I hope this day finds you and your family well. I invite you to take a few moments with me to read and reflect upon today’s scripture selection — and to carry these thoughts with you into your day.
Today’s Scripture: Daniel 3:1-30
King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, 4 the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good.[a] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. 17 If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.[b] 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, 20 and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics,[c] their trousers,[d] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 22 Because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” 25 He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.”[e] 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics[f] were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
As the story begins, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, erects a massive golden statue and commands that all must bow before it. This story about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is part of a series of stories in the first six chapters of Daniel 1-6 dealing with the relationship between the God of Israel and the gentile kings.
At the end of the previous chapter, Nebuchadnezzar announced that true knowledge and power come from Daniel’s God. But at the beginning of Daniel 3, the king seems to have forgotten his earlier declaration. After some Babylonian sages (the Chaldeans) report that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down and worship the statue, Nebuchadnezzar summons them, ridicules their God, and demands that they worship the statue.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s answer to the king shows a remarkable steadfastness of faith: “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). Notice how their course of action isn’t dependent on what they can get out of it—they are determined in their refusal whether God delivers them or not.
There is some comedy in the story. In their self-importance, Nebuchadnezzar and his officials look more and more like buffoons each time the long list of officials and musical instruments is recited (Daniel 3:2, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 15). It is clear that Nebuchadnezzar is childish, impulsive, and easily manipulated.
In this passage, we have an early use of satire to weaken the power of a tyrant. Comedians still do that today.
Despite being bound in their clothes and tossed in, Daniel’s three friends survive the overheated furnace and come out free and unharmed. The king sees a fourth person in the flames who has “the appearance of a god” (Daniel 3:25) or, literally, “a son of a god.” The text doesn’t say, but he seems to be an angel of the Lord who has come to protect and deliver the three.
Down through the ages, this story has inspired resistance on the part of those suffering persecution and injustice at the hands of tyrants or society at large. Elie Wiesel, the Jewish activist and holocaust survivor, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. are three leaders inspired in this way. For these leaders and others who lived through, and resisted, injustice, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego offered hope for survival. (C. Newsom and B. Breed, Daniel (Old Testament Library; Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2014), 97-127)
The story serves as a reminder that we are all called to the work of faithful resistance. It also serves to remind us that we are not alone in the most trying times.
Hymn: “How Firm a Foundation”
by “K” in Rippon’s Selection of Hymns (1787)
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in God’s excellent Word!
What more can be said than to you God hath said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
“Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
for I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
“When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be near thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.
“The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake.”
Thank you for sharing this moment of your day with me, with God, and with these reflections on a portion of scripture. I hope you will carry these with you throughout your day and night.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster