King Nebuchadnezzar is the sort of man who is all about power. It’s his driving force. Everything around him seems to revolve around him having ultimate power and everyone else acknowledging just how much power he has. The man has a dream about a statue with a golden head and then builds an idol 90 feet tall, 9 feet wide, and covers it in gold. To beat it all, he has probably made the idol in his own image and he want’s people to worship it. Nebuchadnezzar is so egotistical that he’d rather see anyone not bowing down to this idol-ego dead than alive.
This leaves Shardrach, Meshach, and Abednego in a pretty bad situation. They know Nebuchadnezzar is powerful and that he’s in charge, but they refuse to worship the idol he’s crafted. Nebuchadnezzar wants their total devotion but he can’t have it. Thier total devotion is with God. Nebuchadnezzar has called the three out and they’re at an impass. If they won’t bow down to the idol he’s created then he’s going to throw them into the fire. They have to choose to bend to Nebuchadnezzar and betray God or betray Nebuchadnezzar and give thier full devotion to God.
So the three choose fire. They’d rather be in the fire knowing they’re staying faithful to God than trade their allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. Down to the very core of their being they know that loving God is what matters most in life. Thier love and adoration lay with God the King and they won’t trade that for anything, even thier own lives. To the very core of thier being they know that God will deliver them, and even if he doesn’t, they still won’t worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego know that life is so much more than just about themselves.
At their refusal, Nebuchadnezzar orders the three thrown into the fire. He wants the fire hotter than ever. The three are going to pay dearly for choosing devotion to God over devotion to the system. Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers grab the three and bind them up. The soldiers want to be as safe as they can for themselves as they throw the three in. They don’t want any of the three accidentally pulling them into the fire as they toss them in.
The fire is hot. Hotter than ever. The three still refuse to bow down so the soldiers throw the three in. The fire is so hot, it blazes so much, that it unexpectedly kills the soliders who the three in.
And normally this would be the end of the story.
Nebuchadnezzar wins yet again.
But that’s not what happens.
Nebuchadnezzar looks into the furnace like he had many times in the past and leaps from his chair when he sees the three still alive. But that’s not what surprised him. There’s a fourth in the fire. One that looks like the son of man. Nebuchadnezzar sees someone looking like the son of the gods standing in the fire with the three. He calls for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out and everyone is understandably amazed.
Maybe the fourth was an angel. Maybe it was the reincarnate Christ. What we know for sure is that in some form or fashion God was with them. God didn’t rescue them from the fire. God joined them in the fire. God walked with them in the fire. The three didn’t have a single hair on their head singed and they didn’t even smell like smoke because God had delivered them through the fire.
This is why the three could say that God delivers unlike any other.
Setting 3 Young Jewish men faceoff with Nebuchadnezzar over idol worship.
- Nebuchadnezzar – Narcissistic & egotistical leader of Babylon
- Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego – 3 Jewish young men who had been put in charge of a province in Babylon. Believed God would deliver them. Wouldn’t allow Nebuchadnezzar’s power to become greater in thier life than God’s power.
- Accusers – Potentially ethnocentric, brings complaint to Nebuchadnezzar about the 3.
- God – sends a divine being to walk with the three in the fire.
Tension Nebuchadnezzar wants Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down to the golden idol that he has created. The three refuse. They choose to believe that God can deliver them. Nebuchadnezzar’s ego was huge, as huge as the statue he had created. He dared anyone to usurp his power.
Resolution The three are thrown into the fire, but survive, a divine being is with them in the fire, the only thing that burns (the rope that binds them) is the only thing that represents Nebuchadnezzar’s power.
Why did people find this important to write down? It’s a story that tells us about a God who delivers unlike any other. God doesn’t rescue us from the situation. God walks with us through the situation.
Why did this passage endure? It’s a story about God being more powerful than human power. It’s a motivating story that serving God is worth it.
What is it that is true fro them that is true for us now? God doesn’t stop us from the fire, God walks through the fire with us.