Summary: The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego give us important lessons in faith.
President Harry Truman had a number of “sayings” that are attributed to him. On his desk was the sign, “The buck stops here.” He also said, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” That is a saying that three men in Babylon would have understood very clearly. Their names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, or as they are better known, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. They were among a number of young men who were brought to Babylon in about 605 B.C. Their story is found in the first three chapters of the book of Daniel. They are most famous for their courageous stand before King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:16-18.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Their story is but one of the many great moments of faith found throughout the bible. We remember the faith Noah when God told him to build an ark. The faith of Abraham when God told him to sacrifice his only son. The faith of Moses when God told him to deliver his people out of bondage. The faith of Gideon when he is told to battle the Midianites with only 300 men. And the faith of Daniel when he refused to worship the idol built by Darius. All these men responded with great faith with faced with daunting challenges.
Like all the others, S. M. & A. did not reach this high point in their faith without some preparation. First they were among the royal family of Judah at the time of its capture by Nebuchadnezzar. They were among the privileged few in Judah and had no doubt received a thorough education in the Jewish faith. More than that they were remarkable for their physical appearance, intelligence and talent. Daniel 1:4 says that they were picked by Ashpenaz, the chief of Nebuchadnezzar’s officials because they were, “youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court.”
Almost immediately their faith was tested for they were uprooted, along with their friend Daniel, from their home and taken to a foreign land where the people spoke a different language, ate different food and worshiped different gods. Upon arriving in Babylon, the greatest city in the world at that time, they were challenged with efforts to indoctrinate them into the Babylonian culture. They were to be educated for three years so that they could be assimilated into the literature and language of the Chaldeans.
Their first stand of faith is found in 1:8. As a part of their indoctrination, they are given Chaldean food to eat. This probably included food that a faithful follower of God under the law of Moses, would not eat. It is Daniel who takes a stand and S. M. & A. follow his lead.
“But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the King’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.”
The commander of the officials is afraid that if he does this and the appearance of the four men is damaged that he will be executed by Neb. Daniel proposes a test in which he and S. M. & A. would only be given water to drink and vegetables to eat for 10 days. Verse 15 tells us that, “At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.”
As a result of their faithful stand, verse 17 says, “God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom.”
At the end of their three year indoctrination period, they were interviewed by Neb. And they were found to be more qualified than any of the other candidates and began to be the king’s servants.
Things were apparently going well for them until Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and demands that, “the magicians, the conjurers and the sorcerers” both tell him what his dream was and interpret it. When they could not Nebuchadnezzer ordered that they all, including D., S., M., and A., be executed. In Chapter 2:14 when the soldiers came to Daniel to kill him and the others, he talked with Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard who told him of the king’s dream and his decree. Daniel then approached Neb. and said that if the king would give him time, that he would both tell the king his dream and interpret it. The king gave him some time and he responded in verse 17-18 by going to God in prayer. “Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, 18 so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. As a result of their prayerful petition to God, Daniel was given the dream and its interpretation.