Daniel 3 - Faith and the Furnace

Turn in your Bibles to Daniel 3:1;

 

Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

 

7 So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 

8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. 9 They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”

 

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

 

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

 

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

 

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”

 

They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”

 

25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”[a]

 

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.

 

28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel[b] and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”

 

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.

 

May God bless the reading of His word.

 

Let us pray.

 

In chapter two we saw the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. It is helpful to keep in mind what Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar as we wonder what his motivation may have been for building this golden statue. In chapter 2 we read;

 

31 “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs[c] of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.[d] 34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

 

36 “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold.

 

Is it any wonder that, after the interpretation of this incredible dream, Nebuchadnezzar would erect a golden image and force everyone to worship it?

 

But if you were a Jew you certainly could not do this right?

 

Exodus 20:4 clearly says:

 

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 

Of course we know that many Jews were taken into exile at the time of Daniel and his friends. It is certain that most of them did not bow down and worship this golden image either, but, we are told;

 

...certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. 9 They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”

 

The Bible doesn't tell us why it is that Daniel was not included in this report. It is certain that this was a political move by some of the Chaledeans who were jealous of the positions given to Daniel's friends and they were trying get them in trouble so that they could take those positions.

 

When presented with these accusations, Nebuchadnezzar offers to give Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego an opportunity to prove that the they are wrong. He repeats his command in person, telling them;

 

Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

 

We get an idea of the extent of the young men's faith in their reply. They tell Nebuchadnezzar;

 

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

 

The answer expresses absolute faith in and faithfulness to God. They are not ashamed to express their faith even in the face of death. They don't hesitate to proclaim their confidence in God's ability to deliver them from the fiery furnace if He will, but even if He does not deign to deliver them, they will not serve Nebuchadnezzar's gods nor worship the golden image he has set up.

 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego's faith and obedience should serve as an example to us. Whether we are threatened by physical violence, death, ridicule or rejection, we should be ever mindful of the fact that all other gods are false and are designed to take away from God's glory in the furtherance of Satan's rebellion against his and our Creator.

 

Jesus' advice in Matthew 10:28 best explains the right attitude that we should have. He tells us;

 

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

Of course Nebuchadnezzar is completely upset by Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego's answer and so we are told:

 

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

 

We can be certain that something amazing is happening even before Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego make it to the floor of the furnace. The men who were appointed to throw them into the furnace die from the heat the furnace is putting out, but the three young men do not perish. Instead, we are told;

 

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”

 

They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”

 

25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”[a]

 

Nebuchadnezzar sees Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego freed from their bonds and walking around freely, unharmed by his most horrific of punishments, a fire that is seven times hotter than the fire he normally used for such things. What's more than that Nebuchadnezzar sees what he describes in his Chaldean or Aramaic tongue as someone “like that of a son of the gods.”

 

Many translators of this passage have taken the liberty of translating the phrase that Nebuchadnezzar uses “like that of a son of the gods” into a reference to Jesus, indicated by capital letters , “the Son of God.” This translation may be divinely inspired and it may be that this is a Theophany, one of those many places in the Old Testament where Jesus manifests Himself.

 

Certainly the fact that the three men are spared from death, that their bonds are freed and that they are unscathed by the fire that consumed their persecutors all attest to supernatural, divine intervention in the physical world, which is the very definition of a miracle.

 

It was an essential part of God's plan that Nebuchadnezzar come to know the power and might of the God of the Jews. Nebuchadnezzar's paltry attempt to trivialize the dream which God had given him did not glorify God so God did something in the real world to reinforce that which had started in Nebuchadnezzar's dreams.

 

Of course to do this, God required men who would fearlessly serve Him, even if confronted with a furnace seven times hotter than that which was normally used to punish those who face the wrath of the king. God required men who were obedient to the King of kings when the greatest of earthly kings threatened them with his worse.

 

Webster's defines an allegory as;

 

the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; also : an instance (as in a story or painting) of such expression

 

Though this story is not allegorical, in that we can trust that the people and event described really took place. It nevertheless express the truth of God's care for those who are faithful to Him in the midst of their trials and tribulations for Him.

 

This divine manifestation in the furnace reminds us of our Lord's constant vigilance over us. Whether it was Him or one of His angels, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were comforted and aided in their time of need in order that Nebuchadnezzar would come to understand that the God these men worshiped was unlike the false gods and inanimate images which he was trying to make them bow down to. While we know that Nebuchadnezzar saw the physical mainfestation of this care, it is unclear as to whether Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego saw their divine help in the midst of the burning furnace. Based upon their faithfulness, it's doubtful that they needed to see the physical manifestation of that which God had already put into their hearts, a deep and abiding confidence that God would keep them from adversity. For Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, God was already with them, watching over them and caring for them as He constantly reminded them through His word which He had given His people.

 

There was no need of any further “proof” for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. God had promised them through His word that He would watch over them and had continually kept that promise to their ancestors for generations.

 

The result of these young men's salvation from Nebuchadnezzar's punishment and the manifestation of their heavenly guardian in the midst of the flames had their desired effect upon the King. We read in verse 26 and on;

 

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.

 

28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel[b] and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”

 

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.

 

If you call Jesus your Lord then I urge you to remember the words of King Nebuchadnezzar;

 

there is no other God who can deliver like this.

 

You have been spared from the ultimate fire, the fire that is referred to in the Bible as the second death, where all those who rebel against God and who are not spared and regenerated by His infinite grace are burned for all eternity.

 

You may not be thrown into a fiery furnace as a result of your insistence on worshiping the One True God, but you are given no less of an opportunity to walk in the midst of the trials and tribulations that the world throws at you unfettered, unsinged, not smelling of the fire of the world as a living testimony of God's constant watchcare over His sheep.

 

As you walk boldly in faith, given you by the same Lord who spared Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, remember that there are those who are watching you in the furnace.

 

Are they seeing you unbound, unsinged, unafraid?

 

Are they seeing God's divine protection of you in the flames?

 

Or are they unaware that you are any different than them, in your actions or your beliefs?

 

What do people see when you are in the furnace?

 

And if you have never confessed Jesus as your Lord, I ask you consider this story in it's entirety.

 

As I said before, the story is not allegorical, in that it is not fictional. That being said there are some very distinct symbols which we see in this event. For example, there is the golden image, which represents really anything that calls us away from a right relationship with our Creator. There are the guards, who represent people who are not protected by God's grace. There are Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who are protected.

 

Then there is the fiery furnace which, as I said before, reminds us of the eternal destiny of all those who are not God's sheep.

 

Jesus Himself speaks of the eternal fate of those who do not follow Him. He calls the place that they go “the outer darkness where there is crying and gnashing of teeth. Where the fire is not quenched and the worm never dies.”

 

This is the final destiny of all those who have sinned and who have not yielded their lives to Jesus and received His payment for their iniquities.

 

You may think that you don't need any such payment, that you aren't any worse than anyone else.

 

You would be right in your assessment of the fact that you aren't any better or worse than those around you.

 

The Bible says that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

You would, however, be wrong about your eternal fate, because God's word warns us very clearly that the wages of sin is death.

 

Death is not ceasing to exist. We are immortal being in that we either live eternally or we exist in that outer darkness eternally.

 

But take heart, because if the truth of your sin and your need for a savior is becoming real to you, then God is making you into a new creature and He is giving you the faith to confess Jesus as you r Lord and to believe in you heart that God raised Him from the dead.

 

Don't hesitate.

 

Confess Jesus as Lord, believe in you heart that God raised Him from the dead and be saved from the fiery furnace that awaits all those who rebel against God.

 

Do it today.

 

Let us pray.

 

 

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