Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: The Courage to Trust in God

Take Courage

The example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego shows us the courage needed to put one’s complete trust in God. Of course, other men in the examples we have already noticed have trusted in God, but the example of Daniel’s friends is different – they did not receive special, direct revelation (as least not as far as we are told in the Scriptures) like many other Old Testament characters. Therefore, their example is very helpful for us today.

‘Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?’

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:15-18).

We are called to trust God and be faithful to Him, even though our future in this life is uncertain. While we understand that God has the power to do a great many things (Ephesians 3:20), we must not think that He has some obligation to arrange events to turn out the way that we desire. Because of this, we must have courage to trust in God, even though He may allow us to suffer. This was the type of courage displayed by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.

The Background

This took place during the time of the Babylonian captivity. When King Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem, he took certain young men to be trained to serve in his court (Daniel 1:3-5). Among these youths were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Daniel 1:6). The last three are better known by the names that were assigned to them: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (Daniel 1:7). It is important to know why this happened. The text says, “The Lord gave [them] into his hand” (Daniel 1:2). This was done because of the sins of the nation (2 Kings 21:10-15; 23:27; 24:1-4). So this was not an accident, coincidence, or bad luck that this happened. It had been orchestrated by God.

These three were blessed by God, but lacked the ability to understand “all kinds of visions and dreams” like Daniel was able to do (Daniel 1:17). But they “entered the king’s personal service” (Daniel 1:19). While serving the king, trouble came. The king made a golden statue and ordered all to worship it at the prescribed times (Daniel 3:1-5). The penalty for not worshipping the image was to be “cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire” (Daniel 3:6). When it was reported to Nebuchadnezzar that these three did not worship the image, he called them before him to answer (Daniel 3:12-14). He even gave them a second chance (Daniel 3:15); but they refused to comply, citing their trust in God (Daniel 3:16-18).

After this, Nebuchadnezzar heated the furnace seven times more than usual and threw in the three young men (Daniel 3:19-24). The furnace was so hot that even the guards who cast them in were killed themselves (Daniel 3:22). But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego survived (Daniel 3:24-25). When the king ordered them to come out, he found no injury, damage, or smell of fire on these men (Daniel 3:26-27). Nebuchadnezzar responded by praising God for delivering these men and praising them for trusting in Him (Daniel 3:28-30).

Why This Took Courage

The Scriptures show as at least three reasons why the actions of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego took courage. [For this study, we will ignore one reason – they had to defy the law – because this is the primary focus in our next example, Daniel.]

First, they were among the few who did not worship the image (Daniel. 3:12). This made them a target, as they were singled out and called before an angry king (Daniel 3:13). Most people prefer not to stir up trouble for themselves if they can help it.

Second, they had a second chance. When these three came before Nebuchadnezzar, the king gave them one more chance to comply with his order regarding the golden image (Daniel 3:15). This is common with persecution. Rulers will often rather spare one who is willing to denounce God than to kill one who serves God. Sadly, when given a second chance to sin, compromise, or deny the Lord, many are willing to take it.

Third, they did not know what would happen. They knew that God had the power to save them (“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us” – Daniel 3:17); but they did not know that He would (“But even if He does not…” – Daniel 3:18). Again, they were not prophets like Daniel (Daniel 1:17); they had no way to know what was in store for them.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego Took Courage

They knew what was right. Their refusal to worship the image was not rooted in youthful rebellion, but in submission to God and His commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3).

They understood that there was a reward for refusing to worship this image. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children… but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6).

Finally, they acted, refusing to worship the image regardless of the consequences. They put their trust in God, even though they did not know what would happen.

Application for Us

As we face an uncertain future, we must learn a few lessons from the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.

First, we must trust in God, even if we become a target. The Hebrew writer quoted from the Psalms when he wrote, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6; cf. Psalm 118:6). In reality, man can do many things to harm us. The Hebrew writer listed some of the experiences of these brethren earlier in his epistle: “But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated” (Hebrews 10:32-33). We may even have to face physical death (Revelation 2:10). But even if we are targeted and “considered as sheep to be slaughtered…we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:36-37). Even if we are singled out for persecution, we can still hope in the Lord.

Second, we must beware of “second chances” to sin, compromise, or deny the Lord. God has promised a “way of escape” for every temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13). But He has not promised a similar way of escape for every persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). We should not view a second chance to sin, compromise, or deny the Lord as a legitimate way to escape persecution. We must obey the Lord and stand for what is right, regardless of the consequences.

Third, we must trust in God, even if our future is uncertain. God may have the power to do something, but that does not mean that He will do it. His will is not the same as ours. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Even when we pray, we must recognize that His will is what will be done (1 John 5:14-15). We must have faith in God no matter what lies ahead. The Christians in Smyrna were told that they were going to face imprisonment, tribulation, and death (Revelation 2:10). The Lord did not tell them that if they hoped and prayed fervently enough, that they could be assured of a deliverance from their persecution. Instead, they simply needed to be “faithful until death.” Sadly, some lose their faith in God when He allows them to suffer in this life. It is important to remember the basis of true faith: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). Faith is not to be based upon God doing what we want Him to do. Our future is uncertain, but our faith in the Lord must be firmly anchored and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19).

Conclusion

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were faced with the threat of death. They knew God had the power to deliver them, but did not know if He would choose to do so. Despite this uncertainty, they placed their trust in God and were delivered. In the same way, we may be faced with threats and attacks today. We know that God has the power to deliver us and prevent us from suffering harm, but we do not know what will happen in our future. Rather than basing our faith upon God causing circumstances to unfold a certain way in our lives, we must base our faith upon His word. In the end, He will deliver us. Sure, we may have to face imprisonment, violence, and even death; but if we are faithful, He will still reward us with “the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).


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