Do You Know Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah?
Any boy that has spent at least some amount of time in Sunday school or vacation Bible school has heard of the amazing events around the life of Daniel and his three companions. Isn’t it interesting that Daniel is always called by his Jewish name yet his three companions are referred to by their Babylonian names. I’m sure by now you have figured out the three names in the title are the three companions to Daniel. Hananiah, which means Jehovah is gracious, was given the Babylonian name Shadrach, which means command of Aku (a Babylonian god). Mishael, which means who is what God is, was given the Babylonian name Meshack, which means who is what Aku is. Azariah, which means Jehovah helps, was given the Babylonian name Abed-nego, which means servant of Nebo (another Babylonian god) and Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego were actually Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. While King Nebuchadnezzar desired to change who these men were by changing their names, these names could not change who they fundamentally were on the inside.
I am extremely humbled by the fact that these were young men, teenagers, taken from their homeland to be taught the ways of King Nebuchadnezzar yet they remained true to the upbringing and training they had received while living in Judah. While they were surrounded with all sorts of temptations they remained committed to Jehovah. Despite their names being changed and the effort and energy expended to persuade them to behave as the world around them behaved, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were determined to take their stand for God.
One of the most noted stands by Daniel’s three companions is reflected in Daniel 3 where it states “Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” I don’t know about the rest of you guys but I would be giving some serious thought as to what my next move was going to be! Because of their firm commitment to God they replied “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” These three men were confident in their stand because they knew nothing was too big for the God that they served. In addition, their confidence went even further regarding God’s sovereignty because they boldly stated “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” They clearly understood that God does things for His purposes and according to His divine plan.
While we may commend them for their courage, it did not persuade the king to change his mind. Daniel 3: 19-23 tells us “Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
Nebuchadnezzar was determined to demonstrate his power and authority over everyone in his kingdom but God had a different plan. Scripture tells us “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’ So Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the province of Babylon.” These three demonstrated enormous faith in their God and because of their faith, the king was influenced to declare a command stating no one was to say anything against Jehovah God. Nebuchadnezzar understood that there was no God like the God worshiped by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Today God’s man once again faces many challenges from the world regarding God and our personal trust and faith in Him. We can learn much from the examples set by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Even when the world around us is in a state of chaos and there are many denying the very existence of God, we must remain strong and firm in our faith and commitment to our Heavenly Father. As we live our daily lives we will observe many who are worshiping false gods. It may be wealth, material possessions, career pursuits, athletes, the media or a variety of other things that people begin to worship. While some of our Brothers in Christ are living their lives outside fellowship with God, we must live our lives in such a way that those Brothers are convicted by our example. No matter what circumstances we may face, we have to believe that God is in control and no matter the outcome, it will be used to glorify Him. And most importantly, we not only have to have faith and belief but allow that faith and belief to define our every action in life. We can be a powerful force for the glory of God if we follow the wonderful example of Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.