The Old Testament story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego runs parallel to that Daniel. Like the prophet of lions’ den fame, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jewish captives living in Babylon. Like Daniel, they earned positions as wise and trustworthy advisers of the king of Babylon. And like him, they inspired envy and enmity among their Babylonian counterparts in the king’s government.
When Nebuchadnezzar commissioned a 90-foot-tall gold statue and ordered everyone in his kingdom to bow down and worship it, certain schemers in his government saw an opportunity to rid themselves of the three Israelites once and for all.
These nefarious advisers reported to the king that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had refused to bow to his golden idol. They urged the king to sentence the three men to death in a blazing furnace, as was dictated by the king’s decree.
Enraged, the king sent for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and issued an ultimatum: “When you hear the sound of . . .every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire-and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” (Dan 3:15).
Here’s the reply he received: “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king” (Dan 3:16-17).
On the surface, those seem like brave words. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego courageously testified that God was powerful enough to save them from their imminent execution. But they likely saw nothing remarkable about their response. After all, they had historical precedence on their side.
From the time they were born, they’d heard about the God who had parted the Red Sea, sent a gushing stream of water from a rock in the desert, and fed his people with bread from heaven. Compared to those things, disabling a furnace probably seemed like a minor miracle.
The true essence of bond faith is found in what the three men said to the king next: “But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up” (Dan 3:18).
“But even if He does not’-there’s the heart of the matter. There’s the essence of bold faith. It’s one thing to approach a blazing furnace knowing you’re going to be rescued in the nick of time. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had no such certainty. As far as they knew, they were about to die in a most excruciating way. Yet they remained faithful to God. Their devotion to him could not be shaken-not even by fear of death.
In the end, God delivered his three faithful servants in a way that left no doubt as to his power. Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to stoke the furnace seven times hotter than normal. The heat was so intense that the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to the furnace’s opening were killed instantly. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, however, were able to walk around unharmed-in the furnace. And they weren’t alone.
When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the blaze, he saw a fourth man, one who looked “like a son of God” (Dan 3:25), walking with them. He called for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out. When they did, he and all the other witness who had gathered to watch them burn saw that not a single hair on their heads or a thread on their clothes had been singed.
The effect of their bold decision can be seen in the astonished response of King Nebuchadnezzar:
DANIEL 3:16-18 – “If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.
DANIEL 3:28-29 – 28. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath 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.