Children of the Bible, Part 12
In our series on children of the Bible, we come now to three of the children we mentioned last week. In Daniel chapter 1, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were able to demonstrate that even when it comes to diet, God’s way is best. They were probably only in their teens when this took place, but they had learned to stand for what they knew was God’s plan for their lives.
In this next episode, Daniel is not present. He may have been in some other part of the kingdom when this took place, because only Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are mentioned. In chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a huge statute made of gold, silver, bronze and iron mixed with clay. The Babylonian kingdom was likened to the gold head. In chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar decided to erect a great statue of himself made of gold. His plan was that when all of the important people were gathered together around the statue, the musicians would play and all of the people were to bow down to the statue and worship. The consequence of not bowing down at the appropriate time was to be cast into a burning, fiery furnace.
Of course, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that this was forbidden by God. The second commandment states that no images of any gods are to be made or worshipped. The first commandment states that they were to have no other gods at all except the true God. Therefore, these three young Israelites had a serious problem. In chapter 1, there was a way to find an alternative since the purpose of the food was to make these young captives strong and healthy. In this case, the purpose was to promote worship of the King and his statue. There was no possible alternative solution in this case. These young boys were obedient to the king’s commands and to their overseers as long as they could still obey God. Now they knew that their faith in the true God was being tested in the severest way. The penalty for obeying God would be certain death. These young men had made their choice long before the music sounded. They were willing to lay their lives on the line to honour their God.
We all know the story. The people were assembled together around this impressive 90-foot golden statue. With all the pomp and circumstance of the occasion, the orchestra started the music. Immediately, as a unified body, the people bowed in homage to the King and his image. No, wait, there were still three young men not bowing down to the statue; they were standing erect looking over the bowing crowd. The king’s men were quick to report the audacity of these men.
Can you imagine the surprise of King Nebuchadnezzar when he realized these men are three of the four wisest young men brought into his kingdom? He decided to give them another chance, with the additional warning that the furnace will be heated seven times hotter than before. The three men did not waver in their decision. With respect for the king’s authority and with resignation to the consequences, they replied that they could not bow down to the image. They knew their God was able to deliver them if He chose, but even if He did not, they still resigned themselves into His hands. King Nebuchadnezzar was infuriated. He charged his men to bind and cast these three rebels into the over-heated furnace. No one was allowed to defy the King – he was making an example out of these three men in front of the enormous crowd.
But God had the final say. King Nebuchadnezzar peered into the furnace and recognized four distinct figures walking around in the inferno. What? What is this? He questioned his men, “Did we not cast three men into the furnace? How is it that I see four men walking around in there, and the fourth is like the Son of God?” We have no idea how King Nebuchadnezzar distinguished the fourth figure from the others, but somehow it is clear to him that the fourth was definitely different. In amazement, he called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out of the fire. They emerged without the smell of fire on their clothes, nor a hair singed. Only the bindings had been burned off their bodies. Nebuchadnezzar blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and praised them for their unwavering faith. He commanded his people to never speak evil against their God and publicly declared that there was no God like Him.
How did these young men develop such a faith in God when they had been carried away captive as teenagers from the land of Israel? How could they take a stand like this in the midst of all these important officials in the most powerful kingdom of the day and willingly place their necks on the line? I cannot imagine this happening unless their parents and their extended family had built at least three things into the lives of these children. First of all, they needed a clear knowledge of God. They needed to know that he was the all-powerful, all-wise, all-present Creator and loving Saviour. Secondly, they needed to understand that God had a personal interest in them and their needs. And thirdly, they needed to recognize that God is always faithful and just. I just cannot believe that without this they could have taken such a stand. These truths needed to be deeply imbedded in their hearts and minds before they could have had the courage to stand against such odds. With God, we are in the majority – no one, no power is ever greater than Him. How we desire our children to have this kind of faith in today’s society!
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