If this is your first visit, please see my introduction to these Lenten readings.
25 March. Daniel 3:24-90
These interpolations to the text of Daniel chapter 3 are titled “The song of Azariah” and “The song of the Three Young Men”. They are put in the mouths of the Jews who, condemned for their refusal to worship the statue of gold set up by Nebuchadnezzar, were thrown into the furnace but protected from harm by an angel. Whether this is a true miracle, or total fiction, or somewhere between, the value of these passages lies in the way that people in great danger turn to God, not in anger but in praise. Azariah’s song acknowledges that God has rightly punished the Jewish people for turning away from him, and calls on him to have mercy on those who do still believe and trust in him.
The song of the Three Young Men (Azariah, Hananiah and Mishael, or to give them their Babylonian names Abednego, Shadrach and Meshach) is one of pure praise. It resembles the Psalms, in particular those with a congregational refrain (“Bless the Lord! Give glory and eternal praise to him!”). Only at the end do the three men thank God for rescuing them from death, as if that is less important than praising him for his whole creation. This idea that God can and should be praised, even in the most testing of times, is another theme found throughout the Bible.