Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Daniel 3:14-18 New Living Translation
Nebuchadnezzar’s professions of faith in Yahweh appear to have been fickle at times. The story of the statue recounted in the third chapter of Daniel illustrates this. Several years after Daniel had interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (the 18th year of his reign), Nebuchadnezzar erected a large statue that he ordered everyone in the empire to bow down to at an appointed time announced by music. There was a common practice at the time to have such a worship ceremony to illustrate the power of the new king. This particular event may have occurred at the time that Nebuchadnezzar had completed the destruction of Jerusalem. The purpose would have been to illustrate the dominance of the king over all conquered lands. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Babylonian names for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) saw this as an affront to their commitment to only worship Yahweh as to one true God over all the universe. It wasn’t nationalistic pride, but a devotion to Yahweh, that fueled their defiance of the king’s order.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s defiance was brought to the attention of Nebuchadnezzar by other enchanters in his court. They may have been jealous of the high position achieved by these Hebrew captives and saw this as an opportunity to eliminate their rivals. Nebuchadnezzar gave his three favored officials a second chance to comply with his order. He explained to them the consequences of disobedience (thrown into a furnace and burned to death). In his zeal to coerce their compliance, he went a step further and challenged the ability of Yahweh to protect the three Hebrews from him. This had now become a battle between Nebuchadnezzar and Yahweh.
The Hebrews remained resolute in their conviction to not bow to the king’s statue. In doing so, they demonstrated a great amount of faith. They affirmed their belief that Yahweh could deliver them from the blazing furnace that Nebuchadnezzar was threatening them with. Even if He did not rescue them, though, they were committed to their conviction that they could not bow to the king’s statue even if it cost them their lives. They valued their commitment to Yahweh more than life itself.
There are times in our lives when culture will try to push us beyond the reasonable limits in coercing our devotion to the values of the age we live in. Those are the times when we need the conviction of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to stand against the prevailing pressures of our day. Those around us may even threaten us with our own demise or death. Our devotion to Jesus, though, should be demonstrated in a conviction that even if we are not protected from the threats of those opposed to the values of Jesus, the reward of following Jesus is greater than the danger of not following Him.
Lord Jesus, help us to have the conviction of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when we need to take a stand against the prevailing values of our day. Help us to know that the rewards of following You are always greater than any reward offered by those who oppose You.