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One Husband, One Wife, Five Children and Everything in Between

Jesse Tree day 20

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields. -2 Kings 25:8-12

Four kings after Josiah, the southern kingdom of Israel came to an end. The entire city was destroyed. Their sacred temple became ashes. The wealthy and healthy were carried off to exile, others died, and the rest were left as slaves of the land. They ignored the warnings given to them.

We don’t know much about what happened while they were in Babylon, with the exception of Esther and Daniel. We know that the people would have been mixed up, encouraged to start a new life. A melting pot of other conquered nations were brought together to begin again. The young, attractive, and intelligent were brought into the king’s service. First they had to go through training in how to serve the king properly.

young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. (Daniel 1:4-5)

This is when we are first introduced to Daniel and his 3 friends. Daniel and the friends didn’t want to eat the kings high fat, but most delicious food. They choose instead to eat vegetables and water. The guard was afraid that they wouldn’t be strong enough, but agreed on a short-term to allow them to follow their own meal plan. At the end of the time, they were still physically strong, so the guard decided to allow them to continue to eat as they choose. By not eating the king’s food, they were able to stick to the food recommended in the law of God.

This was their first bold move to stay true to the word of God, even though all seemed to be lost, but it definitely wasn’t the last.

It seems to me that Daniel had gone on to serve the King more closely, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego also became trusted leader within Nebuchadnezzar’s governmental officials.

Nebby (as I affectionately call him) had a huge statue made of gold, probably to honor his great accomplishments. It was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. He gathered all his officials to dedicate the monstrosity with some simple commands. Some music would play a lovely song, and then at  the sound everyone would bow down and worship. If you choose not to worship the statue, then you would be killed. The music sounds, the people bow all but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

I would like to point out the Nebby couldn’t see everyone. It was some astrologers who brought to his attention about the 3 friends. I can’t help but to think they there were put off by the Jewish men. Perhaps they had gone through training with this guys, and had been watching how different they were. They were in Babylon, but had not blended in with the Babylonians.

At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 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.” Daniel 3:8-12

Furious that they didn’t follow his command, he goes to them and gives them a chance to defend themselves. “Is this true,” he asks. They are unswerving in their answer and decision. They knew God’s command to not worship any thing else. They knew that they were here in Babylon because of the people breaking God’s law. They didn’t fear death; they would only fear the Lord.

Now you may be wondering, where is Daniel? Did he bow to the statue? We don’t know. I think, since Daniel is the author, that he wasn’t with them, but remember how they got caught. Someone else (some astronomers) had told on these three young men. They were accused of the wrong. Perhaps where Daniel was, the people choose not to say anything. Maybe they wanted to see what would happen to the other 3 before turning him in as well. Of course this is just speculation.

When the 3 refuse to accept their second chance, Nebby is even more angry. No longer does he look at them with favor, but will make them (and anyone else like them) pay dearly. He has the furnace heated 7 times more than normal. The soldier tied the men up, fully clothed, and threw them in to the furnace. The fire was so out of control that some soldiers who were charged with carrying it out died as the 3 friends were thrown inside.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Daniel 3:24-26

So 3 men go in to the fire. Nebby sees something that doesn’t seem quite right. He double checks with the advisers. “I see 4, not 3. And they aren’t burning up. They are erectly fine, walking around without their ropes, and not hurt.”

So who was the 4th person in the fire? I believe it’s one of two possibilities. The first is that this person is simply an angel sent to protect the men. Clearly, he isn’t human. He doesn’t come out of the fire with the other 3. The other possibility, which I think is more accurate, is that this person is The Angel of the Lord. As in, the pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. He looks like the son of the gods, he is clearly quite different. There have been other times that God appeared in this form in the Old Testament.

Jesse Tree day 20

The three men come out from the fire. Everyone is amazed at what they see. (I’m sure those astrologers were a bit afraid. They crowd around the three men to have a look for themselves. Not only have their clothes been unscorched, their bodies unharmed, but there isn’t even the smell of smoke on them. Their hair is still all there. It is truly an act of God alone. Why can God do such things? He made this world, he made the rules and laws of creation, but he doesn’t have to follow them. He is undefined by his creation.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

I would like to point one final thing about these three heroes. When faced with adversity they had a choice to make in their attitude. They knew that God had the ability to save them. They didn’t know how he would do it, but their conviction about who He is was stronger than the fear of death. “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.” In life, we will be face with trials and hard times. Maybe we will never face the threat of death, or maybe we will. No matter the situation, you can find assurance that God is unchanging. EVEN IF he doesn’t do the mighty thing that you need, the miracle, the amazing job, or notoriety you seek, he is still God and in control of your life. Choose to glorify him even in your trouble.

 

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