We all know the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ther young Hebrews removed from their homes in Jerusalem in 605 B.C. during a siege by King Nebuchadnezzar, and carried off to Babylon.
Interestingly, their Hebrew names had something of God in them. Hananiah means, ‘the grace of the Lord’; Mishael, ‘He that is the strong God’; and Azariah – ‘The Lord is a help’. Their new names, probably given to make them forget the God of their fathers, favoured Chaldean idolatry. Shadrach means, ‘the inspiration of the sun’, worshipped by the Babylonians; Meshach, ‘of the goddess Shach, worshipped as Venus; and Abednego – ‘the servant of the shining fire’, which was also venerated.
The Hebrew meaning of the name of their friend Daniel, carried off with them, was ‘God is my judge’. His name was changed to Belteshazzar – ‘keeper of the hidden treasures of Bel’. While in Babylon, the four young men endured ‘tests of faith’, first regarding their diet (see Daniel 1), and secondly, regarding King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which he demanded that his magicians, wise men, and counsellors (Daniel and his three friends among them) tell him the dream and interpret it. If they couldn’t, they would be destroyed. To find out what happened, read Daniel 2.
The third great test of faith for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the one I want to examine more closely. Daniel is not mentioned in this test and the Scripture does not say why. The three men apparently faced it on their own without Daniel’s help.
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold in the plain of Dura and commanded that when music was played, all his subjects had to bow down to the image. Anyone who didn’t obey was to be thrown into a fiery furnace. The king taunted, “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Daniel 3:15).
King Nebuchadnezzar got wind of the fact that the three Hebrews were not bowing
down to his statue. They would not bow their knees because that would be a violation of the
“You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God...” (Exodus 20:3-5 NIV).
The king hauled the three men in for an accounting. They answered him with boldness.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up’” (Daniel 3:16-18 MSG).
I so admire the three for telling the king that even if God didn’t deliver them, they still wouldn’t worship the image.
King Nebuchadnezzar was not happy, flew into a rage, made the furnace seven times hotter, and threw the three men inside. The fire was so hot, the men who tossed the three into it were killed by the heat.
Suddenly, after they’d been thrust into the fire, the king jumped up. The men were not harmed. And there was a fourth Person with them. “Well, look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire, and they aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a god!” (perhaps better translated “a son of the gods”) (Daniel 3:25 TLB).
Having observed the miraculous protection of the three men, the king told them to come out of the fire and made a decree that no one should “speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego...” (Daniel 3:29 NLT).
Why did I review this when most of you know it? I did it for three reasons.
1. To be ready for the big trials, we need to be obedient in the smaller ones
2. Tests of faith can often rest on resisting the influence of the world. As our culture becomes increasingly anti-God, this is truer than ever. The Scripture tells us, "SO COME OUT FROM AMONG UNBELIEVERS AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord, "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will graciously receive you and welcome you [with favor]..." (2 Corinthians 6:17 AMP).
3. Although it isn't stated, I believe the fourth Person in the fire was the pre-incarnate Christ. He didn't spare the three men from the fire but was with them in the fire.
My dear friend, whatever you’re going through today, Jesus is with you. When
circumstances and situations come crashing down on your head, when your health is in jeopardy, when friends you trusted betray you, He is there. He is not on the outside looking in. He is with you, right where you are.
And He is with you to deliver you, to give you the victory, to lead you in triumph. Believe His Word, stand on His promises, and you cannot fail. He has promised it. “In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Corinthians 2:14 MSG).
Today, march in Christ’s victory parade.