Its not your typical Christmas story, that’s for sure. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had refused to worship the idol constructed by Nebuchadnezzar for his own self-aggrandizement. They proclaimed that they would only worship the true God of heaven, and thus found themselves on the wrong side of both the royal law and the furnace door.
Nearly 500 years before Jesus was born in Israel, these three worshipers of Jesus’ Father were ordered executed in Babylon simply because they wouldn’t worship like the Chaldeans.
Its foreign to us now, but emperor worship was common in the Ancient Near East. Leaders of empires presented themselves as gods and the people worshiped them as such. Idol worship was accepted, and the concept of an invisible, omnipotent God would have been considered absurd.
In contrast with that world-view, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Jews. They were believers in the God of Israel, even while Israel was in exile. They placed their faith in a God who spoke the world into existence, not a God made by the metalworkers of the world. They worshiped a God who was unseen and the maker of mankind, not a God who was a king of an earthly empire.
In short, this was the ultimate culture clash, and the three faithful Jews refused to bend or break. From Nebuchadnezzar’s perspective, they were stubborn. But one emperor’s concept of stubbornness is a worshiper’s understanding of faithfulness. They knew they were in the right, that idol worship was wrong, and that the God who made heaven and earth was not a statute, nor was a he a man.
Despite worshiping an invisible God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew their Lord had the power to save. After all, he had saved before—back when Noah was on the earth, God helped Noah build an ark to survive the flood. He had helped Moses save the Israelites from Egypt by parting the Red Sea. He had saved Israel time and time again through the judges, and later through the kings.
Yet this was different. These three men were not patriarchs, and they weren’t in Israel any more. Would Yahweh really be able to save them from fire in far-flung Babylon?