Tag Archives: Abednego

Curling Up with The Good Book: Lifestyle Lesson from a Furnace

given on Sunday, January 29, 2017


Scripture connection: Daniel 3 (NLT)

3 King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. So all these officials[b] came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments,[c] bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

So at the sound of the musical instruments,[d] all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But some of the astrologers[e] went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments.[f] But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 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. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

The Blazing Furnace

19 Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.

24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”

“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.

25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god[g]!”

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.

Reflection: Life Lessons from a Furnace

Let’s begin with the kids chat . . .

  • Tell the story of Mom naming the cats
  • Curious about the story from the Bible
  • The names: Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego
  • The situation: Life lessons
  • Faith & Friends: Held on to their belief in God and as friends they were able to withstand the pressure around them

[Share video of Louis Armstrong singing “Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego”]

Now for the reflection . . .

Last week the names of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego surfaced in my brain and I could not figure out why. Granted I have been thinking about what stories from the Bible I could read and share during these weeks between Christmas and Lent, but why in the world would I wake up and have those names running through my memory.

How often do we wake up with a memory of a dream or some thought that makes no sense to us? Last week I was still working on the sermon about Jesus and the Wilderness, so I have no explanation why I would wake up thinking about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I could not even remember where in the Old Testament the story was recorded so had to do some googling to find it.

Daniel. That is the where I found the story, so I began reading. This was a time that the Babylonians defeated the Israelites; Daniel and his three friends were taken captive. They became slaves of King Nebuchadnezzar and forced to live in Babylon.

Remember that in ancient times, when one country defeated another, the people were faced with death or slavery. Being taken captive was the best option. Daniel was one of the captives who taken as a slave and became a favorite of King Nebuchadnezzar especially when he could tell the King about his dreams and their meanings.

Daniel and his three friends chose to continue practicing their faith even in captivity. Now living as a slave in an entirely new country/culture, one is expected to follow the rules of the king. They did not. In fact, they challenged the king’s demands. The first story in Daniel tells us that they were given food that was not part of their traditional diet. They refused to eat it.

The sect that Daniel and his three friends believed in eating vegetables, fruits and grains. Even though they were deemed to be worthy enough to be fed the king’s foods, they did not want to go against the traditions of their faith. The two-week challenge proved that they could be healthier than the others who did eat the king’s diet.

Remaining faithful to a lifestyle that keeps God at the center is a life lesson for us today. We may not be slaves to a king, but our culture has a way of challenging us to move away from God. We become separated from God by all the different influences that fill our day through the media, especially.

We are all tested daily to remain faithful to God. We have friends who support us and share our values, but we also have friends or neighbors who want us to try something new or do something we are not sure we should. We all are subject to the commercials and ads that seem to be ever present on the TV, on the internet, in the magazines and on the radio. There does not seem to be any defense from them.

When King Nebuchadnezzar built the golden idol and demanded that all pay homage to him, bowing down and worshiping him, Daniel’s friends refused. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego relied on God rather than give in to a demand that would separate them from God. Instead of allowing them to refuse, the king had to carry out his threat to throw them into the furnace.

All too often we find it easier to give in to the demands of the job, of friends, or even of family when we know we should not. The life lesson here is that if you are asked to do something that separates you from God and the faithful lifestyle he expect from you, do not do it.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego surely could not imagine coming out of the furnace alive, but they were so confident that God would protect them, that death would be better than living a life separated from God. The strength of faith certainly must have been helped by the strength of friendship among themselves, too.

This is another life lesson. Choose to surround yourself with those who share the same value system that you do. These three friends, and Daniel, too, remained loyal to God together. They also remained loyal to each other. With so many people interacting with you whether in the neighborhood, at school, at work, or even in the store aisles, our choice to maintain a Christian lifestyle helps us to connect to others with the same foundation.

As we look back over our personal life stories, we can reflect on the most challenging times and consider whether or not we have remained God-centered or not. I certainly can see times in my own life when giving in to another’s pressure separated me from God. Those were times when I was the unhappiest. I knew things were not right, but I failed to stay God-centered.

My fire may not have been a fiery furnace, but I got burned. During the challenges in my life that I remained God-centered, I have found happiness despite the circumstances. Living with God allows us to manage challenges and to find true happiness even in the middle of a storm—or a fiery furnace.

