The comic book hero is as popular as ever. In 2017 alone, six superhero movies accounted for more than $4 billion (US) in box office sales. But why are people so drawn to big action flicks?
Maybe it’s because, in part, such stories resemble God’s Big Story. There’s a hero, a villain, a people in need of rescue, and plenty of riveting action.
In this story, the biggest villain is Satan, the enemy of our souls. But there are lots of “little” villains as well. In the book of Daniel, for example, one is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of much of the known world, who decided to kill anyone who didn’t worship his giant statue (Daniel 3:1–6). When three courageous Jewish officials refused (vv. 12–18), God dramatically rescued them from a blazing furnace (vv. 24–27).
But in a surprising twist, we see this villain’s heart begin to change. In response to this spectacular event, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” (v. 28).
But then he threatened to kill anyone who defied God (v. 29), not yet understanding that God didn’t need his help. Nebuchadnezzar would learn more about God in chapter 4—but that’s another story.
What we see in Nebuchadnezzar isn’t just a villain, but someone on a spiritual journey. In God’s story of redemption, our hero, Jesus, reaches out to everyone needing rescue—including the villains among us.
In Daniel 3, it’s interesting to note the contrasting proclamations about God’s power. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were about to be thrown into the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t believe their God could save them and said, “What god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (v. 15). But the three men boldly declared the power of God and their commitment to Him, responding that “the God we serve is able to deliver us” (v. 17). Then when they exited the furnace and stood before the king and his officials unharmed—without “a hair of their heads singed” (v. 27)—it was Nebuchadnezzar who made the bold declaration about the power and glory of God: “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!” (v. 28).