The story of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego in the fiery furnace is found in Daniel 3, and takes place in the city of Babylon. Meshach, Shadrach & Abednego are Jewish exiles, but they seem to be generally respected by the leaders of the time, as we see from Daniel 1.
This all changes when we come to Daniel 3, and these three men refused to worship the statue of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had built and commanded all people to bow to and worship.
You can see the whole story acted out by my friends and I by watching our animation here:
So, what lessons can we learn from the story of the fiery furnace?
Do not worship any other Gods
Whilst this reading doesn’t come straight out and say this, the actions of Meshach, Shadrach & Abednego are a great reminder to us of the first two of the 10 commandments:
“You shall have no other God’s before me.
You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the Earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them”Exodus 20:3-5
The three men were obedient to these commands and refused to bow to and worship a statue of gold, even though they were commanded to do this, which leads us nicely onto our next lesson.
Obedience can be costly
In this story, Meshach, Shadrach & Abednego demonstrated obedience in the face of incredible danger. They were literally thrown into the fiery furnace for choosing to be obedient to God instead of obedient to King Nebuchadnezzar.
This is a danger that we do face today. Whilst being obedient to God generally keeps us within the law here in Western countries in our current time, this is certainly not the case in many countries around the world. In many countries, being a Christian at all is outlawed and is met with persecution, imprisonment and other punishments. Whilst we may feel safe in our western countries, we also have no idea how long this will be the case for us. What will our countries and laws look like in 10, 20, or 30 years’ time? It is not unimaginable to envision a world in which we will need to choose between obedience to God, and obedience to the law – or at the very least, obedience to societal acceptability.
God can do the impossible
Surviving in the fiery furnace is a wonderful example of God’s protective nature, and his power over all things. This reading clearly shows that this fire was deadly, yet Meshach, Shadrach & Abednego were wholly protected; completely unharmed.
There is no way that anyone could argue that these three men were able to survive by their own power, or their own skills and abilities. This was all thanks to God, and his ability to do the impossible.
God is the comforter
Whilst God’s power is absolute and irrefutable, and is demonstrated many times throughout the Bible, another attribute is also shown here. When the three men were in the fiery furnace, they were joined by a fourth – someone that looks like a “son of the Gods”. Rather than just protecting them from a distance, as we know he could have done, God sent an angel to stand alongside them. To me, this demonstrates a personal care for these individuals, a desire to bring them comfort by coming alongside them and ensuring that they are not alone.
“But even if he does not”
This line is huge. It’s powerful. This one line takes this story from being a relatively simple tale of God’s protection and his power, to a story of true faith. Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego had faith that God could save them. They believed in his power. But they also trusted God enough to say that even if God did not save them, this was still their choice.
They would always choose this punishment rather than be disobedient to God’s commands. Does that challenge you? Could you face the fiery furnace and accept that God might not save you, even though you know he can? This is a level of faith and obedience that we should all be striving for.
What other lessons do you think we can learn from the story of the fiery furnace?