Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…
The alternative which these young men were called to face was idolatry or death. The claimants for their loyalty were Nebuchadnezzar on the one hand, God on the other. The former appealed to all the selfish principles of their nature; the latter, to the moral sense alone. Herein lies the crucial trial of human life. Shall God's voice be supreme? his authority be dominant over every part of my nature, over every act of my life? Or, on the other hand, shall some other master prevail? On our answer to this question hangs our heaven and hell.
I. AN ALTERNATIVE OF CONDUCT. Much might have been said by a wily advocate to induce compliance with the demand of the king. He had not demanded that his subjects should abjure their loyalty to another god; they might, therefore, make a compromise by rendering this outward act of idolatry, while they reserved the true love and homage of their hearts for God. Were they not the subjects - yea, the captives - of this earthly prince? and did he not rule by Divine right? Had he not been their benefactor in raising them to honour? and would it not seem base ingratitude to resist? Was it not desirable to maintain a general uniformity, and not seem to countenance rebellion and irreligion? Would it not preserve the public peace, advance their own interests, and protect the fortunes of their co-exiles, if they would comply? It was but a solitary act; God would readily condone it; it need not be repeated! Was it worth while to disturb the empire on so trivial a matter? Thus a thousand voices would whisper. But -
II. IT WAS AN ALTERNATIVE OF PRINCIPLE. Unless these Hebrews should act a falsehood, this deed of idolatry would be the visible expression of their belief. Outward acts are the proper fruits of inward conviction. A God-fearing man cannot bring forth the fruits of idolatry; neither can an idolatrous man bear the fruits of godliness. Seeming compliance here would be sheer hypocrisy; and are these young Hebrews going to stamp themselves hypocrites? This was a judgment-day: these young men were on trial before God. Say what men will about mutual concessions, forbearance, peace, - this was a conspicuous occasion for the test of principle. If these young men played the coward now, they would be cowards for ever - the sport of every capricious wind of circumstance. If the ship's cable will not hold in a storm, of what use is it? True principle of character is of the nature of steel: you cannot permanently bend it. Leave it to its own action, and it flies back to its proper line.
III. IT WAS AS ALTERNATIVE OF DESTINY. Compliance brought present life; resistance was to issue in violent death. Hence it is evident that this act of idolatry was no trivial or even ordinary act. The king himself raised it into a public test. Yet this pompous king quite overshot the mark. Did he talk about the result and issue of this supposed contumacy? He was as a man who reckons without his host. The issues of events lie in another hand than his. Royal threats are often like the chaff which the wind driveth away. While this Babylonian king spake, a mightier King than he revoked the human mandate and inverted the predicted destiny. Nebuchadnezzar said in substance to these godly youths, "Die!" God uttered with the same breath his fiat, "Live!" "The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought." Instead of disgrace, there came honour. Instead of death, immortality! - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.