Three young men who would not give in…
They were born with the Hebrew names of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but many know them by their captivity names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. When they were teenagers, they were selected to serve in the Babylonian king’s palace because they were handsome, healthy, and smart.
Although they were in a strange, pagan culture, they never forgot who they were. They never forgot that they were in a covenant relationship with Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They never forgot how God brought their ancestors out of Egypt. And they never forgot that their God required their allegiance. They could not bow in worship to any god but Yahweh.
They did well in captivity. They were well liked and successful.
And then the king started building a statue, one made of solid gold. It kept rising, taller and taller. When it was finished, it rose 90 feet into the air, glimmering golden in the sunlight.
You know the story. The king commanded everyone to bow and worship the statue when he played the statue-worshipping music. The punishment for not bowing was instant death in a fire. No trial, no jury, no excuses.
I wonder if Hananiah, Mischel, and Azariah wrestled with what to do. I wonder if they discussed it. We’ll never know that, but we do know this: The music played, but they didn’t bow.
The three of them were brought before the king. He was furious, but he gave the teenagers a final chance to change their mind: “I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?” (Daniel 3:15).
The king apparently didn’t know the power of the God of Hananiah, Mischel, and Azariah. But the boys knew who they served, and they weren’t shaken. Their answer stands with the greatest words recorded in all of history: “We do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-17).
Abraham Lincoln said some amazing things. C. S. Lewis had an inspired way with words. But, friend, have you ever heard anything more humbling, more inspiring, more thrilling than three teenage Jewish boys, far from home, in a heathen culture, facing being burned to death, who opened their mouth and said: “We. Will. Not. Bow. Down.” We serve a God who is able. We serve a God who has all power. We serve a God who can rescue us from any situation. But even if he doesn’t, we will not bow down.
Dear God, give me courage not to bow down to those things that tempt me to serve them rather than you. Help me remember the greatness of the God I serve. Let my whole heart and my loyal allegiance belong to you alone. In Jesus’s name, amen.