Bible Study: Character in the Book of Daniel
“Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.” -J.C. Watts Jr., Baptist minister and former U.S. Representative from Kentucky.
The book of Daniel, chapters 1-3, recounts a story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, Jewish young men living in exile in Babylon under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar II.
Daniel and his friends are living in the King’s palace undergoing a training of sorts to be of service to the Babylonian king. In the midst of all of the palace opulence, these young men strive to retain their Biblical purity and their devotion to God while not bowing down to the King, who assumes the role of god in Babylon.
As a result of their unwavering devotion to God, these three were sent to their death into a blazing fiery furnace. This penalty for their steadfast dedication to God, not King Nebuchadnezzar, was not a surprise to them. Death was an absolute certainty if they chose not to bow down and worship King Nebuchadnezzar, and yet, in spite of death, they chose to maintain their commitment to the one and only true God.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “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 usfrom 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)
In response, the King heated the furnace seven times hotter than normal. Then, the unspeakable happened. To everyone’s utter amazement, God delivered these young men, and none of them were harmed by the fire, not the slightest singe on their clothing or soot on their faces.
This story can remain just that, a story that we learn in Sunday school, but one that doesn’t have much relevance in our lives today. Or we can study the test of character that Daniel and his friends faced and evaluate our lives; would our courage stand the test?
- When the cashier at the store gives us back more change than we are owed, do we let them know and return the overage?
- When we have the opportunity to pad our expenses and charitable donations on our tax returns to compute a lower tax liability, do we take that chance?
- What about when nobody is watching while we bump the car next to us in the parking lot, do we get out and leave a note with our name and information?
Character is not a trait that is often talked about these days. When did we stop valuing character as a quality we’d like to possess?
We notice it when someone does something heroic, but we rarely acknowledge character in the choices made in everyday life. Character is built small step by small step. It’s like a muscle that needs to be cultivated and trained so then when the temptation is great, like bowing down to an idol to save our own life, we will have the conviction to stand up to it and choose to do the right thing. The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, reveals to us what God thinks of character: he honors the efforts of those who hold true to him and his ways. What a beautiful promise for us, as we strive to live with character.
Check out an earlier post by Amy here.