Over a decade ago it was an average day at an average school. Walking down the hallway, I’m sure she had a lot on her mind. She probably was thinking about some test she had to take and wondered if the college she had applied to was going to accept her or not. Perhaps she was wondering if the boy she had her mind on liked her as well. She walked in and sat down in her class room. Then the unthinkable happened. A boy she hardly knew burst into her classroom with a gun. He presses it to her head and asks her, “Do you believe in God?” I’m sure the question rang through her ears, as all sounds and thoughts came to a screeching halt jammed up into that moment, she responded, “Yes, I believe in God.” She lost her life for those few words. But there was something that she realized. She knew that when God is on the throne she had no reason to fear the cost or consequence of trusting in Him.
A long time ago in the country of Babylon there’s this King. His name is Nebuchadnezzar. He’s kind of self absorbed and makes this rather silly decree. You see, he’s built a huge golden statue of himself. He decrees that when all sorts of music is played everyone must bow down to the statue and worship it. It’s not just the people of his country, but of all the countries that he’s conquered. People of every nation, every language, everyone is expected to bow down and worship this idol. Anyone who didn’t obey and worship the idol was to be cast into a fiery furnace. He wasn’t satisfied with political power, but he wanted rock-star popularity also.
There are three Jews however, that do not pay attention to this decree. They’re officials in the King’s province of Babylon. Their Babylonian names are, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So some of the astrologers (probably advisors to the King) decide to tattle-tale on these three Jews. They go and report to the King that these Jews are ignoring his decree. He becomes outraged. I imagine he threw something or grabbed and yelled at some of his soldiers standing around. The text just states that he was furious with rage. Basically, he was really, really, really mad and angry.
So he summons these three Jewish men to his court. Now the Jews have been (like many countries) dragged into exile from their homeland by the Babylonians. I’m pretty sure he didn’t just send them invitations to dinner. He probably sent some soldiers to go enforce his summoning. You can bet they knew why they were being summoned. The King had made his decree known to the entire nation. These three Jews worked in the government, I’m sure they had gotten the memo. They knew what they were doing when they refused to be obedient to King Nebuchadnezzar. They knew full well what the consequences would be. But they knew God was on the throne and therefore they had reason to fear the cost or the consequences of trusting Him.
I’m guessing they already knew each other. I’m also thinking that as the soldiers took them on route to see the King that they must have looked at each other and I wonder if they talked about how they were going to handle the situation. Perhaps they had already talked about it since they knew they’d get in trouble for not being obedient to the King. It’s possible that they had no need to talk to each other since they knew who they really stood for. Yahweh, their God was the only one whom they would worship. When they get dragged before King Nebuchadnezzar he offers them a second chance. If they will worship before the idol when the music plays he’ll let them off the hook. I’m sure their hands were sweaty, and their hearts were racing, but they respond without fear to the King.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
So as if the King couldn’t be any more upset, he gets furious with these three Jews. He demands that the fire get heated seven times hotter than usual. He must have been outraged beyond his original anger. Here the most powerful ruler and successful politician of the known world was getting his own officials rebelling against him and apparently he has a bit of a temper regarding it. In fact, when the soldiers bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and drag them over to drop them into the fiery furnace, the soldiers get killed by the heat and the flames of the fire.
The three Jews are thrown into the furnace. Then, the most miraculous thing happens. They are seen walking around the furnace unharmed and with a fourth person! In fact, it causes King Nebuchadnezzar to leap to his feet in amazement. When they get out of the furnace, they’re examined and not a single hair on their heads is even singed. Their binds are burned off, but their clothes don’t even smell like smoke! The God of the universe who knows every hair on our heads made sure Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not even harmed in the slightest. They understood that when God is on the throne, there is no need to fear the cost or consequence of trusting in Him.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” (Daniel 3:28-29)
Our story ends happily enough. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego do not suffer from the fiery furnace for their disobedience to the king. In fact they get a promotion and even the King of Babylon seems to be in favor of worshiping the One true God. But not everyone’s story ends so great. Is it because we lack faith in God or do not trust in our heavenly Father? I don’t think that’s the case. After all, not every hero of faith had great victories, witnessed miraculous events or survived fatal encounters with death. Jesus said His followers would suffer. Many of His followers were tortured, killed and generally lived in extreme conditions because of their faith in Jesus.
The simple fact of the matter is that God doesn’t always pull His people out of the fire, sometimes He lets them suffer. In the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, we read about great people of faith who experienced great victories as well as those who suffered, were tortured and lived in horrible conditions because they trusted God. I wish I could explain why that is, and many people have tried to come up with reasons that make a lot of sense, and are of help to people. I don’t think there is a single easy answer to many or life’s mysteries. The thing that encourages me, is that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego state that even if God doesn’t rescue them, they will still trust Him, they will still believe and have faith in Him alone. The key that I remind myself is that God desires me to trust Him even when things do not appear like they will turn out well in the end if I do.
Another important thing to remember is that we know that God is a personal being and that He therefore does not always answer our requests as we wish. Rather than interpreting such times as meaning that God does not love me, I find it to be a good opportunity to remind myself that God sees life from a different perspective then I do. It’s also important to remember that He sees the bigger picture not only regarding my life but as well as of the whole universe also. He let Job suffer for a time where as He miraculously rescues Daniel from the lion’s mouths and miraculously spares the Apostle Paul’s life again and again.
One last thing to note is that God’s value system is often very different from yours and mine. Often when I think of what I need and want, they are things that make up a comfortable, relaxing, enjoyable life. However, God’s goal for my life is that I become more holy and more like He is. Often this “character building” process requires suffering, uncertainties, difficulties that I alone cannot handle and being stretched well beyond my comfort zone. When God does something miraculous, it’s typically to display His glory and His power, to prove that He really is the one true God. Whether or not He rescues me from the fire, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that because God is on the throne I do not have any reason to fear the cost or the consequences of trusting in Him.
When God is on the throne, do not fear the cost or consequence of trusting Him.