King Nebuchadnezzar built a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet thick. He set it up on the Dura plain in the province of Babylon.
He then ordered all the important leaders in the province, everybody who was anybody, to the dedication ceremony of the statue.
They all came for the dedication, all the important people, and took their places before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
A herald then proclaimed in a loud voice: "Attention, everyone! Every race, color, and creed, listen!
When you hear the band strike up - all the trumpets and trombones, the tubas and baritones, the drums and cymbals - fall to your knees and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
Anyone who does not kneel and worship shall be thrown immediately into a roaring furnace."
The band started to play, a huge band equipped with all the musical instruments of Babylon, and everyone - every race, color, and creed - fell to their knees and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Just then, some Babylonian fortunetellers stepped up and accused the Jews.
They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "Long live the king!
You gave strict orders, O king, that when the big band started playing, everyone had to fall to their knees and worship the gold statue,
and whoever did not go to their knees and worship it had to be pitched into a roaring furnace.
Well, there are some Jews here - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - whom you have placed in high positions in the province of Babylon. These men are ignoring you, O king. They don't respect your gods and they won't worship the gold statue you set up."
Furious, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought in. When the men were brought in,
Nebuchadnezzar asked, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don't respect my gods and refuse to worship the gold statue that I have set up?
I'm giving you a second chance - but from now on, when the big band strikes up you must go to your knees and worship the statue I have made. If you don't worship it, you will be pitched into a roaring furnace, no questions asked. Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, "Your threat means nothing to us.
If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king.
But even if he doesn't, it wouldn't make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn't serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up."
Nebuchadnezzar, his face purple with anger, cut off Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace fired up seven times hotter than usual.
He ordered some strong men from the army to tie them up, hands and feet, and throw them into the roaring furnace.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, bound hand and foot, fully dressed from head to toe, were pitched into the roaring fire.
Because the king was in such a hurry and the furnace was so hot, flames from the furnace killed the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it,
while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Suddenly King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm and said, "Didn't we throw three men, bound hand and foot, into the fire?" "That's right, O king," they said.
"But look!" he said. "I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!"
Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!" Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire.
All the important people, the government leaders and king's counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn't so much as touched the three men - not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them!
Nebuchadnezzar said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him! They ignored the king's orders and laid their bodies on the line rather than serve or worship any god but their own.
"Therefore I issue this decree: Anyone anywhere, of any race, color, or creed, who says anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and their houses torn down. There has never been a god who can pull off a rescue like this."
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)