you do? Do not the tax-collectors do so? (Matthew 5 GLT)
So whilst I may still be saved if I hate my enemy, since this is clearly acceptable under God's Law I am unlikely to make much more spiritual progress unless I can right that imperfection (along with all the others!). Perhaps this is what this has all been about for me. I may have reached the pass mark but there is still room for further improvement and this is now being made clear to me.
Let us continue the above train of thought by taking a close look at some relevant scriptures on the subject of the forgiveness of one's fellow man:
23 Yet, O Jehovah, You know all their counsel to death against me. Do not atone for their iniquity, nor blot out their sin from Your face, but let them be those made to stumble before You; deal with them in the time of Your anger. (Jeremiah 18 GLT)
In the above verse Jeremiah is asking God not to forgive the House of Israel who are out to do the prophet physical harm. Whilst my neighbour was not explicitly looking to break any vows he has made to God (I expect that he has none!), he was clearly acting in an ungodly way towards me. Do I therefore have the right to ask God not to forgive his sins against me and Him? Hmmm, probably not.
14 For if you forgive men their deviations, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you will not forgive men their deviations, neither will your Father forgive your deviations. (Matthew 6 GLT)
Well this appears to be unequivocal. If a man sins against us we need to forgive him as God would forgive us our own sins. This raises two questions in my mind. Is my neighbour actually a man or a possessing demon? If a demon then all bets are off I think! The second question is ‘how does one actually forgive someone?’. Do I pray for his forgiveness for his sins against me or do I need to say to his face that I forgive him. I think the latter would be presumptuous and judgemental on my part since I expect that he does not consider that he has sinned against me at all! At least in the former way I cleanse my own conscience and give myself peace of mind. So I think I must do this in prayer and leave it up to God to determine the man’s sins and forgiveness since judgement of us all is the Lords’. Further study has shown that my sense of this has turned out to be correct:
25 And when you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive [it], so that your Father in Heaven may also forgive your deviations. (Mark 11 GLT)
However it would appear that a more personal touch is desirable for one's brother:
3 Take heed to yourselves. And if your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.
4 And if seven times of the day he sins against you, and seven times of the day turns to you saying, I repent, you shall forgive him. (Luke 17 GLT)
However, I do think seven times a bit excessive. I think I would be rather concerned if a brother sinned against me seven times in a day; would he really be my brother? Perhaps this is just drawing the distinction between my brothers and those who are not. It seems that the latter would not be given the same latitude by me methinks!
And, as if to confirm all my current thinking on this subject to date, it would appear that I am not the first brother in history to have known anger and all its associated luggage. Again Paul asked the Ephesian and Colossian congregations to be forgiving of one another; he did not mention the forgiving of non-believers:
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed to [the] day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and anger, and wrath, and tumult, and evil speaking be put away from you, along with all evil things.
32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, having forgiven one another, even as also God forgave you in Christ. (Ephesians 4 GLT)
13 bearing with one another and forgiving yourselves, if anyone has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also you [should forgive]. (Colossians 3 GLT)
Mind you it would seem that those of us believing in the saving power of Jesus Christ will not be condemned under the law in any event:
18 The [one] believing into Him is not condemned; but the one not believing has already been condemned, for he has not believed into the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3 GLT)