by Rob Tims
The decree from Nebuchadnezzar went out with power and authority: “People of every nation and language, you are commanded: 5 when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 but whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” (Daniel 3:4-6, HCSB).
It’s kind of a no-brainer from Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view. Pantheism was the standard of his day. People created and worshipped multiple gods for multiple reasons as it suited them, so adding him to their list really wasn’t asking all that much. And think of the political gain such an edict could bring.
It’s this context that makes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s refusal all the more striking. It wasn’t just that they rejected Nebuchadnezzar’s claim and decree: it’s that they rejected the culture’s premise that gods were created to serve humanity’s purposes. They believed just the opposite: that God created humans for His glory.
You might think that men with such contrarian views would be hostile or antagonistic toward the one who demanded their worship, but they were nothing of the sort. Their response to Nebuchadnezzar serves as a model for we who face an increasingly hostile culture.
First, they maintained their manners. While their response is certainly bold (as any defense of the faith must be), they don’t resort to name-calling or character assassinations. Nebuchadnezzar may have been wrong, but he was still king, and they addressed him as such (3:16-18). It is always tempting to attack or seek to diminish the character of those hostile to our faith in defense of ourselves, but we must remember that our lives are not our own. We live for the glory of God, not the comfort of self. We best demonstrate the gospel to our enemies when we die to self, not defend the self, and the virtue of respect for all people goes a long way in this regard.
Second, these men did not compromise their convictions. What they believed about God may have been foreign and offensive to Nebuchadnezzar, but his disdain for God and his followers was no reason for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to abandon God for Nebuchadnezzar’s comfort. Likewise, we must not give in to the temptation to apologize for God or the gospel. He is who He has revealed Himself to be, and that must be enough for us, regardless of who rejects Him or us as a result.
Finally, these men trusted God with their obedience. God was fully capable of saving them, but He might have chosen otherwise. Either way, these men understood that faithfulness to God was the better choice.
Therein lies the crux of the matter: do we trust God as we face hostility from the surrounding culture? If we do, we will show respect those who hate us and never compromise our convictions along the way.
Rob Tims is husband to Holly and father to Trey, Jono, Abby Jane and Luke. He’s the author of Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt, and manages the team behind smallgroup.com at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville. He writes regularly at RobTims.com and blogs every Friday at Forward Progress.