For several months, I have been praying for something impossible to happen. I hope to learn this week whether it takes place.
For the sake of this post, it doesn’t really matter what the impossible thing is for which I’m seeking God’s intervention. I am healthy, and this is not a life-or-death matter for anyone, so there is no need for anyone to be worried about the outcome.
This thing I’ve been praying about simply isn’t something I have a right to hope for or expect. It’s not something that I could accomplish on my own power, and if it happens, it will only happen through God’s intervention.
And that gives me great hope, because our God specializes in the impossible.
As I await news of whether this impossible thing will happen or not, I have been thinking this week about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were young Hebrew men who had been carted off to Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar raided the land of Judah during Old Testament times. They had been chosen from the Israelite captives to be among the king’s servants and quickly made an impression by refusing to eat the rich food or drink the wine from the king’s table. Instead, they, along with Daniel, another Israelite who had been taken prisoner and brought to serve the king, ate vegetables and drank water.
In Daniel 1:17, we learn that God blessed them for their decision to keep themselves holy for him. “To these four young men, God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” Furthermore, they grew strong from their diet.
“In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.” (Daniel 1:20)
In fact, after Daniel, lifted up in prayer by his friends and empowered by the Holy Spirit, interpreted a dream for the king, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were elevated to be administrators over the province of Babylon, and Daniel retained his position in the royal court.
But King Nebuchadnezzar was a proud man, and he had a huge statue of himself built in Babylon and decreed that, whenever the sound of music was heard throughout the land, all should bow down and worship the king’s image. Anyone who did not do so, it was decreed, would be thrown into a blazing furnace.
Our three young Israelites, however, remembered the first commandment God had given their people:
“’I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
‘You shall have no other gods before me.
‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.’” (Exodus 20:2-6 NIV)
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship the king’s image when they heard the music, and this made the king insanely angry, and he called them before the throne, giving them one last chance to worship him or be thrown immediately into the furnace.
“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” he asked them.
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King 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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16-18 NIV)
King Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace fired up seven times hotter than normal, so hot that the men who threw the three Israelites into it were themselves consumed in the fire, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the furnace unscathed. They didn’t even smell like smoke when they emerged from the fire.
Perhaps God will accomplish this impossible thing in my life. Perhaps He will not. But He alone is able to do it, and I will serve Him either way. I simply pray for the courage and the faith of these three young men.
— R.E. Spears III