Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! … They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. … There is no other god who can rescue like this!” Daniel 3:28-29
For the last couple of weeks, we have looked at the words of non-believers recorded in Scripture. Today we’ll consider the words of Nebuchadnezzar, the great king of Babylon, recorded in Daniel chapter 3. This is at the tail end of one of the most familiar stories in the Old Testament– Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego and the fiery furnace. If you haven’t read the account in a while, it’s worth looking up.
The quick overview
The king had erected a huge golden statue (probably of himself) and commanded all his officials bow down to it, with the penalty for disobedience being death by furnace. The Hebrews were steeped in the commandments and refused so the sentence was pronounced and immediately carried out. Except the guys didn’t burn up. And the king saw a fourth man in the furnace with them, a man he correctly guessed to be God. When the men were called out of the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar made the declaration in verses 28-29.
There are two important points in the king’s statement that should give us pause.
He recognized the Hebrews were willing to die rather than serve a false god. I have no doubts that Nebuchadnezzar thought Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were complete and utter fools … until they survived. Does anyone see that kind of faith and commitment in us? Or do they see a faith that wavers, a commitment that accommodates and compromises? Do we go along with the crowd to keep the peace? Or do we go to the other extreme and bully, disparage, and harangue those who disagree with us?
Are we willing to die, are we willing to give up opportunity or advancement, success or position, rather than serve a false god? Are we willing to be thought of as ridiculous, prejudiced, intolerant or whatever to stand firm? Do we trust Him even if the deliverance means removal from this world by death? The Hebrew guys did. And the pagan king noticed.
The king recognized that no other god could deliver like this. Nebuchadnezzar had seen more than his share of false gods. Every nation he had conquered was full of them and he numbered Yahweh among them. After all, he had devastated and conquered Judah. But when it came right down to it, to his credit, he admitted that not even the Babylonian gods he worshipped were capable of anything like this.
Have we seen enough, experienced enough to state that no god delivers like our God? Or do we place our confidence in other things? Perhaps we hold on to God as a back-up in case our plans don’t work out. Perhaps the reason Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego had the kind of confidence they did because they had a firm grasp on who God is.
Let’s resolve to deepen our understanding of the God we worship and serve so it results in this kind of commitment, the kind that makes even the pagans stop and consider.