After Israel had split into two countries, they were each taken over by their neighbors. Those from the southern kingdom of Judah were taken over by the Babylonian Empire and the people were scattered in different parts of the empire. Daniel and his friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, continued to work hard in the palace of the king in the city of Babylon. But there were many people in Babylon who did not like anyone from Judah. It didn’t matter how hard they worked, they were still outsiders…different because of their belief that there is only one God.
Now the king should have learned that God alone is supposed to be worshiped after Daniel helped him with his dream. But he still hadn’t learned his lesson. His heart was still full of pride and didn’t really belong to God. So he had a giant statue made of gold. It was almost as tall as a ten-story building. Nebuchadnezzar commanded that everyone bow down to the statue when music played play-harps, tambourines, flutes, trumpets, drums and shakers. And that’s exactly what everybody did…almost!
Can you guess who refused to bow down to the statue? The same people who refused to eat the food that wasn’t allowed. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego all just ignored the music and the statues and the crowds. They weren’t going to do something wrong just because everyone else did.
But because many Babylonians did not like the people from Judah, they used this as an excuse to get them in bad standing with the king.
“Your Majesty,” they began, bowing down, “do you not remember that you had said there would be a punishment for anyone that did not bow down to the statue you built when the music played? Well those three Jews (which is what they called people from Judah) have refused to bow down to it. Their ways are different from ours and you must set an example for anyone else who thinks they can disobey your orders.”
When the king heard about this, he was so angry, he decided to send Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to a furnace-a very hot room where they would be burned. He even told his guards to make it seven times hotter than it normally was.
But the three young men weren’t afraid. They told the king, “God is in control. He can keep us safe, even in the furnace. But if He doesn’t, we will still only worship Him. We believe in God whether He answers our prayers or not.”
So the guards took the three men into the very hot furnace. They may have sweat a lot, but not a single inch of their skin was burned. Their hair wasn’t burned, and even their clothes didn’t smell like smoke.
But the strangest thing that happened was, when the king looked into the furnace, he counted the men inside…one, two, three…four!?! Why were there four? Hadn’t he sent only three men inside. “The fourth man looks to be from heaven!“ the king cried out.
King Nebuchadnezzar had the three friends taken out of the furnace. “I apologize,” he told them. “It was wrong of me to tell everyone they had to worship my statue. God really is powerful to save you, and you were so brave to believe in Him even when you didn’t know if He would rescue you.”