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“16) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17) If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18) But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Many today claim the Christian faith. They claim to believe that Jesus is their Savior and that they obey God, but when they are faced with challenges or temptations they give up this faith. They only claim faith in Christ because of its culturally value. When this faith requires that they sacrifice, then their faith is no longer existent, and they give into the values and morals of the world.

This faith is not a true, saving faith, but a faith that is only superficial. It is a faith that only sees God as a way to get things that they want. When they do not receive the things that they have requested, then they abandon God. When their faith is being tested by fire, they desert God and cling to themselves and their lives. Luke 9:24 says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

There will be many times are faith is tested in this life. This is even a promise found in Scripture. 1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” These tests are used to purify our faith and build our perseverance. We may not always resist every temptation, but God is there to forgive us when we fall and able to keep us from stumbling again in the future (Jude 24).

These three verses come in the middle of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We will be focusing on them because there would be too much to say if we focused on the entire passage, but we will be using the rest of the passage in its context in order to understand these verses.

The story begins with King Nebuchadnezzar building an image of gold then declaring that everyone must bow down before this image or they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. Once the music sounds, which were the signal for the people to bow down, everyone began to bow down. Everyone bowed except Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Certain Chaldeans brought the information of their disobedience to King Nebuchadnezzar expecting him to throw them into the fire. Upon hearing this message, Nebuchadnezzar grows furious and commands that they be brought forth immediately. He demands that fire be heated seven times hotter than it normally is and ordered that the three be bound and thrown. The extreme heat of the fire killed some the men that threw the three into the fire. The three are not killed but are rather unbound and standing with a fourth man. Nebuchadnezzar sets them free from the fire and even declares the greatness of their God.

The faith that God granted the three was what lead Nebuchadnezzar to change and delivered them from the fire. God’s great power was displayed through the faith He had worked in them. Their faith was a true, saving faith that delivered them from the furnace. It did not back down when confronted with challenges but remained committed and consistent with their beliefs that God would deliver them. This is true faith that we should all seek to have. This is a faith that stays standing.

1. Faith Responds

Verse 16 opens with Shadrech, Meshach, and Abednego giving an answer to King Nebuchadnezzar. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were prepared to disobey Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the idol of him. They knew what awaited them for their disobedience. Daniel 3:6 says, “And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” The command to worship the golden image of God contained a punishment for not obeying it, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this. They did not walk in there unprepared but had already decided how they would responded.

Whenever possible, we must have an answer prepared for all situations. They were ready for the initial action of disobeying his command, but were they prepared for a response to what he said? 1 Peter 3:14-15, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego most likely knew what awaited them if they did not obey King Nebuchadnezzar’s command. They probably also had prepared to both deny his command and a response to what he would say. They most likely did not know exactly what he would say, but they had a general answer prepared nonetheless.

This response came from living faithfully in their ordinary life. God may give us His special grace in certain situations to make decisions such as these, but it is far better if we live our lives dedicated to Him and a faithful response will flow from this. In Daniel 1, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego decide to eat waters and vegetables rather than meat and drink in order to remain obedient to God and separate themselves from others. The three have a past history of remaining faithful, so when the time comes to be faithful again, it is easier for them than if they had not been faithful in the past.

There will be many times that we will have no answer prepared because we had no way to be ready for the situation. We cannot see the future, so we cannot prepare for every event. This does not mean that God not help us and give us an answer in such events though. Luke 12:11-12 says, “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Whenever we need an answer, we will be granted a special token of God’s grace for that situation.
This response must always align in a scripturally manner. Others may treat us with evil, but we do not return this evil to them. If someone slaps us on the check, then we could fight back, but this is not the biblical response. 1 Peter 3:9 says, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” They answer Nebuchadnezzar in a straightforward manner without trying to attack him or get away.

A responsive faith does not always mean that there must be some form of extreme outward action. There are times that the most faithful response is to keep silent and bear the unjust dealings of others. 1 Peter 3:1 says, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” We do not always have to give a verbal answer but being obedient to Christ is our response.

I have found that having a great knowledge of the Word of God will help grant us a great answer as well. This text does not talk about this, but I have learned this from personal experience and how the Bible speaks of itself as a mighty sword (Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12). They may have recalled the second commandment, which says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

2. Faith Does Not Conform

In verse 15, Nebuchadnezzar asks them, “And who is the god who will deliver you out my hands?” This question is steeped in arrogance. He begins with the presumption that he is the greatest god and that no one is more powerful than he is. He does not seem to think that any god could stand to his power.

They see right through this arrogance and don’t even answer his question at first. They don’t conform to what he is demanding, but respond with reliance in God. They know that God is far stronger than anything Nebuchadnezzar could even imagine, so they do not lower their standards to His evil. They avoid his evil question by showing how absurdly arrogant it is. They recognized that he had become hubris.

They respond to Nebuchadnezzar’s question by saying, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.” They do not need to answer this question because God will answer it for them. He will deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar’s hand and that will show him how powerful their God is. God will be the one that answers Nebuchadnezzar’s question. They do not conform to the demands made upon them but have trust in God.

