Jehovah Rewards Faith and Courage
“Our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace and out of your hand, O king, he will rescue us.”—DANIEL 3:17.
1. What lesson was highlighted in the previous article, and why can a reexamination of the events be beneficial?
JEHOVAH GOD, the Universal Sovereign, has taught world rulers important lessons concerning his supremacy. In the preceding article, we saw how this was true of incidents recorded in the first six chapters of the book of Daniel 1-6. These same accounts can now be reexamined to see what we can learn from them in keeping with the inspired words of the apostle Paul: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction, that through our endurance and through the comfort from the Scriptures we might have hope.”—Romans 15:4.
2, 3. Who were among those taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar, and what conclusions can we reach from the meaning of their names?
2 It was in the year 617 B.C.E., during the brief reign of Jehoiachin, the son of King Jehoiakim, that King Nebuchadnezzar ordered some of the finest and wisest Jewish youths to be brought to Babylon. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.—Daniel 1:3, 4, 6.
3 Judging by the meaning of their names, it is quite apparent that in spite of the wicked conditions prevailing in Judah at the time, these four Hebrew youths had God-fearing parents. “Daniel” means “My Judge Is God.” Hananiah’s name means “Jehovah Has Shown Favor; Jehovah Has Been Gracious.” Mishael’s name possibly means “Who Is Like God?” or “Who belongs to God?” And Azariah’s name means “Jehovah Has Helped.” No doubt their very names were an incentive for them to be faithful to the one true God. In the place of these names, the Chaldeans named the four Hebrew youths Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Of course, being slaves to a foreign power, they had no choice as to what names their captors used in referring to them.—Daniel 1:7.
Faith and Courage Put to the Test
4. What indicates that Jehovah wanted his people to take seriously his laws regarding clean and unclean animals?
4 Not only did their God-fearing parents give the four Hebrews a good start in life by the names they gave them but they also must have brought them up strictly according to the Law of Moses, including its dietary features. Jehovah God himself considered these so important that it was after listing many similar prohibitions that he stated: “You must prove yourselves holy, because I am holy.”—Leviticus 11:44, 45.
5. How was the fine rearing of the four Hebrew youths put to the test?
5 This fine rearing of these four Hebrew youths was soon put to the test. How so? Because they were “appointed a daily allowance from the delicacies of the king and from his drinking wine.” (Daniel 1:5) They knew that among things forbidden by the Law of Moses were such foods as pigs, rabbits, oysters, and eels. Even meats that the Law allowed were questionable in the Babylonian court, since there was no way of knowing whether they had been properly bled. Besides, such meats may well have been defiled by pagan rituals.—Leviticus 3:16, 17.
6. How did the four Hebrews respond to the test?
6 What could the four Hebrews do? We read that Daniel, and no doubt also the other three, determined in his heart not to pollute himself with such foods. Hence, he “kept requesting” plain vegetables instead of the delicacies of the king and water instead of his wine. The matter of which tasted better did not enter their minds. It certainly took faith and courage to press this issue. Well, since Jehovah was interested in these four youths, he saw to it that the principal court official was favorably disposed toward Daniel. However, this official was afraid to grant Daniel’s request for fear of the effect such a diet would have on Daniel’s health. So Daniel asked that they be permitted to try out this diet for ten days. He had strong faith that obeying God’s Law not only would give him a good conscience but would also prove beneficial healthwise. As a result of their stand, the four Hebrews no doubt had to endure much ridicule.—Daniel 1:8-14; Isaiah 48:17, 18.
7. How were those Hebrew youths rewarded for their brave stand?
7 It had taken faith and courage for the four Hebrews to make an issue of their food. But how they were rewarded for doing so, for at the end of the ten days, they looked comelier and healthier than any of the others! Jehovah was giving them knowledge, insight, and wisdom, so that when they appeared before the king at the end of their three-year training period, he found them “ten times better than all the magic-practicing priests and the conjurers that were in all his royal realm.”—Daniel 1:20.
