Every now and then, if I don’t have a particular topic to study, I like to read through a book of the Bible that I haven’t read in a long time. Usually, that means one of the minor prophets. So, a few weeks ago, I decided to flip to the book of Daniel.
It is no wonder that children and adults alike are fascinated by the stories of Daniel. Captivity. Government conspiracies. Political controversy. Interpretation of dreams. And even hungry lions! Oh my!
But as exciting as these things are, Daniel wasn’t the man who made the most impact on me when I last read through his book. Sure, he definitely was a man we should all emulate – a man of discipline, conviction, courage, wisdom, and, most of all, faith. However, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were the men that “caught my eye” this time around.
Sort of portrayed as Daniel’s three little sidekicks in many children’s books, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are far from being any less heroic. I am sure you know the story well.
King Nebuchadnezzar builds a monstrosity of a golden image of himself for everyone in his kingdom to worship. He decrees that those who refuse to worship it would be sentenced to death by fire. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in obedience to the true God, do not bow down to this idol. They are brought before the king, who gives them a second chance.
Now, if I were in their shoes, I think I would seriously consider taking this second chance. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, on the other hand, knowing their sure fate, still replies:
“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)
OH MY WORD!
First, consider to whom they were speaking to – the ruler of…THE KNOWN WORLD at the time!
There was no man more powerful, more intimidating than the king of Babylon.
Second, consider their sentence – death by FIERY FURNACE!
To me, I can imagine no other death that is more painful. Can you? Not being able to breathe. The heat being unbearable even before the flames touch your skin. Extremely hot smoke, not only choking you, but burning your eyes, the inside of your nose, the inside of your esophagus. If you haven’t passed out by then, you get to experience the excruciating pain of being on fire.
Now, third, consider that they didn’t even know whether or not God would actually save them.
They understood very well that God could very possibly choose to let them slowly burn to death, but that didn’t make God any less worthy to be the only object of their worship.
These were the three things that went through my head as I read Daniel’s account of the event. In light of all that is happening in the Middle East today, I had to ask myself,
“Would I withstand the most powerful men on earth for God?”;
“Would I walk into certain pain and death for God?”; and
“Would I obey and worship God despite life-changing consequences?”.
These questions are not so far-fetched, are they? Many Christians around the world have to ask themselves these questions everyday. They, too, are heroes like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, because they refuse to deny Christ when it is so easy to do so.
Now, I probably will not have to ask myself whether or not I would walk through fire. I probably will not have to decide whether or not to verbally deny God in front of a dictator or prison guard. But I do have to decide not to deny God through disobedience every time I am tempted to sin. In a sense, that is walking through fire, because it can be so difficult to do! Some temptations are so hard to resist!
But praise be to God, because even when I fail,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom.8:35-39)
Dear God, I thank you that you are worthy to be worshipped. I thank you that I am more than a conqueror through Christ, who saved me. I pray for my brothers and sisters around the world, who must face similar situations as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Please strengthen their faith. Remind them of Romans 8, that NOTHING can separate them from your love. If it is your will, may you protect them and their families. Please also strengthen my faith that I would obey you moment by moment, for it is often in the smaller things that obedience is most difficult to find. In your Son’s most precious name, I pray. Amen.