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Lessons from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

Lessons from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

The 3rd chapter of Daniel which centers on the story of Daniel’s 3 best buddies Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is a well-known and well-loved chapter in the Bible. Who does not know how these three Jewish men were cast into the fiery furnace and came out alive? But more importantly, what lessons can we learn from their experience?

Summary of Daniel Chapter 3

In Daniel 3:1-7, we read how King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, set it up in the plain of Dura in Babylon and commanded everyone to fall down and worship the image upon hearing the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music. And anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.

Prior to this, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a great image that is awesome in form and whose splendor was excellent, standing before him (Daniel 2:31-35). Could this have something to do with why he set up an image for everyone to bow down to and worship?

We’re not sure how much time elapsed between the night Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about the metallic image and the day he commanded the people to fall down before the golden image that he had made. Some believe that the event described in Daniel chapter 3 might have occurred 20 years after the promotion of Daniel and his friends, about the time Jerusalem was finally destroyed (586 BC).

So it happened that when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar set up, except 3 Jewish men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused to obey the king’s order; they stood tall in that great crowd when everybody else bowed low (Daniel 3:7-12).

The Golden Image of King Nebuchadnezzar

When King Nebuchadnezzar learned about it, he became furious and asked for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. The king, who had appointed these men to their high positions, valued their service (Daniel 1:18-20). Realizing that his reputation was at stake, he gave them a second chance in the presence of everyone.

King Nebuchadnezzar instructed the orchestra to play once more and if they bowed down, the matter would be forgiven and forgotten. However, the three men refused to do so and as a result; they were thrown into the blazing furnace that was heated 7 times more than it was usually heated (Daniel 3:13-20).

But God delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the blazing furnace to the astonishment of the king. When they came out of the fire, Nebuchadnezzar and all the high officers, officials and governors crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants! They trusted in Him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” – Daniel 3:28

Then the king praised the God of the Jews and made a decree that anyone who speaks against Him shall be cut in pieces and their houses will be turned into an ash heap. The king also promoted them to even higher positions in the province of Babylon (Daniel 3:24-30).

Learning from the Three Jewish Men

What important lessons can we learn from the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

1. Place your faith only in the true and living God and in His Word.

The assembly of worshipers in Daniel 3:7 who bowed to the ground and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up can be likened to the people in today’s world who do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. They blindly follow the crowd and are concerned only with survival. They will do almost anything to escape danger and death, even to the point of selling themselves into slavery to men who promote empty myths.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down and worship the golden statue because their faith was in the true and living God. Knowing the history of their ancestors, they were confident that God was in control and they had nothing to fear.

These three Jewish men knew the Law of God – “You shall have no other gods before me ….. You shall not bow down to them nor worship them” (Exodus 20:3, 5). They knew that bowing before the image even once, regardless of the excuse they might have given, would have destroyed their witness and broken their fellowship with God.

“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.” – Mark 13:9

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not concerned about themselves, nor were they afraid of the fury of the king. They were only concerned about obeying God and giving a faithful witness to all who were watching and listening. So by one act of faith, they became witnesses of the true and living God to the entire Babylonian Empire.

Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds

In the same way, when Christians are being persecuted for their faith, they should take that as an opportunity to tell others about Jesus. As one theologian said, “Times of adversity are usually times of opportunity.”

2. Be a man or woman of faith but not of presumption.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not affirm that God would deliver them, which would have been presumption because they didn’t know what God’s will for their situation was. Instead, they stated that their God was able to deliver them, but even if He didn’t, they still wouldn’t bow down and worship the king’s golden image (Daniel 3:16-18).

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if He doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set us.” – Daniel 3:17-18

Perhaps you feel convicted to pray for somebody who’s suffering from a terminal illness and you claimed by faith that God would heal that person. Know that God always rewards faith but He doesn’t always step in to perform special miracles. Not everyone who prays for healing gets healed, but the Lord always gives strength to bear with the pain and grace to face death without fear.