8. What lesson is there in this for Jehovah’s servants today?
8 There is a lesson in this for all servants of Jehovah God today. Those Hebrew youths might have reasoned that the dietary restrictions of the Mosaic Law were not so important, at least not when compared with the Ten Commandments or the laws concerning sacrifices or the annual festivals. But no, the loyal Hebrews were concerned with living up to all features of God’s Law. This calls to mind the principle that Jesus stated, as recorded at Luke 16:10: “The person faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and the person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.”—Compare Matthew 23:23.
9. How have some Witnesses displayed similar courage today?
9 Many times Jehovah’s Witnesses display similar faith and courage, such as when it comes to asking their employers for time off to attend a district convention. And time and again, an exception is made in their case. Witnesses wanting to enter the pioneer ranks or to become auxiliary pioneers have pressed their desire for part-time employment and repeatedly have been granted this privilege.
10. What lesson is there for Witness parents in all of this?
10 What a fine lesson God-fearing parents of today can learn from the evident training of the four Hebrew youths! When Christian parents really have the spiritual interests of their children at heart, they will put these first in their own lives, in keeping with Matthew 6:33. Then they can expect that their children will be able to resist the temptations and pressures of peers and schoolteachers to celebrate birthdays or holidays or to violate Scriptural principles in other ways. These God-fearing parents thereby prove Proverbs 22:6 to be true.
Fearlessly Interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s Dreams
11. How may we today follow the examples of Daniel and his three friends?
11 The second chapter of Daniel gives us another example of faith and courage. When Daniel heard of the king’s edict to destroy all the wise men of Babylon because they could not tell him his dream and its meaning, did Daniel and his three companions become panicky? Absolutely not! Rather, with supreme faith that Jehovah would give him the information the king wanted, Daniel appeared before that monarch and asked for time to provide the answer. This request was granted. Then Daniel and his three friends made the matter a subject of earnest prayer. Jehovah rewarded their faith by giving the information needed. Thereupon, Daniel offered a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving to Jehovah. (Daniel 2:23) And Daniel’s interpreting the dream of Da chapter 4 required that he tell King Nebuchadnezzar that he would spend seven years living as a beast with wild animals. This called for faith and courage of the kind that God’s people must show today in proclaiming the strong message of His vengeance against Satan’s world.
‘Staying the Force of Fire’
12, 13. Chapter 3 of Daniel relates what test facing Daniel’s three friends?
12 Daniel chapter 3 gives one of the most outstanding instances of Bible record showing how Jehovah rewarded amazing faith and courage on the part of three Hebrew servants. Imagine the scene. All the dignitaries of Babylon are assembled on the plain of Dura. Before them stands a golden image some 90 feet [27 m] high and 9 feet [2.7 m] wide. To appeal to their emotions, the king has an orchestra on hand. At the sound of the music, those assembled are to ‘fall down and worship the image of gold that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship will at the same moment be thrown into the burning fiery furnace.’—Daniel 3:5, 6.
13 There is no question about it: Refusing to obey that order called for great faith and courage. But having been ‘faithful in what was least’ prepared them to be ‘faithful in what was much.’ The fact that their stand might put other Jews in jeopardy was beside the point. They would not bow down and worship the image. Their conspicuous refusal was noticed by some of their envious associates, who lost no time in reporting this to the king.
14. How did Nebuchadnezzar respond to their refusal to bow down, and how did they answer his ultimatum?
14 In “rage and fury,” Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the three Hebrews be brought to him. His question, “Is it really so?” shows that it was incomprehensible to him that they should refuse to bow down and worship the golden image. He was willing to give them another chance, but if they still refused, they would be thrown into the burning fiery furnace. “And,” said Babylon’s haughty monarch, “who is that god that can rescue you out of my hands?” With true courage and faith in Jehovah, the three Hebrews respectfully answered the king: “We are under no necessity in this regard to say back a word to you. If it is to be, our God whom we are serving is able to rescue us. Out of the burning fiery furnace . . . , O king, he will rescue us. But if not, let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.”—Daniel 3:13-18.
15. What action did Nebuchadnezzar take?
15 If Nebuchadnezzar had been angry before, he was furious now, for we read that “the very expression of his face was changed toward” the three Hebrews. (Daniel 3:19) Indicative of his rage was his command to heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual. Then certain strong men in his army took the three Hebrews and pitched them into the fiery furnace. The flames were so great that they killed the men who carried out this task.
