The Faith of Daniel's Friends

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, April 1, 2018 0 comments

by Logan Ames

With today being Easter Sunday, it got me wondering about which day is the most important one in the Christian faith. My immediate thought was, “Obviously, it’s today." But then I started thinking about it and an argument could be made for any of a number of days. Some of you may feel Christmas is the most important since Jesus could not have been our perfect sacrifice if he hadn’t been born of a woman and lived as a human being. Others may feel Good Friday is the most important since our penalty was paid that day. I suppose Pentecost could be the answer because even Jesus himself told the believers to basically do nothing but wait in the city until they received the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49). Maybe this is a ridiculous question and the most important day hasn’t even come yet because it’s the day Christ returns. Truthfully, they are all important days and it’s a matter of personal preference or experience which one you place at the top of the list.

For me, I will still go with Easter Sunday as the most important. I think of today as the ultimate realization that nothing in this world truly has power over us. On Good Friday, Jesus paid the wages of sin that we deserved (Romans 6:23), but he demonstrated power over it by rising from the grave on the third day. It wasn’t just power over sin; he also demonstrated power over death, pain, and suffering. Our Savior and Lord endured one of the most cruel, ruthless, inhumane punishments until he decided it was time to give up his very breath, then showed us on the third day that even the most cruel, ruthless, inhumane circumstances don’t have any power over him whatsoever. As we become his disciples and receive his Holy Spirit, we also can live knowing we have ultimate power over even the worst types of suffering.

I remember when I was a child there were a few occasions when my mom would ask us what we thought would be the worst ways to die. It was more of a curiosity thing than a need to pursue morbid discussions. What I remember is that myself and my family members generally agreed that being burned alive and drowning were right at the top of the list. I don’t know if they are worse than the crucifixion, but I do know that God addresses both of them when he promises to save the Israelites: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2). While not every Israelite would experience this verse literally, there was a group of people for whom it seemed like the words were a direct and specific promise.

In Hebrews 11:34, we see that some of the faithful heroes who are not mentioned there by name “quenched the fury of the flames” by faith. There isn’t a lot of mystery regarding which heroes from the Old Testament would fit this description. They were the friends of Daniel and their names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Unless you know your Bible trivia, your first thought is, “Who?” These were Israelites who, like Daniel, probably watched all of their family members get killed and most of their property and towns destroyed during the Babylonian invasion. As they were taken captive and forced to go back to Babylon along with Daniel and others to be in the king’s service, they were renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:6-7). There’s a good chance you’ve heard those names, but maybe you never even realized that the names by which you identify them are actually the names given to them by a pagan official!

I’d love to be able to tell you that having their names changed from something godly to something pagan was the worst thing that happened to them, but that just wouldn’t even be close to the truth. Many of us learned the story of “Rack, Shack, and Benny” in the fiery furnace when we were children, but knowing only that story without the background could cause us to miss the essence of their faith. You see, they were in the “fire” long before they stepped into the furnace. Their faith wasn’t about making the courageous and right decision in their one big moment. As it was for Daniel, the faith of these three young men was about making God-honoring choices each and every day. In addition to having name changes forced on them, they dealt with the loss of loved ones, forced captivity, forced service to the king which very well may have required them to be made eunuchs, and having to learn a new pagan culture just to name a few things. When Babylon conquered Jerusalem, these guys instantly faced more pain and suffering than most of us do in a lifetime.

The biggest thing we see about their faith throughout all of this is something we DON’T see. They did not complain or try to fight any of it even one bit! They had to go through three years of pagan training before they could even serve their pagan king, yet it’s as if they accepted it all as part of God’s plan. I’m sure they had their moments of grief since they were human beings, but we see in them a faith that not only intellectually believes God is ALWAYS in control but lives as such with confidence. It’s because they knew God was in control no matter what their circumstances showed that they were unwavering in their story of heroic faith. After King Nebuchadnezzar built a 90-foot golden statue to represent HIS kingdom and demanded that all bow down to worship the statue (Daniel 3:1-6), Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego kept in mind GOD’S kingdom and knew he was in control over Nebuchadnezzar. They trusted that God would do whatever was necessary to bring himself glory in this situation and they were not concerned with their own lives.

They refused to worship the idol because it was against the commands of their God, plain and simple. They didn’t try to lead a revolt. They weren’t even disrespectful to the king who had taken so much from them. They simply chose to obey God rather than man. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even feel a need to defend themselves. Daniel 3:16-18 shows that they had total peace knowing that either God would rescue them so the flames didn’t harm them, or he wouldn’t and their temporary pain would end with death anyway. They trusted that God alone knew what was best. They could stand firm in obeying him and let him worry about the results. Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the furnace, but true to the prophecy from Isaiah, they didn’t get burned. Three young men were bound and thrown into a blazing furnace, but seconds later, four men were seen walking in the furnace “unbound and unharmed” (Daniel 3:21-25). The fourth is believed to be either an angel or Christ himself. When Nebuchadnezzar had the men leave the furnace, there was evidence of God’s total protection and control. Daniel 3:27 tells us, “They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them." Complete faith in God allowed them to “quench the fury of the flames." God was in control all along and all they had to do was actually walk in that knowledge.

I encourage you to reflect on this truth this Easter Sunday. Just as God was in complete control when Daniel and his friends were taken captive, he was in control in the fiery furnace. Just as God was still in control on Calvary, he was in control when Jesus rose from the grave. Just as God has been in control in these absolutely horrible circumstances, he’s still in control in your life. Walk in it and let him worry about the results!

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