Stand Forth and Declare Truth…
There is an old adage, “Some things are better left unsaid.” I could come up with a myriad of things that I have said and regretted, but as the adage advises, I am not going to. Suffice it to say, Jesus taught clearly, “…that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” (Matthew 15:11). If you want further evidence, just watch some campaign commercials from either side of the political aisle. I believe in today’s environment there is more that should go unsaid than verbalized. However, there are times when voices should be raised unapologetically and with courage regardless of what the consequences might be. It is at those moments that true heroes and leaders emerge as exemplars for us all.
In the course of human history we can name many such unapologetic voices raised with conviction and courage:
“Give me liberty or give me death.” — Patrick Henry;
“I did eat.” — Adam and Eve;
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” — Abraham Lincoln;
“Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go.” — Moses;
“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.” — Thomas Jefferson and the signers of the Declaration of Independence;
“Daddy, I did something wrong that I need to confess.” — A Malcolm Child;
“Yea, and I will suffer even until death, and I will not recall my words, and they shall stand as a testimony against you.” — Abinadi;
“It is better to be alone with God. His friendship will not fail me, nor His counsel, nor His love. In His strength I will dare and dare and dare until I die.” — Joan of Arc;
“I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true;… …I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it.” — Joseph Smith;
And in answer to the question, “Art thou the Christ?” posed by wicked men seeking the death of Jesus:
“Ye say that I am.” — Jesus of Nazareth
In addition to these, the account of the courage and forthrightness of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, is an heroic example to me. The three, with Daniel the Prophet, had earlier stood up against the king’s command, refusing to eat the food provided by Nebuchadnezzar but forbidden by Mosaic law. I have known their story from my youth and was early inspired by their fortitude and bravery when I sang of them, an old African-American spiritual, with my high school choir in Sanger, California.
The ruler of Babylon had created a giant golden image and commanded all men that they worship it, under penalty of death by fire. When Nebuchadnezzar was told of the refusal of three Judean men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, to bow and worship the idol, he had them brought before him and questioned the trio himself.
Knowing full well the punishment for disobedience in this matter, these men not only declared clearly their conviction and unwillingness to bow down before idols, but said so in a way that would surely stir the wrath of the already angry king. When it would have been fully understandable that they might stammer, or seek some type of mercy, or use persuasive words in this moment of mortal peril, the three in unity declared instead that they would not be cautious, apologetic or diplomatic in the voicing of their profoundly deep convictions.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).
Of course we know how the story ends, the king was infuriated, so much so that he had the fire in the furnace stoked seven times beyond its normal capacity, causing the deaths of the guards in an instant who tossed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego inside. Nevertheless, for their faith, and in their courage and conviction, the Lord God of Israel preserved them. They were even called forth from the flames by Nebuchadnezzar, as astonished he witnessed them commune with an angelic figure within the fiery furnace. Not a hair of their heads, nor the clothes they were wearing, were scorched, neither did they even carry the scent of smoke. Nebuchadnezzar repented of his previous decree, and rather than attempt to punish them further promoted the three as leaders in the kingdom.
I am moved by the courage of these three men. I do not know if they knew with certainty that they would be saved, but regardless, they declared that whether they be saved by God or not, they would not be careful in the answer that they gave that they would not worship the idol. That is conviction, that is courage, and that is standing up and declaring what must be declared at the moment needed.
May we too stand in that moment and speak with courage and conviction the words that the Lord would have us say. There are times, and they be many, when our tongues should be held and our minds should not be spoken, and it is wisdom and the Spirit to know the difference. Let us stand fourth and declare the truth in all things, not our truth or the wisdom of men, but the truth of the eternal God who rules in love and compassion, justice satisfied by mercy, to bring to pass the immortality and salvation of His beloved children. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.