Pastor Josh Combs
“And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: …Hananiah he called Shadrach…” Daniel 1:7
As the book of Daniel begins, we are specifically introduced to four young men among the thousands who have been taken into Babylonian captivity. Each from the tribe of Judah, their given Hebrew names are Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The boldness with which we see Daniel speak in chapter 1 is supported by his three friends. And God, as we’ve noted, blesses them with incredible favor with King Nebuchadnezzar. As the years pass, God in His divine providence elevates Daniel to the role of prime minister. From this position of great influence and power, Daniel makes another request of the king. This bold Jewish exile requests that his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah be appointed “over the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:49). The king grants this request and these young exiles are each elevated to great positions of privilege, prestige, and power as regional governors in Babylon. However, trouble and great spiritual testing lay ahead.
King Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian monarch, had commissioned the construction of a nearly 100-foot statue in the plain of Dura. His plan was to invite every person within his government to a special celebration of his glory and the dedication of this immense statue. The Scripture details that the invitation to Dura was sent to “the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces…” (Daniel 3:2). As these officials arrived, they were each commanded that at the sound of the music, they were “to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” Compulsory worship is what the king was commanding. To ensure that dissension was either absent or minimized, the Babylonian herald added, “whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” The next word in the Scripture summarizes the actions of the majority of people: “Therefore.” The Bible explains that as soon as the first note was played, people “fell down and worshiped the golden image” (verses 5-7).
Yet amongst the crowd, three officials could not participate in this idol worship. When this disobedience is brought to the king’s attention, he is furious and immediately summons these local governors. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah make their way to the throne room. Nebuchadnezzar seems perplexed by their actions, to the point of offering a second round of worship just to correct this “issue.” He once again commands, this time without the help of or potential distortion of a herald, that these men bow down and worship the statue that he has established. He finishes with the threat of the fiery furnace and the dare, “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15).
The command was clear from this earthly king. But to these three Hebrew exiles, the real command was coming from the King of glory. God had said through the mouth of Moses in Exodus 20:3-5:
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them….”
This was an idol and they could not worship it. Now, it’s unlikely that the king had forgotten the native land of these men. More than likely, he believed the Babylonian reprogramming process had worked.
As they appeared before the king, he did not call Hananiah by his Hebrew name. That name meant “the Lord is gracious.” Rather, he called him the name given to him upon entrance into Babylonian exile. He called him Shadrach, which means “Command of Aku,” a false, Chaldean deity.
Nebuchadnezzar assumed that the command and control of their lives was no longer in the hands of a distant deity named Yahweh. He was confident that the command of their lives was purely Babylonian and by default under the king’s control. The confused Babylonian sovereign asks, “Is it true…that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?” (verse 14). He is stunned. What he didn’t realize was that the commander of their lives was not Aku, but Jehovah.
In the book of Acts, Peter and John are commanded by the religious leaders to cease preaching in the name of Jesus Christ. They simply answer, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Who is the commander of your life? Who makes the ultimate decision? Who makes the final call? Is Jesus Christ the Commander and Lord of your life? For Hananiah (now called Shadrach), a name change did not change his Commander. He was, as we’ll see, a “good soldier” committed to the commands of his Master. Centuries later, Paul, writing to his son in the faith Timothy, challenged him to “share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).
Today’s Bible Reading: Daniel 3:1-15; Romans 10:9, 13