The courage of holy conviction was most clearly communicated in those three little words: “but if not.” Their own comfort and physical well-being were not the goal of their faith. Rather, it was the worship and glory of their heavenly Father. Aren’t we called to live with this same kind of resolve (Luke 9:23–25)?
The golden image was as tall as a nine-story building. It was built by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, the most powerful man in the world (Dan. 3:1). He constructed the blasphemous monstrosity to cement his political power, exalt his glory, and superstitiously counteract Daniel’s inspired interpretation of his dream (2:31–45). The Babylonian monarch was determined to protect the future of his kingdom. In his mind, the golden statue was integral to his future reign.
A royal invitation went out to the “satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up” (3:2). It was a who’s who gala event. The finest musicians were gathered. The most educated, wealthy, and gifted people in the land were called to attend this grand occasion. Neither attendance nor participation was optional, however. The affair was compulsory. If any refused to participate, to bow down and worship the image at the appointed time, they would “immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace” (v. 6). The pressure to worship the idol was immense.
When the orchestra began to play, “all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image” (v. 7). Everyone paid homage to the statue, and thus to King Nebuchadnezzar’s insatiable lust for power and glory. Everyone, that is, but three brave young Jewish exiles named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused to bow, valuing the glory of God and true worship above their very lives. It was a marvelous display of holy conviction.