Daniel and three of his friends, all assumed to be in their teens, had been captured in Judah and taken to Babylon. The king recognized that these young men already had some education, but he wanted them trained in the culture, language and mores of his country and then assigned to important governing posts.
Being uprooted and carried off to a new country might have been scary for one, but since they were together, these friends made it something of an adventure. They kept their heads and learned to cope. Their friendship was a vital factor.
Daniel, it seems was a fearless, natural leader, but Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah supported him, and together they were stronger than a four-strand braided rope.
When the king thought to honour and impress them by sending food and drink from his own table to these boys, Daniel took a look and recalled training at home in healthy foods according to God's laws. He negotiated with the official in charge of them, to do a test for ten days, giving them only raw vegetables and water instead of the greasy meats, gravies, pastries and wines. The test proved his point; they were brighter and healthier. So they were allowed to continue with a healthy diet.
Some years later, by God's grace, and in answer to the concerted prayers of his friends, Daniel was able to know and explain to King Nebuchadnezzar, his dream of the huge statue made of different materials. As it turns out, that dream summarizes the rise and fall of all the empires of world history!
Unfortunately, it all went to the king's head. He ordered a huge golden statute of himself to be made, and then he wanted all his subjects to fall down and worship it.
Daniel may have been busy with official duties, but his three friends were in the crowd that was to fall down and worship the idol. They showed their own strength of character by refusing to do so, believing that to be a great dishonour to the One True God. They were confident God could deliver them from the fiery furnace, but even if He did not, they were not about to deny their God. This became another opportunity for God to be glorified.
The soldiers who bound and threw the three friends into the furnace were overcome and died from the extreme heat. Yet, as the king stared into the furnace, he saw four men walking about in the fire, and one of them, he was convinced was God Himself! So he called them to come out.
The three men came out, and everyone was astonished to see that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair on their heads singed, and their clothes were not scorched. There was not even a smell of fire on them! This converted King Nebuchadnezzar to faith in God. He commanded everyone everywhere to worship this much greater God.
These true stories prove the greatness of God, but also reinforce what we learned in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. “Two are better than one.... and a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” So another key lesson is the importance of standing together with our friends. On our own we will lack courage and fail, but you can overcome the world if you have a good friend or two standing firm with you!
Of course, that implies that when your friend seems to be standing alone, you will go stand with him or her too.
[Note: if you missed any articles in this series of article on Friendships in the Bible, and want to read them, you'll find them all linked from this index which is about Friendship]
My novel, Ruthe's Secret Roses, and this related site have a Friendship theme. By getting to know and follow around the heroine, Ruthe, you can learn a lot about friendships, and that there is one that is the golden key to enriching all your other friendships and making them more satisfying. The site is more like a perfumed poupouri of articles and pages on that theme, and I've started a series on the friendships we observe in the Bible and what practical insights we can gain for our own friendships by thinking about them
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