*Related Article: Why does God not Heal Everyone?

The three Jewish men believed that God could deliver them, but they would still trust Him even if He didn’t. Christians must remain faithful to God even if He doesn’t answer their prayers according to their expectations. That is how faith is supposed to operate in the life of someone who claims to be a follower of Christ (Hebrews 3:17-19).

3. Civil disobedience is only permissible in certain instances.

Submission to authority is a principle that must never be put aside and God is the ultimate authority. As such, He has ordained other authorities under Him to which we must submit, including human government. The Bible says that to oppose these authorities is to oppose God (Romans 13:1-2).

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” – Romans 13:1

But Jesus taught us that there will be times when civil disobedience is permissible. When we find ourselves in a position wherein we must choose to either obey God or men, then we must obey God and disobey men (Acts 5:29). If our obedience to man’s laws would result in our disobedience to God’s laws, we must obey God by disobeying men.

The decree of King Nebuchadnezzar to bow down to the golden image is one instance where civil disobedience is allowed because it was clearly in violation of God’s law. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, obedience to the king’s command would have required them to commit the sin of idolatry.

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.” – Acts 5:29

But even when God requires us to disobey human law, we must do so in a submissive manner. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego disobeyed the king’s command but they remained respectful. We may dislike our government leaders because the laws they are imposing go against God’s will. But we should not encourage others to join us, stage a protest or seek to overthrow them. Instead, we must bring the matter to God and submit to Him as the ultimate authority.

4. God is our Deliverer.

This story is really about deliverance. King Nebuchadnezzar expected everyone in Babylon, including the Jews, to fall down before his idol because he believed he was the only one who could deliver or destroy them. This is apparent when he asked the 3 Jewish men, “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands” (Daniel 3:15)? To this, he later answered, “There is no God who can deliver like this” (Daniel 3: 29).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that the God who delivered them from Egyptian bondage and forbade His people to worship idols is their Deliverer not only from the blazing furnace but also from Babylonian captivity. They did not have to make any defense to the king when they were asked to explain their refusal to bow to the golden image.

“For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:10-11

And God accomplished their deliverance. God did not only deliver them from the fire, He delivered them through the fire. The fire had not harmed their bodies, not a single hair of their heads singed, nor were their garments affected and there was no smell of fire on them (Daniel 3:27). Their deliverance was complete!

*Read here: What does John 3:16 teach about salvation?

God’s deliverance for Christians is just like what is described in Daniel 3. Having been delivered does not mean that we are spared from all sufferings and trials, but it is a deliverance as a result of God Himself experiencing the fire. In the same way that God was present with the 3 Jewish men as the 4th person in the furnace, Christ has endured the wrath of God in our place.

“Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke.” – Daniel 3:27

Believers are delivered from the wrath of God because His Son, Jesus Christ, suffered in our place. Our deliverance has been accomplished on the cross of Calvary. We may not be able to fully grasp the extent of the deliverance that we have in Christ or fathom the totality of God’s deliverance for us now, but His deliverance is complete.

Conclusion

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is a reminder for us of the prophecies found in Revelation, especially chapters 13 and 14. One day, a world leader (Beast) like King Nebuchadnezzar will arise and will have an image of himself constructed. He will force all the people in the world to worship his image.

Those who obey will be given a mark on their forehead or their hand, and this special mark will be their passport to stay alive and do business. Anyone who refuses to obey will be persecuted and killed. But the Lord will preserve for Himself 144,000 Jews whom the Beast will not be able to touch, and they will come out of the Great Tribulation to reign together with the Messiah for a thousand years.

Standing firm to the end

As for the believers in Christ, expect the furnace of opposition to be heated 7 times hotter and the pressure to conform (to the world) to grow stronger as we move forward to the end of the age. We need a great deal of prayers and grace; and we need the same faith and courage that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had in order to stand tall for Christ while others are bowing their knees to the god of this world.