I know you're probably thinking about the three magi who visited the baby Jesus in the manger some 2000+ years ago, but I'm not talking about them. After all, it's still July and I believe it's too early for anything Christmasy for now. The 3 men I am pertaining to here are three very young men, still in their teens, who knew what it was to be called "wise". This is the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the book of Daniel.
The 3 of them, if you haven't heard of them at all, were the friends of Daniel in Jerusalem who were taken from their homes (Daniel, as well) and was brought to the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar in the majestic city of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar besieged their city and has captured men, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, and youths who were considered without defect, that is good-looking, intelligent, & strong. They probably look like the kind of men you would see in the cover of a magazine modeling on some expensive line of clothing such as Giorgio Armani, Guess, Banana Republic and the like. They must have bodies which were lean and strong, much like those who work out in the gym daily. They are not only superficial with the looks that they carry, they were considered intelligent as well! All these characteristics all rolled into one! (You might say, wow, where have all their genes gone?)
These three young men had their names changed by King Nebuchadnezzar! He made it a point to erase whatever trace of Israelite roots they have in them and attempt to change them entirely to sound like, look like, think like, feel like, smell like a Babylonian. Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach, Azariah became Abednego. Their Babylonian names were actually names that has something to do with the gods that Babylonians worship. King Nebuchadnezzar made sure of the possibility of these very young men, in their teens, to forget about their previous lives and become conformed into the pagan life in Babylon.
King Nebuchadnezzar's strategy was not something that scared these young man to make them just cower and follow. His was a strategy of "good times" and "this is the life" kind of strategy. There was never coersion in his plans. He instead instructed for these young people to FEAST in the king's palace and eat of the king's abundant, scrumptuous, deliciously hearty meals! He was going to slowly entice them of the beautiful, majestic, wonderfully appealing kind of life that they can live in Babylon as they serve him as king. Now understand that at this time in the old testament, the law of God was also strictly given against eating food that are offered to idols. Being in Babylon, everything at that time revolved in the worship of idols of many kinds. This then became the dilemma of these young people. Will they just go ahead and succumb to this training and just pray in their hearts saying "God will understand because we've been captured?" Let's look into what happened next...
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, "Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal good, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see." At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning." (Daniel 1:11-13,15,17)
This time Daniel was with the three and their commitment to the command of God in their lives has greatly been rewarded in the end - God gave knowledge and understanding to them that when the king talked to them, he found none equal to them! How amazing... they have held on to what God has told them even if it meant to be different. As young men it must have been difficult, they must have had "peer pressure" too, but they all dared to go against the flow and follow what God wanted and expected of them to do!
Yet, this was not the main event in their lives. As years passed by, these men had already become appointed administrators of the province of Babylon. God has made them administrators! They were men who never tarried to do what God wants them to do in their lives , they didn't back down when the going went tough for them back in the screening days in the palace. But how far did they go for God? How all-out will they be especially now that they are appointed overseers already of the provinces? Surely, if there was another trial to come, it would be much difficult to be radical for God by then because of the sake of being "politically correct!"
But there came a day when king Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and ninety feet wide, and ordered all judges, governors, advisers, including officials of the province to attend the ceremony of the dedication of his erected image of gold! That included Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego! They went, of course, for every official in Babylon was summoned for this great gathering. Unknowingly, they will be put in the limelight on this particular day. It must be very uneasy for the three to stand before this gigantic image and listen to what the herald proclaimed as a declaration of the king...
"This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." (Daniel 3: 4-6)
This is where you get to be familiar with the story of these three men. As soon as the musical instruments sounded, the massive assembly of people fell on their faces and bowed down before the golden image. All except 3 distinct figures in the midst of it all standing tall and unwavering - Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego once more bravely stood on what they believed in. They went against the flow and dared to be different from all the people who attended that ceremony! For the sake of the Glory of God, they disobeyed the command of the king to worship the golden idol before them...even if it meant they were going to be barbecued very very soon!
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “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.” (Daniel 3:16-18)
To make the story short, the three were thrown into the fiery furnace. But their story didn't end there, for the king saw in the furnace that they were accompanied by Someone and when he called them out, they walked out of the furnace, and they never had any trace of burn on their skin! Not even the smell of fire or smoke was on them! God has delivered them from the furnace because they obeyed Him. God was there with them through the fire because they didn't compromise to peer pressure.
Are we ever going to be like these three? I consider them WISE. Not only intelligent, but WISE. For the bible tells us in Proverbs 2:12 "Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men." These men, even before they got captured, I believe have already found wisdom in their lives. For their fear of the Lord is great! The fear that led them to love His ways and love His commands. And "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," (Proverbs 1:7). Listen, the reason why the three of them survived the fiery furnace is because of this:
"For the Lord gives wisdom and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones." (Proverbs 2:6-8)
Shadrach, Mishach and Abednego didn't escape the fiery furnace. They were instead THROWN INTO it!!! But because their walk were blameless, because they were upright before the Lord, even when they went through the fire God guarded their course and protected their way!
If we can only learn from the lives of these three wise men, and DARE TO BE DIFFERENT FOR THE SAKE OF GOD, THEN we will be able to face any fiery furnace in our lives and victoriously walk out of it because God was with us through the fire! Would you dare to be different from the world today? Would you dare to remain standing when everyone else around you bows to an idol? Would you be willing to go against the flow? Let the fear of God be the start of it! Let God be big in your life! Let your life glorify HIM and Him alone so as like these 3 men, and just like the apostle Paul, we may be able to bravely stand and say "I count everything as loss in comparison with the treasure that Christ has become for me!"