This idea of nonconformity runs throughout this story. Daniel 3:7 says, “Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” All of the nations, peoples, and tongues bow downed to the golden image. It was only Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that defied the norm.

Imagine how intimidating this would have been. There is not a number given for how many people were there, but it was probably a very large amount. In this story, the three are portrayed as unwavering and resolute, but there may have been a hint of fear in them as they saw everyone around them bow down to this golden image. They were only three that remained standing in the midst of so many around them that did not.

There were also many Jews present that bowed before the image. Notice that Daniel is not mentioned in this passage. I do not know if he was not present at the time or if he was one that bowed to the image as well. If he was one that bowed before the image, then this would have given them even greater reason and excuse for bowing. They defied even their countrymen because of their hope in God alone.

Our faith often does conform to the world around us. There is nothing wrong with getting shoes or clothing that everyone else is or getting, but when the norm is something sinful, we often justify our actions by saying, “everyone else is doing it.” We think that just because the world has given into premarital sex we can join in them with them. After all, if everyone else is doing it, there must not be anything wrong with it. These three men stood apart from nations. We may worry about a few of our closest friends think, but they were being set apart from many different people groups. This is a peer pressure that we cannot even imagine.

They could have bowed down but told themselves that they were really bowing and worshipping their God. They may have told themselves that this was only an external act that didn’t mean anything, but they didn’t. They didn’t even want the appearance of serving a false God. Even the external reality of their faith was shown to remain dedicated and not conforming. How often we will give in on the outside telling ourselves that we will remain true on the inside? How often will we sing loud and swing our arms in praise to please others and appear religious while we are really dead on the inside? The external appearance should always reflect the inward reality of our faith.

They could have even told themselves that this was only a temporary sin and that God would forgive them. All they would do was bow this one time so that they could go on living and telling others of God. They would seem to be bowing for the right reasons. The could have convinced themselves that God may still have many great plans for them but that they needed to live in order to fulfill these commands, but they did not give into this. They saw that the great power of God could save them, but even if He did not, their witness would still shake the nations.

3. Faith is Rooted in the Power of God
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not immediately answer King Nebuchadnezzar’s question because they do no not wish to lower themselves to his standards, but they still feel it necessary to proclaim who there God is. Verse 17 says, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.”
They tell Nebuchadnezzar of the wonderful, powerful God that they serve. Their faith is rooted in how powerful God is rather than how strong they are themselves. They do not say that they can deliver themselves, but that God can deliver them by His mighty power. They do not trust in anything of this world to save them, but on God.

A faith that stays standing is a faith that is rooted in God. It sees God as the source of all power, joy, and love, and it faces all situations with that knowledge. This implies that we must have a proper understanding of who God is in order to have proper faith. If we do not believe in a God that can deliver us from the furnace, then we do not have a complete faith. Our faith will bow down just as the other nations did because our God cannot save us. A faith that is rooted in the power of God will remain standing because it sees that God is infinitely more powerful than anything that can be done to our bodies.

First, this faith correctly understands that we were created for God rather than He created for us. The three first say that this God is a God “whom we serve.” We are the servants of the relationship, and we exist to glorify His name. We can only serve Him because He first served us and gave us His grace. Before a servant can serve his master, he must first be given the proper tools and objects, such as land or buildings, to work on. We are very weak servants that can only serve Him with what He has given us, but the position of servant implies that He has a greater authority and power over our appearance of power and authority.

Second, this faith sees that God is able to deliver us. The three recognize the capability and power of God by saying that He is “able to deliver [them] from the burning fiery furnace.” They recognize the great power of God to deliver them. Jude 24 says, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy.” Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” Philippians 3:21 says, “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Realizing the great power of God, they also correctly saw whom they must fear. Matthew 10:28 says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” They knew that God could deliver from a physical death but that this may not be His will. They also knew that a greater awaited them if they did not have faith in God. This does not mean that we are sentenced to hell for one sin disobedience because we still make faults even as Christians, but they know that this may prove that they did not have true faith at all. They feared the coming judgment for not remaining faithful more than they feared the power of anything that Nebuchadnezzar could do to them.

They also saw that this was all part of God’s plan. Whatever happened to them would only happen because God had declared it to happen. Nebuchadnezzar could do nothing that would catch God off guard because God had already seen and planned exactly the way this event would end. God’s plan will always be worked for our greatest good (Romans 8:28), so even if it meant their death, there was a reward that awaited them in heaven.

Third, they recognize that not only does God have the power to deliver them, but that he will deliver them. They continue by saying, “he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” They trust that God will deliver them from this fiery furnace. They may not have known how he would do so. They may have imagined that they would be delivered before they ever entered the furnace. It may have even been somewhat of a surprise to them that they were put into the flames without dieing. This is not to say that they lacked faith, but they may not have thought that God would deliver them in such a manner. We can trust that God will deliver us from all situations even if we do not see a way out of the situation.

Nebuchadnezzar even realizes later the power of their God. He declares, “There is no other god who is able to rescue in this way” (Daniel 3:29). He saw their great faith and the great power of God and recognized that their God was greater than all other gods. Our lives should reflect the power of God and that will become our witness to a lost world of the mighty saving work of God.

Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He will deliver us through all situations because of the plan He has for our lives. Does this mean that we will never suffer or always be rich? No because that may not be His plan for our lives. Whatever He has planned for us will come to pass. Deliverance does not always mean that we will be delivered in the manner we wished to be delivered. The three even recognized that God may not deliver them when they said, “but if not.” We also know that a far greater deliverance awaits us. It may seem that God has failed to deliver us when we die, but we are delivered from all pain and suffering in this world but an eternal dwelling with God in heaven, which is where we find true deliverance.

“But if not” always strikes me. They were so committed that even if God did not deliver them from a physical death, their hope and trust will remain in Him. They were not dependant on what God would do with them or for them on this earth but only concerned with the reward that awaited them and glorifying God. What happens on this earth determines the reality of our faith in God. Even when it seems like He has abandoned us and left us to die, we can still trust in Him knowing that He will deliver us in the end.

There is no longer a “but if not” for us. There may be in this world but not in the world to come. We were in a state of spiritual death on a direct course for hell until something even greater happened. “But God” (Ephesians 2:4) the great fighter of the “but if not.” We no longer have any doubts about God’s deliverance because we know we have a future deliverance awaiting us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Even as they approached the fire, their faith remained steady. This was once again because they believed in the power of God. They knew that God could deliver them from the fire, but many of us would have been thinking that it would have happened already. We may think that God would just strike the ones dragging them to the fire and rescue them. When we try to figure out how God will deliver us, we are limiting God and His power. He may still intend to save us but in a way that we do not expect. If we believe that God is powerful, then we must also except that this power will work according to His plan rather than ours. Believing that God can deliver us calls for a submission to His will.

4. Faith Remains Committed

In verse 18, they repeat the answer that they have been giving all along. Nebuchadnezzar seems to be offering them one last chance to change their ways. He reminds them that they will be thrown into the fire if they do not obey and bow down before the image. This is their last opportunity to escape and to change from what they have done.

Notice their repeated use of “O king.” Nebuchadnezzar was very aware of his earthly authority and shared it with many. They seem to be mocking his arrogance by repeating his title. By focusing on the power of God, they see the weakness of man in comparison. They see that God’s power is so much greater than man’s, so they have no fear of Nebuchadnezzar. Romans 8:31 says, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

They refuse to bow to both the golden image and any other false god. We sometimes reject one temptation to give into another. Smokers will often give up smoking, but pick up another habit to replace it. We must resist all false gods rather than just some.
We also think that we can resist the big temptations but fail to resist the smaller ones. We believe that we will not bow down even if it means death, but we give into smaller temptations everyday. How can we expect to resist a greater temptation if we do not resist these smaller ones. God may grant us grace to overcome bigger temptations, but if we do not resist the smaller temptations that do not lead a physical death, then we should not expect to overcome the larger ones.

Later, the three remain committed to their cause as they are carried to the furnace. There are many times that we will speak of doing great things or having faith in God during hard times, but when the time comes to do these things or have this kind of faith, we do not follow through with it. Our words were only words that did not bring forth any action. The three were not just speaking to hear their own voices or appear brave, but they carried out what they said. Their faith was not just based on words, but it was lived out by what they did.

This reminds me of so many people that speak of following Christ, but their lives do not reflect it. Earlier, I wrote about how these people do not have a true faith but only a faith that talks. They may deny Nebuchadnezzar to his face, but when the time comes to be thrown into the fire, they back away and seek comfort elsewhere. They run from God because it costs too much to follow him. They are worth more to themselves than the eternal riches of being with Christ in heaven.

There are many challenges and fires that we face in our Christian life. These fires will test us and purify our faith. We will be tempted to bow down to false gods in order to save ourselves. There is not just one trial we must face but many. The temptation to give in will increase each time we are tempted. We will know of the suffering we experienced in the past and will want to give in so that we do not have to face any greater suffering, but our assurance and strength lies in the Lord. He will be the one that delivers us and gives us the grace necessary to face the trial.

What about when we fail God? Some of us may think that we would stay standing in a situation like this, but many of us already know that we would not. We know that we would conform to the world and bow down like everyone else. Let us be thankful that faith comes to us through the precious blood of Christ. Faith is a gift from God, and He is always there to see us through the good times and the bad. When we are struggling with great temptations, He will be there to help us. He will be there because Christ demonstrated a perfect faith by fighting and resisting all temptations. His righteousness is even granted to us when we are adopted into the family.

Not everyone has this faith. For those that do not have it, something far worse awaits them. If we do not repent of our sins and have faith in Christ, then hell is the only thing that awaits us. Christians may face many fires while on this earth but a greater fire awaits those that do not have a faith that stays standing. They may avoid many of the fires we face in this world, but the fires of hell will be far more painful than any fire on this earth. These fires will last for all eternity unless we repent of our sins and have true faith in Christ. This will require suffering and sacrifice on this earth, but we will not face the utter suffering of hell.

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