Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jewish men living in a culture that did not worship God or care about following His ways. They were ethnic and religious minorities. Not only were their values and beliefs different from the majority culture around them, but because of their belief in God, they also believed in Truth which got them into trouble. Notice in the story told in Daniel chapter 3 the situation that was developed for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. First, the government (in this case the dictator, King Nebuchadnezzar) created a law that was against the higher law and truth of God. This law, commanded all people to bow down and worship an idol and was clearly a violation of God’s command to worship no other god’s as declared in the Ten Commandments. Second, the government (King Nebuchadnezzar) required all people, regardless of nation, race or language to obey this law or face consequences (the fiery furnace). Personal religious convictions had no place, only King Nebuchadnezzar’s opinion and laws mattered and everyone was under extreme pressure to comply. Sadly, all other nations and races in the story obeyed this law and bowed down to the statue when commanded. They were unwilling to challenge the system and face the consequences of standing up for their beliefs.
So why did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not bow down? After all, it was only a silly statue that they clearly believed was meaningless anyway. The answer is that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego believed in truth and the God of truth. In fact, they were so convinced of the truth that they did not even feel the need to defend themselves. The truth did not change just because others did not believe it or because a new law was passed. Instead, they declared boldly that they would never obey a human law that was not true to God’s law and trusted the results and their lives to Him. The results of this stance are predictable. The government authorities were not happy and proceeded to throw them into the furnace. Thankfully, God, miraculously intervened, showing the King and the entire culture that both He and His truth are greater than the laws of humans. Yet, even if He had not, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were prepared to stand by their commitment.
Truth makes a difference. Why do we fight for certain causes or advocate for certain issues? Not just because we don’t like it or think it is unfair. If those were the only reasons, we would likely bow down as the other nations did in the story. We stand up for issues and confront things because we believe they are ultimately untrue. Issues such as racism, sexism, abuse or oppression are not just unfair, they are fundamentally untrue and contradict God’s word which tells us that people are all created equally in His image and worthy of dignity and respect. We know it deep in our bones.
As Christians, we defend truth because it represents who God is and the fabric that He has woven into the universe. We obey and stand up for His truth because we know God knows best and that nothing in this world is worth sacrificing our relationship with Him for. What is good, right, moral and true can never be defined by human laws alone because these things are not grounded in what people think, feel, want, desire, demand or vote on. They are grounded in the truth which comes from who God is. When we understand this it drives us to seek God and His truth in everything. What I think or a government or culture thinks may not matter. Only God’s truth ultimately matters and will stand. As Christians and as social workers we will inevitably be called upon in our work to take a stand on certain issues that impact others both individually and socially. As we do may we humble ourselves, call upon God for guidance and faithfully study His word in scripture to make sure the stand we take is true.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Statue
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 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. 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 up.”
The Blazing Furnace
Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.
But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”
“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.
“Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”
Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 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!
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
Lord, your truth is worth risking everything for because you are worth risking everything for. Thank you that You call me and others to live in truth because You long for us to know You and that can only happen when we worship in spirit and truth. Give me a hunger for Your truth, God. Keep my heart from deception and lies. Give me Your Holy Spirit to lead me and reveal truth to me and grant me wisdom and discernment from You in all things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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