This is the amazing story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three young Jewish men who refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar. The King was the most powerful man in the world, and not obeying his decree to fall down and worship the golden image would mean immediately mean execution by being thrown into a raging hot furnace. These were three men picked by Daniel to administrate the kingdom with him, and also give the Jewish nation, the Babylonians had captured, freedom to worship the one, true God.
We can learn some very valuable lessons from the young, courageous men of God.
1. The reason they refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar was that it would violate the first commandment to worship God alone. It was more important for them to obey God than a mere mortal. Simply put, they knew as they obeyed God, He would take care of them regardless of what happened.
2. After they did not bow down, they were brought before the King, and given on more chance to change their mind and fall and worship the golden image. The King reminded them they would be thrown into a blazing furnace if they didn't bow down. He adds, "then what god will deliver you from my hand?"
3. The 3 men stand firm and immovable saying, "We don't have to worry, Our God will deliver us!" Then they something quite amazing that shows the depth of their trust in God, "Even if God does not deliver us, we will still not bow down!"
4. The King is more furious with rage because no one has ever had the courage to stand up to him. He ordered his strongest men to heat the furnace up so high that even they were burned by the flaming fire. At this the men fall into the fire, seemingly to be instantly consumed by the inferno. But then the miracle happens. They are unharmed and dancing in the furnace. And they are not dancing alone, but with a fourth man. In the king's word he looked like a "son of the gods".
5. The men come out with not even their clothes scorches or their hair singed. King Nebuchadnezzar praises the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and makes yet another decree. Whoever does not worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego will be cut into pieces.
It is hard not to see the similarities of this story and the story of Jesus. Jesus would not bow down to worship another God, and in fact, claimed to be God. Like Nebuchadnezzar, Pilate was the most powerful man in the world. When Jesus refused to answer him he said,
"You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?" 11Jesus answered, "You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you."
Jesus was crucified for obeying God and not bowing down to Pilate, a mere man. Like the 3 men, he was thrown into a tomb and guarded by the strongest soldiers, who guarded him with their own lives on the line. In the same way the men were released from the tomb, Jesus rose from the dead, and the angels proclaimed to the women, "He is not here. He has gone ahead of you and you will meet him there."
So who are the Pilates and Nebuchadnezzar's of your life? Telling you to bow down or else? The question for you and me today is, "Will we fear disobeying God, more than a mere mortal". And will we trust in the promise that if we obey God, He will deliver us! May we be like Sharach, Meshach and Abednego, who danced in the furnace and were delivered by the One true God without a hair on their heads being burned.
The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace
3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide,[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 At this time some astrologers[b] came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 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? 15 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?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 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.”
19 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 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 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.”
25 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.”
26 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, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 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. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.