Profiles of Faith: Shadrach, Meschach & Abed-Nego - Faith in God's Will

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Shadrach, Meschach & Abed-Nego - Faith in God's Will

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The powerful guards began binding Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego with ropes, and within seconds they threw the young men into the furnace. One moment they were relatively safe, even held in great esteem as officials in the government of Babylon. The next moment they were brutally tossed headlong into what seemed certain death in an inferno.

The three young men lost no time responding to the king’s demand. “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,” they replied.

What went wrong? These three had faithfully obeyed their God, but their obedience was not being rewarded. They faced an ignominious death in the prime of their lives, with no one there to plead their cause. What a waste for such talented young men to lose their lives at such an early age.

What lessons, if any, are we to find in this tragic scenario? What can we learn from the example of these young men?

The Scriptures vividly picture this event and describe the events leading up to it. King Nebuchadnezzar found himself in a psychological and political struggle to protect his pride and power as ruler of Babylon.

Some were determined to rid the kingdom of the influence of the young Jewish captives—Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego and anyone else like them—who had been conscripted to serve their Babylonian captors when the kingdom of Judah fell. They would stop at nothing to see these young men removed from Nebuchadnezzar’s government, even if it meant killing them.

By all appearances, their enemies had succeeded. These men knew that King Nebuchadnezzar had decreed the death penalty for any who refused to worship the enormous golden idol he had set up (Daniel 3:1-7 Daniel 3:1-7 1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was three score cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 That at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up: 6 And whoever falls not down and worships shall the same hour be cast into the middle of a burning fiery furnace. 7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
American King James Version×
). They knew that the young Jewish men remained faithful to their God and refused to bow to any idols. They brought to the attention of the monarch the three young men’s disobedience to his decree.

Facing their fate

Addressing the young men, Nebuchadnezzar demanded: “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you refuse to serve my gods, or to worship the golden image which I have caused to be set up? Although I’ve been told this, it is simply too hard for me to believe. Therefore I will give you another opportunity. You may save your lives if, after you hear my royal musicians begin to play, you bow down to the golden image and worship my gods. Your only alternative is to be cast alive into a burning fiery furnace. Now what god, including yours, can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:14-15 Daniel 3:14-15 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said to them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not you serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the middle of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
American King James Version×
, Amplified Bible).

King Nebuchadnezzar was not one to be trifled with. He was a proud ruler with a temperamental and ambitious streak. Raising his anger could bring certain, painful death according to such Jewish sources as the Haggadah (narrative material in the Talmud and other rabbinical literature). This and other sources mention examples of his cruelty and brutality.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego knew the king’s temperament. They also knew they could obey the king and live or disobey him and die.

Setting the stage

God had taken a direct hand in the events leading to the captivity of Judah and the circumstances enveloping Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. God had forewarned Judah through Jeremiah of the Jews’ future captivity (Jeremiah 37:1-21 Jeremiah 37:1-21 1 And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. 2 But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, did listen to the words of the LORD, which he spoke by the prophet Jeremiah. 3 And Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, Pray now to the LORD our God for us. 4 Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people: for they had not put him into prison. 5 Then Pharaoh’s army was come forth out of Egypt: and when the Chaldeans that besieged Jerusalem heard tidings of them, they departed from Jerusalem. 6 Then came the word of the LORD to the prophet Jeremiah saying, 7 Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall you say to the king of Judah, that sent you to me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. 8 And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. 9 Thus said the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. 10 For though you had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire. 11 And it came to pass, that when the army of the Chaldeans was broken up from Jerusalem for fear of Pharaoh’s army, 12 Then Jeremiah went forth out of Jerusalem to go into the land of Benjamin, to separate himself there in the middle of the people. 13 And when he was in the gate of Benjamin, a captain of the ward was there, whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Hananiah; and he took Jeremiah the prophet, saying, You fall away to the Chaldeans. 14 Then said Jeremiah, It is false; I fall not away to the Chaldeans. But he listened not to him: so Irijah took Jeremiah, and brought him to the princes. 15 Why the princes were wroth with Jeremiah, and smote him, and put him in prison in the house of Jonathan the scribe: for they had made that the prison. 16 When Jeremiah was entered into the dungeon, and into the cabins, and Jeremiah had remained there many days; 17 Then Zedekiah the king sent, and took him out: and the king asked him secretly in his house, and said, Is there any word from the LORD? And Jeremiah said, There is: for, said he, you shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon. 18 Moreover Jeremiah said to king Zedekiah, What have I offended against you, or against your servants, or against this people, that you have put me in prison? 19 Where are now your prophets which prophesied to you, saying, The king of Babylon shall not come against you, nor against this land? 20 Therefore hear now, I pray you, O my lord the king: let my supplication, I pray you, be accepted before you; that you cause me not to return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, lest I die there. 21 Then Zedekiah the king commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city were spent. Thus Jeremiah remained in the court of the prison.
American King James Version×
). God had also mercifully provided two righteous kings to turn Judah back to Him: Hezekiah (ca. 715-687 B.C.) and Josiah (ca. 639-608 B.C.). Judah was fully aware of Assyria’s captivity and removal of Israel (ca. 721 B.C.). Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah had occurred after ample warning (Jeremiah 37:6-10 Jeremiah 37:6-10 6 Then came the word of the LORD to the prophet Jeremiah saying, 7 Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel; Thus shall you say to the king of Judah, that sent you to me to inquire of me; Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which is come forth to help you, shall return to Egypt into their own land. 8 And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire. 9 Thus said the LORD; Deceive not yourselves, saying, The Chaldeans shall surely depart from us: for they shall not depart. 10 For though you had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire.
American King James Version×
).

