When the Babylonians sacked Judah, they took the best of the best; “they took away the pots and the shovels and the snuffers and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service, the fire pans also and the bowls. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver” (2Kings 25:14-15). They also took the best of the people, “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom” (Daniel 1:4). These young men would be molded in the ways of Babylonian royalty, the language and manners and philosophy; even the food they ate. Among these men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, to whom were given new names, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, respectively (Daniel 1:6-7). Babylonian names, in effect saying, “I own you now.”
To be holy means to be set apart, and Daniel and his friends were holy toward God. They could be owned by no other. They must remain distinct to God, while loyal to Nebuchadnezzar, so Daniel began small, not with the king, but with the king’s chief and with the chief’s steward. “Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food” (Daniel 1:8), so he requested of the steward an alternative diet and invited a comparison; “test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink,” (Daniel 1:12) then compare our health to the others. They stood strong in the little matters, preparing them for the greater.
The greater came when Nebuchadnezzar made a towering image of gold and commanded all to bow and worship before it, and Daniel’s friends would not. “Bow or be cast into the burning fiery furnace,” roared the king, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “O Nebuchadnezzar, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” A bold declaration, yet three words more defiant followed, “but if not” (Daniel 3:16-18). They would remain holy to God, even if it did not appear in their best interest–even if God did not save them. And they were tossed in the furnace.
Now God would make his presence known. Peering into the flames, Nebuchadnezzar saw the three standing unharmed, but with a fourth, “I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). They stood for God, and God stood with them.
My God, I offer myself as a living sacrifice, which means my life is Yours. I give it to You, so it is no longer mine to lose, but Yours to save. I pray, O God, that my faith will be bold, that when I face that which is impossible for me to do, I will trust in my God, who can do all things. I pray that I will act not because I am secure in the outcome, but because I am secure in You. My God stands with those who stand with him.