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Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego showed their faith in God by demonstrating they were willing to risk their lives to obey Him. The Scriptures vividly picture this event and describe the circumstances leading up to it.
Around 721 B.C. God allowed the northern ten tribes of Israel to be conquered and taken from their homeland as captives because of their continued idolatry and disobedience to God in spite of many warnings. Although the remaining tribe of Judah, along with the tribe of Levi and some remnants of the tribe of Benjamin, witnessed these sobering consequences Judah eventually followed the ten tribes into idolatry and sin.
Consequently in 589 B.C. God allowed Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans to take Judah into captivity as well (Jeremiah 37:8-10). Along with the thousands of Jewish captives in Babylon, the capital of the Chaldean empire, three young Jewish men, called Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, were considered to be among the best and brightest and were singled out for special training (Daniel 1:3-4).
Eventually a demand was made of them that they, along with others, bow down and worship a great golden idol King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. Although they knew they were risking a painful death they steadfastly refused to do so: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. If it 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, nor worship the golden image which you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).
Their response serves as a striking example of faith. They knew God could deliver them from the certain death they faced, but they didn’t know if He would extend their physical lives. They relied on God’s wisdom and judgment and placed their fate in His hands.
As a result King Nebuchadnezzar found himself in a psychological and political struggle to protect his pride and power as ruler of Babylon and felt he could not back down. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were brutally thrown into a flaming furnace, with the Chaldeans waiting around to witness the slaughter. Shortly before they had been relatively safe, even held in great esteem as officials of the Babylonian government. The next moment they were brutally tossed headlong into what seemed to be a certain very painful death.
But the Chaldeans viewing the execution suddenly saw not three but four men walking unbound and unburned in the flames. Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego walked out of the furnace and stood before the astonished king and the crowd of officials. Not only were they not harmed, but not a hair on their heads was even singed. Their clothing was undamaged, “and the smell of fire was not on them” (Daniel 3:27).
Faced with a miracle and the obvious favour these young men had with God Nebuchadnezzar made a quick about-face and promoted them to high position within the Bablylonian government and granted them permission to worship their Creator. “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him ...Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces...because there is no other God who can deliver like this” (Daniel 3:28-29).
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary tells us: “So at the start of their career, they faced squarely their priorities and determined to trust God to see them through the perils of noncompliance and possible forfeiture of all that they had gained. By their early refusal to disobey God, they prepared themselves for future greatness as true witnesses for the one true God in the midst of a degenerate pagan culture” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary , 1985, Vol. 7, p. 34).
Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, we can exercise that same conquering faith, and assurance that leads to eternal life. The apostle Paul notes that, when we live by this kind of faith, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).