King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed the three friends in the furnace, but he saw a fourth figure. When the three stepped out of the furnace untouched by the fire, the fourth figure disappeared. The king knew what he saw and believed it was an angel of the God they worshiped.

God is with us at all times. He is in a relationship with us as long as we remain in a relationship with him. It is our decision to stay in the relationship. Even if we do not literally see an angel standing beside us, others see God in our lives. We are responsible for maintaining our relationship with God.

God is the fourth figure in the furnace. We must have the confidence that our faith will sustain us through the challenges in this earthly life we are living. All of us seeking to remain in relationship with God can be assured he is with us at all times, whether in a furnace or right here beside us right now.

As the days get longer and the winter darkness fades away, we can still curl up and read the stories of the Old and New Testament to learn life lessons. Each time we read the stories, we find life lessons. The Good Book helps us learn how a relationship with God equips us to handle the negative as well as the positive experiences we have.

Closing prayer:

Dear God, our protector and our friend,


Thank you for the story of Daniel and his three friends,

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.


We read the story of their captivity in a foreign land

And discover that life’s challenges hold us captive, too.

We learn that Daniel and his three friends

Remained faithful to you despite their enslavement.


Guide us through the words of the Good Book

As we work to strengthen our relationship with you.

And just as in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

Help us to find those who help us remain faithful, too.


May we, then, discover how our relationship with you

Frees us from the captivity of life’s challenges.

Keep us surrounded by others, too, who know your love

And will be with us should we be thrown into a fiery furnace. –Amen.




As we prepare to leave today, we can hear the story of the Fourth Man that King Nebuchadnezzar witnessed in the fiery furnace. Johnny Cash weathered many personal challenges, yet he has provided his listeners a testimony of how a relationship with God transforms one’s life:


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Telling the story: Daniel in the Lion’s Den

given on Sunday, February 5, 2012

Telling the Story:  Daniel & the Lions’ Den

Do you know your lions’ den?


Today’s Old Testament story is not as difficult to believe as the others we have reviewed, but figuring out how it fits into the New Testament much less into our 21st century lives is a challenge.  Why should we continue to tell the story?

That is how I began thinking about this story.  Why should we tell it to our family and friends much less others who do not have God as part of their lives?  As I turned to my Bible assortment and references, I began searching for an answer.  There it was:  a question:  “Do you sometimes feel like a misfit?”

Daniel was living in exile.  He was making his life away from his large faith family.  He did have his friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but they were certainly tested.  Why Daniel’s friends were even thrown into a fiery furnace, but they were delivered because they refused to give up their faith in God.

The people followed pagan practices praying to various gods, golden images and even the king.  They could not understand the faith of the Jewish exiles who were not following the practices of the culture in which they were living.  Much less, these men were finding favor in the king’s eyes.  Jealousy developed and the distrustful local leaders began plotting against the Jewish exiles.

Daniel maintained his own Jewish faith and practices.  These very practices are what lead him in his daily life.  He applied the principles in all that he did, he performed his job so successfully that he continued to outshine all the other government figures.  The king, much less three kings, found that his work was far better than anybody else’s.  The kings learned that he could be trusted, that his superior work led to more success, and even his own demeanor was something to be respected.

Undoubtedly Daniel did feel like a misfit.  He was in an unfamiliar culture, working with pagans, living through one king’s rule after another, and yet he maintained his own faith, his own lifestyle, and his own character.  Even though Daniel was the misfit in the local community, he remained faithful to God.

Here we live in a culture where our faith does not isolate us, and yet we may feel like misfits, too.  How, you ask?

Well, consider our daily lives today.  We live in communities that are filled with problems.  We step out of our homes and go to work where all too often we find our personal ethics challenged.  We get involved in our hobbies—sometimes to excess.  We decide to spend an evening out and are easily swayed to drink too much or to gamble too much, why we even eat too much.

Do we sometimes feel like misfits in any of these situations or do we “join the crowd” and begin doing what everybody else is doing?  Sometimes we do it because we do not see the danger in the behaviors.  Sometimes we do it because we do not want to seem different from the others.  Sometimes we do it because we forget to apply God’s rules.

The result is that we may not feel like a misfit for the moment, but as we review the events we may begin to feel uncomfortable with our choices.  Maybe we even feel guilty and ask God for his forgiveness.  These are the reasons we tell Daniel’s story of being thrown into a lions den.

