By Dr. Terry Kirby
Senior Pastor, Alpha Baptist Church, Morristown
Most of us know one. Most of us have had one in our family. Most of us are in awe of their courage and all of us are indebted to them. The members of the United States military, both past and present, are these exceptional Americans who have given up their own lives to protect our freedom. What makes them heroes is their willingness to take a life or death stand for the noble cause of freedom. Today’s military risk everything not knowing if they will live one more moment to enjoy their own freedom earned by a previous generation of heroes.
The Bible is filled with stories of how followers of God have had to take similar stands for a cause. This cause is larger than freedom. This cause is Truth, which is the Word of God. Christians, unknown to most of the world, give up their lives every day as they bravely stand on the truth.
The events in Daniel chapter three occur 23 years after Daniel interpreted the dream for King Nebuchadnezzar. The attention shifts away from Daniel to his three friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The “Three”, as they will be called, vividly show us how to stand on the truth.
This same king erected a gold statue standing over nine stories tall. The king demanded that everyone in his kingdom bow down and worship this image when the music played. The Three refused. When the king found out he was “hot.” Daniel 3: 13-15 records that the king called the Three into his presence and questioned them about their disobedience. Oddly, he gave the Three a second chance to obey his command to worship the statue. Their punishment would be death in a blazing furnace. What would you have done?
The next three verses record the Three’s response to the king’s offer. The Three responded to the king by rejecting his offer of life if they would just worship this idol. The Three took a stand on the truth. The specific truth they stood upon was Exodus 20:3, which states, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” They were all in for God whether they lived or died.
Nebuchadnezzar had a second temper tantrum and ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than its normal temperature. The “coke bottle” shaped furnace must have glowed white hot. The Three would not have had a chance of survival. It was unthinkable that anyone or anything could survive this awful method of capital punishment. This day would prove to be the miraculous exception.
In verses 26-28 the results of God’s protection, of those who stand on the truth that is His Word, is recorded. To his great surprise, the king witnessed this miracle. He saw the Three walking around in the furnace with a fourth person. The king testified that this fourth man was like, “a son of the gods.” There are two theories of the identity of the fourth person. Some say that this is an appearance of Jesus. Others believe that it is an angel. Simply stated, we will never know on this side of heaven.
Back to the story, the king ordered that the Three come out of the fire. The only thing that had ever been removed from this furnace was ashes. Everyone was amazed that the fire had no effect on the Three. There was no smell or visible signs of the fire. These witnesses had truly seen God perform a “once for all time” miracle. There was one primary result of this miracle. The king praised God for rescuing the Three who had courageously stood upon the truth.