Though many of us tend to take our freedom to worship how we like for granted, throughout most of history, religious freedom wasn’t the case. You worshipped as you were told — or else!
We see a dramatic example of this fact in the third chapter of Daniel. What happened? Well, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, made a large statue, an image of gold, about 30 meters high. It was to be a symbol of his kingdom and illustrate his desire that his kingdom would last forever. He then issued a decree. Here it is in Daniel 3:4,5.
“To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:4-5).
This order presented a real problem for the Jewish men in the king’s court. They didn’t worship idols; they worshipped the Creator only, the true God who made the universe. In fact, the second of the Ten Commandments expressly forbade them from doing what this king and his government commanded them to do.
Hence, these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, (Daniel was probably away at the time), refused the command. The king noticed that they disobeyed his command and had them brought to him. And this is what he asked them, in Daniel 3:14.
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up?” (Daniel 3:14).
Then he warned them that if they disobeyed him they would be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And then he challenged their God, and asked, ‘Will your God be able to deliver you from my hands?’ The three men looked the king straight in the face, and notice their reply in Daniel 3:16-18.
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18).
Now, to respond like that to an absolute monarch, the most powerful king in the world, took loads of courage. It really infuriated the king. And true to his word, he had the three young men bound and thrown into a furnace burning so hot that it killed the soldiers who cast them in there.
However, as the king watched the spectacle, he noticed something that he didn’t expect to see. Instead of seeing three men burned alive, he saw something else. Something truly amazing.
“I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:25).
Then, realizing that a miracle was taking place, he called for the men to come out of the furnace, referring to them as “servants of the Most High God”. The three men emerged not only unhurt, but they didn’t even smell of fire!
This was one of the most dramatic miracles in all the Bible. And the king’s question, “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” the king answered himself, declaring, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (Daniel 3:28).
The moral of the story is not about the amazing, supernatural deliverance. But rather about the faithfulness of these three men and their determination not to compromise, even if it meant a horrible death.
In this story we see how obedience to God and worship of God is continually threatened. The issue is clear in the book of Daniel. Governments may try to impose legislation that inhibits or prohibits the worship of God or demands false worship. Only those who remain true and faithful to God will be delivered.
Remember that the focal point of the book of Daniel is the end time. Therefore, the stories, events and prophecies of Daniel point to the last days when these issues will arise again. Powers in the end time will attempt to inhibit or prohibit true worship and impose false worship.
The book of Daniel tells us clearly that God will have a victorious people who will overcome all these attempts to cause them to disobey or to pervert the worship of God. The issues in the book of Daniel are worship and obedience. The issues in the last days will be worship and obedience.
How important it is that each of us remains faithful to God. Do you wish to be loyal and obedient to God now, so that you, too, might be loyal and true to God when the difficult times come?