Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah all sought to remain true to God even in the midst of dire circumstances and a culture that sought to conform them to its image. When they first arrived in Babylon (exiled from Jerusalem because of the nation’s idolatry and disobedience), it started with a name-change. The names of all four boys reflected the God whom they worshiped and served. The first move of cultural re-education was to give them names that reflected the Babylonian pantheon of gods. So Daniel became Belshazzar, Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach, and Azariah became Abed-nego.In addition to new names, the boys were immersed in Babylonian customs and learning. The food that they were told to eat violated what their consciences dictated, so they asked for a pass, and God was merciful. Their decision to follow Him was rewarded.
Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. No one seemed to be able to interpret it for him, so he pronounced a death sentence on all his wise men (which included Daniel and his three friends). When Daniel and crew were made aware of the king’s edict, they asked for time, and God was merciful once again and granted Daniel insight and wisdom to know the dream and its interpretation. Daniel was promoted and secured high offices for his three friends. Up to this point, God seemed to be prospering Daniel and his friends in captivity. Following Him had been relatively easy.
Daniel 3. Everything changes. After Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statute representing successive world kingdoms (aka The Times of the Gentiles) and the subsequent destruction of those kingdoms by God’s eternal kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar took to heart Daniel’s statement that he, Nebuchadnezzar, was the head of gold and king of kings. He set up a huge golden image to which he commanded all of his officials to bow down and worship (likely both political and religious significance). Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah all refused. Nebuchadnezzar was not happy and threatened certain death for the three boys unless they complied. And now their faith was on the line…what would they do? These guys made an amazing statement, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” But even if He does not… wow. What faith. Regardless of the outcome these young men were willing to remain true to God. For them, death was not the end. But God once again was merciful and spared their lives.
These three are a stark contrast to the nation. The nation went into captivity because they continually bowed down to idols, yet these three refuse idolatry even though their lives are on the line. And they become examples for believers going through this time of Gentile domination when doing the right thing seems to bring a negative consequence…the world system is vehemently opposed to the things of God. Jesus said, “If they hate you, know that they hated Me first…” Death is not the end, but just a transition. As the author of Hebrews says, we are looking for a better kingdom than what the world has to offer, an eternal kingdom that will never be shaken and will not fade away.
Until next time…stay salty.