Crack open your Bible to Daniel 3:25-45, and see if you can find it. It might be missing. This passage and the next track we will consider are part of the Septuagint version of Daniel, and it missing from any Old Testaments that rely solely on the Hebrew.
The story behind this song should be a familiar one, if you spent your childhood Sunday mornings in Bible school (o, those flannel graphs). Daniel had three friends whom we remember as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but these were there Babylonian names. Their Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, & Azariah. Because they refused to bow down before a false idol, the Babylonian king had them thrown into a furnace.
The furnace was super-heated but the boys were not consumed. In fact, the king noticed a mysterious fourth man walking around with them in furnace. The king called them forth from the fire and they walked out unscathed.
As they were bound and thrust into the flames, one of the youths begins a prayer. Azariah lifted up his voice and cried out to God for deliverance, yet not as expected. The prayer was a prayer of deliverance for all the exiled people of Israel. He takes upon himself the sin of the people, and confesses it as if it were his own. Even in the midst of this supreme act of faithfulness, he humbly searches his heart to purge it of sin.
The worship of Israel had been destroyed when the Babylonians razed Jerusalem and her temple. Sacrifice could not be offered, so Azariah offers himself as a sacrifice.
Sacrifice is merely a physical expression of worship. It is an expression of a person giving his whole being to God in the form of the alms or animal being offered. Here, Azariah is becoming the sacrifice on behalf of those whose sin and situation prevented pure worship. The completeness of this sacrifice is evident in the expression of total commitment to God. In this sacrifice, Azariah and his friends become images of the true sacrifice of pure worship Christ will offer on the Cross on behalf of all mankind. Perhaps it is this total unity with God in worship and sacrifice that prompts the Son of God to manifest Himself in the midst of the young men. Azariah concludes his song of prayer with a request for deliverance. God delivers them, but through the furnace. God still delivers man, but through the Cross.
-excerpted from The Rest of the BibleAzariah provides us an example of sacrifice that demonstrates that the life in Christ is not a designed to escape sacrifice, but a journey that embraces it.
Do I live sacrificially, or seek to escape?
For another perspective on the see this previous post: Three Holy Youths