Tag Archives: Mishael

Stories in Daniel

No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. [Daniel 2:27-28 ESV]

Every story in Daniel is a direct and bold confrontation of sin and of worldviews which either marginalize God or show out-and-out hatred for Him. In the middle of a kingdom devoted to idolatry God placed four men devoted to Him. Each was fully convinced of God’s justice and righteousness, of His holiness and eternity. Their decisions in the face of suffering for righteousness’ sake was to do only God’s will regardless of the immediate danger.

From the beginning of their story they refused to defile themselves with the food of the world. For most this means nothing. But, these were young men from noble families, “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace” [Daniel 1:4 ESV]. All were taken captive from Judah, made eunuchs, and then trained in the culture, the mores and folkways of Babylon, to advise the king. Instead of lamenting their loss they determined to remain true to the calling of God. They learned and excelled and applied themselves to their temporary duties while remaining focused upon God. By placing God first they were recognized as leaders, lights of wisdom in a dark, devious culture.

What are the stories in Daniel? Besides not eating the food, probably unclean food to them, they refused to worship the false idols representing their king. For three, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, this refusal to worship the golden idol of Nebuchadnezzar incurred his violent wrath. Nebuchadnezzar did not know God, and treated Him like all the other gods of his life. But God is not a figment of imagination, nor a mist or pall of smoke easily blown away. He lifts up those He wishes and brings low those He wishes to bring low. He lifted up Nebuchadnezzar and startled him with His power and grace. No one dies until God determines their time to die, even when thrown into a fire hot enough to kill any who come close. The guards who died obeyed their king even though it cost them their lives. They worshipped him, or were afraid of him, willing to give everything for him. Though sentenced to death those who obeyed God, having devoted their lives to Him, lived. It does not matter whether the world uses fire or lions, those who worship God will live with Him though they die in the world. Their light shows Him to the world.

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. [Daniel 3:28, ESV]

Daniel was given by God the ability to interpret dreams. Dreams were, and still are, seen as a means for the supernatural (or the buried psyche) to speak to the natural. Great bodies of literature and teachings of cultures focus upon dreams and their meanings. Nebuchadnezzar, and later Darius, and other idolatrous leaders drew around themselves those who purported to interpret dreams. But Nebuchadnezzar was different, even insane. He had a dream and demanded his sorcerers tell him the dream and then its interpretation. He was a shrewd, mad man, looking for any excuse to exert his “unlimited” power over the lives of his subjects. He enjoyed murdering people and ordered all the “wise” men murdered because they could not do the impossible.

Daniel’s God is the God of impossible solutions. He not only revealed to Daniel the dream He had given Nebuchadnezzar but gave Daniel its meaning. God’s light of truth shown through a man, totally devoted to God, in a way the godless idolater could not deny. Nebuchadnezzar had no excuse for denying God or placing himself equal to Him. But he did deny God, and he did make himself equal and even greater than God, and lost his mind for seven years. Nebuchadnezzar did not put all he learned about God together correctly until the end of his life.

Speaking to Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, on his last night alive, Daniel proclaimed God’s judgment, the light of God’s truth, against the man. Read Daniel 5:18-23.

God placed these men where He wanted them, so they could focus the light of their lives, God’s light of truth, on the darkness of the world. This is undeniably true for all Christians.

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Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, 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. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” [Daniel 3:16-18 ESV]

Suffering for righteousness’ sake occurs because of the sinful actions of usurping God’s ultimate and absolute authority by those who deny God. Those who endure such suffering are those who know they belong to God even while working for and living with those who hate Him.

In the book of Daniel there are two significant times when those who belong to God would not violate their relationship with Him for the sinful dictates of the authorities.  Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah each faced the unrighteous anger of the false religious peoples of their exile.

Like every other king Nebuchadnezzar thought himself above God, or at least equal to other gods. Those who surrounded him fed him their continual patronizing worship. By increasing their popularity with the king they maintained a comfortable and powerful lifestyle. Any danger to their arrangement brought immediate anger and fear and manipulation to maintain control.

When the king built a tall, impressive golden idol and commanded everyone to worship the idol, it did not matter that the thing was a lifeless piece of metal, precious as it was. People worshipped it on command. Nebuchadnessar could have built it out of cow patties, told them to worship it and they would have done so. He expected everyone to do what he commanded, no matter how bizarre. Except in his mind worshipping an idol was not bizarre.

When the king was told his three advisors would not obey his command and worship an idol he was furious. How dare they disobey him, the king. He threatened them with agonizing death if they did not immediately obey him.

Please note these men were his trusted advisors. They, with Daniel, were wiser than any of the other advisors to the king. They were not known for disobeying his commands. They carefully weighed the commands of the king against their growing relationship with God and never compromised the eternal with the temporary. Yet, when asked to place anything above God they politely refused.

Daniel was confronted by a similar experience. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had ended and Darius, king of the Medes and Persians, was in power.

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.  [Daniel 6:1-3 ESV]

He loved Daniel. His advisors hated Daniel. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God’” [Daniel 6:5 ESV].

They manipulated Darius to write a law which could not be voided or revoked. Everyone in his kingdom must pray to Darius and not to any other god for a period of time. Anyone who violated this law was fed to the lions. Without thinking Darius agreed. Daniel heard the law and immediately went to his home, opened the window facing toward Jerusalem, and prayed to God in front of all people. It was his custom to do so and he refused to hide. Darius, manipulated by his advisors was forced to uphold his law.

God saved these four men, who suffered for righteousness’ sake.  Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah were not burned in the fire. Daniel was not eaten by lions. But other Christians, persecuted by the Caesars of Rome or other nations have been eaten by lions and burned with fire and killed in other ways. Those who are persecuted for righteousness show their allegiance, not to this world but for God.  We are members of His kingdom and our hope is in Him.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. [Hebrews 11:39-40 ESV]

God’s promises are trustworthy because God is trustworthy.