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Isaiah 41: 1-20
Isaiah 40: 12-31
Isaiah 40: 1-11
Isaiah 38: 21- 39: 8
Isaiah 38: 1-20
Isaiah 37: 1-38
Isaiah 36: 1-22
An Act of Courage
His name, his real name, meant Jehovah is gracious, but that name had been all but forgotten. His name, his new name, meant decree of the moon-god (aku). His countrymen had shared a similar fate. One had been named for the surpassing greatness of Jehovah, and he now bore a name that translated loosely meant who is like the moon-god (aku). The third man whose name had meant Jehovah helps. Was now only known as the servant (abed) of Nego.
Three captives stripped of their identity, named for deity that they did not know, now stood face to face with the most powerful man in the world. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had defied a direct decree. The king was angry with them. He had given the order that his golden god was to be worshipped when the people were called to worship, but these three had refused. Had it been any other than them, he would have likely had them executed, but there was history here. They and their friend whom he called Belteshazzar, had interpreted for the king a mysterious dream that had troubled him. No one else had been able to tell him the dream. They had risen to power because of their understanding. And so Nebuchadnezzar did the unthinkable. He gave them another chance.
“But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 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. 18 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
(Daniel 3:14-18 NASB)
Of course you know the rest of the story. You know how the king ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal, how the men that took them to their inevitable end perished from the heat, how their end was not so inevitable, but rather the king saw in the furnace a fourth man with them, how they were loosed and walking freely in the furnace, and of course how when the came forth from the flames at the command of the king they were not singed nor did they even smell of smoke.
It’s easy to get lost in the action of the story forgetting the biblical principles at play. Truly it is a tale of amazing deliverance and even more so because it’s true. But there’s more here than just a Bible story that shows us the courage of three men. In this story we learn some things about God.
God is Gracious
He truly is. We see his graciousness in the giving of His Son to extend forgiveness to those who were His enemies. (Romans 5:1-10) We see it in His patience which we are told to regard as salvation. (2 Peter 3:15) We see it in the fact that the salvation that we are undeserving is free to us. It is not based on merit not could it be bought with a price. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The graciousness of God means he cares for those who are His, and as Paul wrote to Timothy in the second chapter of his second epistle we can take confidence in the fact that the Lord does indeed know those who are His. Just as he knew Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego that day. They were His even though they were claimed for another god, a false god. He knew that they were His people.
We need to take confidence in His graciousness. (Matthew 10:26-31)
The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron.
13 He will bless those who fear the Lord,
The small together with the great.
(Psalms 115:12-13 NASB)
God is unlike any other
Not only is He kind and faithful to His people but God is a competent deliverer. He has taken death captive. The point at which the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego really turns. Is when God makes His presence with them known in the form of an unnamed fourth man. He could have delivered them in any number of ways, but their deliverance was proof incontrovertible that it was not mere happenstance that set them free.
He delivered them in such a way that their faith was affirmed, and Nebuchadnezzar was reminded of that which he already knew. There was no god like their God. Today there is no god like our God. He’s unlike anything you will find in religion or reason of man. Our God is compassion personified (John 3:16), our God is Power (Colossians 1:12-23), He is a reconciling God.
Paul knew it. He testified to it in Romans the 8 chapter (Romans 8:31-39), The Hebrew writer knew it. He testified to it in Hebrews 13. Abraham knew it when he was prepared to offer Isaac (Hebrews 11:17-20). His help comes in the form of the blood of His son, and still comes today as He allows that blood to stand for atonement, and as He answers the prayers of the righteous. Truly our God is help to us. Who is like our God? Our God is gracious.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego knew it that day. It was in the very names that had been taken from them. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah may have been no more, but the lesson could not be taken from them. Their God was the source of their courage. It was not in self righteousness, nor was it in arrogance. And so they gave the only answer they could, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire.” May God help us to have such courage today.