16. How was the faith of the three Hebrews rewarded?
16 But what a surprise the king got when he saw not just three but four men walking about in the midst of the fire wholly unharmed! When the king summoned the three Hebrews to come forth, he found that not a hair of their heads had been singed and the smell of smoke was not even on their garments. How greatly Jehovah had rewarded their faith and courage! No doubt their example was the one the apostle Paul had in mind when he listed among the great cloud of witnesses those who “stayed the force of fire.” (Hebrews 11:34) What a fine example they have been for all servants of Jehovah since then!
17. What fine similar examples do we have today?
17 Today, Jehovah’s servants are not faced with the threat of a literal fiery furnace. But ever so many have had their integrity severely put to the test when it comes to showing worshipful reverence for national symbols. Others have had their loyalty tested when it comes to buying political party cards or joining the military forces. Jehovah has sustained all such persons, enabling them to meet the challenge to their integrity successfully and thus prove the Devil to be a liar and Jehovah to be the true God.
Another Example of Faith and Courage
18. How did Belshazzar display contempt for Jehovah, the God of the Jews, as recorded at Daniel chapter 5, verses 3, 4?
18 Yet another example of faith and courage is recorded in the book of Daniel, in Da chapter 5. Belshazzar, king of Babylon, was enjoying a sumptuous sacrilegious feast with a thousand of his grandees, concubines, and secondary wives. Suddenly, strange handwriting appeared on the wall. This so unnerved the king that his hip joints were unloosened and his knees knocked. Again, Daniel, the servant of the true God, was called upon for an interpretation because all the wise men of Babylon were baffled.
19. What was outstanding when Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall?
19 Standing all alone there in that splendorous and hostile environment did not overawe Daniel or cause him to water down his message or to lose sight of the issue. Poised and calm, with clear, dignified speech, he gave a witness concerning his God. Not content with simply interpreting the handwriting, Daniel reminded the king that Jehovah God had humbled his grandfather by causing him to live as a wild beast until he came to recognize that the Most High God is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind. “Although you knew all this,” Daniel told Belshazzar, ‘you did not humble yourself but desecrated the vessels of Jehovah’s temple and praised the gods of gold, silver, copper, iron, wood, and stone that neither see, hear, nor know anything. But the God to whom all your ways belong, you did not glorify. Therefore, this decree has gone forth from him. You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting, and your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’ Yes, again Daniel set a splendid example in faith and courage for God’s servants today.—Daniel 5:22-28.
20. During the reign of Darius, what further example of great faith did Daniel set?
20 Coming to chapter 6 of Daniel, we have one more fine example of faith and courage. King Darius was now the ruler and made Daniel one of the three chief rulers of the kingdom. Others, envious of Daniel, persuaded the monarch to enact a law that for 30 days no one could make a petition to anyone except the king. They realized that this was the only way they could get a pretext against Daniel. He ignored the law and continued to pray in his roof chamber with his window open, facing Jerusalem. Being found guilty of violating the king’s decree, Daniel was consigned to the lions’ pit in keeping with the penalty prescribed by the law. Again God rewarded Daniel for his faith and courage. How? As Hebrews 11:33 puts it, Jehovah “stopped the mouths of lions.”
21. In view of the fine examples of faith and courage recorded in the first six chapters of the book of Daniel 1-6, what should be our firm resolve?
21 What faith-strengthening events Daniel chapters 1 to 6 relate! How greatly Jehovah God rewarded those manifesting faith and courage! On the one hand, this occurred by their being exalted and on the other hand, by their experiencing miraculous deliverances. Truly, we can draw comfort and hope from the experiences of these faithful witnesses when faced with trials. Why, for this very purpose these things were recorded! May we, therefore, resolve to be fine imitators of such faith and courage.—Romans 15:4; Hebrews 6:12.
Questions in Review
□ The names of the four Hebrew youths suggest what as to their rearing?
□ The Hebrews’ meeting of the test regarding food has what lesson for us?
□ How have Jehovah’s servants today had their integrity tested as did the three Hebrews?
□ How did Daniel manifest faith and courage in witnessing to Belshazzar?
[Picture on page 17]
Daniel and his companions learned to say no