Daniel did not turn away from God.  Despite living in exile among pagans, and despite working a job where others did not practice ethics, Daniel lived an honest, faithful life.  His work was exemplary.  His interpretations of the dreams were accurate even if it was hurtful.  He was trusted.  He was promoted to the top of the other governors because he was that good.  The kings were able to look past his faith and focus on his work and his personality.  He was not a misfit by the kings’ evaluations; he was a model of integrity.

Today we tell the story of Daniel and the lions’ den as a way to make sure our children and even ourselves remember the importance of remaining true to God.  We all are thrown into a lions’ den.  We all become misfits at some time or another.  Daniel’s story is a model to us of how to keep God-centered.

Living in the 21st century when all the media, all the workplaces, and all the society around us screams at us to follow the crowd.  Do whatever it takes to make a buck.  Take care of yourself only.  We may live in a society that was established on individual freedoms, but we are living like we are slaves to the materialistic culture around us.

Daniel may have been tossed into an actual lions’ den, but I propose that we are all living in a lion’s den—even if it is allegorical.  Can we identify our personal lions’ den?  I believe that maintaining my faith protects me from the lions in today’s culture.

My first professional job after college was to work for a newspaper.  Even though it was just a local paper rather than a nationally known publication, I was proud to be a journalist.  The role was interesting and I did enjoy it until the principles taught in journalism school were challenged.

In 1976, our country’s bicentennial year, I entered the work force firmly believing that I could save the world as a journalist.   I jumped at the chance to work on a local newspaper.  I had been taught the canons of journalism at one of the most reputable journalism colleges in the nation—MU.  I was confident that those principles along with my faith would make it possible to change the world.

At least that is what I thought until I faced the cruel truth of business.  Newspapers can survive, as all forms of media can, based on circulation.  The more subscriptions a newspaper has, the more it can charge for advertising.  The more subscriptions, the more likely businesses will buy advertising.  Even journalism, the fourth branch of government—after legislative, executive and judicial—was dependent on numbers!

Sad to say, after almost a year I discovered that my personal ethics as a journalist were challenged.  I was asked/told to sign a document that verified the subscription count for the newspaper.  The numbers on that document were greatly inflated.  I felt trapped.  Either sign the paper or risk being fired.  Signing the paper went against all my training and my personal standards.

The requirement of a job forced me to reconsider my own career.  I chose to leave the job and changed to teaching.  Surely in teaching journalism I could make a difference in the world.  In teaching, I would not be at risk of being a misfit.

The boss was my lion.  A person who did not follow God’s law was devouring me.  He was lying in order to get more money.  He was placing me in a position of jeopardy, too.  My idealistic world was challenged, and I felt like I had been tossed into the lions’ den.

Each of us is a misfit in today’s society.  Each of us must handle a den of lions at some point in our lives.  Daniel is our model.  We need to tell Daniel’s story as a method to reinforce our teachings.  Our children need to learn how to maintain their values even when living among others who do not.  Our young workers need to learn that being honest and trustworthy on the job is more important than playing games with other workers.  Business leaders need to remember that operating a successful business depends on honest dealings and great customer service rather than shortcuts or shoddy workmanship.

The Apologetics Bible includes four lessons from the book of Daniel.  They may seem simple, but think about what a difference these four lessons would make in today’s culture:

  1. Don’t be surprised when you encounter opposition to your beliefs.
  2. Don’t take what belongs to God and give it to anyone or anything else.
  3. Don’t let the world seduce you away from what you know is right.

Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a furnace.  All were misfits, yet they lived by their faith.  God is by our side all the time.  His commandment is our overriding principle under which all decisions should be made.  If we truly live our faith and practice, we are rewarded.  Others can reward us in our earthly lives for jobs well done, but most importantly God rewards us with eternal life.

Jesus, himself, knew Daniel’s story.  He was thrown into the lions’ den after just three years preaching, teaching, and healing.  His lions were even his own people—the Pharisees and the priests.  He was thrown away on a cross, but even then God lifted him up into heaven beside him.  Are you able to keep your faith among all the lions of today?  The reward is priceless.

Dear Loving Father,

We know lions are living all around us,

     help us identify them.

Once we identify the lions,

     help us stay strong in our faith.

Guide us daily to develop our practices

     so we can testify to others

     the rewards of loving one another.

May we be 21st century Daniels

     working to transform this world.


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