Originally published Wednesday, 29 November 2017.
Shadrach Meshach and Abednego were Israelites. The entire Old Testament of the Bible is about God’s involvement with the Israelites. Throughout the Old Testament you will see a constant back and forth between the Israelites relationship with their God. Sometimes that are devoted to serving God alone, other times they are lured into worshiping other Gods. Now each time we find the Israelites straying from their God, they lose His protection and find themselves being overtaken by other nations. In this studies text we’ll see that they have now been overtaken by the Babylonians and are being held captive under King Nebuchadnezzar.
The Bible tells in Daniel chapter 1 that King Nebuchadnezzar had certain Israelites brought to the palace to undergo training to work in his service. Of those that are brought to his palace for training are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who were then renamed to Belteshazzar; Shadrach; Meshach; and Abednego.
Now these young men are certainly in a situation they had not planned or even dreamed of. Think about it. To have their nation held captive by a pagan king and then to be taken from the comfort of their family and friends and now forced to assimilate into a culture they do not know and I would imagine they probably didn’t really like. But we don’t read about them complaining, in fact they do so well in the kings service that they are promoted. Daniel is made ruler over the entire province of Babylon and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are appointed as administrators over the province of Babylon. But all was not well and things would soon take a turn for the worse.
King Nebuchadnezzar then builds an idol and makes a decree that at the sound of certain instruments everyone in the nation is to bow down and worship this idol. Oh and for those that do not? Well, they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. So everyone bows down to this idol with the exception of a few Jews including our boys Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
So now, they are faced with the challenge that occurs when serving your earthly authority and serving your God clash. An now to make matters worse some of the other leadership in Babylon appear to be threatened by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s high position as foreigners and use this as an opportunity to get rid of them.
So the other Babylon leaders approach king Nebuchadnezzar to snitch on them, fully knowing this will not simply mean they will lose their positions but their very lives. The struggle was real and so was the hate. Ok? Now, King Nebuchadnezzar is furious at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s disobedience and summons them to his presence to discuss the matter.
So what are they going to do? How will they respond to the king? Are they going to risk death, are they going to compromise? I wonder what they were thinking as they approached the king? Were they nervous or confidently bold?
And although the text we are studying today takes place centuries ago it does not seem so far away. If you look around as a Christian we too face a similar circumstance: the pressure to bow to the idols of this world, leadership that is focused on building themselves up and not God, we see that Christianity is becoming less tolerated and more hated. And so we too are faced with the same questions I just asked about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Are we going to compromise our beliefs when they are not the majority? Will we ignore what we know for sure about God to appease man? When the music plays will be like robots and bow down to the false gods of this world or will we use our freedom in Christ to worship our God alone? Will we trust God and follow Him when it does not make sense to the World?
Because to do so takes courage, boldness and assurance in God, all things I believe Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrate in the text for this study and I believe their testimony will be just the encouragement we need to remain unshaken.
Now you might be wondering what about Daniel. Well Daniel is actually not mentioned in Daniel chapter 3 at all. I believe he was not present during this time, or the haters were too scared to snitch on him considering his even higher position than Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego but I, and many other scholars agree that Daniel did not bow to this idol. Which makes me believe this was a personal attack against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And now they have to face a furious king about their decision not to bow. What happens next leads us to this studies main text in Daniel 3:13-18. It reads:
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “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.” – Daniel 3:13-18 NIV
King Nebuchadnezzar really thought he was about to get Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to bow down to this idol, he thought he had them shuck with all his authority and this blazing furnace. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not here for all of that. See they had a God that was greater than King Nebuchadnezzar. They served a God greater than their problems or struggles. And if God is God during both good and bad our friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have decided not to waver in their faith, they have decided that they will serve God no matter the outcome.
They tell the king, we hope God will deliver us, they knew He was able to do so, but even if for some reason He does not, “But if not” is what the King James Version translates them saying, but if not, they will still not bow to the idol and false gods. What resolve. I mean think about it. When things don’t go our way we are tempted to think God has forgotten us and maybe we should look to another god, or that if a situation does not work out maybe it’s because God is not as powerful as we once thought. Let’s be real, have you ever struggled with those temptations while facing your fiery furnaces?
I’m so glad we have this example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego . Because they face their trial so honestly. But if not. We don’t like thinking about a situation going south, we might call that being negative, you might be tempted to think maybe this is then not having faith, oh but it is. It takes much greater faith to honestly face your fire and still say God is greater than to pretend like it’s not happening. How many times do we avoid the issues in our lives, the secrets in our closets we would much rather brush under the rug. We run from the “But if nots”. It’s easier, for now at least.
But through their example Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego show us that we don’t have to do that. We don’t have to ignore or run from our issues. We can boldly face any outcome with full assurance that our God is completely two things: able and worthy. So now let’s look deeper in this text and pull out 4 major lessons on how to remain unshaken that we too might proclaim but if not, I will still praise the Lord.
Now let’s keep this conversation going! Comment and let me know, are you a clean freak who loves spring cleaning or do you run the other way?
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