Our Sages tell us that when Nebuchadnezzar threw Hanania, Mishael, and Azaria into the fiery furnace and saw them miraculously emerge alive, he was so overwhelmed that he began praising Hashem. “How great are G-d’s signs, how mighty His wonders. His kingship is a kingship over all the world, and His dominion for all generations” (Daniel 3:33). An angel then came and silenced him by slapping him in the face. (Sanhedrin 92b)
In order to better understand this incident, we need to look at King David, the sweet singer of Israel. King David not only praised Hashem in times of deliverance, but he also praised Him in the midst of great adversity. “I will remember my singing in the night” (T’hillim 77:7). “From the ends of the earth I will call out to You” (ibid. 61:3). “With praises I will call upon Hashem and be delivered from my foes” (ibid. 18:4). Rashi explains that King David was so sure that Hashem would deliver him, that he was able to praise Hashem even before the deliverance!
Only a person like King David has the merit to praise Hashem when he sees Hashem’s wonders. Only a person who can fulfill, “Trouble and sorrow I encounter… I will call upon the Name of Hashem” (ibid. 116:3-4). A person like King David always looks upon his Father in Heaven, and clings to Him in both good times and bad. Even when seeing no possible hope of salvation, his emuna is strong and he does not complain. He waits and hopes for Hashem, knowing that in His hands alone lies his deliverance. Ein od milvado! There is none besides Him! The prayers from this type of person are precious to Hashem.
But the evil Nebuchadnezzar only praised Hashem when he saw His wonders. After all, he was silenced by a slap! The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the angel came and slapped him in the face, as if to say, “Now let’s see if you can praise G-d after you have been slapped in the face!” (Sheirit Menachem, parashat Acharei)
Based on In All Your Ways: Collected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Schechter