A story from the Bible’s Old Testament book of Daniel to encourage us on the eve of one of the most unusual, and perhaps most frightening, elections in our history:
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had overcome Jerusalem and acquired many Jews to add to his kingdom. He requested his steward to select some very handsome, intelligent young men “without blemish” from amongst the Jews to serve him in his palace. They would work magic and interpret dreams, among other duties.
Four young men are named as ones selected: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were given Babylonian names respectively: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Daniel talked the king’s steward into allowing him and his three friends to keep their Jewish diet instead of eating what the steward wanted them to. Instead of rich meats and desserts which were against their law, Daniel asked they be given vegetables and water to drink, no wine. He persuaded the steward to try this for ten days and see how they looked. The steward was very impressed with how healthy they were at the end of ten days. So he agreed they could eat only vegetables and water.
God gave these four knowledge and skill as they trained. Daniel was given understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the three years’ training period they were brought before the king and he talked to them. He found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in his realm.
One night the king dreamed a very strange dream. He knew it must mean something. But what? To make it more difficult, he couldn’t even remember the dream. He sent for all his wise men, astrologers and sorcerers. But none of them could satisfy the king about his dream. The king became so frustrated and angry he was ready to kill all the wise men in the land. This would include Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Daniel, who stayed in close contact with his God, heard about the king’s problem. Daniel always, always prayed three times a day so God was his counsel on everything that happened. So now he offered to talk to the king and perhaps interpret his dream.
God revealed the king’s dream to Daniel and Daniel blessed the God in heaven. He said something like, “I thank thee, God, and praise thee for giving me wisdom and might. You are the God of my fathers. You remove kings and set up kings, You give wisdom to the wise and knowledge to them that know understanding.”
When Daniel was taken before the king the king asked him if he could indeed interpret his dream. Daniel answered that his God could reveal secrets and make known to King Nebuchadnezzar what would happen in later days. Daniel described to the king his dream quite accurately and gave him the interpretation, though it was a foreboding one for the king, meaning the king would lose his throne and everything. “And,” Daniel said, “God will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”
King Nebuchadnezzar, though the interpretation sounded bleak for him, fell on his face and worshipped Daniel.
But the king’s heart was not changed.
The king felt so powerful and so good, he decided, along with his princes and governors and captains, to build a huge image of himself to which all people should bow whenever required.
So the workmen were set to do this huge job of building a statue 90 feet high. When it was finished the princes and governors and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together for the dedication of the image. It was a stunning work shining with gold.
Everyone was to worship the golden image when they heard instruments playing–the cornet, the flute, harps, sackbuts, psaltery, dulcimer. And the decree included a threat for those who did not bow down. Enemies of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who had observed they hadn’t bowed yet a time to the golden image, made sure the wording of the decree said that if anyone did not bow to the image, they would be thrown into a burning, fiery furnace.
When the music sounded everyone fell prostrate. That is, all except the young Jews Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They stood firm. (Daniel was in another place praying, I think.)
When the king heard the young Jews had not bowed to his image, he was furious, so furious he looked as if he might have a stroke. He had the men brought to him and he gave them one more chance to worship when they heard the music. But this is what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego dared to say to the king: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace…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.”
Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury and commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. Then he had the men bound in their very clothes and thrown into the furnace. The men who threw them in were scorched to death.
Nebuchadnezzar sat down to watch the last of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego burn to a crisp. But what he saw made him gasp for breath. There were four men walking around in the flames! And their clothes were not burned at all!
The king called his counselors. “Didn’t we throw three men into the fire?” “Yes, O king.” “Then why do I see a fourth one? And he looks like the Son of God!”
Then he called out Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And their clothes were not scorched. Their hair didn’t even smell like fire. And he made a new decree, That every people and nation know there is no other God that can deliver..
Kings come and kings go. But God reigns forever! On November 9, 2016 He will still be on His throne!