They were 1,500 miles from home. Who would know? Who would care? But they knew God was watching, and as young men they dedicated and committed themselves totally to Him. These young men are named in the Bible: Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had conquered Jerusalem and had taken these Jewish men captive. But these men knew assertive discipline. They refused to eat of the king’s meat and drink of the king’s wine, because the king’s food had been offered to idols. The young men knew it was against the law of God.
Nebuchadnezzar had become powerful and egotistical. He decided to build a statue to himself, a big image—90 feet high, made of gold. Then he called his subjects from many of the countries of the Middle East to come to the plain of Dura. There the people were told: “At the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:5-6).
What a colorful scene that must have been. They had the flag ceremony, the parades and the bands. And on top of the reviewing stand suddenly all the trumpets sounded, and the herald made the announcement, “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, … you shall fall down and worship the gold image” (Daniel 3:4-5).
False religion does not hesitate to use force. The Bible teaches that Satan is “the god of this age” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). He is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31).
Nebuchadnezzar commanded the people to worship the image. And in Matthew 4 we read that Christ also was asked to bow down and worship the devil. Jesus didn’t argue, He didn’t debate. He said, “It is written” (Matthew 4:10). He used the Word of God.
That is the reason it is important for us to memorize passages in the Bible. Jesus used Scripture as a weapon. He said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). God had said in the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). In Matthew 6 we read that Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). We have to choose. Each of us has to make a choice of either bowing down to the things of this world that are evil and wrong, or bowing down before the true and the living God.
Satan calls upon people to bow down to pride, lust and many other things. Money is something else that Satan wants us to bow down to. You see, greed goes all the way through the Bible, and it goes all the way through our society. Greed is an idol.
Success is another. The image overlaid with gold, flashing in the sun, is the image erected to success and human glory: “The gold image which I have set up” (Daniel 3:14), said Nebuchadnezzar. He didn’t give God any credit at all. He said, “I built it.” And some of us say that too: “Look what I’ve done.” “I have built this business.” “I am a self-made man.” “I built this ranch.” “I did this.” “I did that.”
Nebuchadnezzar could destroy the body, but not the soul. Jesus warned, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
We have a body, but living inside us is our soul, our spirit. That is the part of us that will live forever. If we persist in bowing to the images of this world and rejecting the true and living God, then we will follow the devil to hell. To disobey God’s commands is spiritual and eternal death.
These three Hebrew men did not bow down. They stood up. And, of course, their action was reported immediately to the emperor.
The young men had a few alternatives. They could have bowed down and avoided trouble. But that would have compromised all that they believed in. They could have rationalized and said, “It is our duty to obey the king.” But they had a higher law. They had God.
They could have said, “It is just a matter of form. After all, religion is a matter of the heart. God knows that inwardly we are true to Him, even though outwardly we bow down to the image.”
Or they could have stayed indoors that day. That would have been cowardly. They had an opportunity to witness to thousands instead, and they took the opportunity. They refused to bow down.
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15), says the Scripture. Whom will you serve? The true and the living God? Or will you serve those things that the devil brings across your path, the images that he places before you?
Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego could not put off their decision. They had to make a choice then, when the herald announced it. And we have to make a decision. We can’t put it off. “He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1).
We need to say either “yes” or “no.” But some will say, “maybe.” Some try to straddle the fence and live in both worlds. But God doesn’t allow that. Jesus will not compromise with us. The Gospel plan is set. God says that we have to accept His Son into our hearts as Lord and Savior and let Him rule our lives, if we are to enter His Kingdom.
Those three men refused to bow down and give in to the devil. When your trial comes—and it will if you are following Christ—you will be tried and tempted and shaken. When these trials come, act in the light of eternity. Do not judge the situation by the king’s threat or by the heat of the burning fiery furnace, but by the everlasting God and the eternal life that awaits you.
These brave young men dared the rage of the infuriated tyrant. And because they saw Him who is invisible and valued being reproached for God as greater than earthly treasures (see Hebrews 11:26-27), they believed.
The king gave them another opportunity. But they answered, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. … Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). They didn’t know that God would deliver them, but they said, “No! We take our stand for the living God, even if it means death.”
When we make such a choice, we may lose for a time—but we gain for eternity. The loss is transient and temporary, but the gain is everlasting and eternal. They were ready with an answer. They confessed their faith; they showed their confidence in God. They were ready to die. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we will not perish but have everlasting life (see John 3:16). That is the promise.
Then came their punishment. They were thrown into the fiery furnace. They went to the furnace without assurance of physical deliverance. But they had an implicit confidence that God would do what was best for them and for His Kingdom. Their faith rested on His character of wisdom and truth and love.
God says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). It was only after they made their decision that God intervened and delivered.
The king, standing back so that he wouldn’t be burned, looked into the furnace. He was astonished at what he saw and said, “I see four men … and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:25). Three men had been thrown into the fire, but the king saw four men.
God is with His people in the fiery furnace. He is with His people in times of temptation and trouble and trial. “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God” (Cf. Romans 8:39), the Scriptures say.
The men went into the fiery furnace calm, self-possessed and joyful. God was with them. And when the king ordered them taken out, they came out with their heads high. Not a hair on their heads was singed. Their clothes didn’t even have the smell of smoke on them. The king bowed down before them and said, “There is no other God who can deliver like this” (Daniel 3:29). Three young men had dared to look death in the face and say, “I believe.”
That is what Jesus Christ did. The night before He went to the cross, He knelt down and prayed. And the next day He went to the cross for us, so that we could have everlasting life.
He went to the cross, He died and He rose again so that we might be forgiven of our sins. If you have a doubt in your heart or mind that you are ready to meet God, you had better settle it. Repent of your sins and say, “Lord, I need You.”
Then by faith receive Him. The word faith means commitment. That means you totally surrender for the rest of your life to Jesus Christ, not only as Savior but as Lord. You surrender your personal life, your body, your mind, everything to Him.
Then follow Him, serve Him and obey Him—whatever the cost. ©1986 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: Earl Davidson/©1986 BGEA