In the Bible, the book of Daniel, chapter 3 is the well-known story of the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The story tells about King Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of Babylon, the most powerful, ruthless, and wealthiest nation in the region.
Babylon, for the most part, ruled the world. That meant that King Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man, as well as the wealthiest. There was no other king or country who could compete with him. He was not to be denied, nor was he ever told “no.”
In chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a statue, that Daniel interpreted for him. King Neb decided to build a statue of himself, which was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. The statue was gaudy and pretentious., but it was nothing out of the ordinary for a man who ruled the world.
Just in case someone forgot who was in charge, King Nebuchadnezzar made sure they remembered. He made sure he was appreciated and worshiped. So the statue was built, and placed in a field where everyone could see it.
When any kind of music was played, everyone and anyone was to stop whatever they were doing and bow down to the statue. The king summoned all the leaders of his kingdom and told them that his statue must be worshiped, or death was the consequence.
Sure enough, when the word went out and the music was played, every knee hit the ground except for three: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They stood out like Boston Red Sox fans in Yankee stadium.
Now the king can’t see everyone or every part of his kingdom, and it seems that a people who serve an earthly king will do whatever is necessary to get ahead. There were legions of people who were more than willing to rat these three out.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jewish exiles from Judah. King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the area at least three times, finally destroying it in 586 B.C. These three were not ordinary Jews, but actual leaders within King Nebuchadnezzar’s up-and-coming leaders club. They were trained and specially suited to be the next generation of leaders.
Their behavior was an embarrassment to the King. So he summoned them, and gave them a chance to mend their ways.
“Is it true Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?” King Nebuchadnezzar asked. “You are talented young men, and I would hate to lose you. But I have to set an example, and I cannot have three young men think they can get away with this, so I will give you one more chance.
“Whenever you hear the music, regardless of the instrument, then you need to bow down and worship the statue. If you do not bow down, you will die. You will be burned to death. Is that clear?”
Shadrach stepped forward and replied with these powerful words, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Dan 3:16 18).
Wrong answer. The worst thing you can say to someone who thinks he owns the world is, “No, someone is better, someone is more important than you.”
But there is something else we need to see their answer was not based on respecting the king, but of devotion to God.
In Psalm 86:11, we read, “Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.”
An undivided heart. There is only One who deserves our total and complete devotion. The three young men knew this and refused to worship a statue, even if it cost them their lives.
But what is even more uncanny and wondrous is how they responded to the king. When they said, “God will rescue us, but even if He does not, we still will not serve this statue,” they demonstrated an undivided heart.
Do we serve God with conditions, or simply because he is God?
King Nebuchadnezzar drew a line in the sand, made an ultimatum, and demanded a response. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused him. They said no to the most powerful man in the known world. They said no because their hearts were undivided.