It was during the first of three invasions that Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel and the three other young Jews captive, removing them and others to Babylon (Herbert Lockyer, All the Kings and Queens of the Bible , 1961, p. 144). The time of Shadrach’s, Meshach’s and Abed-Nego’s great trial had to be after Daniel’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, found in Daniel 2, in 603 or 602 B.C. (Gleason L. Archer, Jr., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary , 1985, Vol. 7, p. 39). After that year the great crisis of the three young Hebrews took place (Daniel 3:1-30 Daniel 3:1-30 1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was three score cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 That at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up: 6 And whoever falls not down and worships shall the same hour be cast into the middle of a burning fiery furnace. 7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 8 Why at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spoke and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: 11 And whoever falls not down and worships, that he should be cast into the middle of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded you: they serve not your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up. 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said to them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not you serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the middle of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up. 19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the middle of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flames of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the middle of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spoke, and said to his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the middle of the fire? They answered and said to the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, See, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spoke, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the most high God, come forth, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the middle of the fire. 27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, on whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spoke, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
American King James Version×
).

God’s employ of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego should remind us that God possesses absolute sovereignty over all. God used the three young Jews to reveal this truth to King Nebuchadnezzar. The record shows the king habitually forgot that God was greater than any earthly ruler (Daniel 4:34-37 Daniel 4:34-37 34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say to him, What do you? 36 At the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and brightness returned to me; and my counsellors and my lords sought to me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
American King James Version×
). Shadrach (whose Hebrew name was Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael) and Abed-Nego (Azariah) were selected by King Nebuchadnezzar and prepared by God, as the apostle Peter later wrote, to “proclaim the praises of Him who called [them] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 1 Peter 2:9But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
American King James Version×
).

The three young Jews were among the best and the brightest of the kingdom of Judah, and they soon caught the attention of Babylonian officials. “Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans” (Daniel 1:3-4 Daniel 1:3-4 3 And the king spoke to Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.
American King James Version×
).

God provides and protects

They were to be trained as administrators and assistants to serve in the Chaldean, or Babylonian, government. During their training, they were to receive a daily provision of the king’s delicacies, including his wine. After three years they were to personally serve the king (Daniel 1:5 Daniel 1:5And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
American King James Version×
).

Their selection for this training program brought about their first trial: They refused to eat the food placed before them. The biblical account does not tell us whether the meats were unclean according to biblical standards or if some other problem was evident. Regardless of the exact circumstances, with Ashpenaz’s help they lived on an alternative diet for 10 days. The steward removed their assigned portion of the king’s cuisine and served them vegetables and water instead. As a result they grew healthier than those who consumed the royal delicacies. In their circumstances they began to see that their faith could triumph even in relatively minor trials.

Archer comments on this first trial facing the three: “At the very beginning of their career in a three-year program, the young Yahweh worshipers were faced with a clear-cut issue of obedience and faith. They were doubtless subject to intense social pressure from their classmates and teachers to do what everyone else was doing. Should they not accept the royal diet and thus avoid giving needless offense to their classmates or to the officials of the king himself? Worldly wisdom pointed in that direction. By their compliance they would please everybody. But they would not please God, to whom they were surrendered body and soul.

“So at the start of their career, they faced squarely their priorities and determined to trust God to see them through the perils of noncompliance and possible forfeiture of all that they had gained. By their early refusal to disobey God, they prepared themselves for future greatness as true witnesses for the one true God in the midst of a degenerate pagan culture” ( The Expositor’s Bible Commentary , 1985, Vol. 7, p. 34).

Not only did God honor their obedience to Him and His laws, He also rewarded them with great favor in the king’s eyes. When the king interviewed them, they proved far wiser and of better understanding than all the magicians and astrologers in the realm (Daniel 1:15-17 Daniel 1:15-17 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them vegetables. 17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
American King James Version×
, Daniel 1:19-20 Daniel 1:19-20 19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.
American King James Version×
). God had prepared Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego for the great trial that would soon test their belief, faith and obedience.

Facing the fire

As the three men faced Nebuchadnezzar’s interrogation, they naturally wondered about their fate. However, they lost no time responding to the king’s demand that they either worship the image or be thrown into the flaming furnace.

