God’s people always had enemies: the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Midianites, the Babylonians. And in almost every situation, the story was the same. The enemies would make life for Israel miserable. And when enemies became occupiers, they’d make idolatry tempting. Submitting to an invading ruler’s gods often brought worldly comforts. But though they forgot Him, God never forgot His people. He’d send deliverers to rescue them. Sometimes the rescuers would actually go out and fight the enemies (think Gideon or David). But others would take action by serving wisely from within the government. That was the case in Babylon. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego simply waited out the exile with defiance until God showed up.
That approach wasn’t easy, because these three friends served under a megalomaniac. Nebuchadnezzar was the mightiest king in the world, and he knew it: “Build a golden statue. Make it look like me. Gather my officials. Play a song about me. Then, bow down and worship!” Can you imagine? Nebuchadnezzar loved to hear people say he was the greatest; he wanted everyone to worship him, and he wanted it so badly that he started issuing threats: “Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire” (Daniel 3:6).
How do you live in Babylon under that sort of rule? Sometimes it’s hard to stand up for what’s right when everyone around us is more concerned with their worldly success, when others love their lives more than God. But these three men stood defiantly. When the haughty king heard about their protest, he was furious. (I imagine him turning bright red and calling them some pretty nasty names.) Nevertheless, the friends replied: “If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Daniel 3:17–18). Incensed, the king turned up the heat and threw the three dissidents into the furnace.
I’m sure Nebuchadnezzar thought he’d proven his point, but when he squinted and looked into the furnace, he said, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (v.25). The three friends stood together, and their God stood with them. Even narcissistic Nebuchadnezzar was forced to admit, “There is no other god who is able to deliver like this” (v.29).
God saved His people in their darkest moment. He was with them, like Jesus took on our sin and stood in our place on the cross. That reality gives us hope when we’re living in a world that too easily bends to ungodly rule for the sake of comfort. In the midst of the temptation to bow, we can stand defiantly, too, trusting in the one, true God. After all, we still serve a God who delivers through fire.
Written by Jared Kennedy