Daniel’s Friends (13-10-21)
Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon erected a gold statue and required everyone to bow down and worship it; the penalty for not doing so was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. Daniel’s friends, now re-named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to worship the idol and were brought before the king.
Bible Readings: Daniel 3:16-20,24-26,28
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied, "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, Your Majesty." He said, "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
The racial and religious persecution in the account of Daniel’s three friends and the gold statue has echoes today in many countries around the world, not least currently in Afghanistan. I wonder how we in the West would stand up in such circumstances. I am challenged by the unflinching faith of these three men as they tell Nebuchadnezzar that God can save them if he chooses to do so, but if he chooses not to then they will still not worship or bow down to the gold statue. Their faith doesn’t depend on their circumstances, rather their faith strengthens them in whatever circumstances they face.
The three friends are indeed saved from the fiery furnace, but before that happens the king is astonished to see not three, but four men walking around in the flames. Nebuchadnezzar cries out that the fourth looks like ‘a son of the gods’; some translations say, ‘the Son of God’. The jury is out as to whether this was an angel or indeed a pre-incarnation of Jesus. Either way, for those facing persecution today, the encouragement is that God was present with them in their suffering just as, through his Holy Spirit, he is with us in whatever we are going through.
The other miracle in this event is that Nebuchadnezzar then acknowledges the One True God, going on to praise him and to decree that those who worship God are under his protection. Even today persecutors of Christians are finding faith in the Lord Jesus
Father God may all those facing persecution today know your presence and your protection, and may those who are persecuting them find salvation through your Son.
By faith we see the hand of God.