The power of the three Holy Youth is the power, which the Resurrection of our Lord provides to all the Christians.
Daniel and the Three Holy Youth were of royal origin. About 600 B.C., Jerusalem was seized by the Babylonian Empire led by Nebuchadnezzar. This king captured Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, and ordered that some of king descendants and the nobles of the kingdom be brought back. He captured the “best”. He was selective in choosing who should be trained to serve in his palace; “Then the king asked Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge, and quick to understand, who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans”(Dan 1:4).
The king Nebuchadnezzar assigned for them to be trained for 3 years, eat from the king’s food and drink from his wine. The names of the nobles that we want to focus on are:
- Daniel = the Lord is my judge
- Hananiah = The Lord is kind
- Azariah = God is my help
- Mishael = Who is like God
“To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego” (Dan 1:7).
As ordered by the king, they were given the following new names, related to the Babylonian gods:
- Daniel à Belteshazzar = Keeper of Bel’s treasures
- Hananiah à Shadrach = The inspiration of the Sun
- Mishael à Meshach = Of the Goddess Shach
- Azariah à Abed-Nego = The slave of the Sun
The original names of the youth reflected attributes of God, the true God. Their new names identified them as followers of idols. Changing the names of the Youth was an attempt to wipe their identities, and force them to forget their original beliefs and worship.
The Book of Daniel relates of three main events that happened to these Holy Youth:
First Event: Fasting of Daniel and the 3 Holy Youth:
Daniel “purposed in his heart” not to eat from the meat slaughtered to the idols. Fasting from eating the meat slaughtered to the idols is a commandment in the Old and New Testaments. Daniel’s decision came out of his heart. Daniel and his three friends asked to be put under test for ten days “And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king” (Dan 1:10). They were sure of the successful result; they were sure that their health would not deteriorate since their goal was to please only God; “And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the of the king’s delicacies.”(Dan 1:15). God awarded them for their steadfastness and firmness in the truth “Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found link Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king. And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” (Dan 1:19,20). Daniel and the Three Holy Youth refused to conform to this world “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2). This is the power of the Resurrection; it enables us to be different, and not care about being with the “in” crowd.
The King had a dream, and he asked his magicians to interpret it, without telling them the dream itself!!. He also threatened to kill them if they could not. Daniel asked for some time in order to pray for the matter, “So Daniel went and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation (Dan 2:16)”. By doing this, he depended on the mercy of God and not on his own wisdom. Daniel informed his 3 friends and they prayed as a “group” and God revealed the secret to Daniel. Daniel and his friends glorified God:
“Daniel answered and said: Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His” (Dan 2:20).
Upon the revelation of the secret to Daniel, he went to the king, and spoke to him about God, not about his own abilities “But there is God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:” (Dan 2:28) Then he revealed the dream and its interpretation. The humility of Daniel made him introduce God only and not himself, it is clear in this verse “But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.”(Dan 2:30).
As youth, in our missionary work, we should preach about God only, not about our abilities, wisdom, personalities, excellence. …As a result, the king promoted Daniel “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon” (Dan 2:48). Daniel did not forget about his 3 friends, who prayed with him “Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of king”(Dan 2:49).
In the same manner, the Resurrection provides wisdom. The disciples were limited people, in terms of their education and intellectual abilities, yet they changed the whole world into Christianity which is still growing. Their work did not end with their departure, but will continue till the end of times.
St. Peter preached to three thousands people at one time and was able to convert them. St. Paul, who was considered as an extremely intelligent and well-educated person, did not consider the power of his preaching as depending on his human abilities, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:1-5). St. Paul is asking us all to receive divine wisdom that enables us to win people to God. People will love God if they see the power of God in us. The power of God attracts more than all our human “coolness”.
Third and Last Event: The Fiery furnace (Dan 3)
The Three Holy Youth were persecuted because of their faith. Some colleague(s) who hated them, wanted to get rid of them, so they informed the king that their faith is different from what the king believes in, so they should be punished. The devil always tries to move people against the followers of God. He plans problems for them and makes people spitefully hate those who follow God.
The king, after failing to force the Three Holy Youth to deny their faith, ordered that they be thrown in a fiery furnace after being ignited to 7 times more than normal, to the point that the fire burned the guards who threw them in. The devil now is intensifying the war against them, thinking that he has got them under his control, and will soon get rid of them. God, who always watches over his children, hurried to deliver them from the tribulation, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king “True, O king.” “Look” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt, and the form of the forth is like the Son of God”(Dan 3:24,25). The King was astonished. The guards were dead just from getting close to the fire, while the three holy youth, who were in the middle of the fire, did not get affected. Same thing with the devil’s followers (the guards); they themselves will get affected by the evil plots of the devil, while the sons and daughters of God, who are being plotted against, will come out triumphantly.
The fire of the furnace represents the devil; the Chaldeans worshipped fire. Throwing the three holy youth in the middle of the fire is like throwing the Christians in the middle of the world. People around us, worship the world and all it can offer. If we have the Son of God with us, that fire will not affect us.
The three holy youth led the king to worship their God. The king ordered all the nations to worship the true God “Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shedrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this” (Dan 3:28,29). This is the power of the Resurrection– overcoming the devil. Our Lord gave us the same authority (to tread on serpents and scorpions, and all the power of the enemy)
St. John Chrysostom says about the three holy youth in the fiery furnace: “The three holy youth were cast in the furnace, they did not forget their piety, they sent their prayers to heaven. The fire became like a wall, the furnace a fountain; although it received them bound, it set them free.” See how the devil fights God; the devil plotted that the fire eats the children of God, but God turned the devil’s weapon against him; since the fire ate the soldiers and was a source of glorification to God’s children.