A few weeks ago, during one of our Sunday School lessons on courage, I referenced the “three Hebrew boys”.  (I am so happy that the writers of this lesson titled the lesson calling them “three young men.”)  I referenced them because in scripture, there is arguably not another group of people or persons that showed as much courage as them.  So, let’s dive into our lesson for this week on the courage that three young men showed when standing before King Nebuchadnezzar.  Our lesson is being taught from Daniel 3:1, 8-18.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Image

Our lesson opens up with the reveal of the image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar had made (v. 1).  Nebuchadnezzar was the king of the Babylonians who led the Babylonians in the destruction of Jerusalem (Dan. 1:1).  At that point in time the Babylonians were the dominant power in the land so you could consider that Nebuchadnezzar ruled “the world.”  He certainly felt that way because he had an image of gold made and desired for the people to worship the image.

Nebuchadnezzar commanded that all people in the province of Babylon bow and worship the image of gold at the sound of music (vss. 2-5).  Let us remember that after the destruction of Jerusalem, many Jews were carried away from the land of Judah and Jerusalem into Babylon.  Some of those that were taken away to Jerusalem included Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah who the Babylonians named Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-Nego (Dan. 1:6-7).

When the Babylonians carried the Jews away, they tried to enforce their ways on the Jews in order to have the Jews assimilate into their culture.  The assimilation included teaching the Jews their language, literature, and forcing the Babylonian diet onto the Jews (Dan. 1:3-5).  So, to sum it all up, the Babylonians were trying to force their entire culture on the Jews, again, including idol worship.  All of which would have been considered going against the Mosaic Law for the Jews.

Three Young Men Accused

With all of this in mind, we can fully grasp what is going on in our lesson for this week.  We are told in our lesson that certain Chaldeans came forward accusing the Jews because they would not bow and worship Nechadnezzar’s image of gold (vss. 8-10).  We should note that the Chaldeans were the Babylonians.

Now, they point out that the king had stated that anyone who did not bow to worship the image of gold would be cast into the midst of a fiery furnace (v. 8).  In fact, it was pronounced that anyone who did not bow to worship the image of gold would immediately be thrown into the midst of the fiery furnace.  So, by their law, not worshiping the image of gold was a serious offense with serious consequences.

After hearing word that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refused to bow and worship the image of gold, Nebuchadnezzar was enraged and commanded they be brought before him (v.13).  As we will see in a bit, the three young men understood well what they were doing when they refused to worship the image of gold just as they did when they refused the Babylonian diet.  These three young men and Daniel were very faithful men.  As scripture shows us they rejected the Babylonian diet (Dan. 1:11-16), Daniel was a man of prayer and prayed to the Lord diligently (Dan. 6:10, 13).

Facing the king

When they stood before the king, Nebuchadnezzar asked, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up (v. 14)?”  Nebuchadnezzar was very familiar with Daniel, and I believe he was also very familiar with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  In his question, there does sound like a bit of concern and I believe it was further shown in what he says next.  

Remember, they were supposed to be immediately thrown into the furnace but he gives them a way out – a second chance.  Nebuchadnezzar says to them, “Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good (v. 15)!”  Essentially, he offers them an ultimatum.  If they ceded – if they bowed down and worshiped the image of gold, then all would be well.  Should they not bow, Nebuchadnezzar would have them killed – so they were putting their lives on the line to stand firm in their faith.

They were in a position where I believe many would likely cede their position, especially with their lives being on the line.  Now, many of us don’t find ourselves facing life threatening situations, such as these three young men, but there are certainly times when our faith is put to a challenge.  For example, the last 5 years of my life, I would tell anybody that my faith was put to a challenge because of my physical health.  Many of you may have gone through some things physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually that may have challenged your faith.

Courage of the three young men  

It is important that we not give in to our afflictions, but stand strong in our faith in the Lord.  God is a deliverer and He will deliver you from your afflictions.  Nebuchadnezzar asked the three young men, “who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”  Again, note how highly he thought of himself.  He didn’t know about the Lord, but we are going to see how firm they stand in their faith.

They respond to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter” – they were not phased by the king’s ultimatum because the choice was an easy choice for them.  When our faith is challenged as to whether we will keep the faith or doubt/back down, the choice should be an easy one for us — stand firm.

They continued in their response to the king, filled with courage, “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (vss. 17-18).”

I referenced this scripture in a recent Sunday School lesson because their response is filled with so much faith.  Again, I want you to understand how much courage it took for them to stand before a king of the most dominant power at that time.  Their courage reminds me of the courage that Paul showed when he stood at Areopagus and before Caesar, Felix and Festus to minister the gospel.

We have to have a great amount of courage while we are on this journey.  There are going to be many trials, tribulations, and afflictions that we are going to face.  Every trial, every tribulation, and every affliction will require us to have the courage to stand firm in our faith in what the Lord can and will do for us.  If there is one thing I hope you take away from these lessons we have had this quarter is that the outcome always works in our favor when we have the courage to stand steadfast in our faith in the Lord.


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