One of the most remarkable declarations of faith in God is tucked away in a Bible story I loved as a child. This story has everything a good story needs … an exotic setting, a proud king, vindictive ‘baddies’, plenty of danger and—of course—courageous heroes. To set the scene, let’s step back in time (about 2,500 years or so) onto the Babylonian plains.
We had seen the statue from afar, glinting in the sun. Yet only now, standing at its base, can I gauge its true size. The gold-plated statue towers over us, a monument to Babylon’s wealth and King Nebuchadnezzar’s power. Yet when I look at it, I see something else—a defiance of God. Hadn’t the king experienced Adonai’s power for himself when Daniel interpreted his dream? Hadn’t he bowed down and called Adonai ‘God of gods and Lord of kings’? How quickly his heart has turned, his pride unable to bear the truth that he is but the head of a temporary kingdom and that all the kingdoms of the earth will one day shatter under the mighty hand of God.
My breath catches at the first sound of the drums, their slow beat reverberating through me like a death march. The strident horns join in, then the pipes and strings wail out their complicity. There is nothing beautiful about the music. It is a cacophony of chaos, urgent and demanding. Around me men are dropping to their knees, foreheads to the ground, paying homage to the king’s lofty idol. A tendril of fear wraps around me. My gaze shifts from the prostrate figures to the large furnace built into the hill. Slaves work the bellows, urging the flames higher and wilder, as if the fire dances to the music’s madness. The acrid smoke carries to me on the wind. My eyes sting with tears. I don’t want to die today, Adonai. Please.
I drag my gaze away from the macabre kiln of death and look around for my friends. Like me they are both still standing. Shadrach stares ahead unwaveringly, jaw clenched in determination. Abednego has closed his eyes, his mouth moving in silent prayer. We know what Nebuchadnezzar has decreed—bow to the statue—and what disobedience will cost us—death in the flames—but above all we know Adonai’s commands. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.
In obedience to our Heavenly King, we stand and await the wrath of the earthly.
It’s not long before the vindictive baddies run to the king and tell him that the three Israelite men are refusing to bow to his statue. Enraged, Nebuchadnezzar summons them and gives them one last chance to comply. He again threatens death by fire, adding, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
And now comes the remarkable declaration of faith and trust in God:
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18).
This incredible verse shows that these faithful Israelites knew that God was both powerful and wise:
- the God we serve is able… They trusted in God’s complete power, even over the flaming forces of nature and the will of the most important man on earth.
- and he will deliver us… their powerful God was also a personal God – they had faith that he would intervene for them.
- but even if he does not … they trusted in God’s power but also in his wisdom. They surrendered themselves into God’s hands. Whether they lived or died, they believed he knew best.
I haven’t had to deal with angry kings and fiery furnaces but I have faced some extremely disappointing situations lately. Perhaps this is why the courage and faith of these ancient heroes speak to me. Like them, I have to decide whether to trust God. Do I believe he is all-powerful and cares enough to intervene personally in my situation? Do I believe he is wise and that whatever happens I can trust him with my life and the lives of those I love?
Power and Wisdom. If we focus only on God’s power, we may not understand why sometimes things don’t go the way we had hoped and prayed. This could lead to anger and disillusionment with God and maybe even a loss of faith. But if we focus only on God’s wisdom, we may fail to believe God is powerful, and therefore fall into apathy and a lack of prayer.
Friend, take a moment to consider if your own faith lacks one of these dimensions and just where you need to experience God’s power and wisdom in your life.
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure (Psalm 147:5 ESV).
Read the full account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Daniel 3.
Rosebank Union Church is doing a study series on Daniel. Catch ‘Clash of Kingdoms’ on RUC’s YouTube Channel.