There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men…
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were three very young men, worshippers of the true God in a heathen land. They were exposed to much persecution and distress on account of their religion, yet they were enabled to act with faithfulness and prudence "in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation." The true Christian will be obliged to stem the surrounding stream; there will, there must, be opposition; if he were of the world, the world would love its own; but because he is not of the world, but is chosen out of the world, therefore the world will hate him. Now let us imagine a person, and especially a young person, such as were the three individuals mentioned in the text, in such circumstances. How difficult oftentimes and painful the line of duty! How much need is there of some animating example, or affectionate and faithful advice, to keep such a person from offending against conscience, and forgetting his obligations to his Redeemer! To be faithful where ethers are unfaithful — to worship God truly in a family, a parish, a neighbourhood, In which almost all around us conspire to forget Him. It can be performed only by the aid of Him who is at once a Comforter and a Sanctifier. It appears from the narrative, that Nebuchadnezzar the king set up a golden image, and commanded all his subjects to fall down and worship it. In like manner, in the present clay, is sin in its various shapes an idol which the world delight to serve. By nature we are its slaves and votaries; and it is not till we have learned, like those three young men, to come out from the world and to worship the true God, that we begin to feel the burden of this service. New idols are constantly presented to confirm the sinner in his slavery, and to tempt the true Christian from his allegiance to God. Babylon surely abounded with idols enough; yet a new one must be set up for the occasion; and thus the world is always varying its temptations. Whatever be the last evil custom, the last new mode of sinning, men are expected to follow it. Thus, no sooner was the command given, than "princes, judges, governors, captains, treasurers, sheriffs, counsellors, and rulers," with the people at large, all with one accord eagerly flocked to the idolatrous rite. These three persons only are mentioned as not complying with the order — a proof that even the most youthful Christian ought not to be ashamed of religion, or to reject it; namely, because there may be but few around him who think as seriously as himself. Should all the rich, the wise of this world, the gay, the splendid, be against serious religion; should a thousand new baits and allurements be added to seduce us from it; should unsuspected dangers and persecutions, spring up every moment around our path; yet we may learn from the example before us a lesson of faith, and constancy, and reliance upon God. These three young men, we find, did not court martyrdom or persecution; they did not break out into violent invectives against other persons; they gave no willing offence — thus teaching another most useful and important lesson. The Christian is not to affect anything that may justly draw down the opposition of the world. He ought, as much as in him lies, to live peaceably with all men — but where this is impossible, and the offence arises entirely from the side of the world who dislike his earnest piety, without being able to impeach his character or conduct, he may learn from the example before us how to act so as at once to glorify God and to preserve his own peace of mind. Behold, then, this illustrious example! Firm and decided for Jehovah, these three martyrs approached the eventful spot. Life or death was the alternative. No human way of escape was open before them. Thus tempted to waver, on the one hand, by dread of torments and death, they might also be allured, on the other, by hopes of reward. They might even be ready to plead that the sacrifice was but small. These and various other reasonings might naturally enter their minds; and, had not Faith been powerfully in exercise, would, doubtless, have overcome their resolution. But this Divine grace was able, amidst all, to preserve them. Were this Divine grace existing in full vigour in our minds, even the youngest and most timid Christian would be able to withstand all the artifices of the world, the flesh, and the devil; and to say with Joshua of old, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Instead of being ashamed or afraid of confessing the name of a crucified Redeemer, and of living as becomes His faithful disciples, we should use the decided language before us; and, placing our whole trust and confidence in the supporting arm of an all gracious Father, should learn to do everything, and bear everything, rather than forsake the cause of our Redeemer. There are four things which are often powerful obstacles in the path of the youthful Christian; namely, the allurements of pleasure, the commands of authority, the dread of persecution, and the specious solicitations of friendship and kindness. All these occurred in the case before us; and to a far greater degree than usually, or indeed ever, takes place in the present age.
1. They overcame, in the first place, the allurements of pleasure. What a festive scene was before them! The "cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music," united their persuasive notes to tempt them to sin. Pleasure assumed all its most winning and seductive shapes to court their compliance. Yet, though in the midst of health and youth, they steadily refused to join the multitude to do evil; they accounted the reproach of Christ better than all the poisoned baits of the world. They were, doubtless, considered by those around them as gloomy and precise persons, who railed at what others thought innocent pleasures — but they knew the side they had taken; they knew also the power and love of their heavenly Parent, and they feared not the result.
2. Neither, again, could the commands of authority tempt them to commit this sin. They were strangers and captives in a foreign land; the hand of power was over them; they were represented as factious persons, as enemies at once to the government and the religion of the country; Nebuchadnezzar, a despotic monarch, was infuriated against them — yet they stood firm. They knew that the first authority to be obeyed is God.
3. The dread of persecution, we have already seen, they also manfully overcame; nor did they less resist the specious solicitations of kindness and friendship. Many a young Christian, who could have braved all the terrors of open persecution, has given way to this temptation, and has for ever ruined his soul, for the sake of that friendship with the world which is enmity against God. Not so these illustrious sufferers. Though they had received innumerable kindnesses from Nebuchadnezzar, and were in the way of receiving many more; though nourished by his bounty, and loaded with his favours; yet when religion was to be the sacrifice, they would not, they durst not make it. The result is well known; God wrought a miracle in their favour; His presence was with them in the fire; while their persecutors were consumed in the very act of casting them into the flames — an awful proof of the danger of opposing the cause or the people of God. Not even the garments of these triumphant confessors were singed; nothing was consumed in the furnace except their bonds. They became more free than they were before they were thrown into the flame; and in like manner the Christian, in the present day, who resolutely bears the cross of his Redeemer, often finds that the more he is persecuted for righteousness' sake, the more he enjoys freedom and happiness in his own mind. His shackles are consumed in the fire, and he is frequently rendered more bold and persevering in the cause of God, by the very efforts which are made to overcome his constancy.
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.