“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.” Daniel 3:16-17
To those of us who have cut our teeth on the Bible, the names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are well known. Many of us first heard their story from the third chapter of the book of Daniel when we were small children. However, it’s much more than a children’s story. It’s the record of three men of God who were determined to do the right thing, no matter what, for better or worse.
These three, along with Daniel, were young men chosen from among the other captives from Judah to be in the Babylonian king’s personal service. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, with his ego in overdrive, had built a statue of gold, some 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. The day of dedication was quite a celebration. Everyone was summoned to be there. The command was simple: when the music starts playing, everybody must fall down and worship the statue. If you don’t, you get thrown into the furnace. Who’s going to refuse a deal like that? No big deal, right? You bow down, maybe mouth some words of insincere reverence to the king’s god and you go on your way. Nobody says you have to mean it. Just do it. Don’t rock the boat and get on with your life, the life, which by the way, you will get to keep if you do this. Simple, right? Well, not quite.
The music starts, the people bow, the worship commences, and...wait a minute, who are those three guys standing over there? Some of the king’s yes-men make a beeline to Nebuchadnezzar to tattle on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The king commands they be brought to him. He gives them one more chance to save their behinds. Maybe it was just a big misunderstanding. Bow to the statue and live or don’t and die.
Want to know their answer? Go back to the beginning of this column and read the verses.
What happens next? The king gets hot, the fire gets hotter, our heroes are tied up and tossed in. A little bit later, out they come. They’re as healthy as ever and don’t even smell smoky. God did exactly what they believed He would do.
What made their stand so courageous? Well, let’s look at Daniel 3:18. What they told the king in this verse is what I think really sent Nebuchadnezzar over the edge. They had stated their belief that God would deliver them from him, but then they said, “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.” That wasn’t a taunt. That was the truth. And guess what happens when all is said and done? The king praises the one, true God.
What about you and me? It’s easy to feel courageous as long as we think God will do what we want...but what about when He doesn’t? It’s easy to stick with God when He brings you through life unscathed...but is your faith in God so strong that you’ll stick with Him even if it means going through fire? Are you with God no matter what, for better or worse?
The weekend this column is published, I’ll be teaching the Sunday morning 10 o’clock auditorium class at the Calhoun Church of Christ on a beatitude Jesus gave during His famous Sermon on the Mount. You are more than welcome to come to it. He said in this beatitude, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” From an eternal perspective, God will bring Christians through all kinds of persecution victoriously (Revelation 2:10; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)...but only if they stick with Him for better or worse.