Imagine living in a country where the wider culture is not sympathetic to your faith. Perhaps, the world around you is even openly hostile to your Christian confession. At this very moment, there are countries around the world where it is dangerous to be a Christian. You might face persecution. You face social stigma and even penalties simply for being a believer. The government may even scrutinize every thing that you say and teach. Sermons would be submitted to government for their approval. You might become the victim of mob violence. These things where once isolated to countries on the other side of the globe. Now, even in Western democracies, Christian beliefs are coming under increasing criticism. Those who stand for truth are being libeled as “haters” and “bigots.” It takes courage to stand alone for the faith, to stand for truth when the whole world opposes you.
We are not the first to travel this road nor will we be the last. Our story focuses upon the courage of Meshach, Shadrach and Abed-nego. Along with Daniel, these three young men were taken from their home in Jerusalem to the city of Babylon. They found themselves in a strange place with strange customs. However, these young men wanted to honor the God of their fathers in this foreign land. They refused to defile themselves with the “unclean” food provided to them and instead ate vegetables and drank water (Daniel chapter 1). Because they made themselves an exception, they became exceptional young men. Their abilities were obvious to Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon and he appointed them to high positions within his empire.
Nebuchadnezzar erected a large golden idol on a plain near the city of Babylon. It was rather large at 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. It was covered in gold and glimmered in the sunlight. Nebuchadnezzar’s own ego was wrapped up in this creation. He arranged an elaborate event. All of his middle managers, lesser and greater bureaucrats, and all his officials were commanded to come to this image. It really became a test of loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar himself. It was a mandated gathering. It was not optional! It was a day of much pomp and circumstance. When the orchestra began to play, it was the signal for all to bow down and worship this massive idol. If one failed to worship, they would be thrown into a furnace of fire. When it was discovered that Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego failed to bow down, Nebuchadnezzar, though angry, offered these three a second chance. Nebuchadnezzar threatened in Daniel 3:15, “…what god can deliver you out of my hand?” However, though respectful to the king, Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego made it clear that they would not be unfaithful to the true God by bowing down to this vile image. In Daniel 3:17,18, they reply, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and he will deliver us out of your hand O King. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you set up.” Whether they lived or died, they determined to be different than the rest. They would honor God. This is courage. Of course, we know that these three were rescued from the fire by an angel. Nebuchadnezzar did not have the final word. He was not, as he had claimed, all powerful. There is One who is greater than all. We remember that the final judge is not the government, or the mob, or the culture in which we live. God will always have the last word. He rewards those who are faithful to Him.
Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Daniel 3 & 4 and Psalm 139-141