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 God. These young men are named in the Bible: Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego. The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had conquered Jerusalem and had taken these Jewish youths captive. But these young 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. They 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 he said, “When you hear the trumpet sound, and hear the music play, and see the flags coming, and see the marching of the soldiers, I want all of you to bow down and worship the image. If you don’t, I am going to throw you into flames of fire. You will be burned up” (Cf. 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 that all people, nations and languages bow down and worship the image” (Cf. Daniel 3:4-5).
False religion does not hesitate to use force. The Bible teaches that Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is called “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) and “the prince of this world” (John 12:31).
Nebuchadnezzar commanded the people to worship the image. And in Matthew 4 we read that Satan tempted Christ to bow down and worship him. Jesus didn’t argue. He didn’t debate. He said, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4). He used the Word of God. That is why 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 man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and materialism” (Cf. Matthew 6:24). We have to choose. That is a choice that each one of us has to make—a choice of either bowing down to the things of this world, which 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. Greed 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 great golden image which I built,” Nebuchadnezzar said (Cf. Daniel 3:14). 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 he could not destroy the soul. We have a body, but living inside us is our soul, our spirit. That is the part of us that will live forever. Jesus warned, “Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Hell was created not for us but for the devil and his angels. If we persist in bowing to the images of this world and rejecting the true and living God in our life, then we will follow the devil to hell.
To disobey God’s commands is called 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 king.
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. That is our first duty.” 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. But that would have been cowardly. They had an opportunity to witness to thousands instead, and they took the opportunity to do it.
They refused to bow down. The Scripture says: “Choose … this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Whom will you serve? The true and the living God? Or will you serve those things the devil brings across your path, the images that he places before you? They could not put off their decision. They had to make a decision then, when the herald announced the king’s command. And we have to make a decision. We can’t put if off. “He who is often reproved, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” (Proverbs 29:1). God says, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3). There comes a point which, if we go beyond it, it is difficult to return.
We need to say either “yes” or “no.” But some of us say “maybe.” Some of us 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 all 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 young men refused to bow down and give in to the devil. When your trial comes—and it will if you are following Christ—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 to face the rage of the infuriated tyrant. And because they saw Him who is invisible, and were conscious of their ultimate reward, they believed.
The king gave them another opportunity to change their minds. They answered: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, 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. 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. It was their implicit confidence that God would do what was best for them, and for His Kingdom. Their faith rested on God’s character of wisdom and truth and love. They went, not knowing whether they would be delivered.
God says, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give [you] a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). It was only after 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. He said, “Lo, 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 in the furnace.
God is with His people in the fiery furnace. He is with His people in times of temptation, trouble and trial. “Nothing shall separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8:39), the Scriptures say.
The way the three men went into the fiery furnace—calm, self-possessed, joyful—it was clear that God was with them. And when the king ordered them taken out, they came out with their heads high. Not a hair was singed. Their clothes didn’t even have the smell of smoke on them. The king bowed down before them and said, “Your God is the true and the living God.” And he decreed that no one should say anything against the God of these three young men who 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 with His disciples and prayed all night. And He sweated drops of blood. The next day He went to that 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 and serve Him and obey Him—whatever the cost.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.