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.