Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were faced with an unusual opportunity to take a stand for God when the king gathered all his officials and ordered them to worship the Image of Gold. Not sure what warranted Nebuchadnezzar’s latest erratic wish but he wanted all his satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials, basically anyone living off the tax payers money, to come and honour this Image of Gold that he had set up.
The celebrations were in full swing for the dedication of the Image of Gold and as soon as they would hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, everyone no matter which nation or god they belonged to, were to bow down and worship this Image. But Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah did not dare worship the Image that the king had set up.
We all live in a secular world and sometimes our traditions and cultures are mistakenly mixed with religion, which give birth to new ways with which we betray God. Christmas has now nothing to do with Christ, but more with santa, as children are taught about santa, and fear disappointing him more than Christ. The ancestral traditions are seamlessly amalgamated as our staple rituals.
Our wedding ceremonies, funerals, showers, all have pagan cultures mixed within them in the name of ancestral traditions. Like our pagan traditions and cultures have taken over every part of our lives and our relationships, something similar was happening in the lives of the exiles in their new home of Babylon. This was at the onset of a cultural mixture for the Jews, and Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah wanted no part of it.
At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews.Daniel 3:8
Not everyone would have been happy with the sudden rise of the three friends. Their quick progression through the ranks would have surely made the Babylonian officials jealous. The same jealousy can be seen several years later down the line, for king Darius’ preferential treatment of Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar was furious with the three friends and ordered them to worship the Image of Gold. He even coaxed them with the threat of being tossed into a blazing furnace and challenged the God of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to rescue them.
The king’s heart was not transformed and he only gave lip service to Daniel on hearing his dream being repeated to him, along with its interpretation. It could very well be the case that Nebuchadnezzar, in his quest to honour the interpretation of his dream, made this Image of Gold along with the declaration to worship it.
Again such misinterpretations are the result of not completely understanding what God is trying to tell us. We partly grasp the message but apply it according to our own understanding and our current scenario. Witnessing miracles and wondrous works of God, are not enough to build our faith. Only the transformation of heart can bring true change in someone, which no one wants to bring. In response to the king’s demands, the friends replied saying,
“ …the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”Daniel 3:17-18
The proclamation of faith made by these men is something unique in the Bible. We see very few people in and outside the Bible putting such unconditional faith on God. We all expect something from God (the one who sent His Son to die in place for us), in return for our faithfulness to Him.
If a person has a kidney transplant, they are forever grateful and indebted to their donor. They would never dare ask them anything ever again, not even a cup of sugar but would rather look for opportunities to return their massive favour. Why then are our expectations different from the one who gave us eternal life rather than just one organ?
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were not doubting God but simply acknowledging that God had the option not to save them also. He does not have to prove His faithfulness to us. We have the habit of test driving everything in our lives, be it a car, a house, or even a mattress these days. Everything we buy comes with a thirty day return policy. As a result, we are used to companies proving their worth to us, that we have forgotten that God needs no testing.
On hearing the response from the three friends, the king’s attitude towards them changed, and he ordered them to be thrown into the hottest possible furnace. Even the men who carried the three friends to the furnace were engulfed by the flames but the flames could not harm Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”Daniel 3:25
The silhouette of a fourth person in the fire, looked nothing like the men that walked the land but like the son of gods. This is perhaps another mysterious appearance by the pre-incarnated “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13) as the Angel of the Lord. But such is the glory of our King that even the pagan kings of this world can recognise Him. Why then are our eyes still blinded by the prince of this world?
The king ordered the men to come out and Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah walked out of the furnace unscathed. Not only were their bodies not harmed but there were no burn marks on their clothes also. Nebuchadnezzar even praises Yahweh for the astonishing miracle that they had just witnessed, something which he had not done earlier, when he showered gifts and praised Daniel when he interpreted the dream. We must deflect all glory to God, else we might be the reason for someone’s incomplete faith on God.
Then the king promoted Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in the province of Babylon.Daniel 3:30
God himself got down in the fire with the three friends and Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were saved from the fiery pit and given an even higher position in the province of Babylon.
Similarly we have also been released from our eternal furnace and have been given a new throne with the right to call God as our Father. Our God is a God who will even come down to our fiery pit and save us. But even if He did not save us, will we give Him the glory He deserves? Let us not waste any opportunity that comes our way to take a stand for the Almighty One.