Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
Story based on Daniel 3
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
(Last time - what happened? Neb's dream - head of gold, silver, bronze iron, feet and toes of Iron and Clay (mixture of people not united = weakensss))
The dream and its interpretation played again and again in Nebuchadnezzar's mind. His was the head of gold - strong, mighty, powerful, he was the greatest of all the kings of Babylon, but he remembered the dream. In the great kingdom he was building there was a weakness, the feet - iron and clay - they don't mix. As he played the dream through his mind again and again, certainly this dream that Daniel interpreted was a warning. Nebuchadnezzar's intelligent mind got to problem solving.
Obviously those feet and toes of clay and silver meant a mixture - a mixture of peoples. Babylon certainly had many different groups of people in it by now, Assyrians, Persians, Israelites, the list of the different people went on and on. How could he make those many different people one? Get rid of the weakness in his kingdom so that one day, when many years after he lived, his kingdom would continue to stand? And then the answer came to him - make all the people one, make them all bow before one ruler, make them all bow before one idol. Then no matter what new kingdom would come along, the one he established would be strong and powerful - unshakeable.
And so he set out to make a statue of pure gold - this time, not only the head was gold - the whole statue was gold because it represented him. Instead of weakness this statue 9 feet wide and 90 feet tall, (3 telephone poles) would have no weakness, all gold, he instructed his engineers to build it to stand forever - and everyone would come and worship before it - religions would be united, people would be united - the weakness he saw in his dream would be eliminated. And they placed it in the plane of Dura so that people could come from all directions and see it from a great distance, and come and worship the statue there.
The gold statue was finished, the time came for a celebration for the whole land. Nebuchadnezzar knew that if the leaders of all the different groups of people led in worshiping his image, then the people would follow.
The day of the celebration came. Nebuchadnezzar had ordered his royal philharmonic orchestra to be there for the time of worship with their horns, flutes, zithers, guitars, harps and pipe organs. And the instruction to all the invited guests - the leaders from all over the land, satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials, they were to bow down to the image once the music started and show to all the people that Babylon was a unified nation, with but one true religion.
The statue up, the orchestra in place, they came, people from every nation and language. They came in the many coloured cloths, their worshiping best. Nebuchadnezzar saw the crowds - he was impressed, they all came to worship this golden image of himself, the king of kings in the kingdom of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar wanted everyone to bow to his statue. He knew that if some of the leaders refused, their followers might refuse too, and then he would have a rebellion on his hands. And so he decided at this worship service to add one more instruction. If there was anyone who dared, if there was anyone would did not fall down in worship before the statue, they would be immediately thrown into a big stone furnace - burned alive.
There was excitement in the air. The crowd hushed as the orchestra started to tune their instruments. Almost all of the crowd was eager to bow in worship, with their faces to the ground, even before the music officially started. Nebuchadnezzar was pleased.
Except for a few (who - Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego)
There were a few more. They were local leaders, astrologers, the wise men that the king had depended on for years. Instead of bowing before the statue completely, they kept there heads up just to make sure that everyone was doing what they were told. And they saw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego standing there, not bowing. Quickly they halted the time of worship, they told the orchestra to shut up and ran to tell the King.
"O king, live forever!" They said. "You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace." But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon--Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego--who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up."
Nebuchadnezzar was embarrassed. The worship of the whole nation was being held up by three stubborn Israelites who refused to honor him. His moment of glory was not complete. Bringing all the nations together was not working. He was furious. He had Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego brought before him.
"Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?
He didn't even wait for the answer. Knowing they were friends of Daniel, he choose immediately to give them a second chance. "Now, Nebuchadnezzar instructed, "when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"
He asked them a very important question - a question that all the nations of the land would hear. He asked them "what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had thought about their answer - "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." They knew that their God, our God, was able to rescue them from the fire, and if he didn't they were willing to die rather than disobey God again like the nation of Israel had done in the past.
Nebuchadnezzar had heard enough.
"Make the furnace hotter - let's see what this God of theirs can do!"
"Your majesty, its already so hot, we can hardly come near it." a soldier replied.
"SEVEN times hotter! Make it perfectly hot, white hot, as hot as the sun in its fire. Tie them up and throw them in!" Nebuchadnezzar's face was red with rage. His orders were acted upon instantly. They knew that when he was this angry, he did not care who died. "No God is more powerful than I!"
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were tied with ropes, all their clothing on. The ropes were tight, they could not move, they could not defend themselves, they could not escape. There was no way they could rescue themselves. We don't know exactly what this furnace was like - we have a fairly good idea that it was large - that wood was thrown in the top, that there were holes in the side of the furnace where air could be forced into the fire to make it hotter. The soldiers took Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and threw them in, they were overcome and died from the heat and the fumes that were coming out of it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fell into the blazing fire, totally tied up, they wouldn't be able to move anywhere.
With satisfaction, Nebuchadnezzar saw this all - certainly now that they were cooking in the fire - this rebellion had been stopped. Now all the Israelites, once they saw what happened to their leaders, would bow before the image and he would have one unified nation. No God could rescue them from the fires of this hell.
He went below to see what he was cooking up, sure he would see just three new logs on the fire. But to his surprise he saw not three, but four, and they were not logs, they were people walking around inside the blazing fire and one of them looked different - he looked like a son of the gods!
Nebuchadnezzar jumped right off of his chair - he could not believe his eyes.
"Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"
His advisors wanted to reassure him that he was not losing his mind. "Certainly, O king." they said.
"Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."
Their ropes had all burned off. But sure enough, there they were, walking in the fire, with a fourth person. That fourth person must be their God - even able to save them, rescue them from a furnace 7 times hotter than its normal fire.
"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!" And so they came out. All the leaders of all the nations crowded around. Leaders of every religion came to look and smell these three Israelites. Their clothing was not burned., they hair was not singed, their skin was still perfect. Even when they came right up to them, they could not smell the smoke of the fire. On that day, before all the mixed up nations of Babylon, they all saw what the God of Israel could do. He could even rescue his servants through the fire.
And so Nebuchadnezzar made a proclamation in the language, Aramaic, that everyone in Babylon could understand. He praised the God of Israel for rescuing his servants, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And he ruled that if anyone ever said anything against Israel's God, they would be killed, their houses turned to rubble because on that day, Nebuchadnezzar discovered that there is no other God like the God of Israel - the God who could rescue his servants through the fire.
And so on that day, in the land of Babylon, instead of all the nations bowing down to worship Nebuchadnezzar's statue, on that day, all the nations heard that there is no God like the God of Isreal, there is no other God as great as our God.
Comments to Adults: Nebuchadnezzar's surprise about the God of Israel was surprise in how the he could save. Neb. probably expected, if God would save, he would save his servants before they were cast in the fire, he never expected them to be saved THROUGH the fire! How this is true for us! So often we go through times of trouble, suffering, difficultiy, how often the church has gone through times of persecution and extreme hardship, and yet God saves us through them! Reflect on your own life, times of difficulty you have encountered. How has God saved you THROUGH the fire?
Prayer - salvation through the fire. - God is our deliverer.
Passage on which this story is based: Daniel 3 (NIV)
1 King Nebuchadnezzar
made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it
up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.