Studying these men and women of noteworthy faith we have seen a constant theme of God’s providence, protection, and provision for His people through those that believed Him with all their heart. After naming a few of them from the Old Testament the writer of these verses now tells us what these, and others who remain unnamed, did because of their faith. So once again we see that faith leads to action when it is real and sincere faith.
The list of accomplishments include describing those “who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.”
We have studied the subduing of kingdoms and the faith that was accounted as righteousness as well as the promises that were made and kept by God to His people starting with Abraham and his family. Some of my favorite accounts are listed next – the stopping of lions mouths and the quenching of the violence of fire. These of course are the stories we find recorded for us in the Book of Daniel.
Daniel was faithful and his faith was definitely a working faith. He prayed daily and unashamedly. He was used mightily of God in the Kingdom of Babylon and later the Medes where he and his friends had been taken in the captivity of Judah. They were noted for their strength and character and trained and educated to serve in the King’s palace.
His faithfulness and his faith got him in trouble though with those who were jealous of him. The story is familiar enough. Wicked men tricked the King into outlawing all prayer to anyone but to him. They knew Daniel would pray to his God so they waited for him, had him arrested, and persuaded the king to uphold the law. The penalty? Death! Death by being fed to hungry lions.
Daniel was thrown in to the lions’ den but God spared him. The lions mouths were shut and they did not bother him. God was glorified as the king praised Him for preserving Daniel from this wicked scheme, and in the end, the wicked men who plotted against him were thrown to the lions. Lest we believe that Daniel was spared only because the lions were not hungry or vicious, we are told that the wicked conspirators thrown in to the den were dead and torn to pieces before their bodies hit the floor.
Daniel’s friends had also seen a death penalty carried out against them. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were later renamed and better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. On the day that all the peope were called together to worship an idol set up by the King, they refused to bow. They would not worship the idol, even though they had heard the threat of death for failure to comply.
As surely as they worshipped only the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their faith was tested, tried, and proved. The King said to them, “But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” And they replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Their faith was such that even if God did not spare their lives, which they trusted He was able to do, they would still not bow to an idol. As threatened, they were thrown in to the fire as the king attempted to put them to death. What happened? We all know the story, I hope.
They not only were alive, but were walking around in the fire – the ropes burned off their hands and feet – and the Son of God was walking around with them! They came out and did not even smell like smoke, and Nebuchadnezzar worshipped and glorified God as a result.
A great gospel song written by Arthur Smith and recorded by Johnny Cash memorializes these men and the fiery furnace by declaring:
(Chorus) They wouldn’t bend;
they held on to the will of God so we are told.
They wouldn’t bow;
they would not bow their knees to idols made of gold.
They wouldn’t burn;
they were protected by the fourth man in the fire.
They wouldn’t bend, they wouldn’t bow, they wouldn’t burn.
Now the prophet Daniel tells about
three men who walked with God:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo.
Before the wicked king they stood.
And the king commanded them bound
and thrown into the fiery furnace that day.
But the fire was so hot that the men
were slain that forced them on their way
Now when the three were cast in
and the king rose up to witness this awful fate,
He began to tremble at what he saw.
In astonished tones he spake.
‘Did we not cast three men
bound into the midst of the fire?
Well, lo, I see four men unhurt,
unbound and walkin’ down there.
There’s Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo:
in the fiery coals they trod,
But the form of the fourth man
that I see is like the Son of God’
So here we have two examples of faith in action. Lives were spared in the midst of deadly trials. Those who had this faith knew that even if God did not spare their lives they could still trust Him. Jesus summed it up this way, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” What lessons can we learn from just these 2 stories? An important one I think it to remember that while many people say that they are willing to die for their faith we must be willing to live it.