In both cases, God protected these faithful men who faced certain death because they refused to act against their faith in God. This was a reminder that God protected the faithful even in extreme circumstances, such as the ones they might face in Babylon.
However, the deeper story of Daniel is much more troubling. The Jews believe that defeat and exile in Babylon is the low point of history, but Daniel warns that there are worse times to come. The Babylonians themselves will be defeated by an empire that will then be defeated... and eventually, there will be chaos. In such times, life will be dangerous and very difficult for those who remain faithful to God. Many may even be killed.
For the first time in the Bible, God promises a second life for the faithful who die in these dangerous times. The reward for their faith will be life in a time when the chaotic rule of despotic empires will be replaced by God's peaceable kingdom.
This promise was well-known by the time of Jesus, who expanded this promise of new life in the Kingdom of God. The faithful would be rewarded with such a life, but Jesus encouraged his disciples to begin to experience the new life of the Kingdom of God while living this life on earth.
Click here to listen to the sermon.
You can also listen to the related Communion meditation and closing benediction.