With all the areas in our lives that we’re prone to compromise in, to offer an in-between response to, and urged to see the grey matter among the black and white, there can be a clarity if we narrow our focus down to certain non-negotiables, as I like to call them. As we approach situations where decisiveness is necessary, but instead allow the many options to overwhelm us almost to the point of positional paralysis, I’ve found one Bible story particularly pointed in its direction.
The book of Daniel offers us many familiar stories and prophetic insights, but there are three verses within chapter three that are most memorable when life confronts and demands a concrete response. King Nebuchadnezzar had made a gargantuan image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, that he commanded all people to fall down and worship whenever they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music (3:1,5). He threatened that whoever failed to do this would “immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (3:6). When Nebuchadnezzar had been notified by some astrologers that there were three Jews that would not follow this decree he had issued, he had them brought before him and interrogated them. In this interrogation, he confronted their disobedience and offered them another chance at worshipping this image of gold, “But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (3:8,15).
The reply of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the king is, in itself, worth far more than any weight in gold: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (3:16-18). Can I just reiterate that last phrase please? But even if he does not. There it is, folks, perhaps our greatest stumbling block as we walk in the faith.
Hold that thought though as we back up to the previous verse (v. 17), where these gents directly address Nebuchadnezzar’s presumptuous question (v. 15). They’re crystal clear in telling him that the God they serve is able and will rescue them from his hand. At first glance, this reads as though they’re saying that God isn’t only able to save them from the fiery furnace, but that He will; however, a closer look shows us that they’re responding specifically to the king’s pompous assumption that their lives are in his hands. As is the case with each of us, perhaps man can kill the body, but our lives are in God’s hands alone (Psalm 56:11; Psalm 118:6; Hebrews 13:6).
These three had a limited knowledge, that their God forbade worshipping any images and, as a result of their knowledge of the God they worshipped, they refused to engage in the decree of the king regardless of the consequences. This was a non-negotiable for them. They also proclaimed that their God is able to save them from the fiery furnace, if they should be thrown into it as a result of their unwillingness to follow Nebuchadnezzar’s command. And lastly, they knew, without doubt, that their God will rescue them from the eternal flames of death even if their physical bodies were scorched to ashes in the furnace.
The lasting impression, for me, is their unwavering acceptance that they did not know how God would respond to their situation, but they held fast to their faith. That, even if He does not save them from the blazing furnace before them, they’re firmly embedded in a beautiful bondage to our God. Can we, of the faith, claim this as truth for ourselves? Are we so attached to our Father that, even if He does ordain a tortuous death for us, we would still hang on with all of our hearts to Him? When we’re confronted with temptations to idolize false gods of our choosing, or compromise our beliefs at His expense in our decisions, or settle for a mishmash of weak convictions, will we be so used to living our lives with the wide focused lens in place that when the proverbial rubber meets the road, we will have forgotten what biblical integrity even is?
Whichever avenue God leads us down as we endure the path ahead He has planned, the faith He has given us is truly a gift worth growing. Although it’s doubtful we’ll be commanded to fall down and worship a giant golden statue, there are images aplenty that we are faced with denying on a daily basis. Wouldn’t it be the most comforting vantage point imaginable to stand as firmly in our faith and practice as Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego did by openly refuting Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, all the while knowing the fullness of our reward and without fear of reproach from anyone, or anything, other than God Himself? How can we get there from here? Find His non-negotiables, feed off of His Word, and follow in faith.