Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Who names their kids such things? Crazy. Imagine being the teacher who stumbles over those names calling them out on the first day of school. Ridiculous.
These are the names of some of the men involved in my next favorite passage from The Bible. Actually Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were teenagers or "youths" at the time. (Daniel 1:3-4)
Nebachadnezzar is the king of Babylon. He thinks he is so awesome that he builds an image that he thinks is worthy of worship. The thing is huge. 90 feet tall, 9 feet wide, and made entirely of gold. I'm not quite sure what the image was shaped like exactly, but it was a hunk of gold nonetheless. (Remember, this did not work out so well for the Israelites at Mt. Sinai.)
Everyone is told to bow down and worship this image. If you don't, you get thrown into a "fiery furnace". A furnace may have been used to make bricks- heated at a couple thousand degrees. (So my Study Bible says...) Babylons liked to use it as a form of punishment, so there may have been one exclusively for executions. (Also a note in my Study Bible.)
And as you might have guessed- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse. So they are ordered into the fiery furnace. Before they are thrown in, Nebuchadnezzar taunts them and says, "And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" (Daniel 3:15b)That little g was about to become a big G for the king, because by the end of the story he will believe that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the real and true only God of the universe- able to do whatever He wants. It takes a little fire to strike fear into the king's heart.
But that is not why I love this story. I love it for the next part. vs. 16-19. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O, Nebachadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God who we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you , O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
Ok, I added some italics. Because that is the best part. They knew the God whom they served. They knew God is able to deliver them. I love the But if not part. It shows that their faith in God was set. It wouldn't move depending on what happened to them in that moment. They had faith even if God did not do what they wanted Him to do right then. To me, that is real faith. Having trust in God even when you know things may not turn out ok, Trusting that God is able to perform miracles. That He can handle all that seems so hard for us. That in the end, He will make all things right.
The rest of the story turns out well for these teenage boys. They are thrown into the furnace that is heated 7 times hotter than usual-- so 14,000 degrees. Yikes. So hot that it kills the men who throw the teenagers into the fire. But, of course, the boys are not burned. They live... and get to hang out with a mysterious 4th man who appears in the fire. Angel? Jesus? Not sure, but would love to know one day. The king hauls them out of the fire and doesn't even smell a hint of smoke on them. Amazing. But if not? He is able to deliver us from anything. And the little g turns to a big G for the king. He believes that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the true God.
Nebachadnezzar declares, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in Him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way." vs. 28-29.
God had a lot of work to do on the king's heart. The king was still using violent means to enforce decrees and didn't know what to do about addressing God. All he knew was that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's God is real and able to save us. An amazing jump from where he was at the beginning of the chapter.
My God is mighty to save. He is mighty to save. Love it.