The article below is an excerpt from The Story of God, a new group study for adults and students from Eric Geiger. The Story of God explores the overarching redemptive narrative of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, helping participants discover the story of Jesus on every page of Scripture and how to live as part of that story. Click here to preview a portion of the study for free.
Some people see living in America as living in a Christian nation, perhaps similar to the state of the nation of Israel during King David’s reign. Under David’s leadership, the people feared God and were united. But if you want to make a comparison between life as believers in the United States and life in the Old Testament for God’s people, a more accurate comparison would be the period of Israel’s Babylonian captivity. Like that time period, we are living in a time that is more and more secular and more and more tolerant of everything—of everything except people who insist that their belief system is absolute. So how should we live? Daniel’s friends provide an example.
Daniel 3 tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but these were not their real names. The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had besieged Jerusalem, taken the people into captivity, and given them new names and new jobs. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego tolerated the new jobs and new names, trusting God’s plan for them in a new culture. But in Daniel 3, the king asked them to do something they were unwilling to do. He announced that every person must bow down and worship a 90-foot gold statue that he had erected. He set up an orchestra and told the people that as soon as the music started, they must bow down to worship the image. Anyone who did not worship the image would be cast into a fiery furnace. The temptation presented to the three Israelite young men was not to stop worshiping God, but to also worship the king’s god, too.
The idols of this world aren’t asking us to give up our worship of God, just add them to the mix. But because God is the only true God, He says we must only worship Him.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow. King Nebuchadnezzar was furious, scolded them, and offered them another chance. They let him know that they, of course, did not need a second opportunity. They believed that God was able to rescue them, but if He chose not to, they still would not bow. What faith! So Nebuchadnezzar threw them into the furnace, a furnace so hot that it killed the soldiers who threw them in.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king. He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God—come out!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.” Then the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. – Daniel 3:24-30.
Was it Christ who jumped in the fire with them? We’re not sure. Theologians have debated whether this was Christ (who has always existed) or an angel. Regardless, after pulling the guys from the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar admitted, “There is no other god who is able to deliver like this” (Dan. 3:29).
In the pagan Babylonian culture, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to work new jobs and take new names. But they were not willing to bow to another god.
When the prophet Jeremiah wrote to God’s people living in Babylon, he instructed them to build houses, plant gardens, live, and to even pray for the welfare of Babylon (Jer. 29:4-7). So living in Babylon, based on God’s instructions, meant caring for people there and seeking the welfare of the city. But it also meant not compromising their commitment to God.
God put you in your career, your job, and your neighborhood. Live there. Pray for the people God has surrounded you with. Work hard. Do all you can for the welfare of those around you. As you do so, only bow to Him.