The three young men demonstrated a risky faith by challenging the king’s nutritional demands. Their proposal proved to everyone that they had the better diet. But in Daniel 3, their faith shifted from risky to radical as they proposed that they had a better God.
Daniel 3 is the fertile soil of children who grow up in Church. Without dramatic effect, the story is simple enough. Nebuchadnezzer created an idol and required everyone to bow before it whenever the music played. Our three young heroes refused to bow and were brough before the king. When the king questioned them, their response was bold.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t we want to make it clear to you that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).
Nebuchadnezzer listened to their response and had “mad respect.” He was angry, but had enough respect to have them bound by his strongest men.
As the story progresses, the King looks into the furnace and notices there is a fourth man. Let’s do the math. Three young men went into the fire, and one additional is present for a total of four.
Let me take a quick left turn. I think the fact that the story is about three men speaks to the importance of community in the midst of challenging times. How much harder would it have been for any of the three to face the king’s wrath as individuals? (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) Which brings me to this question. Who is with you in “the fire” of trial and tribulation?
But it wasn’t just a community, it was a spiritual community. The fourth man, I believe, is a pre-incarnate appearance of none other than Jesus Christ. This phenomenon is known as a theophany. We don’t know when he went into the furnace or how long he stayed, but we do know that when Shadrach, Meschah and Abednego came out their bonds had been burned away and they didn’t even smell of smoke.
The good news of the story is that they were delievered from the fiery furnace. But I think their real deliverance came at the moment of their confession and profession of faith. Just like you, and just like me.