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter,” they replied. “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 Daniel 3:16-18 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.
American King James Version×
).

Their response serves as a striking example of faith. They knew God could deliver them from the certain death they faced, but they didn’t know if He would extend their physical lives. They relied on God’s wisdom and judgment and placed their fate in His hands.

They were firm in their determination to obey God’s command not to bow to an idol (Exodus 20:4-5 Exodus 20:4-5 4 You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
American King James Version×
). They would risk their lives before they would disobey God. They knew they were figuratively signing their own death warrant with their unapologetic response to the king’s demands.

The king didn’t know it at the time, but the three young Jews had a stronger power on their side than any power Nebuchadnezzar could yield. Nebuchadnezzar had made the mistake of defying God, boasting, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (Daniel 3:15 Daniel 3:15Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the middle of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
American King James Version×
, New International Version). He had unwittingly transformed his confrontation with these young men into a contest with God.

Nebuchadnezzar had much to learn. Ungrateful, he had scoffed at the very One who had allowed him success in battle; therefore he was to undergo one humiliation after another until he was forced to acknowledge Israel’s God (Daniel 4:1-37 Daniel 4:1-37 1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied to you. 2 I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God has worked toward me. 3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation. 4 I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace: 5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. 6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known to me the interpretation thereof. 8 But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my God, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, 9 O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no secret troubles you, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. 10 Thus were the visions of my head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the middle of the earth, and the height thereof was great. 11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached to heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: 12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelled in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. 13 I saw in the visions of my head on my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; 14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: 15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: 16 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given to him; and let seven times pass over him. 17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men. 18 This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now you, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, for as much as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation: but you are able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in you. 19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spoke, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble you. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate you, and the interpretation thereof to your enemies. 20 The tree that you saw, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached to the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; 21 Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelled, and on whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: 22 It is you, O king, that are grown and become strong: for your greatness is grown, and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; 24 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come on my lord the king: 25 That they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will. 26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; your kingdom shall be sure to you, after that you shall have known that the heavens do rule. 27 Why, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you, and break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of your tranquility. 28 All this came on the king Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. 30 The king spoke, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty? 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from you. 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make you to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will. 33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. 34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that lives for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say to him, What do you? 36 At the same time my reason returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and brightness returned to me; and my counsellors and my lords sought to me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
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). Still, facing public defiance in the name of the God of the Jews, Nebuchadnezzar apparently felt he had no choice but to order the immediate execution of the three men.

Furious at their rebuff, Nebuchadnezzar commanded their execution in the furnace: “He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated” (Daniel 3:19 Daniel 3:19Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
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). The three Jews were firmly bound and thrown like logs into the furnace. The flames blazed so hot that the guards who threw them in perished from the heat.

Unexpected events

The three young men were lost from sight as they tumbled into the flames. But, then, what could this be? The bewildered Nebuchadnezzar saw not three but four men walking unbound and unburned in the flames. Even more astounding, in Nebuchadnezzar’s own words, the fourth person was “like the Son of God”!

Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he dared to the mouth of the burning furnace. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here,” he cried (Daniel 3:26 Daniel 3:26Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spoke, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the most high God, come forth, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the middle of the fire.
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). The three men walked out of the furnace and stood before the astonished king and the crowd of officials. Not only were the three not harmed, but not a hair on their heads was even singed. Their clothing was undamaged, “and the smell of fire was not on them” (Daniel 3:27 Daniel 3:27And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, on whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
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).

Nebuchadnezzar had witnessed a miracle. The Jewish fellows’ divine companion in the flames had delivered them from all harm. God had protected them in their literally fiery trial.

Nebuchadnezzar made a quick about-face: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this” (Daniel 3:28-29 Daniel 3:28-29 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spoke, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
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).

Faith forged in flames

Almighty God had allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to learn another lesson of humility. He was educating Nebuchadnezzar to know that he was dealing with the King of the universe Himself (Daniel 4:37 Daniel 4:37Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
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).

“Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon,” concludes the biblical account (Daniel 3:30 Daniel 3:30Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
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). In the New Testament, Hebrews 11:34 Hebrews 11:34Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
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looks back on them as heroes of faith who “quenched the violence of fire.”

Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, we can exercise that same conquering faith, an assurance that leads to eternal life. The apostle Paul notes that, when we live by this kind of faith, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37 Romans 8:37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
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).

Like these three young worshipers of the true God, in our own way we can exercise that same conquering faith that leads us successfully through life’s present problems-and ultimately to eternal life.

These courageous young men were willing to forfeit their lives for what they believed. The determination to live by faith, striving to resist and conquer sin in our own daily lives, is equally esteemed in God’s sight. The apostle Paul tells us that, when we live by faith, “we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37 Romans 8:37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
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).

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego is a dramatic testimony to some who truly were conquerors, willing to risk all for their love of—and faith in—God.