by William J. Stewart
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a huge gold statue of himself. Throughout the land, a proclamation was made, that all people should fall down and worship the image when they heard the symphony of music. The warning was given,
…whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace (Daniel 3:6).
And so it was, when the horn, flute, harp and lyre sounded, the people would bow down and worship the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, all but a few of the Jews who had been set in authority by the king. Three men were accused of not giving the king honour, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3:12). They would not bow to the golden image, nor would they serve the Babylonian gods.
Enraged, the king called for the young men to be brought before him. He charitably gave them an opportunity to mend their ways. But if they would not worship his image, they would be sentenced to death by the fiery furnace. He was wasting his breath, for they, like Daniel, would not defile themselves with the things of Babylon (Daniel 1:8, 17-20).
These young men spoke to the king,
…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 3:17-18).
Note, they did not tell the king that God would save them from the fiery furnace, but that He was able. They acknowledged that He could, but did not know if He would save them from the furnace. But even if He did not, that would not alter their devotion to Him or confidence in His goodness.
Nebuchadnezzar was angry at these young men already, but now his rage climaxed. He had the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. The king had his mighty men of valor bind the three Hebrews and cast them into the furnace. The fire had been kindled so hot, the men who cast them in died from the heat.
The king was astonished, for as he looked into the furnace he saw
…four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God (Daniel 3:25).
What Nebuchadnezzar saw, prompting him to call the fourth man as being “like the Son of Man,” we do not know. From a Christian view, do we here see the Christ?
The three Hebrews came out of the fire, not a hair or a thread singed, and no smell of the fire on them. The king then proclaimed,
Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! (Daniel 3:28)
The king went on to decree that destruction would come upon anyone who spoke against the Hebrew God,
…for there is no other God who can deliver like this (Daniel 3:29)
A Lesson For Today
May we learn from Daniel’s friends that we should always trust in God, no matter how dire the circumstances. Had these young men allowed fear rather than faith to guide their actions, then they would have bowed before the image and committed idolatry. Many of the countrymen had done so; in fact it was the idolatry of Judah which brought them into captivity in Babylon.
It is important to stand for the faith, not to compromise in order to fit in or avoid punishment by those who are in power. John the Baptist spoke out against Herod’s marriage, for it was not lawful (God’s law). He was put into prison and eventually beheaded because he stood for truth.
Though Christians today are not being forced to worship idols, other challenges exist. We, like John, must still stand for God’s plan for marriage (one man, one woman, for life). We, like Lot, must still oppose homosexuality (it is contrary to nature). We, like Paul, just still stand against those who try to corrupt the church by leading people away from the word (none, not even an apostle or angel could change God’s word). We, like the apostle John, must stand firm against those who claim special knowledge (ie. Spirit-led). Keep the faith; it will benefit you, and may affect those around you also.