“Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:13-18 (NLT)
Refusing to Bow
Allow me a moment of sweet nostalgia. This story conjures memories of being a child in Sunday school. Before high-tech gadgets, heck, before dry-erase boards, the Flannel-graph was THE Sunday school tool. Images of people and settings stuck to a cloth-covered board, helping the Sunday school teacher bring the story to life.
The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was a favorite. The image of the golden idol, the group of people bowing and the three Hebrew men standing tall spurred the imagination of my young mind. The best part of the story, the three who wouldn’t bow, didn’t burn up in the fire—a fire hot enough to kill those slaves who opened the door.
I don’t know what this scene looked like in reality—but I know how it looks in my mind. I have every detail—the characters, setting, voices, and blocking all staged—I’ve watched it happen in my mind many times.
It’s a great story. The faithful slaves refused to bow to the golden idol Nebuchadnezzar created. They remained strong in the face of certain death. Alone in the crowd they did the right thing. God intervened on their behalf. Promotion was the reward for their bravery.
Obeying God Instead of Man
This is a story that increases your faith. In spite of the exile, the slavery, the terrible circumstances that brought these men to this place, God still hears, is still active, and is still mighty. God does reward commitment. It is better to obey God than man.
As grand as chapter 3 is, its beginning is in the small, quiet obedience of chapter 1.
The days that need “big faith” begin in the days that need “little faith.”
No one would have noticed these three having a tenderloin or horse stew for lunch. They could have gotten away with worshipping God in their hearts while not making waves with the attendant during their early days of training. The three could have gone through the motions and took the easy way out when it wasn’t difficult to take a stand.
Had the three compromised in chapter 1, chapter 3 would look very different.
The walk of faith is like any other walk—it takes practice. No activity is insignificant. Like a baby learning to walk, days of clumsy rolling and stretching, lead to crawling and finally walking. Walking requires practice—a baby doesn’t learn to walk simply by watching others stroll around. Learning to walk requires some falls, maybe even some bumps and bruises. Walking requires leg-strengthening work. Work, which doesn’t move the child from one place to another, but strengthens the child for walking. The work looks insignificant but is essential.
The believer who masters the big challenges has mastered many, many smaller challenges—some that seem insignificant. If you feel like your faith legs aren’t strong enough to hold you up while everyone else bows down, begin today being faithful when no one can see your faithfulness.
Father, remind me of the importance of simple obedience. During the times when it seems like the decision to be faithful doesn’t matter, remind me those are training sessions—situations to prepare me for the “big test.” Teach me to see the importance of obedience in little things, invisible things, insignificant things—so I’m ready when I need to stand for the big things. Thank You for the training days.