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When we meet in person, we take time to share any joys or concerns we may have. If you have any prayer requests to share, please add them as a comment on this post. When you are ready, use the prayer below (source) to get started.
Dear Father in heaven, please give me the same kind of faith that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrated! When adversity, persecution, ridicule, and ostracism come, I want my faith to stand up to the test. Thank you, dear Father, for giving me the Bible, which is my book of heroes who stood their ground and kept their faith, especially under fire. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Today's lesson is on Daniel 3:19-28.
The book of Daniel takes place during the exile in Babylon. People were deported from Judah from 605 BC to 586 BC when Judah fell. Among the deported were talented young men selected for their fitness for service to the Babylonian king. The book describes the wisdom of Daniel and his friends as they lived and served in Babylon. The men's position required a demonstration of some loyalty to the Babylonian king. An example of this was their change in name (Daniel 1:6-7).
The book of Daniel is preserved in two different languages. Part of the book is in Hebrew, while the other is in Aramaic, for the Gentile empires. Today's story comes from the portion in Aramaic.
Before our text begins, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, erected a large image of gold. It was probably located several miles south of the city of Babylon. Royal subjects, advisors, and kingdom officials arrived for the image's dedication ceremony and to worship it. Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego refused to worship the image. As punishment, they were thrown into a blazing furnace to be executed.
Royal Anger (verses 19-23)
King Nebuchadnezzar was furious! He ordered his trusted advisors to be thrown into the furnace. Because he was so angry, he ordered the furnace to be as hot as it could get. The best, strongest soldiers carried Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego to the furnace. The men probably had flammable, Persian-style clothing on. They were bound and thrown down in. The furnace was so hot that the soldiers carrying the Jewish men were burned up in the flames.
Divine Presence (verses 24-28)
Throughout the book of Daniel, the leaders in Babylon reacted with fear and amazement when God demonstrated miraculous power. Nebuchadnezzar's response continues the trend. He intended to execute three Jewish men. Instead, he was amazed to see four men walking around in the furnace, completely unharmed.
We are not really sure who or what the fourth man was. This man may have been a pre-incarnate version of Christ, or an angelic presence. Nebuchadnezzar interpreted the vision as "like a son of the gods," probably based on the pagan pantheon of gods he was accustomed to.
This divine presence was sent by God to protect his people. The king realized that they were protected by the most high God. He acknowledged the superiority of the God of Israel. However, he still accepted other pagan gods. Everyone in the king's service was amazed when Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego walked out of the furnace.
The last verse of our lesson is a summary. Nebuchadnezzar saw God's miraculous work of deliverance. As a result, the king proclaimed that God be praised. The king changed his word and acknowledged that God's power to save was unparalleled. Eventually, the king will totally and completely worship the one true God (Daniel 4:34-37).
Two options face believers when we experience the testing of our faith. One possibility is that we succumb to the testing. The other option is to maintain faithfulness to God, despite the testing. Even when faced with death, the men in today's passage chose the latter option. Their faith in God provided the courage they needed to withstand the testing and resist committing evil.
Although we may never experience the same testing, all believers will likely experience some amount of testing of our faith. God is faithful to his people, even when they are tested. When we face these experiences, we can have trust and respond with faithfulness to him.
Most high God, you are the one true God. You are faithful to your people, and you continue to show your faithfulness to us. Through your Spirit, fortify our faith and trust so we can continue to resist the temptation to worship other "gods" -- large and small. Show us how we might support other believers in their trials of faith. Give us encouragement and strength no matter where you have called us. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Questions for Discussion
Today's benediction is from the Message.
Next week's lesson will be on Daniel 6:10-11, 14, 16, 19-23, 26-27.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.