(17) If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…
(18) But if not, …we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Daniel 3 records for us a pivotal moment in the lives of three young men who made a choice to stand up to peer pressure, bullying, and persecution. Even with death staring them in the face, these men stood because they’d already made up their minds about whom they would serve and why.
Standing with God is Always a Position of Strength
The young men, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, knew how to live because they served a God for Whom they were literally willing to die. They knew Him that well, loved Him that much and trusted Him that deeply. These men stood condemned before the king of Babylon because they refused to bow the knee to the idol the king had made of himself. Multiple times they’d been given the opportunity to yield, and still, they flatly refused to take a knee. The consequence for their rebellion was clear. The king had spelled it out for them: “Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of…all kinds of [music], ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? ” (verse 15).
Not only did the king spell out the consequences of their disobedience, but he also questioned the validity of their faith by questioning the ability of their God. Without hesitation, the trio answered the king and challenged his unbelief:
(16) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful [hesitant, fearful] to answer thee in this matter.
(17) 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 thine hand, O king.
(18) But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Their statement, “He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king,” is a powerful affirmation of faith. Whether by death or by rescue, these men knew their God would take up for them and it was their confidence in God’s character that gave them unwavering confidence in God’s ability. Victims of the king’s wrath though they were, they boldly – yet respectfully – informed him: “We will not serve thy gods nor the golden image which thou hast set up.”
The Choice to Stand with God is Always Personal
There are plenty of young people who know Whom they ought to serve and who know what their convictions ought to be. Yet we have young people leaving our churches in record numbers because even though they know what they ought to do, there is no “buy-in.” Why should young people be so committed to a God they know only by association with their parents? This tragic disconnect would be easy to blame on parents, and while they do play a significant role in the spiritual lives of their children, there is something conspicuously absent in the account of the lives of Meshach, Shadrach, Abednego, and Daniel. Nowhere in the Book of Daniel is there any mention of their parents. There’s not even a genealogy except to say that they were of the house of Judah. That’s not to say their parents had no influence, but the absence of their lineage is perhaps on purpose. Yes, they were taken captive and it is very likely any family records were destroyed and that their parents might even have been killed. Yet the fact remains these young men, who were probably young teens when they were captured, made the life-changing decision to stand for God on their own. They decided to abide by the dietary laws of their God (Daniel 1). They decided to bank their very lives on their faith in God. They decided to answer the king the way they did. They didn’t pass that responsibility off to mommy and daddy. They took it upon themselves as men. Good parenting or not, it is a young person’s own heart that must make the decision to be God’s servant.
Faith Rooted in God’s Character Has Real Power
These three men had cultivated an unshakable faith in the character of their God. It is evident in how they stated their faith. They told the king that their God could deliver them from the fiery furnace, but He could just as well allow them to die. They understood that no matter what God did in their lives, His decision would be the best decision for them in that moment and it would be the one that would give God the most glory. We know from the rest of this account that not only did God save them from the flames of the furnace, He was present with them (vv. 24-25) and not only did He rescue these men, He kept them completely unsinged. Not even the scent of the flames “had passed on them” (v. 27). Their testimony was so powerful that the king who had threatened their lives now had a change of mind and heart:
(28) Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
(29) Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
Beyond that, the king went from condemning these men to promoting them (v. 30)! Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego changed the heart of the king by refusing to change in their stand for God. They knew how to live because they had confidence in a God for Whom they knew they could die.