The Ultimate Statement of Faith

Posted on June 19, 2020

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By David Ettinger

faith

The Furnace Awaits
The place is Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar has constructed a mammoth statue of gold, and to mark this achievement, the powerful monarch has gathered his provincial officials for the statue’s dedication ceremony (Daniel Chapter 3).

But there is more to it. Nebuchadnezzar is seeking the loyalty of his minions, which makes wise political sense; he wants to make sure his conquered subjects are devoted to him. With this in mind, a decree is issued:

Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace (vv. 4-6).

Are these the ramblings of a blowhard? Hardly. Daniel 5:19 tells us: “Because of the high position [God] gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared …”

It is no surprise, therefore, that “…all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up” (3:7). Well, just about “all.”

neb's statue

Bold Defiance
Not everyone complies with the king’s directive, nor are they impressed with his earthly power. Three Hebrews who hold influential posts in Nebuchadnezzar’s cabinet defy the king’s command, and their actions do not go unnoticed. Evidently, some of those who did bow down are not doing so wholeheartedly; they are peeking! In verse 12 they snitch on the three men, telling the king: “But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Infuriated, Nebuchadnezzar summons the Hebrews and offers them another opportunity to acquiesce. If not, the furnace awaits. Yet, in the face of certain death, the three Hebrews never hedge. Instead, they deliver the ultimate statement of faith a lover of God can utter:

King 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 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 (vv. 16-18).

Remarkable Faith
Verse 16 sounds arrogant, but is not. In saying, “we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter,” the Hebrew officials are not diminishing Nebuchadnezzar’s rank or importance. More accurately, what they are saying is, “This is an open-and-closed case for us. It is not up for debate. Even death will not sway us in this matter.”

flames

To make clear to the king that the God of Israel is unlike any of the man-made gods of Babylon, the three explain to Nebuchadnezzar that earthly devices have no effect on Him. He has the power to save human beings from the most fiery of flames, and can do so at will. The Hebrews thoroughly believe God can do this, and that He quite possibly will should they be thrown into the furnace.

This is a strong statement of faith indeed, but it pales in comparison to the devotion, fidelity, and resolution the Hebrews display in their next affirmation: “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.” To paraphrase: “King Nebuchadnezzar, if you throw us into the furnace, God can easily save us if He so desires. But should He choose not to, we will gladly suffer this excruciating death. To bow down to your image would be to deny our God, and we will never do it. Destroy our bodies in any fashion you choose, O king, but we will not deny our God!”

What Would You Do?
This ultimate statement of faith has echoed down the corridors of time, emboldening, encouraging, and empowering all believers who would be forced to choose between preserving their lives and remaining steadfast in their allegiance to God. Lovers of the Lord Jesus Christ have encountered such circumstances for two millennia, and we will continue to do so until Christ returns.

What about you? What if you are presented with a “furnace” ultimatum? Living in the West, perhaps your ultimatum is not one involving life and death, but perhaps your “furnace” is forfeiting your job because you refuse to compromise biblical principles. Perhaps your “furnace” is the sacrificing of very dear relationships because of your stance for Christ.

sun-ray

How would you do if placed in a “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” situation? Do you think you can display the faith they did? Do you think you can deliver such a remarkable and ultimate statement of faith as, “Kill me if you must, but I will not bow!”

Not sure? Neither am I. There is, however, one thing you and I can do. We can begin to pray about it now. We can say, “Lord, I have no idea what the future holds, but should it ever occur that I am faced with a life-or-death decision regarding my faith in you, please endow me with the love and devotion for You to joyfully accept death.”

The three Hebrews professed the ultimate statement of faith, and it has been repeated countless times over the centuries. May we be ready to do the same should our Lord so honor us with such an opportunity!