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A saint in hell

By Luke Onyekakeyah
23 November 2021   |   2:44 am
Leah Sharibu. Has anyone forgotten that epic 14-year old Dapchi schoolgirl in Yobe State, who was kidnapped when Boko Haram terrorists invaded their school on February 19, 2018

Leah Sharibu

Leah Sharibu. Has anyone forgotten that epic 14-year old Dapchi schoolgirl in Yobe State, who was kidnapped when Boko Haram terrorists invaded their school on February 19, 2018 and took her captive along with her mates (109 altogether), but is still being held in captivity after her mates were released because she refused to renounce her Christian faith?

That typifies the spirit and character of canonised saints. But Leah is a living saint in hell. Hers is a pitiable and pathetic story. For nearly four years after her abduction, she is still being held incommunicado under very terrible inhuman conditions by her abductors in some unknown location where she is constantly abused.

At 14, Leah reportedly was forced into marriage to her abductors. This is a young teenage girl who was in school to get an education in an environment where female education is not promoted. But rather than getting that education, her dream has instead been truncated as she has been forced into motherhood. Unconfirmed reports say Leah now has two kids even as the future looks hollow. But her strong faith in her God is her only hope.

Leah’s case is like that of the four Hebrew young men – Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who held onto their belief in God even when threatened with fiery death. Their story serves as inspiration for those who question their faith or who face hardship for their beliefs.

About 600 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem and took captive many of Israel’s finest citizens (Daniel 3). Among those taken to Babylon were four young men from the tribe of Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. While in captivity, their names were changed. Daniel was now changed to Belteshazzar, Hananiah was called Shadrach, Mishael was called Meshach, and Azariah was called Abednego.

The four Hebrew youths soon distinguished themselves and proved to be exceptionally wise. As a result, they found favor with King Nebuchadnezzar. When Daniel turned out to be the only man who could interpret one of Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling dreams, the king promoted him to a high position over the whole province of Babylon, including over all of the wise men of the land. At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as Daniel’s advisors.

It happened that King Nebuchadnezzar had a huge golden image built as a symbol of his power and glory. He then commanded that his people bow down and worship this image whenever they heard the sound of his musical herald. Those who disobeyed the order would be thrown into an immense, blazing furnace.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, however, worshipped only the One True God, and they refused to bow down to the pagan idol. They were brought before King Nebuchadnezzar to face their fate but remained courageous in the face of the king’s demand for them to bow down before the golden statue.

They said: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, ESV).

Enraged, Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than average. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound and cast into the flames. The fiery blast was so hot it killed the soldiers who had escorted them. But as King Nebuchadnezzar peered into the furnace, he marveled at what he saw:

“But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25, ESV)

Then the king called the men to come out of the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego emerged unharmed, with not even a hair on their heads singed or the smell of smoke on their clothing. Needless to say, this made quite an impression on Nebuchadnezzar who declared:

“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” (Daniel 3:28, ESV)

Through God’s miraculous deliverance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that day, Nebuchadnezzar declared that the remaining Israelites in captivity were now protected from harm and were guaranteed freedom of worship. And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego received a royal promotion.

The question has been asked as to who was the fourth man Nebuchadnezzar saw in the flames? Bible scholars believe he was either an angel or a manifestation of Christ. Regardless, his appearance was miraculous, a heavenly bodyguard sent by God to protect Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego during their intense time of need.

It needs to be noted that God’s miraculous intervention in a moment of crisis is not promised. If it were, believers would not need to exercise faith. The lesson here is that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted God and were determined to be faithful without any guarantee of deliverance. They had no assurance they would survive the flames, but they stood firm anyway.

Today’s Christians might not be threatened by fiery death, but many are facing terrible situations. Those facing tough times might look to this story for inspiration, knowing that it is possible to stand firm in their faith even if God does not come to their rescue.

That, exactly, is the situation Leah Sharibu is facing at the moment. She has stood her ground for nearly four years without wavering despite her agony. The hardship and abuse she has faced have not forced her to recant. The trauma of not seeing her father, mother, siblings, relatives and friends have not made her renounce her faith. The thought of having her education truncated; the horror of living with strange gun-bearing bearded men have not scared her to recant.

Instead, her spirit is unshaken. Will God deliver her as He did for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? That is left to God. But one thing is sure, all things work together for good for them that love God, Romans 8:28. The choice is left to God to deliver His little angel, the living saint of our time at the appropriate time to His own glory.

Leah Sharibu is not the only girl currently held by Boko Haram. There are many other girls in the terrorists’ dens, including students of Government Secondary School, Chibok, who were kidnapped in April 2014. Seven years after, more than half of the 276 kidnapped Chibok Schoolgirls are still in captivity. God will deliver these innocent girls by whatever means He chooses at His own time.