The Bible is full of many great examples and encouragements from by gone years. One of those accounts details the tremendous courage and resolve of three young Jewish men named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Dan. 1:6-7). It is possible that you know them better by their Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These Jewish youths were taken captive by Babylon. During their captivity these three did something so outstanding that we are still studying about them today.
At the time, Babylon was ruled by a king named Nebuchadnezzar. For whatever reason, Nebuchadnezzar decided to make a golden image that stood approximately ninety feet high and was approximately nine feet in breadth (Dan. 3:1). After its completion, a decree was spoken that declared “…To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:4-6). For those who were already an idolatrous people, this did not present much of a problem. Their consciences had already been conditioned into thinking that adhering to the king’s request was nothing more than an easy command to obey. So, we are told, “Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up” (Dan. 3:7).
That might have been acceptable to a Babylonian, but to faithful Jewish men, the command was something that they could not obey. God had already decreed, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exo. 20:3-6). Therefore, when the time came for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to either adhere to the king’s command or disobey, their minds were already settled that they would remain faithful to God. The bravery and loyalty of these three men did not go unnoticed though. Certain ones alerted Nebuchadnezzar of what the three Jewish men had refused to do. Upon hearing of such, an angry Nebuchadnezzar confronted Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and asked them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up” (Dan. 3:8-14)?
It was then that Nebuchadnezzar gave the three men an ultimatum. If they would indeed worship the image of gold, then things would be “well”. If they again refused, then they were to “…be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:15). Again, the Jewish three were unwavering in their dedication to God. They declared, “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. 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” (Dan. 3:16-18). The anger and demeanor of Nebuchadnezzar was easily seen. He did not hesitate to condemn the Jewish men. He even wanted the furnace to be heated seven times more than it normally was (Dan. 3:19). Thus, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah “…fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:23). What happened next changed Nebuchadnezzar. “He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Dan. 3:25). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were miraculously protected from harm. Their faithfulness to God never wavered, and God’s protection and care never failed. How strong is our faith in God?
Are we willing to stay faithful to Him, no matter what? We should know that the crown of life is only going to be given to those that remain faithful (Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). We should learn by the example of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah that we must never compromise when it comes to obeying and serving God. God never leaves the faithful, and we should never leave God (Heb. 13:5-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
~ Corey Barnette