The uncommon courage of Esther, Thomas and Shadrach

Shadrach and friends – death in defying the king

King Nebuchadnezzar – ruler of the Babylonian Empire – built an idol to his own accomplishments and ordered everyone to worship it. The consequence for disobedience was extreme: “Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” (Daniel 3:6.)

The Fiery Furnace(Wikipedia)

The Fiery Furnace (Wikipedia)

As you might expect, someone didn’t worship the idol. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – Jewish men who had become officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s empire – refused to worship the idol. When the king demanded obedience they replied:

King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, emphasis added.)

They knew that God could save them, and yet even if he did not they chose to worship God alone. In facing death for defying King Nebuchadnezzar, they looked to God as the one to stay faithful to.

Esther and Xerxes – death in approaching the king

Queen Esther had a secret. No one in the palace knew that the young woman King Xerxes had chosen was Jewish. When the prime minister started a campaign to wipe out the Jews from every corner of the empire – an empire which stretched from Africa to India – Esther’s uncle Mordecai told her she had to speak to the king. The only problem was that no one was allowed to walk in on the king uninvited. Esther told Mordecai:

… for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king. (Esther 4:11.)

Esther faced mortal consequences if she approached King Xerxes but Mordecai convinced her to try anyway, concluding, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14.)

Esther and Mordecai (Wikipedia)

Esther and Mordecai (Wikipedia)

Esther asked Mordecai to organize a three day fast among the Jews and said, “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16, emphasis added.) She knew that death could result, but she chose to follow the path God had put her in.

Thomas and Jesus – death at the side of the King

Thomas (Wikipedia)

Thomas (Wikipedia)

Toward the end of his three years of ministry, Jesus told his disciples he would return to the area near Jerusalem. His friends tried to warn him against it, pointing out that the last time he was in Judea there were people who tried to stone him to death. Jesus told them that despite the danger, he was going. One of his friends spoke up:

Then Thomas … said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, emphasis added.)

Jesus, the King of kings, asked simply that they come with him. Some argued against going, but Thomas knew that it was better to face death at Jesus’ side than to stay safely behind without him.

Life by following the King

The word of these followers of God are striking: “but even if he does not”, “if I perish, I perish”, “that we may die with him”. Yet they trusted God, the source of true life:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3.)

You likely will never face death in defying a king like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did, nor in approaching a king either as Esther did, nor even in accompanying the King as Thomas did. But you face other obstacles than physical death.

It is in your day-to-day choices that you decide whether to defy or approach or walk alongside. The urge to conform can be strong, pressing upon you, telling you that you don’t need to defy anyone in order to remain faithful to God, you don’t need to speak up in order to carry out the task God has given you, you don’t need to walk in the way of Christ.

But you know that following the King has a price, and you must decide if it’s worth it. (Luke 14:25-35.)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego decided it is.

Esther decided it is.

Thomas decided it is.

What have you decided?

***Following God1


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11 Responses to The uncommon courage of Esther, Thomas and Shadrach

  1. Your post made me think of the Daniel study (by Beth Moore) that I’ve just finished at church. One of the things she emphasized was how “setting our hearts” on something ALWAYS leads to action; the two can’t be separated. Daniel and his friends and the other people you mention here had their hearts set on God and so when it came time to choose, they chose to follow God. It challenged me to think about what my heart is set on and how that is reflected in my actions.

    • Tim says:

      That is a great insight about where our hearts lead us. As Paul told the Colossian church: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” (Colossians 3:1.)

  2. Donald Johnson says:

    There are other believers that have faced death rather than back down. People died so I could have a Bible in my native language (English). People died so that I could be baptized in water as a believer. People died so that there would be freedom of religion in the USA and people are still being killed over this. I am grateful.

    • Tim says:

      I personally know people who have faced death in their work bringing the gospel to some of the darkest places on earth, both here in the US and overseas. I am grateful too.

  3. Always loved the black humour in Thomas’s declaration. You could read Peter making a declaration like that full of fire and zeal. Not grumpy Thomas, patron saint of pessimists and grouches.
    Disciples: Jesus, you’ll get yourself killed if you go there
    Jesus: Let’s go.
    Thomas: Tch, lets go with him and get ourselves killed too.
    Of course the love and dedication was there too, behind all the dark humour.

  4. “The urge to conform can be strong, pressing upon you, telling you that you don’t need to defy anyone in order to remain faithful to God, you don’t need to speak up in order to carry out the task God has given you, you don’t need to walk in the way of Christ even when everyone else is saying not to.”

    And sometimes it’s the religious leaders (and their followers) who are the most vocal in telling you to sit down and shut up. I haven’t been burned or stoned to death for my ‘sins’, but it’s obvious that I am considered ‘dead’ by many of the religious people in my town.

    My husband and I have paid the price for speaking up about the injustice and lack of integrity we have witnessed, but we cannot pretend that all is well while people continue to be damaged and turned away from Jesus by those who claim to represent him. It’s worth it though to see the look of relief and gratitude on the faces of those who finally understand that they are not alone 🙂

  5. This post reminds me of this song. Not overly keen on dying but feel free to delete:

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