For years I taught this passage at different youth camps from Nebraska to upstate New York. I would pick out the different characters and then we would reenact the action on the plains of Dura outside the city of Babylon. I’d picture the ninety-foot gold image before them, and then ask all the campers to stand. When the praise band began to play, I’d play the role of the king’s herald telling them all to sit back down, indicating that they were obeying the king and bowing before his image.
Now before the session I had instructed three of the kids to play the role of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The idea was that these three would remain standing while everyone else was bowing, and then all the young people could see how the three Judean Yahweh worshipers would stick out. The fascinating thing, however, is that every time I tried to use this illustration, I could never get the audiences to sit back down. Often, many would begin to shout back at me, “This might just be pretend, but we’re not bowing before any image, make believe or real.”
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘We don’t need to go back over this decree. If it be, the God we serve is able to rescue us from the blazing fiery furnace. And from your hand, O king, he will rescue us. But if not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods, and we will not worship the gold image that you have erected.’
Then Nebuchadnezzar became filled with rage and turned his face against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He responded to their refusal to obey him by commanding for the oven to be heated seven times hotter. Then he ordered some of his most powerful men to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace wearing their robes, baggy pants, turbans, and other garments.
Now because the king’s command was so harsh and the furnace heated so hot, the men who lifted up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and threw them into the furnace were killed by the flames. And these three, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, firmly bound, fell into the flames. ” Daniel 3:16-23
These Old Testament brothers were not going to break the first and second commandment, and neither should we. Also notice that they are totally confident that the Lord would rescue them from Nebuchadnezzar’s hand, but it might be through the destruction of the flames, not deliverance from the fire. Note their words, “But if not.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not trusting in the fact that they have stated some positive words about fire protection and therefore they can be confident that the flames won’t hurt them. This is the false teaching that somehow our faith and our words create reality and it ignores what the faith chapter in Hebrews 11 states. There were those who saw the power of the flames quenched (Hebrews 11:34), but there were many others who lost their physical lives (Hebrews 11:37). True faith is not in the magical power of our words and positive visions. It’s in the power of God and the fact that we can trust him to deliver us from all the fiery furnaces we might face until he uses one of the fiery trials to call us safely home.
LORD, help me to be like these three men who nailed down their absolute allegiance to you long before they furnace got heated seven times hotter. Again, use the heat of Nebuchadnezzar’s fury and how it destroys even those on your own side, to help me rely upon your Spirit’s ability to cool my own temper.
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