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8 Daniel decided that he wouldn’t pollute himself with the king’s rations or the royal wine, and he appealed to the chief official in hopes that he wouldn’t have to do so. 9 Now God had established faithful loyalty between Daniel and the chief official; 10 but the chief official said to Daniel, “I’m afraid of my master, the king, who has mandated what you are to eat and drink. What will happen if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men in your group? The king will have my head because of you!”
11 So Daniel spoke to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 12 “Why not test your servants for ten days? You could give us a diet of vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance to the appearance of the young men who eat the king’s food. Then deal with your servants according to what you see.”
14 The guard decided to go along with their plan and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food.
4 The herald proclaimed loudly: “Peoples, nations, and languages! This is what you must do: 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument, you must bow down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
8 At that moment some Chaldeans came forward, seizing a chance to attack the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar:
“Long live the king! 10 Your Majesty, you gave a command that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument should bow down and worship the gold statue. 11 Anyone who wouldn’t bow and worship would be thrown into a furnace of flaming fire. 12 Now there are some Jews, ones you appointed to administer the province of Babylon—specifically, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—who have ignored your command. They don’t serve your gods, and they don’t worship the gold statue you’ve set up.”
13 In a violent rage Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were brought before the king.
14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I’ve set up? 15 If you are now ready to do so, bow down and worship the gold statue I’ve made when you hear the sound of horn, pipe, zither, lyre, harp, flute, and every kind of instrument. But if you won’t worship it, you will be thrown straight into the furnace of flaming fire. Then what god will rescue you from my power?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar: “We don’t need to answer your question. 17 If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us [or he will deliver us]. 18 But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.”
19 Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his face twisted beyond recognition because of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In response he commanded that the furnace be heated to seven times its normal heat. 20 He told some of the strongest men in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of flaming fire. 21 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound, still dressed in all their clothes, and thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. (22 Now the king’s command had been rash, and the furnace was heated to such an extreme that the fire’s flame killed the very men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it.) 23 So these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell, bound, into the furnace of flaming fire.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in shock and said to his associates, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?”
They answered the king, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He replied, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around inside the fire, and they aren’t hurt! And the fourth one looks like one of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar went near the opening of the furnace of flaming fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 The chief administrators, ministers, governors, and the king’s associates crowded around to look at them. The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn’t singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire!
Some folks have never read the epic tale of Daniel and the lions’ den. Even if they’ve heard the story, they don’t always know the back story. Daniel and his three friends arrived in Babylon as prisoners, exiles from Jerusalem. Though chosen for training to serve the Babylonian court, they decided early to be faithful to Israel’s God. Sometimes that was relatively easy, like keeping the Hebrew food laws. But it also got dangerous, like publicly refusing to worship a gold statue the king created.
Lord God, I’m not an exile in a hostile land (thank you!). But help my loyalty to you to show (in loving ways) when I feel pressure to “go along” and obscure my identity as your servant. Amen.
I’ve never been thrown into a literal lion’s den or a fiery furnace. Truth be told, there haven’t even been many times where I could figuratively say I have been thrown into a lion’s den or fiery furnace. When I read these stories as a child, I was so enthralled and amazed by what God did to rescue Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. As an adult, I wonder what I would do if I were in their shoes. Would I be as confident or as courageous?
I don’t often think of myself as a person full of courage or bravery. In fact, I would say more often than not, there’s an undercurrent of fear flowing through my day-to-day life. Not a crippling fear, but a fear that sometimes causes me to question myself and others, and that keeps me from stepping out in my faith.
I’ve read many inspirational quotes about courage not being the absence of fear, but one of my favorites is by Franklin D. Roosevelt… “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” I think that’s what our Bible characters from today’s stories must have done. They assessed the situations they were in and realized that there was something bigger going on. God was calling them to something so much larger than fear. Were they afraid? I’m guessing “yes,” but did they trust that God would be with them, walk beside them, protect and carry them? “Yes.”
Thankfully many of us won’t have to live out a brave faith by being lion food or fuel for flames, but I still think God calls us to live out a brave faith and face adverse circumstances with courage and confidence no matter how big or small. There are plenty of verses in the Bible that speak to not being afraid, but rather finding courage because we can trust God is with us. But what does that really look like?
No matter what it looks like to live out my faith courageously and with confidence, I know that God is with me. I know others are watching whatever witness I choose to give them.
What if God had chosen not to rescue Daniel or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Would their stories of brave faith have been less important? I’m not so sure the point of these stories is that they believed God would rescue them, and He did. I think the lesson is that even when it was hard and scary, they lived out their faith courageously, and with confidence that no matter what happened, God was faithful; God was there with them. I don’t think God always rescues us or delivers us from brave faith circumstances the way we want or hope that He would, but I do believe that God is with us in every instance, and He is more than capable of using our courageous faith to change the hearts of those in the world who are watching.
* NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 197556-197558). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
** NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook (Kindle Locations 197307-197309). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.