Daniel 3:19-23, 26-28
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold that he set up in the plain of Dura. He ordered people from all nations, languages and stations in life to attend a dedication ceremony for the image.
When the people had gathered in front of the image, the command went out that when they heard music, they were to fall down and worship the image. Anyone who did not fall down and worship the golden image would be thrown into “the midst of a burning fiery furnace” located nearby.
Why Nebuchadnezzar set up the image and demanded that people worship it is not known. Perhaps he reacted to Daniel’s interpretation of his dream in which he learned his kingdom would not last forever. Setting up the golden image could have been a move to reassure himself that he was secure as the king.
Nebuchadnezzar expected this to go smoothly since no one would dare defy the king. However, he was told that certain Jews disobeyed his order, and it was also said, “they serve not thy gods.” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would only worship the one, true God.
The three Hebrews were brought before the king, who gave them a second chance to obey his command. “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter,” the men told the king. In other words, their minds were made up and they would not waste his time. “We will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up,” they said. There was no doubt where these men stood.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego believed God was able to deliver them from the furnace and the king if that was what He wanted to do. If God chose not to bring them out alive from the fiery trial, then they would die as men who had neither served the pagan gods nor worshipped the golden image.
Nebuchadnezzar ordered his subjects to heat the furnace to seven times its normal heat. He had the three Hebrews bound and commanded that they be thrown in the furnace. The fire was so hot that it killed men who threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the furnace.
When the king looked inside the furnace, he saw four men, none of them bound, walking in the middle of the fire. None of the men appeared to have any injuries, and the king described the fourth man as being “like the Son of God.” He called to the men, saying, “ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.”
The king saw that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had not even the slightest evidence of ever having been in the fire. It was then he believed God delivered them from the fiery furnace.
The faith of those three men encouraged their fellow captives in Babylon, and it is encouraging to us today. The furnace of fiery trials is slowly getting hotter. And we must decide if we are going to stand up for Christ Jesus or if we will bow to the gods worshipped by the world.
The Sunday school lesson is written by Ed Wilcox, pastor of Centerville Baptist Church. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.