By Don Gentry
I absolutely love the Old Testament (OT)! There are so many things to learn and gain greater understand into the heart and mind of the great God we serve. One of my many favorite OT passages comes out of the book of Daniel. You have probably heard of the story but maybe there is some contextual information that will help bring this story to life for you.
Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego are three characters that continue to inspire me every time I think about their situation. If you don’t know the whole story then you really need to read all of Daniel especially Chapter 3, but I am only going to highlight one part because it encapsulates an incredible faith, and an incredible response, against incredible odds:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Daniel 3:16-18 (NASB)
These guys are living in a time where culture believed that whoever the ruling power was, whether it be an emperor, king, pharaoh, etc., they had the authority and the blessing of the gods. They lived in a time when many of the emperors or pharaohs believed they were a god or demi-god. That is exactly what we see happening here in this passage. Nebuchadnezzar was setting himself up to be worshipped. He was the supreme authority. He was a great and powerful king. There were also some other officials that were jealous of Daniel and these three young men and they made it their goal to make them look bad.
These three have just been given an order to obey and they refuse. By outward appearances their life is getting worse by the second. The three have already been captured and turned into slaves for the king’s court, and now they are being threatened with their lives and harassed by others who are jealous of them.
Many biblical scholars and historians also believe that upon capture that the three and Daniel were made into eunuchs. If anybody was having a bad day it was these guys. They knew what trials were.
By the time they were standing before the king and being threatened with their lives, they really didn’t know if God was going to show up and help them out. The reason why I love Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is because they simply acknowledge the ability of God though they are unsure if he is going to rescue them. They all agree that regardless of God’s response to their predicament, they will not reject God or declare allegiance to any other authority. They will not compromise their belief system.
What a challenge this has been to me in moments of trials and frustrations. Moments when I want to ask God why something is happening or when I am helping him to understand I am not in favor of how he is handling a situation. I personally have never been faced with burning in a fire, but the trials of life have felt like a fire at times.
Maybe you have experienced the “fires” of life too. I hope that as we understand the context of the three men in this story it will help shape your response towards God in moments of adversity.
I am challenged that no matter what happens, no matter how God should choose to allow me to go through a certain situation, my faith will stand strong. Their response in the face of fear and trials caused a nation to be inspired to repent and believe; a question I like to ask myself is “What does my response to adversity inspire others to do?” When we learn to read OT stories for what was really happening, it can inspire us to properly respond to our great and Sovereign God.