Many people know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel chapter 3. Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold. Then he made it a capital offense not to bow down and worship the image:
Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up; and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. (Dan 3:4-6 ASV)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were God-fearing men, and they didn’t bow. Well, there were some Chaldeans that didn’t like that and they reported back to the king the Jew’s disobedience to their decree. Nebuchadnezzar called them to task:
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said unto them, Is it of purpose, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that ye serve not my god, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made, well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands? (Dan 3:14-15 ASV)
But the guys were committed and their response set a standard for what it takes to be a believer:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Dan 3:16-18 ASV)
There it is: a standard for believing. They told the king that they knew our God could deliver them. They stood their ground, and they said that our God will deliver them out of the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.
But… They added a “but”. They were committed even if the deliverance didn’t come. They said, but if not, we will still not bow!
You see, there were times that people suffered. Joseph was an example of righteous believing but as a child, he was thrown into a well, sold into slavery, accused of rape and thrown in prison, and suffered so for about 17 years.
Prophets were mocked and persecuted:
But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2Ch 36:16 ESV)
Look at some of the things that happened to Jeremiah. Among other things he was thrown into stocks and cast into a well (cistern).
Now Pashhur the priest, the son of Immer, who was chief officer in the house of the LORD, heard Jeremiah prophesying these things. Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the LORD. (Jer 20:1-2 ESV)
So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, which was in the court of the guard, letting Jeremiah down by ropes. And there was no water in the cistern, but only mud, and Jeremiah sank in the mud. (Jer 38:6 ESV)
Elijah ran for his life doing his job as God’s spokesman. I mean, yes, he killed the prophets of Baal with the sword and the record says:
And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. (1Ki 18:46 ESV)
But then King Ahab directs his ire against Elijah and next, he’s running for his life.
Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1Ki 19:1-10 ESV)
God certainly delivered Elijah, sending an angel with food and hiding him in a cave for a long time, but don’t tell me that wasn’t an ordeal. That was spiritual warfare at it most intense!
There’s more: John the Baptist was beheaded. Stephen was stoned to death. Believers got sick too: Epaphroditus almost died of sickness. Jesus talks about how God’s spokesmen, the prophets, were and are persecuted:
Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. (Mat 23:34-35 ESV)
As less than perfect believers, we don’t always find deliverance. But the standard of believing is that we obey the Lord.
In the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we know that the ordeal was intense.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (Dan 3:16-22 ESV)
But just as intense as the ordeal was the deliverance:
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. (Dan 3:24-30 ESV)
There’s the wow moment! God sent his messenger, his angel to protect them from the flames and they were delivered!
(Notice that it says God sent his angel. I have seen some people make a doctrine that the deliverer was Jesus. It doesn’t say that. It also says “the fourth is like a son of the gods.” There are a number of Old Testament references that talk about sons of God and they are not talking about Jesus. In Job 2 the angels are called sons of God. In Romans 8:14 we are called sons of God. Angels performed wondrously at different times throughout the Bible and this was one of them.)
But this was a fantastic deliverance. They weren’t harmed. Their clothes had no smell of fire. They got promoted. And our God was recognized for who he is, the only living, true God there is. Hallelujah. That is what it is all about, worshipping our God and him alone. God sends his power when his word is promoted.
The point is, though, believers believe, whether there is deliverance or not. That’s the standard. We believe whether we get delivered or not:
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods… (Dan 3:18 ESV)