Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.”
One question that has, I guess, plagued people about the account of these three and the fiery furnace is: Where was Daniel? I mean, he purposed in his heart not to defile himself and now, all of a sudden, he is not mentioned as standing up for the True and Living God when everyone else is bowing down to an idol — or so some think. I suspect that the answer is much simpler.
The account mentions that certain Chaldeans … brought charges against these three. In fact, those Chaldeans name these three guys specifically. I think the omission of Daniel is for a few reasons. Daniel had, just one chapter prior, shown that his God is God and Nebuchadnezzar had acknowledged it. So Nebuchadnezzar is definitely going to let Daniel worship his God. In addition, Daniel’s revelation and interpretation of the king’s dream had saved the lives of all the Chaldeans, so they owed him a thing or fifty. But the story also notes that Daniel asked the king to promote Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. They prayed with him, it seems reasonable that they should also share in the reward with him. But that also means that someone else got passed over for a promotion. Knowing human nature, it is not so far-fetched to surmise that the certain Chaldeans mentioned are those very ones who were passed over.
Why take the time to explain why Daniel is not going into the furnace? Because, I suspect that he was going to his knees in prayer for his friends. They had prayed with him when they needed an answer to save their lives, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that Daniel is praying for them now so that God would yet again save their lives and show Himself mighty to save. It jives with his character — the kind revealed through actions, not the kind an actor plays.
Back to the three who went into the fire and found God waiting there for them. That is precisely what happened. They continued their refusal to defile themselves, simply not bowing to the idol. This landed them in the fire. Nebuchadnezzar says something that fascinates me. In part, I am fascinated because it is echoed by Paul when he writes to the believers in Rome. He tells them to offer up their bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Nebuchadnezzar notes that Shadrach and friends yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. This tells me that the body has a part in worship. Not only that, but it tells me that God is concerned for my body. Shardach and friends came out of the furnace not even smelling like fire. That is some hardcore concern for the physical on God’s part.
I notice that the refusal of these three to worship the king’s idol results in moving the king even closer to trusting in the True and Living God. With Daniel, he recognized that the God Daniel worshiped is way higher than any other purported god. With these three guys, the king goes so far as to say that no one gets to talk smack about the God of Shadrach and friends. That same God who gave Daniel supernatural insight and preserved three men from even smelling like smoke when thrown into the fire is the God I worship today.
Which brings me around to application. It is not enough to merely purpose in my heart to obey, I must recognize that obedience may lead me right into the fire. I must be willing to take that risk; willing to lose everything for the sake of obeying God’s command. Also, my obedience is not merely for my sanctification — though it is most definitely for that purpose — but may also be used by God to move an unbeliever that much closer to belief. By the time Nebuchadnezzar leaves center stage in the book of Daniel, it appears that the king has reached a point of belief. Maybe I am too hopeful, but it seems that the first few chapters lead us that way. The obedience of four young men impresses a guard. The devotion of these four to their God saves uncounted lives and also reveals to the king that their God is higher than any other purported god. Their continued faithfulness reveals that their God is able to save no matter the circumstance. Eventually, God speaks to Nebuchadnezzar directly and there is even a chapter in the book which is ostensibly written by Nebuchadnezzar himself. It seems to me that the opening portion of this book is about God bringing unbelievers to belief through the faithfulness of His children. To do that, His children must be determined to obey and willing to sacrifice everything they have and are for their obedience. Am I determined to obey and willing to lose everything in pursuit of obedience?