God’s Four Alternatives
God’s Four Alternatives is an inspiring record of four men who conquered overwhelming challenges in life. By following their examples of faithfulness, we too can know that it is possible to survive serious problems, if we put our trust completely in God.
The Bible states: For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4
It’s estimated that nearly 2,600 years ago a series of events was set in motion which have a direct application for God’s servants today living in a world filled with outward glory, in great spiritual darkness, and on a road leading to destruction.
We’ll begin our study in the book of Daniel
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. Daniel 1:1
Some very special young people from Jerusalem, who had been taken to Babylon as captives by king Nebuchadnezzar, were about to begin a very new life.
And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. Daniel 1:3-5
The plan was to change God’s representatives… to make them match their new surroundings.
Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego. Daniel 1:6, 7
Nebuchadnezzar wanted Daniel and his three friends to fit into, and be as much like, the existing world as possible in the following ways:
The plan was for them to become Chaldean teachers. Within three years everything in their life was expected to reflect “Babylon”. But, God had other plans….
A big test at the dinner table of the king
…Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, p rove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse. Daniel 1:8-16
I can imagine Daniel saying to his friends… “I can’t eat this food! There’s got to be something better. Let’s suggest something…” And because of the way the problem was approached, and handled, Daniel and his friends got what they wanted.
When the full three year period of training concluded, what was noticed?
Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. Daniel 1:18-20
Where did the ability of these four young men come from?
… God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Daniel 1:17
As time continued, more tests came
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3:1
All the people of the land were commanded to come to the Plain of Dura to dedicate and worship this image made of gold, that stood nearly 12 stories high. It was to be a glorious occasion!
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Daniel 3:2, 3
Much had been done to mark this great event. The king was there. The important people of the kingdom were assembled. All the king’s musicians were prepared. And in harmony with the secular humanistic customs of those times … when a king wanted to have his way… laws were legislated to enforce his will.
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Daniel 3:4-6
- Everyone saw the golden image
- All were aware of the details of the king’s decree
- All heard the music being played
- All bowed down… except… three young Jews
- Some Chaldeans noticed the situation and quickly went to advise the king that there were three traitors in the camp.
Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Daniel 3:7-15
The king was furious and demanded an explanation! He was willing however to let the accused think about the consequences, and reconsider what was expected of them.
These young people chose not to back down, change the principles of truth they held, or give up their faith in God. They were God’s servants… His representatives…
Serving a clear notice to the Babylonian king regarding their position in this new crisis Scripture tells us:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Daniel 3:16-18
Notice that in the previous verses the young men didn’t say “…the God we acknowledge…”; but, “Our God, whom we serve.”
They had made up their minds what they would do, and they stayed true to it, even though they realized that to take such a position meant they would certainly be condemned to death.
What happened next?
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Daniel 3:19-23
The king had a big problem with his temper in this very embarrassing situation… and the oven for execution was heated 7 times hotter… so hot in fact, that the soldiers who were commanded to escort the three convicts died almost instantly throwing them into it. What occurred next is most surprising.
Try to imagine this scene
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Daniel 3:24-27
God intervened…and took a real life threatening situation, and turned it into a great life saving blessing.
The heathen worship party now became a platform upon which God could be glorified.
How do you think the king knew anything about the Son of God? Could it be that someone had shared their faith him?
Whatever the king had been told definitely left an impression; and now he remembered. But this wasn’t the end of the Dura experience… for the king soon made another decree, and elevated Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to a place of great honour.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, t hat every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3:28-30
What an experience! There’s much more that could be included, but we must continue on… for the recorded experience is not finished yet…
Not long after this, another test arose; again; this time with Daniel. But, now the empire was now in the hands of the Persian king Darius.
The Bible records that Daniel was well liked by this new ruler.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Daniel 6:1-3
But, Daniel was not liked by everyone.
Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Daniel 6:4 These leading men sought to find a way to make big trouble for this exalted Jewish captive: Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. Daniel 6:5
What was the plan?
The plan was to cause Daniel to stumble, and fall over his own religious convictions.
If you are old enough (and watched TV in the U.S.A. many years ago), you might remember a television program in the 1950’s called “Queen for a Day”… Well, these leaders decided to make king Darius “god for a month”!
But it was really designed to be a trap for Daniel.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. Daniel 6:6-9
The new law said that no one could pray to anyone, except the king, for 30 days. On the surface it sounded to the king like a great idea. According to the ways of this country, a law, once signed by the king, it could not be changed.
Daniel, however, was a man of prayer. He prayed several times daily, and to stop was inconceivable to him. His spiritual life created a potential problem in the light of this new law. And there was nothing he could do to change it.
Couldn’t he just stop praying for a month? Was he being unwisely stubborn? Couldn’t he just hide his prayer life for awhile?
The Bible gives us an idea of the next events that took place:
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Daniel 6:10-18
When the king was made more aware of what had been secretly arranged by his leading men he tried to free Daniel; but the law was the law, and it couldn’t be altered. Daniel would have to be put into a pit with vicious lions… a certain death! After what was probably the longest night in the king’s life… the Bible records:
… the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. Daniel 6:19-23
Note that the king didn’t say: “O Daniel, believer in God”; but “O Daniel, servant of the Living God…” God and Daniel had a very close relationship. And God had honoured His faithful servant by sparing his life; which also made king Darius extremely happy.
An Application for Today
The experiences of these four men are examples of true faith and love for God despite having to face serious, life threatening, trials. They were God’s four alternatives in a foreign land.
They represent what God can do if we let Him become involved in our daily life and experiences.
Wherefore the LORD God of Israel saith… them that honour me I will honour… 1 Samuel 2:30
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may not choose to deliver us from the fire or a lion’s den; but He will do something far better:
When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour…
Isaiah 43:2, 3
Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I [God] deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation. Psalm 91: 14-16
Like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel, God’s four alternatives in the kingdoms of Babylon and Persia, true Christians are to be God’s alternatives for today.
We are to let the world know where we stand regarding God’s truth and His service. No matter what work you do, or position you hold; you need to reveal to the world what good citizens of God’s kingdom believe and act like.
What does God want His people to be?
And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them… Deuteronomy 23:13
God’s people are to be the leading… not the trailing… part in this world. The head… not the tail! To stand faithful to God’s truth even though it may involve risking your life to do so is a great challenge; and will take special strength from heaven to maintain.
The greatest tests are yet to come in the days ahead; but we can serve notice, in love, by word and example, that:
Our kingdom is not of this world
That the Lord whom we serve is coming soon to rescue His people
That His truth is not negotiable.
That we cannot, and will not, be bought or sold.
That our life, faith, and future, are settled with Him forever.
We are counseled in the Scriptures:
…be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Romans 12:2
Or in other words:
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. Romans 12:2 (Phillips translation)
Be not like those who fear, and bow to the dictates of men against God; but more and more each day, stand clearly for the truth that God’s word tells us to believe. May God bless and keep you in His care as you determine to stay faithful to Him by His grace and power always.
This article was written by Chris Teske
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