You are dressed in an orange jumpsuit and you are kneeling in front of a black-hooded man who is holding a knife. Someone says these are your last moments on earth. You wonder how this is possible in the 21st Century, yet this is the reality for those who fall hostage to ISIS.
It is not beyond the pale for this kind of scenario to come true. But, when one thinks about it, it has always been possible, even likely in times past.
The question is, could something like this become a possibility for God’s praise? Although that may not seem likely to many, to three men it actually worked out that way.
We are introduced to Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the first chapter of Daniel as young men who, along with Daniel, were considered for leadership positions in Babylon. The three were appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar to administer the province of Babylon and refused to worship an image the king had erected (Daniel 3:12). They were reported for their disobedience to the king’s command to worship the image and were ordered to appear before him.
Standing before the king, the three boldly proclaim that “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us,” but even if he is not, they said, “we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up,” (Daniel 3:18).
Angrily, the king orders a furnace heated seven times hotter than normal and commands his mighty men to throw the three Jews into it. But even though the intense heat killed the men ordered to force the Jews into the furnace, it does not kill them. The king ordered their release and then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who put their trust in him,” (Daniel 3:28).
What are the Bible’s lessons from this passage? First, and foremost, God is sovereign and not man. A man may hold a dagger at your throat or threaten to burn your body, but we must never allow man to rule who, what or how we are to worship. We must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29).
Next, righteous people will be accused falsely. This has happened in every epoch of human existence. This is no excuse to despair and disobey God. We must continue to obey God and remain faithful no matter what people may say. Instead, our conduct must be that is befitting of God’s people (Philippians 1:27).
Even if God does not rescue us from danger we must remain brave and valiant. The three Jews faced the might of Babylon’s king without wavering in their faith to God (Daniel 3:18). We must have the same kind of courage of our convictions in our faith in Christ.
We must also remember that death is not the worst outcome. Even if the three Jews had been vaporized by the fire of the furnace, we would still remember them for the fortitude of their faith in God. Death is not the end. In fact, death is not even an outcome that is without merit. The apostle Paul, imprisoned in Rome, wrote, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain,” (Philippians 1:21).
Death can be an opportunity for people to praise God for your life and influence. Nebuchadnezzar praised God when the three Jews walked unhurt from the furnace (Daniel 3:28). How likely do you think it might have been to hear that? But, it is possible for people to praise God for your good life of service to Christ. It is possible for the praise of God to come from the lips of sinners because of your courage, your good deeds, your faith in God.