Daniel 3 tells the story of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzer and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, young Jewish men who occupied positions of power and influence in the royal court. The king orders the construction of a huge golden statute and commands that all worship this image. Risking their privileged positions, the three men refuse, unwilling to violate the central tenet of their religion: God alone is to be worshipped.
The king is furious and threatens the men with a horrific death, but still they refuse. He then orders them bound and cast into a fiery furnace, but when king visits the furnace, he is astonished to see the men walk through the fire completely unharmed. Convinced, the king restores the young men to their positions and decrees that anyone who speaks ill of their God shall be destroyed, for only a great God could have delivered them.
This is not history. It is a parable—designed to illustrate by example a larger ethical or religious truth. The young men exemplify faithfulness, believing in the power of God to rescue them. They did not presume to know His will, but if God did not deliver them, they could at least die faithful to their religious convictions and with their honor intact.
Understandably, the interpretive focus of this parable is usually on the young Jews’ fidelity to their faith. But this is only one side of this story. The other is God’s faithfulness to his people.
God, not the king or their own ingenuity, rescued the three brave young men. As Psalm 23 tells us, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God will be with us every step of the way. His is the love that will not let us go. Great is his faithfulness.
Years ago, a young friend of mine, the rector of a rural church in the South, was deeply depressed as a result of a painful divorce. I asked him if he still believed that all would work out for him in the end. He said, “yes, even though it may not work out in the way I might have wanted.” He trusted in God’s faithfulness.
Like this young priest and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, we do not know exactly how it will work out for us in the end. But if we believe in God’s faithfulness, we know that he will be with us in life, in death and in the world to come. Jesus said, “Be not afraid” (Matthew 14:23), and “I will be with you even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This is the blessed assurance on which our faith is founded. Trust in God’s faithfulness.
Appointed readings for today: Daniel 3:14-20, 24-28, Psalm 23, John 8:31-42