Elder David A. Bednar in the LDS Face2Face event for youth was asked a question by an eighth grader named David regarding how to stay strong in the face of constant opposition and skepticism from his peers at school. In response, Elder Bednar turned to the scriptures and pointed David to the story of Sadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He promised that as David (and we) study this story, we would learn how to overcome opposition and stay unspotted from the world.
In particular, Elder Bednar pointed out one detail of the story that he thought was highly significant. When these brave young men emerged from the furnace, not was “an hair of their head” not “singed” but significantly “the smell of fire had” not “passed on them.” Elder Bednar noted that anyone who had ever been at a campfire would know that it was exceedingly difficult to keep the smell of fire off of us. And yet, these young men had been thrown into the midst of an exceedingly strong fire and yet emerged unscathed.
Elder Bednar suggested that we should ask ourselves how they were able to emerge from the midst of the fire without the smell of the smoke. I don’t know that I have a definitive answer to that question, but I did have a couple of thoughts.
First, the three were among those who consecrated themselves by avoiding the meat and wine of the king. Thus, they had kept the commandments of God and kept themselves pure from taint. Second, they were therefore given great spiritual knowledge, skill, and wisdom by God (Daniel 1: 17). Third, the three were unapologetic when asked by Nebuchadnezzar whether it was true that they refused to bow down to him. Fourth, they had sufficient faith both to be rescued and not to be rescued (“but if not”). It is significant to me that they did not demand rescue from God, but were willing to accept whatever he had in store. They placed their will in line with his. In Nebuchadnezzar’s words, they “yielded their bodies” in the service of God.
Fifth, the scriptures mention that were were bound in “their other garments.” I don’t know if this was a deliberate reference to temple or ceremonial clothing, but some biblical commentary suggests that some of the items mentioned were of the type used solely for state or special occasions. And regardless, it does no harm to these verses to liken them to our own day and consider the significance of temple garments as a shield and a protection against the power of the destroyer.
Sixth,these men fell down in the midst of the fire, seemingly in prayer. Thus, they turned to God in the midst of adversity. Seventh, and perhaps most significantly, they relied on the “Son of God” and were therefore upheld and supported by him. And he appeared with them in the midst of their trials. He was not an aloof or distant God, but instead came unto them and endured with them. Finally, by the power of God their bonds were loosed and they arose and walked. Thus, once freed from bondage they did not linger in the center of the fire, but instead did what they could to liberate themselves.
I am sure that I have missed some additional reasons that these men emerged unscathed and untouched by even the smell of smoke, but these are the ones that stood out to me upon my reading of these verses. If you find any others, please share them in the comments.
I am grateful for Elder Bednar’s inspired counsel to study these verses and seek to apply them to your life. I personally needed the reminder that in order to emerge unscathed we need to have the faith to endure trial regardless of the outcome, and need to put our whole trust in the Son of God. ‘