In chapters three and six of Daniel there are two very similar stories about the struggle of God’s people to remain faithful and holy. Both involve a ruler who is favorable in his opinion of the Jews and a conspiring group of nobles and councilors who scheme to ruin God’s people. Both address idolatry and the blessings of remaining faithful to God.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
There is no doubt that many faithful Jews were killed or at least marginalized during the exile becasue they would not worship foreign gods. And so we have two very similar stories about obedience and deliverance, start with our 3 friends here.
Oddly enough, right after Nebuchadnezzar dreams about a statue with a gold head, he mades one completely out of gold and orders everyone to worship it. Something tells me the dream did not have the desired effect. Nevertheless, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are all delivered from the flames of a furnace.
3:28 Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praised be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent forth his angel and has rescued his servants who trusted in him, ignoring the edict of the king and giving up their bodies rather than serve or pay homage to any god other than their God!
3:29 I hereby decree that any people, nation, or language group that blasphemes the god of Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego will be dismembered and his home reduced to rubble! For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.” NET Bible
Daniel in the Lion’s Den
King Darius is tricked by his counselors to issue a decree that everyone should pray to him for 30 days. Daniel refuses to give in and the king is forced by his counselors to toss Daniel into a den of lions. They had so many creative ways to kill people back in the day.
God once again rescues his faithful servant.There is a very clear message in Daniel’s story: trust in God = no injury
6:21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever!
6:22 My God sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not harmed me, because I was found to be innocent before him. Nor have I done any harm to you, O king.”
6:23 Then the king was delighted and gave an order to haul Daniel up from the den. So Daniel was hauled up out of the den. He had no injury of any kind, because he had trusted in his God
Lessons in Exile
These two stories are not here to teach one simple, universal truth: faithful people are always rescued by God. They could instead be viewed as highlight reels, or the best of God’s deliverance. People in exile should not give up on God because he has not given up on them, and here are some stories to prove it.
These stories show how God still remembers his people even in the midst of persecution and exile. For a people who knew a lot about death and loss, these few stories of triumph were a source of comfort and encouragement. I don’t think that anyone living in exile read the story of Daniel in the lion’s den and then expected to succeed in all they set out to do.
The New Testament addresses this issue as well. After recounting the great heros of faith who were delivered by God, there is another list of those who were not:
But others were tortured, not accepting release, to obtain resurrection to a better life.
11:36 And others experienced mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.
11:37 They were stoned, sawed apart, murdered with the sword; they went about in sheepskins and goatskins; they were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated
11:38 (the world was not worthy of them); they wandered in deserts and mountains and caves and openings in the earth.
11:39 And these all were commended43 for their faith, yet they did not receive what was promised.
11:40 For God had provided something better for us, so that they would be made perfect together with us.