Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 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.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.

[. . .]

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:14–20, 24–28 NIV)

There are many vivid stories in Scripture of God’s provision for his people. This account in Daniel 3 is one of those incredible stories. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had come up with a loyalty test. Conquering rulers often made large images to mark special occasions, images of themselves or of their gods. Most certainly they represented the king and their decreeing authority. The image of King Nebuchadnezzar was to be worshipped. To not worship would cause the offender to be thrown into a blazing furnace. There were three servants of God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who would not bow down and worship this image. They knew what was expected. They knew the consequences. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were servants of the Almighty God and would not worship any god or ruler or statue or any other thing other than the Lord. They knew who God was, and they knew who they were in God, and it was to him they pledged their ultimate allegiance.

After their rebellion against the King’s decree was discovered, the three men were given one more chance to bow and worship the King’s statue. Their response was to refuse. Interestingly, their refusal was not based on whether or not they would be delivered from the fire. They said in Daniel 3:18, “But even if he does not [deliver us], we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” The Bible tells us they were bound and thrown into the furnace.

This is serious stuff. This biblical passage confronts us with the question of loyalty and allegiance. What do we worship? Does our love for God and our commitment to God reach into all the places we go and all the people we are with?

We find in the passage that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are delivered. The furnace consumed where they were bound up but did not consume them. In fact, verse 27 tells us that not a hair of their heads was singed, their tunics were not scorched, and not even the smell of fire came from them.

Lent is a time of preparation as we anticipate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. This is a recognition of the deliverance we have in God through Christ. In the time of Jesus, just as today, there were many people who worshipped various religious systems, or worldly power and wealth. It was these things that were touted as what needed to be worshipped. In fact, there were many looking to Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom based on many of these things. Jesus knew the deliverance he brought was a deliverance from God Almighty, a deliverance that asks for our allegiance to God alone.

It is in the worship of God alone where there is life. Do you need deliverance? Do you need to know God’s peace and wholeness? Walk with God in Jesus.
Harry Kelm is the NAB executive director.