Nebuchadnezzar's Golden Image
The Fiery Furnace8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Uncompromising Faith in the Fiery Furnace Part 1 and Part 2
Accompanying Ray Pritchard sermon: A Time to Disobey
In the first two chapters we saw Daniel taking a stand and drawing the line based on what the word of God says. Possibly to stop us from thinking that Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego were simply riding Daniel's coattails, today we see their opportunity to prove themselves faithful under trial.
This is probably my favourite Bible story, and my favourite line is
our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself.
The Word of God is clear on the following....
1) We are to worship God, and God alone.
2) We are to respect the government and obey the laws of the land.
3) When God's Word and the law of the land conflict, we need to stand with the Word, but we do it respectfully.
Daniel's friends follow this to a tee.
At the appointed moment the band played and the vast crowd fell to the ground. But three young men were left standing—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Evidently they didn’t say or do anything. They just stood there silently while everyone was prostrate on the ground.
Before going on, let’s consider some reasons they might have given for following the crowd that day: “When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do. We can just pretend to bow down but in our hearts, we’re really standing up. The king has been so good to us, it would be ungrateful not to bow. We’re being forced against our will to bow, God will forgive us. No one back in Jerusalem will ever know whether we bow or not. Everyone is bowing down.” And they could have used my personal favorite: “If we don’t, we’ll be killed.” But as I’ve said before, when you want to compromise, you can always find an excuse. But since they intended to obey God, they didn’t need any excuses.
And I find it very instructive to consider what they didn’t do. They don’t seem to have made any speeches or attempted to call attention to themselves. There was no attempt to stop others from bowing down. No riots, no demonstrations, no press conferences, no abusive language, no violence, no resisting arrest, no running away, no lying about their actions, no request for amnesty, and no attempt to overthrow the king.
When they disobeyed, they did it openly, quietly, submissively.....
Speaking with one voice, they make a remarkable declaration of faith.
First, they admitted their guilt. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter” (Daniel 3:16). Second, they affirmed their faith in God. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king” (Daniel 3:17). Third, they accepted God’s will in advance. “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:18).
One problem we have with this story is that we know how it ends. Subconsciously we tend to read everything in light of the miraculous deliverance. But that misses an important point. The three young men had no idea that God was about to deliver them. They hadn’t received any advance warning, no special revelation, no angels whispering, “Don’t worry. God is going to deliver you.” Nothing like that happened. As they stood before the king, they knew they might die.
Let me make the point plainly. They didn’t know what was about to happen, and they didn’t care. The only power the king had over them was the power of death, and since they weren’t afraid to die, he had no power at all. He couldn’t intimidate them because they were ready to die if need be. What can you do with men like that?
Observe the excellence of their faith. They recognized that obeying God might not be pleasant to them. And even so, they didn’t make their own obedience contingent on God doing what they wanted.
They knew God could save them.
They didn’t know if he would save them.
They determined to obey either way....
And that’s why these three young men said, “But if not.” They knew God could save them but they knew he might have higher purposes in mind that would require their death. Therefore, they didn’t try to back God into a corner by demanding that the Almighty work a miracle on their behalf. They accepted God’s will in advance without knowing how things would work out.
This week I ran across a fine statement regarding this kind of faith. “When the servant of God can do nothing else, he can at least die like a Christian.” Because they were ready to die like true believers, we still talk about the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego 2500 years later.
In this case, God did save them. But note this important detail....
I am struck by the fact that the Lord Jesus appears at only one place in this chapter. Where is Jesus in Daniel 3? He is in the furnace waiting for the young men. You can do the math yourself. Outside there were three, inside there were four, and outside there were three again. Jesus never manifests himself except inside the furnace, at the very moment when he was needed the most.
What a lesson this is for all of us. So often we go through life for days and weeks without any consciousness of the Lord’s presence with us. But when trouble comes, when the flames lick at our feet, when life tumbles in around us, then we discover that Jesus has been by our side the entire time. It is in the fires of life that we experience the presence of Christ most powerfully. He is always there, but he makes himself known in the fiery furnace....
The young men didn’t know what was about to happen…and it didn’t matter. May the same be true of us.
Our job is to be faithful and let God take care of the results.
This is the biggest lesson of all. Be faithful. Stand tall. Obey God. Live for him. Do what you know is right. And let God take care of what happens next.
Sometimes God protects us from the fire; sometimes he protects through the fire.
Either way we’re going to be okay. No one likes to be thrown into a furnace, not even if you know you’ll be preserved from the flames. But we can endure whatever comes if we know that the Lord Jesus Christ will be standing by our side.
What outcome should we expect when we stand up for what is right?
We should expect to suffer for our convictions.
We should understand that God may intervene to deliver us but he is not obligated to do so.
We should trust God to use our higher obedience to enhance his reputation in the world.
When it comes time to disobey, let us do our duty with humble courage and then leave the results to God.
It is no great thing to disobey. The great thing is faithfulness to God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t set out to break the king’s law. They were only doing what had to be done. I repeat: It is no great thing to disobey. The only thing that matters is being faithful to God. If faithfulness requires that you disobey, then do what you must do, but don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back.
Let it be said of all of us that we only did what had to be done. That we did not go looking for trouble, but when forced to make a choice, we chose to obey God rather than man.
May we choose faithfully.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Daniel 4