Courage Under Fire

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. 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” (3:17–18).

- Daniel 3:1–4:3

Divine sovereignty comforts and strengthens us in many ways, not the least of which is the assurance it gives that God works all things together for good (Rom. 8:28). But it also gives us courage in the face of great opposition, and there is perhaps no greater illustration of this than the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace.

Most of us probably know this story quite well. Usually we emphasize the Lord’s miraculous rescue of His three servants as it is described in the passage and rightly so. Who could not be amazed at the wonderful working of God whereby He preserved these men when no one else could get close to the fire without being consumed? (Dan. 3:22–25). Yet what we might miss if we are not careful is that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to go to the fire even if God were not to preserve their lives (vv. 16–18).

The whole episode began with Nebuchadnezzar’s construction of a gold (probably gold-plated) image measuring (in modern equivalents) ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. We do not know for sure whether this was an image of the king himself or an image of a Babylonian god, though it was likely the latter. In any case, Nebuchadnezzar ordered the image to be worshipped, but the Jews refused (vv. 1–7, 12). Some of the king’s advisors, probably motivated by jealousy that foreigners had been exalted to a lofty place in the king’s court, betrayed the three faithful men and their unwillingness to worship the idol. Brought before the king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were ordered to break the first and second commandments by worshipping the idols. Here was Nebuchadnezzar, the most powerful man in the known world at the time, one used to getting his own way every time, commanding three men he captured from Jerusalem (vv. 8–15). If anyone should have feared the great and mighty Nebuchadnezzar, it should have been these men.

Daniel’s faithful friends refused, but their refusal was not based on their possessing sure knowledge that they would not be burned alive. Their view of God was big enough for them to acknowledge that they did not owe the Lord service because of what He could do for them but because He alone is God (3:16–18). They were unwilling to yield even if the Lord were to allow them to die, for they did not count their own lives worth keeping if preserving themselves meant that they would dishonor the Lord. Are we willing to make such a commitment, to be willing to die rather than to betray Him?

Coram Deo

God rescued His faithful servants when they showed themselves unwilling to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s dictates. The Lord promises to deliver us as well, though this deliverance might not occur until He returns. In any case, we serve God not because of what He promises us in the here and now but because of what He promises us in eternity to come. Let us serve God for who He is and trust in His wisdom to deliver us no matter how He sees fit.

Passages for Further Study

Pss. 7:1; 18:2;
40:17; 56:13
2 Timothy 4:18
2 Peter 2:4–10

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