There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men…
I. THE UNHOLY OBJECT THAT WAS OFFENSIVE TO THEIR CONSCIENCES
It was like a proud, arrogant, Eastern despot, with an ever victorious army, to signalise a great triumph, by setting up some great colossal image. It was more than a memorial, it was a deification of himself. These Babylonian monarchs were not content with being kings or even priests, they must be gods, the object of their people's veneration. It helped them to keep their iron heel upon the necks of their subjects, and feed their own vanity.
II. THE NATURAL HATRED OF THEIR ENEMIES. This was their chance. They had been watching and waiting for this. It is no wonder that they seized upon it with avidity. There is no love among the children of darkness for the sons of light. The saved of the cross have ever their cross to carry. There are shopmates and associates who are never slow to make you the butt of all their spleen, and to pour out all the malice of their soul upon you. The high offices which these youths held in the State exposed them to the greater vehemence of persecution. It is the way of the world to foster hostility against those above them, and to seek an opportunity to overthrow such. There are men who will sneak into power over your heads, if there be no other way. Yet it is better to endure with Christ than to go alone without Him.
III. THE REFUSED DOOR OF ESCAPE. When their accusers had laid the charge before the king, there seems reason to believe that the king's first flush of anger was at the sense of his possible loss — he could not endure to think that three of his most capable rulers had been so foolish as to expose themselves to death. He could afford to lose a whole host of such accusers better than lose one Hebrew youth. Possibly, also, the shrewd king saw through their too thinly veiled jealousy. Anyhow, the king offered them a way of escape. His words in effect suggest what we pleasantly call diplomacy, "Just say you blundered, you did not properly understand the meaning of my edict, and I will have the whole ceremony gone through again for your sakes, then you can bow down and save yourselves." Many of us would have fallen into that trap; it was so ingenious a compromise. It needed great decision of character to answer that aright. One day the officer came to Bunyan in his prison, on Bedford Bridge, and said, "Now, Bunyan, if you like to go free, you can; there is only one trifling condition imposed,, and that is that you abstain from preaching." "If that is it," answered Bunyan, "then I cannot go out free, for as sure as I reach yonder field, I shall stand up and preach Christ." That one condition was the impossible condition. You have your battles to fight, perhaps the issues are not so clear as in the cases before us, yet I pray that you may be quick to discern the right from the wrong, and swift to do the right.
IV. Now a great moral courage like this must be born of GREAT CONVICTIONS. With Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, convictions were worth having, and worth dying for. To these youths, God was greater, higher than the king. God was first, the king second. Their first consideration was not their prospects, but their duty. He has not the martyr spirit who acts indifferently. When you do not bow to the world's edict, expect not to be credited with conscientious convictions, it will be put down to obstinacy. When John Bunyan refused to keep silent, he was obstinate. When these Hebrews refused to worship idols, they were obstinate. So their persecutors say, but posterity has accorded them justice, and declared it an act of conscience; a spirit of fidelity to God.
V. THREE THINGS THAT CREATED THEIR NOBLE CONDUCT.
1. They made religion a personal thing. It was not a matter of the state or community, but of realised individuality; and personal responsibility to God. No other but a personal religion is worth the name. No other will save your soul.
2. They had repented towards God, and put their trust in Him. They had turned from evil with mind and heart, and set themselves to seek righteousness.
3. They put eternal things before temporal. They saw the world in its true light, and took it at its true estimate. The eternal endures, the temporal passes away.
Parallel VersesKJV: There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
WEB: There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not respected you. They don't serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.