Daniel 3 | Exodus 20:4-5

“I just can’t.”

It is easier to go with the flow than to swim upstream. But is it better? 

Sometimes you have to take a stand. For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (whose Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah)–three Jewish captives in the Babylonian kingdom ruled by King Nebuchadnezzar–they just couldn’t.

So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Daniel 3:7 NLT

What was the big deal? It was that they were supposed to worship a statue of King Nebuchadnezzar, clearly in opposition to God’s second commandment:

“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.”

Exodus 20:4-5a NLT

And suddenly the three Hebrews were in the unenviable position of having to NOT do the thing everybody else was cool with. Only, there were more than cool points at stake. Their lives were on the line.

“Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

Daniel 3:6 NLT

Talk about pressure! When you think about their situation, do your own troubles seem a whole lot easier? They probably are. 

When the three refused the king’s offer of a second chance to bow to the statue, he lost his cool altogether. 

Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual.

Daniel 3:19 NLT

He did not admire them for trusting in God, or for caring more about obeying God’s law than his own. He did not even respect their courage for standing up for what they believed. He was just mad.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Daniel 3:17-18 NLT

…Until he saw how God saved them from the ultra-hot pressure cooker into which he threw them. Then he, too, became a believer.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” 

Daniel 3:28 NLT

We pray that you never have to face pressure like theirs. But when the time comes to stand instead of bowing to the popular way of doing things, may you have the same faith and resolve as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

And may God bless you with the same results.

Questions for Group Discussion

  • When have you had to stand against popular opinion? Maybe you had to sit out from an activity you did not agree with? What did you learn from the experience? 
  • Is it true when people say, “Everyone else is doing it”? If not, then why do they say that? Why are some people not doing it?
  • Why do people get offended when your conscience won’t allow you to act as they do? Do you think they want to avoid their own feelings of guilt? Do you think they worry about being ‘judged’ immoral?

Challenge: Test the Heat

These days, it’s cool to be ‘an activist’. Some people even list it as their job title. Kids’ programming includes all sorts of calls to action to save the planet, fight racism, or any number of other causes. We all know what it means to ‘raise awareness’ or what a ‘manifesto’ is. People are so all-fired to be agents of change that they often don’t even care what changes they make. “I was part of that!” is their desired result.

It’s easy to get swept away by this wave of activism. You get invited to join a cause, and you just go with the flow. But where is the current taking you?

We challenge you to take a closer look at some of the better known movements of your day.

  1. Choose 3 movements that are big right now–either with your friend group, in your school, or in your most commonly viewed media.
    • It does not matter if you agree with the movement or not; the goal here is to look deeper.
    • If three seems like too many, pare your list down to one or two.
  2. Pray for guidance. Ask God to lead you in your research, and for the Holy Spirit to give you discernment as you go.
  3. Take an objective look at each movement. Do some research. Find out:
    • What are the movement’s goals?
    • What is their plan for achieving those goals?
    • How did the movement originate? Who is behind it?
    • Who funds it, supports it?
    • Who or what opposes the movement?
    • Look for factions within the movement–there are typically a spectrum of radical to conservative viewpoints within any movement.
  4. Look for alternative views. If most of what you read is in favor of the movement and its goals, read some of what the opposition says. Certainly not everyone agrees with the movement. If they did, why would they need a movement?
  5. Make an informed decision. How much do you identify with the movement, based on your new knowledge?