“Thank you for seeing me, sir. My name is Seth.”
“Come, sit down, Seth,” Daniel responded. ” I knew your grandfather well. He was an administrator over the province of Babylon for many years. When your father asked if I would meet with you, I was delighted. Tell me about yourself.”
“Well, sir, I’m having a hard time fitting in with the other Jewish exiles. I was born in Babylon, as my father was, so I have never seen Jerusalem. I don’t want to offend you, sir. My father greatly respects and admires you, as do all the Jews, and I know you are a senior advisor in the king’s court.”
“You may speak plainly to me, Seth,” Daniel responded.
“Well, I don’t think we should be cooperating with the Babylonians. My father says we must respect their laws and be good citizens . . .”
“Throw them in the fire” Daniel interrupted, “I understand that you recently got into a fistfight with a Babylonian, and you have been urging the other young Jewish men to revolt against the government.”
“If we go along with these Babylonians, then we’re as bad as they are!” Seth said angrily. “When I was little my father told me stories about how he, his two friends and you stood up to the king. Now he wants me to just get along with these pagans. I say it’s hypocritical!”
Seth had risen to his feet and was shaking his fists.
“Sit down, Seth,” Daniel said firmly, “and lower your voice.”
“My grandfather was a hero and everyone respected him.” Seth struggled to speak more softly. “He stood up for what he believed.”
Seth fidgeted and kept clenching and unclenching his fists.
“I wish that I had been born when you were, sir. I would have been proud to stand up with you and my grandfather against these Babylonians.”
“So, that’s what you think we did?” Daniel questioned.
“Yes, of course!” Seth responded. “You didn’t care if it cost you your life; you refused to bow down to these pagans! I wish I could have lived back then! I would gladly have died with you if necessary.”
Seth stood to his feet again. “I wouldn’t have been a coward like my father and so many of the Jewish exiles!”
“Ah, so because your father refuses to fight against the Babylonians you think he is a coward!” Daniel looked squarely at Seth.
“I mean no disrespect, sir, but yes, that’s exactly what I think!”
“Sit down, Seth,” Daniel said firmly.
Seth quietly sat down.
“Do you have any idea why our people were taken into captivity and brought here to Babylon?” Daniel asked.
“Because our people weren’t strong enough to withstand King Nebuchadnezzar’s army,” Seth replied. “If they had been better trained fighters, they could have fought off his army. See, that’s my point. The young men of my generation need military training. If we can just––”
“Stop!” Daniel interrupted.
Daniel sat in silence for a moment, as if pondering his next word. Then he spoke. “The Jewish people went into exile because they did not obey God’s commandments. God had blessed them and made them prosper. He had defeated their enemies and done miracles on behalf of His people. But they forgot all the wonderful things God had done, and they lived any way they chose. They scorned His commands and rejected His love time after time. They treated Him with contempt and put other things ahead of Him. God sent His prophets to warn them again and again, but they refused to repent.”
Daniel looked squarely at Seth and asked, “Seth, do you think our people would have gone into captivity if they had faithfully served Almighty God?”
“I don’t know,” Seth replied. “I’ve never thought about it.”
“No, we would still be living in Jerusalem on our own land. No army, no matter how powerful, is a match for God.”
Daniel paused, and then continued speaking. “Seth, your grandfather and I did not stand up against the Babylonians––”
“Yes, you did!” Seth interrupted.
“No, we stood up for our God,” Daniel replied. “We refused to bow down because our God commands us not to worship anyone but Him. We were not revolting against the Babylonians; we were obeying our God.”
“I’m not sure I understand the difference, sir,” Seth responded.
“Seth, let me tell you about your grandfather. When King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem he took many young Jewish men back to Babylon with him. Ashpenaz, the chief court official, changed your grandfather’s name from Hananiah to Shadrach. The chief official trained your grandfather, our friends Meshach and Abednego and me for 3 years. We learned the Babylonian language and literature.
“We did not want to break God’s law by eating food that He had forbidden us to eat, so we received permission to eat only vegetables and drink only water for 10 days. At the end of the 10 days we looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had eaten the royal food. So we received permission to continue eating only vegetables and drinking only water.
“Why do you think we looked healthier?” Daniel asked.
“I don’t know,” Seth responded.
“We had obeyed God, and He blessed us for it,” Daniel said. “God also blessed our studies and gave us knowledge, wisdom and understanding that far exceeded that of the magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom. At the end of the 3 years we entered the king’s service.
“When the king had a dream, he summoned the magicians, astrologers and sorcerers to tell him what he had dreamed. Of course, they could not. So he ordered that all the wise men of Babylon be put to death, including your grandfather, Meshach, Abednego and me. I asked the king for a little time. Then we prayed that God would reveal the dream, and He did. When I told the king his dream and gave him the interpretation of it he appointed your grandfather, Meshach and Abednego as administrators over the province of Babylon. I remained at the royal court as ruler of the entire province. So, do you see that we did not attain these positions through our own wisdom or power?”
Seth nodded. “But tell me about when my grandfather stood up to the king and refused to bow down to the king’s statue of gold.”
“The king had commanded that everyone must fall down and worship the statue,” Daniel responded. “But God commanded us to worship Him alone. So when some astrologers saw that your grandfather, Meshach and Abednego did not worship the statue, they reported it to the king. The king was furious and threatened to throw them into a blazing furnace if they did not fall down and worship the image.”
Daniel paused, and then asked, “Do you know what they said to the king?”
“‘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 will not serve your gods or worship the image,'” Seth responded. “My grandfather told me the story so many times that I remember those words.”
Seth thought for a moment, and then added, “I always thought my grandfather and his friends sounded so strong when they said those words to the king–like they were totally fearless. But I think I’m starting to see that maybe they were really abandoning themselves to God, rather than being brave.”
“When your grandfather told you the story you already knew the outcome,” Daniel commented.
“That’s right, since he was telling me the story I knew that he had to have survived the experience,” Seth replied. “But I guess when he and his friends spoke to the king they didn’t know what the outcome would be. They were simply trusting God.
“Can I finish telling the story?” Seth asked.
“Please do so,” Daniel responded.
The Furnace and Protection
“King Nebuchadnezzar was enraged and ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. He commanded his strongest soldiers to throw my grandfather, Meshach and Abednego into the blazing furnace. The fire was so hot that the flames killed the soldiers who threw them into the furnace. Then the king leaped to his feet and said, ‘Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the fire? But look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!’
“Then the king shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out!’ So they came out and everyone saw that the fire had not harmed them in any way at all, and they didn’t even smell like smoke. God had done a miracle for them because they trusted in Him,” Seth concluded.
Daniel responded, “The king also said, ‘They trusted in God and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.'”
“That really was their only motivation, wasn’t it?” Seth said.
“Yes, it was,” Daniel replied. “They simply wanted to obey God.”
“I guess I have a lot to think about,” Seth commented. “I realize now that when my grandfather faced the most important decision of his life he made the right choice.”
“Yes, he did,” Daniel said softly. “What about you, Seth?”
“I want to make the right choices, too. I know that my destiny depends upon it.”