Lately I’ve been listening to Shane & Shane’s album called Pages. There is a song on this CD called Burn Us Up that I can’t stop thinking about. The song tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three Jewish exiles in Babylon.
The story goes something like this…Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been appointed as leaders over the province of Babylon by Daniel with the blessing of the king. Some time later the king, Nebuchadnezzar, built a huge statue of gold and called for all of the leaders of the nation to worship it as a god. Those who would not bow and worship the statue would be thrown into a furnace and burned.But the three men Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not. Daniel 3:8 says, “…certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews,” much like what happens to Daniel in chapter six. Nebuchadnezzar responds by bringing the men before him and saying:
“Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up,” (ESV, Daniel 3:14-18).
I think this story paints a beautiful picture of what a life that is devoted to God looks like. I see in these three men a trust in God’s sovereignty and an understanding of God’s will that we all can learn from.
Trust in God’s Sovereignty
A simple definition of sovereignty (taken from Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary via Dictionary.com) is, “God’s absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure.” God has absolute, supreme power over all things and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood this. In response to Nebuchadnezzar’s question, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answer, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.” They told Nebuchadnezzar, certainly the most powerful man in the world at the time, that their God was sovereign and powerful, not he. Verse 19 says that Nebuchadnezzar was “furious at their words.” Not only would they not bow to the idol but they insulted him by saying that their God was able to save them from his hands. Their God, not he, is the true Sovereign.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted and believed in God’s sovereignty, in His absolute and supreme power over all things. In the words of one of my favorite teachers, R.C. Sproul, “There are no stray molecules.” Every single speck of matter, every atom, every molecule is doing exactly what God has ordained it to do. I believe this is one of the most important ideas to understand; God’s sovereignty. Trust in God begins here. If God is not completely sovereign it means that he is incapable of ensuring the fulfillment of his promises and covenants, making him a liar and untrustworthy. If God is not completely sovereign, He is not God. A healthy faith is a faith that rests in God’s absolute sovereignty.
Trust in God’s Will
The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego also helps us understand God’s Will. Our God is a jealous God. He is jealous of His glory. In Isaiah 48:11 (ESV) God says, “My glory I will not give to another.” He will not share. God’s ultimate will is for all of creation to glorify Him alone. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this. Whether they lived or died, they were not going to worship an idol; their aim was to glorify God. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up,” (emphasis added).
Why does God do anything? Why does he save anyone? Why does he heal illness? Why does he raise from the dead? He does it for His glory. We should remember this in the midst of living our lives. Why do we do what we do? Do we live for God’s glory or for ours? Are we ready to live or die for God’s glory as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were?
If you read on in Daniel to see how the story ends you find out that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are miraculously saved from the fiery furnace. Because of their obedience God manifestly shows his power for all in the palace to see. Daniel 3:28 – 30 (ESV) reads:
“Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”
Because of their obedience and trust in God’s sovereignty and will, the king of Babylon glorified not an idol, but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and decreed that there is no other god like Him. I pray that we live our lives in this way. Not for our glory, but for God’s.
Trust in God’s sovereignty and will. These ideas should strengthen and encourage us to walk in the good works prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do. Even in hard times know that, “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose,” Romans 8:28.