Did you know that Daniel’s three friends: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, stood tall against the most powerful man in the world with no promise that God would spare them? Let’s take a few minutes to look at this amazing story.
The events of Daniel and his three friends as they served under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon during the Babylonian captivity are some of the most interesting in all of Scripture. That includes how they got there in the first place. First prophesied by Jeremiah, the Israelites would be conquered by the Babylonians and held captive for 70 years.
As was the custom of the Babylonians, they would take youngsters from their captured foes in order to brainwash them and train them for usefulness is running the Babylonian kingdom. Daniel and his friends were among those culled from the masses.
They were well treated and well trained as they solidified their position in service to their new overlords. But Daniel and his friends became favorites of King Nebuchadnezzar so that, “The king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48). Daniel convinced the king to include his three friends and life moved on pretty favorably for young men who had been kidnapped from their homes.
But there was a problem. While Daniel and his friends made the very best of a bad situation, they were certainly aware that King Nebuchadnezzar thought of himself as a god…and demanded worship as a god. For Daniel and his friends, this was a non-starter.
The very first of the Ten Commandments clearly states that God is God, and that we should “have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). However, Nebuchadnezzar was making it increasingly difficult for Danial and his friends to keep that commandment. In fact, he ordered that a gold statue of himself be created and that whenever a cacophony of music was heard, all who heard it would, “fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up” (Daniel 3:4-5).
Knowing they could not do so, Daniel’s friends, in fact, did not do so. Local priests, obviously jealous of Daniel and his friends’ rise to power, alerted the King that the three friends of Daniel: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not bowing to or offering worship to the King’s statue (Daniel 3:12). The King would have none of that.
Bringing the three young men to his presence, the king chided the young men and threatened that if they did not bow down during the appointed time, that they would be “cast immediately into the midst of a fiery furnace…and who is the god who will deliver you from my hands” (Daniel 3:15)?
Faced with a grisly death, the three young men had a choice. They could bow down even if they didn’t mean it, or they could stand their ground while their God protected them or they could stand their ground whether their God would protect them or not. They chose the last option.
Standing in front of the most powerful man in the world at the time, who was seething with anger at their disobedience, the three said: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:17). To say this enraged the king is an understatement.
He ordered the furnace to seven times its usual heat and ordered the young men tossed inside. So hot it was, that the servants who threw them in died from the heat. You know the rest of the story. The king looked into the furnace and saw not three people but four. And that the fourth looked like the Son of God (Daniel 3:25). The three survived and the king was brought face to face with the true God.
But what is interesting is not that the three survived the fire. The key is that they had no idea whether they were going to survive the fire. They assured the king that God would deliver them. They then said He was able to save them from the fire. These are not the same. God can and does deliver us from horrible situations sometimes by rescuing us from them, and sometimes by calling us home to be with Him. The three knew God would deliver them, they just didn’t know how. It would either be by miracle or by calling them home.
The most important point is that they did not let their situation determine their actions. They openly admitted that God might let them perish in the fire. But that they would still not acquiesce to the king’s sinful demands. There is an old song that goes: “Sometimes He calms the storm, sometimes He calms His child”. Sometimes He lets the storm rage. He allows to go through extremely difficult times not with the promise that He will rescue us from those trials. But that He will deliver us…one way or the other. Oh, and to not be afraid. How cool is that?
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