Authored by Jewel Roque
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and their pal, Daniel, were four teenagers who might have passed into obscurity if not for some remarkable things that happened in their lives. It wasn’t the actual things that happened to them; it was their responses to these events that caused them to go down in history as great men of faith, known for their confidence in God.
The story begins with these young men taken far away from their homeland. God, through prophets, had foretold that such a time would come if His people did not follow His commandments and ways. Yet “all of us, like sheep, go astray,”1 and Israel was no different. The time came that they were overcome by a foreign nation and many of their people, including children, were taken far away to the land of Babylon.
We don’t know just how old Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were, perhaps barely teenagers. One wonders what their life was like before their journey to Babylon. Did they even know one another? Had they contended for the same girls? Perhaps they were close friends and shared their dreams and hopes. Maybe one of them dreamed of having a dozen sons like his forefather Jacob, and teaching his children to be godly. Perhaps another one wanted to be a teacher. Then there might have been the story teller, who told the others, “You fulfill your dreams, and I’ll tell the story afterward.”
But all those dreams and hopes, whatever they might have been, were cast aside when their land was conquered and they were taken into captivity and carried far away. What were those first days and nights like? Under guard, shackled, and chained? Corralled together like so many animals, looking for a familiar face? One can picture them finding one another, banding together, perhaps the optimist of the group saying, “Fear not, God is with us. Regardless of what happens, we are in His hands.” The others agreeing, perhaps making a pact that no matter what happens, they will stay faithful to God.
Faithful and true they did stay. In ways so bold that one wonders if perhaps that cliché term “teenage rebellion” ran extra strong in them. First of all, they refused to eat food straight from the king’s table. And what food that must have been! It must have been the finest of the finest, with all kinds of delectable delights. Yet they didn’t touch it because the type of food went against their beliefs.
The spokesman of the group, Daniel, struck a deal with the captain of the guard: “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.”2
Was it a challenge for them to forgo the delicacies of the king’s table? Perhaps, but they did it because they believed God expected it of them. It was a little decision, but our lives are comprised of just that: little decisions. They appear so small when in reality they could make history. For these brave boys, their decision did make history.
Later when Nebuchadnezzar ordered the nation to bow before his image, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down. Only God knows what thoughts were running through their heads, how horrified they were at the audacity of an earthly king who has no real power commanding the nation to worship him. Yet their answer was respectful, calm and collected, trusting.
“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 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.”3
Nebuchadnezzar’s response was much less calm and collected. He ordered the furnace to be fired up seven times hotter than before. It was so hot that it killed the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fire. But within moments, the king realized something was not as he expected it would be. The three young men did not burn; their clothes remained unscathed. The only thing that burned away was their ropes.
When King Nebuchadnezzar peered into the blazing fire, he saw them walking around and in the midst of them—wonder of wonders, shining brighter than that brilliant blaze—was one whom he recognized somehow. Perhaps because regardless of what we believe, when we come face to face with such a sight, there is no mistaking it. He knew it was the Son of God, and he called the bold and brave young men out of the flames.
And you know the rest of the story: They walked out unscathed, without even the smell of smoke on their clothes. And the king made another not-so-calm or collected 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.”4
And what happened with the Son of God? It seems He vanished into the brilliance from whence He came. But He was there, no doubt about it! While they were in the fire, He walked among them. The Son of God who would one day descend to earth as a man stepped down to protect those who trusted in His Father and kept them from the deadly flame.
Many stories throughout the Old Testament speak of the Lord appearing in a dream or a vision, or angels standing before God’s people to give a word, a message, or a warning. But this story is a little different. Not a word was spoken by this figure that appeared out of nowhere and disappeared in the same manner. He was not referred to as a messenger. King Nebuchadnezzar claimed He saw the Son of God.
Rather than choosing some other form of manifestation, the Son of God Himself stepped on the scene. One can almost picture Him saying, “Move aside. I’ll take care of this one.”
What brought the Son of God into the flaming furnace? Those three young men were far from home and loved ones, from anything they might have clung to. But they held on to their faith. Somehow I think that is what brought Him to their side, into their midst, at the moment they needed it most.
It is what brings Him to our side, within our midst, today. A word of faith, a decision to trust. A bent knee, or in the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, an unbent one. A simple word or decision when we don’t know how things will turn out. A belief that even if the flame overtakes you, God is able. More than that, He is with us.
The Son of God never fails to reach out from the throne of grace to protect and honor those who trust Him.
1 Isaiah 53:6 (paraphrased)
2 Daniel 1:12–13 NKJV
3 Daniel 3:16–18 NIV
4 Daniel 3:29
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International