There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men…
First we have a state religion persecuting the people for their religious opinions, and threatening them with death if they do not comply with its decrees. The second thing that strikes us is the measures taken to popularise the king's religion, and persuade the people to embrace it. These measures were two-fold. They were seductive and minatory. They were directed to the sensual tastes and natural fears of man. If the voluptuous swells of music from all kinds of instruments could not cause the people to fail down and worship Bel, why then the furnace was to do its work. And have we nothing like this in our times? The king desired these young men to conform to his decree, but did not prove to them the truth of his religion. There were many flattering arguments which these young men might have urged against the conviction of their earlier education, and in favour of complying with the king's command, which they did not urge, nor even seem to have allowed to have so much as a moment's consideration. They might have said — but they did not so say — that it was their duty to obey the king, and worship the image, for this was the established religion of the empire. They chose to obey God rather than man, God alone is Lord of the conscience. These young men might have urged also — but they did not do so — that it was most expedient to bow down and worship the image. Mark their situation. They were captives in the hands of an absolute Oriental monarch, who could take off their heads at any minute, and no one ever ask why or wherefore. They were, moreover, advanced to places of power, where they were able, perhaps, to do many kind things for their suffering countrymen. They remembered their old Hebrew Catechism, which had taught them that God had said to them, "Thou shalt not bow down to any idol gods, nor worship them." It is plainly taught in God's Holy Word that right is always true expediency. It may not seem to be so; but it will always be found so in the end. Nor did these three Hebrew youths urge that they were compelled to obey the king's commandment because they were under great personal obligations to him. He had shown them much kindness, and heaped honours upon them; but their duty to God was stronger than gratitude to the king. Employers, parents, teachers, and benefactors may lay you under great personal obligations; but you must follow your conscience in the matter of religion. "He that loveth father or mother more than me cannot be my disciple." Nor did they urge that they would be out of fashion, and marked for their singularity, if they did not worship this golden image. Singularity assumed for the sake of being singular or famous is contemptible, and indicates a weak mind; but to be singular as a necessary result of not sinning as others do, is worthy of a Christian. When duty requires us to be singular, then we must not hesitate. Do not mind that the multitude are against you, if God be with you. "If sinners entice thee," God says, "consent not." "Follow not the multitude to do evil." Nor did these young men urge the terrible penalty to which they were exposed by disobeying the king's commandment. Is there any young man here who is saying to himself, "I would become a Christian; I wish to save my soul; but if I do, I must give up such and such pleasures; I must shut up my shop on Sunday, and quit my lake rides on the Lord's day?" And what if it does cost you all these pleasures to save your soul? Would it not be better to be thrown into the fiery furnace than to have both body and soul cast into hell for ever? "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Your privileges are greater than those of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Gospel has unfolded to you its grace, glory, and riches. How then can you escape if you neglect so great salvation? But why, think you, did these young men refuse to obey the royal decree?
1. They could not obey it because of the force of their religious impressions.
2. Consistency of character and of profession forbade them to worship idols. They were Hebrews. They had avowed Jehovah to be their God. They could not obey the king without denying the God of their fathers. What satisfaction would it have been, think you, to their pious parents, who in their homes at Jerusalem had taken so much pains to instruct them in the law and in the worship of the true God, could they have seen how firmly their sons adhered to the principles they had implanted with so many fears, and tears, and prayers? Never allow yourselves to imbibe any creed or do anything inconsistent with your mirth, education, privileges, and destiny.
3. These Hebrew youths refused, because they were sustained by the hope of deliverance. "When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. When thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flames kindle upon thee." They believed that God would make all things work together for their good. The special lessons from the fiery furnace of Dura to the young men of the nineteenth century are:
I. IN THE COURTEOUS BUT FIRM REFUSAL OF THESE HEBREW YOUTHS, WE HAVE A MODEL FOR THEM IN LESS PAINFUL CIRCUMSTANCES. When God's providence calls for martyrs, then He will give grace sufficient for the crisis. The principle, however, must be well settled, that if the day comes when you are required to give up your liberty or religious freedom, or perish in the field of battle or at the stake, you would firmly prefer the latter. The prior point, in our times of freedom from persecution, is to become the true followers of Christ. There are not wanting authors and public teachers who argue that these young men should have complied with the wishes of the king, because the religion of Bel was the established religion of the empire. As loyal subjects, they should have embraced the same religion that was professed by their king. This is the old worm-eaten effete doctrine, that the government or the king is the head of the church, and the keeper of the consciences of the people. Such is not the teaching of the Bible. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is not of this world; nor has He given to any human power the authority of enacting laws for Him. The Scriptures are the only rule of faith. Mormonism prevails in Utah; if I go to the Salt Lake, must I turn Mormon? Brahminism is the established religion of certain parts of India and China, must the English and Americans that go thither become Hindoos? If you live in Constantinople, must you, therefore, become a Mohammedan? If you live in Paris, is it right for you to become an Infidel, Papist, or Socialist; or if in Germany, a Pantheist or a Protestant, simply because any one of these may be the established or prevailing creed around you? It is monstrous to suppose that a man's duty to his Creator is to be decided by any such standard as this. The only authority binding on the conscience is the authority of God. It is the most potent element of social or individual life. It may be tossed upon the billows of popular fury, or east into the seven-fold heated furnace of persecution, or be trampled to the dust by the iron heel of despotism; but it is absolutely imperishable. "Hers are the eternal years of God." Nor can those die who fall in her great cause.
II. AS CHRISTIAN YOUNG MEN YOU HAVE, THEREFORE, THE GREAT CONSOLATION OF KNOWING THAT THE GREATEST EFFORTS OF THE MIGHTIEST MEN ARE UTTERLY UNAVAILING AGAINST THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. All the power of earth and hell cannot burn out one single truth from God's word; nor can all the popes and assemblies, cabinets, and armies on the globe add one single doctrine or precept to the Bible necessary to salvation.
III. Learn then, and though this lesson has been taught before, I must repeat it, that true expediency is true principle. "The path of duty is the path of safety." "Honesty is the best policy." It was so with Joseph. It was so with Daniel and his three friends. It has always been so with the great and the good. Whatever God calls you to do or to suffer, fear not to obey. He will be with you in whatever He calls you to. If He calls you to enter the fiery furnace, hesitate not one moment. He will be with you, and either sustain you or deliver you, or make it conducive to your higher and future good.
(W. A. Scott, D.D.)
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.