Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95 (NRSVCE)
We all know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Or, for those of us who were Veggie Tales fans growing up, we might know them as Rack, Shack, and Benny. For those of you who are not Catholic, you may be confused on the verses noted above. “Daniel 3 only has 30 verses!” Catholic Bibles retain the Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Holy Children. In a Protestant Bible, these are removed, and you will see our Daniel 3:91 being the same as your Daniel 3:24. Anyway, now that the confusion is cleared up, back to the reflection!
King Nebuchadnezzar demands that these three worship a statue he had built and they have been refusing. He gives them one more chance, threatening them to throw them in a fiery furnace if they do not. They refuse again, instead reminding the king that they worship only God. They even make it a point to make the king aware that God has the power to save them from the furnace, if He so chooses, and that even if He does not, they will still worship no one and nothing but God. They are willing to die a brutal, torturous death for God. In a rage, the king has them thrown in the furnace. After some time passes, he hears singing coming from the furnace, and is astonished to find not three, but four men standing in the flames! The king realizes that this God of Rack, Shack, and Benny is far greater than any of his gods, and begins praising God.
The strength of faith that these three men had was incredible. They know what will happen if they refuse the king, but they are not quite sure what will happen if they trust in God. You can see it in their reply. “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us . . . But if not . . .” They don’t know that God will protect them. And they don’t seem particularly concerned about whether He will or not. They only care that God is the only one who is to be worshiped. They know this, and they are willing to die rather than to break His commandments. That takes a tremendous amount of faith. We can only hope that God would give us all the strength to do the same, were we to find ourselves in that situation.
Here’s the thing, though. We do find ourselves in that situation! We are all sinners, and it is because of sin that we are all doomed to die. And not only die, but suffer the eternal fires of Hell. All because of our sin. Our only recourse is faith, to trust in God, to obey His commandments, to cling to Him with all that we are. It is only God who can save us. These three men understood that. Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth man in the fire who “has the appearance of a god.” Other translations render this “is like the Son of God.” (KJV) It may have been an angel in there with them, but I think it makes much more sense to say it was Christ. It is Christ who saves us from the fires of Hell, so long as we trust and have faith in Him. These three are saved from the fires of a furnace yes, but as a foreshadowing of the ultimate salvation found in Christ. It seems only fitting that we see Christ in this story!
I hope and pray that I might have faith as strong as that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. By their faith they were saved from the fires of a Babylonian furnace, but by our faith we will be saved from the eternal fires of Hell!