Passage: Daniel 3:13–26
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Being faithful to God in exile involves worshipping him alone amidst the competing idols and ideologies of our day. Doing so is often costly but it’s a powerful witness to our surrounding culture and it makes compelling our “subversive Savior” who himself enters the fiery trial with us. In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego show us how to remain faithful to God amidst such pressures.
First, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are an example of subversive worship when they refuse to worship the golden image that king Nebuchadnezzar erected, and instead worshipped Yahweh. Because they worshipped the true God, they were able to see through the pomp, ceremony, and lockstep obedience that everyone was giving Nebuchadnezzar, and see that his golden image was in reality powerless. Today, we too need to be able to see through the illusory impressiveness of the various idols and “isms” of our day, and worship Jesus alone.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s worship was also a subversive witness to the king because they determined to worship God even when it didn’t “pay off” for them, and even if it caused their death. Even if God did not rescue them, they told Nebuchadnezzar, “be it known that we will not serve your Gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (3:18). Serving God even when things aren’t going our way is a witness to the world, because it subverts people’s understandings of why we love God or practice our faith, demonstrating that we don’t love God because of the benefits he brings but because of who he is.
Finally, we can do all of this because we have a subversive Savior. Jesus is the only God who enters the furnace of our world, experiences the fire of our sin for us on the cross, and defeats it by succumbing to it in death, then rising again as the true king over it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego experienced a foretaste of Jesus’ sacrificial deliverance right in the heart of the furnace: “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” Nebuchadnezzar asked, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the fire, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the Gods” (3:24-25). When we truly grasp that this is who Jesus is and what he does, it energizes our love for and obedience to him, and also gives us confidence that he will walk with us through any fire we face.
- Subversive Worship (3:1-15)
- Subversive Witness (3:16-18)
- Subversive Savior (3:24-26)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide
Re-read the passage (Daniel 3:13-26)
Subversive Worship (3:1-15)
Q) INTRO QUESTION: Have you ever experienced a time when serving Jesus was costly because it entailed refusing to worship or celebrate what most people around you were worshipping or celebrating? When was it and what happened?
Q) Re-read Daniel 3:1-7. Pastor Bobby mentioned that the repetition in these verses (the titles of the government officials, the musical instruments, etc.) are meant to comically illustrate how everyone is marching to the beat of Nebuchadnezzar’s drum. Can you think of other idols or ideologies in our culture today to which people’s worship is similarly comprehensive and unquestioning? What about idols/ideologies specific to your workplace and vocation? Your family?
Q) Though the idols of our day are powerless in reality, and unworthy of our worship, why do you think they still seem so impressive and alluring? Give a concrete example.
Q) Re-read Daniel 3:8-12. In verse 12 in particular, how do Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s accusers describe these men’s refusal to worship Nebuchadnezzar? (NOTE: The key point is that they “paid no attention” to the king.)
Subversive Witness (3:16-18)
Q) Re-read Daniel 3:16-18. What stands out to you about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s response to Nebuchadnezzar?
Q) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego determined to serve God even if he didn’t deliver them out of the fire furnace. What do you think this says about the nature of their faith? What does it say about who they believed God to be?
Q) Pastor Bobby called this determination to worship and serve God, regardless of the circumstances, a “subversive” witness. In what sense does worshipping and serving God, even when it’s not “paying off,” subvert people’s typical understandings of why someone practices a religion or serves a God?
Q) Have you ever seen an example of another Christian or group of Christians continuing to serve God even when doing so didn’t seem to pay off for them? What effect did their witness have on you, and on others?
Q) Have you ever had a time when someone you know who identifies as a Christian has stopped serving God because things weren’t going their way? Have you ever done this? What effect do you think this has on our witness to our community?
Subversive Savior (3:24-26)
Q) Re-read 3:19-25. What, if anything, stands out to you about the specific way in which God rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? What does this tell us about who God is?
Q) How might the realization that “the Lord is in the fire” of your trial with you fortify you to face a trial you’re currently going through? How might this truth reframe your expectations of what you expect God to do for you in this trial?
Q) How does this passage give us a foretaste of the greater deliverance that Jesus provides for us, and the way he provides it? How does this show Jesus to be unique, compelling, and worthy of worship?
Q) CASE STUDY: You’re talking to a friend who is not a Christian. They mention to you how a lot of religion seems to be motivated by self-interest. “I’ve asked a lot of Christians why they believe in Jesus,” she says, “And they usually say something along the lines of how Jesus helps them in their marriage, their work, their career, etc. Something about that doesn’t sit well with me—or at least it seems a little flimsy.” In light of this passage in Daniel 3, and this Sunday’s sermon, how might you gently have a conversation with them about this?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and
outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.