One of the more well-known narratives in the scriptures is the story of the three Hebrew children and the fiery furnace. The account is recorded in Daniel 3 and, on the surface, is about a confrontation between three Hebrew boys and King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, who ruled most of the known world at that time. However, on a deeper level, the event is more about God’s deliverance of the righteous and His faithfulness to His people.
Most people know the story, many having learned it as a child. It is about three young Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who had been taken captive from their home in Judah and taken to Babylon to serve King Nebuchadnezzar. The boys were godly youth who continued to faithfully serve God after arriving in this heathen, foreign land that was characterized by idolatry, depravity, and all kinds of other ungodliness. When they refused to worship an idol as commanded by the king, they were thrown alive into a fiery furnace. Rather than being consumed by the fire, God miraculously protected them in the fire. The result was that not only were the three Hebrew young men saved from a certain and horrible death, but the king, upon witnessing God’s deliverance, commanded that everyone in the kingdom worship the true God.
As remarkable as this account is in demonstrating God’s awesome power and deliverance of His people, there is a compelling question that this event raises that is not usually considered. Why did these three Hebrew boys remain faithful to God when they were taken from family and friends, from temple worship, and from a strong, godly support system, and were placed in an ungodly environment in which attempts were made to force them to participate in immoral and blasphemous practices? Many Bible scholars contend that they were no more than 17 or 18 years old when this occurred. Where did these young men get the spiritual and moral fiber to withstand these pressures and remain faithful to God even in the face of certain death?
To really begin to answer the question of the spiritual and moral strength of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, one must go back almost 850 years to the time of Moses to the second writing of the Law as the Israelites were preparing to enter the Promised Land and examine Deuteronomy 6:1-9. This passage is known to Jews as the Shema (sh mä’) and is the core Hebrew prayer.
Essentially, the Shema is an affirmation that God is one God, that we should love Him and learn and obey His commandments. In addition, it is a divine command that parents must teach their children to know, love, and obey God – at all times, in all places. In other words, the Biblical principle and mandate for parents is that they should be diligent to ensure that their children are taught to love and obey God at all times and always in an environment that is infused with the Word of God. This principle is reiterated in the New Testament in Ephesians 6:4 where parents are commanded to raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
From the time God inspired Moses to write the command around 1450 B.C., the Israelites, noting its importance, began faithfully obeying this mandate. (Even today, observant Jews recite this prayer each morning and evening and it is the most important part of the prayer service in Judaism. Parents teach this prayer to their children when they go to bed at night.) However, as the scriptures reveal, the spiritual journey of the Israelites because a cyclical pattern of serving God, experiencing spiritual refreshing and blessing, falling into sin, experiencing God’s judgment and sin’s consequences, repenting, serving God, etc. Over time, the law of God was lost, even to the point that the Israelites did not even know that there had been the law.
Fast forward about 830 years. Judah had a new king, Josiah. Though he began his reign at age eight, the Bible records in 2 Kings 22 that he was a godly king. In the eighteenth year of his reign, the scroll of the law of God was discovered in the temple and brought to Josiah. When Josiah read it, he realized it for what it was.
Josiah called a meeting in Jerusalem of all the people in Judah and read all the words from the book – the Law of God – to them. The Bible says in 2 Kings 23:3 that King Josiah and all the people covenanted together to obey all the law of God. Obviously, the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:1-9, was included in the law of which the people promised to obey.
This event occurred about 16 years before Shadrach, Meshach, and Obednego were challenged by Nebuchadnezzar and thrown into the fiery furnace. They were just tots when the law was found by Josiah. Without a doubt, their parents were included in the congregation of all the people in Judah at the Jerusalem meeting who covenanted to obey the law of God.
Where did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego get the spiritual and moral fiber to remain faithful to God in an ungodly, debased society even in the face of certain death? They had to receive it from moral training and an education based upon the Word of God that
their parents ensured they received in obedience to God’s mandate. This has tremendous importance for Christian parents and the church at large today. Today’s children are challenged similarly to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They live in a society that is increasingly anti-Christian and their faith is continually challenged by regular exposure to false religions, immorality, and other sinful practices. For the most part, parents and churches have not adequately prepared their children to effectively face these challenges and remain faithful to God. In addition, Chuck Edwards states that up to 59% of youth who claim to be born-again Christians when they enter college no longer make that claim by the time they graduate. Barna also found that only 4% of Americans have a biblical worldview as the basis for their decision-making. Obviously, the majority of children today are not taught how to defend their faith and not succumb to other worldviews they encounter in the secular classroom and elsewhere.
This, then, is the challenge of our day. God’s mandate to parents has not been negated. Christian parents have a high calling and responsibility to ensure that their children receive an education into which the scriptures and biblical principles are fully integrated, that instills a biblical worldview, and that is in an environment thoroughly infused with the Word of God.
Many parents can achieve this through effective home schooling. However, in the context of today’s society and family life, Christian schools provide an excellent opportunity for parents to ensure that their children receive a quality education that is founded upon the Word of God.
While the mandate is primarily to parents, churches also have an important role to play. The Word of God clearly teaches that the local church should, in part, lead families and individual believers to Christian maturity and an ever-deepening walk with God. The Bible also teaches that the Christian education of children is a primary component of fulfilling that task. In fact, God calls some congregations to start and maintain a Christian school. Other local churches may not be called specifically to have a Christian school, but the importance of the task to their own families and children strongly suggests that they should provide financial and other support to one or more existing Christian schools that serves their families.
The importance of successfully completing this task can hardly be overstated. Daniel Webster expressed it very well, If we work upon marble, it will perish. If we work upon brass, time will efface it. If we rear temples, they will crumble to dust.
But if we work upon men’s immortal minds, if we imbue them with high principles, with the just fear of God and love of their fellow men, we engrave on those tablets something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity. Christian schools, in partnership with Christian families and local churches, by providing an education that integrates the Word of God, instills a biblical worldview, develops Christian character, and inspires a heart for Christian service, prepares children to be the Shadrachs, Meshachs, and Abednegos of our day.
Barna, G., 2003. Think like Jesus. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers Barna, G., 2003. Transforming children into spiritual giants. Nashville, TN: Integrity Publishers
Edwards, C., 2007. Why students walk away from Christ…and what can be done about it. Retrieved October 22, 2010 at http:// www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview- times/article.php?articleid=1858