The St. Louis Cardinals have a relief pitcher named Neshek, which immediately brought to mind Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. Daniel 3 was also the Old Testament reading for the Tuesday of Easter.
As in the story of the Exodus and Esther the Jews, already slaves or captives, are in grave danger. There is jealousy toward the Jews who have risen to positions of prominence. Thus we read in Daniel 3:1, “Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans (Babylonians) came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.”
Nebuchadnezzar had decreed that whenever the music played from a variety of instruments, everyone was to fall to the ground and worship an image of gold which stood 90 feet tall and 9 feet in width. To fail to honor the gold image meant death in the blazing furnace, which likely meant being sacrificed to the “god.”
The story teller does not even deign to call it the image of a god.
What is striking in the story is the detailed repetition. The VIP’s are mentioned three times. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are mentioned at least eleven times. The call to “fall down and worship at the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe and every kind of music” gets four mentions.
The purpose for the story is that the pagans are ridiculous in their efforts to outwit and overpower faithful Jews who have God as their deliverer, protector and savior.
The decree regarding the golden image is laughable. At the sound of any of the assorted instruments or “every kind of music,” everyone is to prostrate themselves on the ground in worship. We have the ridiculous scene in which anyone who hears any kind of music is stop what he is doing and fall down and worship. Think of what that would do to productivity. The only people who would get anything done are the Jews who would not be stopping to fall to the ground every few minutes.
Nebuchadnezzar asks the three men brought before him, “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” They respond that they won’t answer the question, but if the King needs to throw them in the fiery furnace, ok, but their God is able to deliver them, and if their God does not deliver them, they still will not serve any of the Babylonian gods or the golden image.
Pilate asked Jesus a similar question, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answers that the only authority over him that Pilate has is what was given him by God.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were bound up in their clothes and thrown from the top door of the furnace. In the process the men who threw them in were killed by the overheated furnace. The next morning the King hurried over to the furnace and peered through a lower door and saw not three but four men walking around. The king now issued a new decree that everyone should worship the God of the Jews on pain of death.
Psalm 2 asks: “Why are the nations in turmoil? Why do the peoples hatch their futile plots?...He who sits enthroned in the heavens laughs, the Lord derides them…Happy are those who find refuge in him!”
Lord God, you gave the peoples of the world to be the inheritance of your Son; you crowned him as king of Zion, your holy city, and gave him your Church as his bride. As he proclaims the way of your eternal kingdom, may we serve him faithfully, and so know the royal power of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.