Have you ever felt pressured to do something or go along with what others are doing, even though you knew it was wrong? After all, everyone is doing it, so why not do it too? If you don’t do it then you will stick out.
This is the situation that three Jewish young men faced as exiles in Babylon. They had been trained for King Nebuchadnezzar’s service. They were respected and doing as well as they could as captives. The problem came when the king had a huge statue made and then ordered everyone to bow down and worship it. He summoned all his government officials to assemble and take part in a ceremony to worship the image he had made.
There was a penalty attached to failing to comply with king’s instructions. If, when they heard the music playing, they did not bow down, those refusing to do so would be thrown into the middle of a furnace of blazing fire. The penalty for not complying was death.
How would we have reacted? What would we have done? Would we reason ourselves into complying with the king’s request – after all it is our life that is at stake! Perhaps we would convince ourselves that we could bow down but we really wouldn’t be worshipping the image. We might decide to ‘go through the motions’ even though everyone would think we had become an idol worshipper.
The people were assembled, the music played, and everyone bowed down but three young Jewish men. An immediate report when to the king:
“You have issued an edict, O king, that everyone must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music. And whoever does not bow down and pay homage must be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. But there are Jewish men whom you appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—and these men have not shown proper respect to you, O king. They don’t serve your gods, and they don’t pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected” (Daniel 3:10-12 NET).
Nebuchadnezzar became furious. How dare they! They had disobeyed him, not showing respect to him as the king or to the king’s gods. But he seemed to have liked these three men. So first he questioned them: had they not understood his instructions? He would give them a second chance to comply and worship his image.
Don’t you just love their reply?
“We do not need to give you a reply concerning this. If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if he does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected” (Daniel 3:16-18).
If we only had the courage to answer people this way when we are pressured to sin! We serve a God who has the power to rescue if he chooses, but even if he doesn’t, we won’t do what we know is wrong.
Most know the rest of the story. The furnace was heated so hot that those who threw the three men in were killed by the heat. And then the king saw four men walking around inside the furnace – the fourth looked like a god. When the three men were taken out no hair had been singed, their clothing wasn’t damaged, and they didn’t even smell like smoke. God had rescued them.
May we face our trials and temptations with the same courage these three had. May we always remember that we serve the all-powerful God, who may not choose to rescue us, but will give us an eternal reward for faithful obedience.
Photo by Gerd Altmann from pixabay.com
Readings for next week: Daniel 3-9