Ah, Daniel 3. One of those classic Bible tales every kid still knows and loves. For good reason, it’s a classic tale of standing up for God and not allowing others to force you to bend your knee to them. Plus, after growing up attending Sunday school in the late 90’s/early 00’s, it’s impossible to ever get this tune out of my head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jakg1_DCG3M
In what is not his first attempt, nor his last, at attempting to place himself higher than God in the hearts of man, Nebuchadnezzar oversees the building & erection of a comically oversized and ornate golden statue of himself. The Babylonian King likely found inspiration from his dream in the previous chapter, where an enormous statue of his likeness was crushed by the rock of God, somehow missing the point of the dream. And, after Daniel had explained how the Kingdom of God will crush all other kingdoms on Earth, Nebuchadnezzar decided to go ahead and have everyone worship this statue of him anyway in an attempt to unite the people of the world under his own likeness. After declaring that everyone must bow down and worship this statue, his Israelites-slaves-turned-court-administrators Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to adhere. After inciting Nebuchadnezzar’s rage and being questioned by him personally on the matter, under the threat of death by fire, the three calmly explain:
- “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
That’s it. No excuses, no groveling, no needing to defend themselves. Just faith in God and refusing to betray His trust. How easily do we lose our nerve and betray our faith, not even when death approaches, but in small everyday instances? It would have been simple for the three former Israelites to follow the examples some of their elder Israelites had set and denounce their God when it counted. They could have said any number of excuses, like “God knows we don’t actually mean it”, “We can just ask for forgiveness later”, “It’s just the customs of a foreign land, there’s no harm in taking part while we’re here”, or “Others have denounced him in worse ways.” There’s plenty more, but you get the idea. The three demonstrated their faith in God by refusing to take part in this idol worship, showing incredible bravery and trust. Most of all, they admitted it was up to the Lord whether he wanted them to live or die, and to accept whatever His will would be.
The example here of refusing to bow down to the idols we face and to not fear to speak God’s word is important and powerful. But I want to offer extra attention here pertaining to one factor I noticed that could help explain how these three stood up to Nebuchadnezzar: community. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had already endured a number of trials together. They had watched the Babylonian armies lay waste to their home in Jerusalem, besieging the city, stealing all their wealth, and taking a considerable number of their contemporaries and acquaintances captive. They had stood with Daniel against Nebuchadnezzar’s will and threats twice before, and had experienced the blessings of God’s favor repeatedly. These friends had shared their hardships and trials, and learned together how to trust in the Lord, but to also share in His love by encouraging and building each other up. When we strengthen ourselves with wholesome Christian brotherhood and sisterhood, we share the Lord’s love with each other and better build each other up to stand up against the Lord’s detractors. It’s not any one of these three that stand up for the Lord any more than the others, but all three together. So today, give thanks to the Lord for the other believers you have been able to share your joy with, and thank them for sharing in the Lord’s love and encouragement alongside you. And if you need that fellowship in your lives still, pray for guidance and accepting, loving hearts in your search for Christian community. With loving Christian fellowship to build up our faith and bolster our defenses against sin’s grip, you will be able to stand for the Lord when He calls you to do so.