God is incredible. Do you truly believe that? Then why are you – why am I – so easily troubled, and so lacking in expectation of good from the Lord?
Daniel showed us his amazing faith and God showed how wondrous his miraculous work is. In this chapter we see another astonishing miracle, one that is impossible in human terms and in terms of how the world is made to function. Yet, God is in control, and can override His creation any time He pleases. In doing so, what He does defies science and logic. There are no explanations for what God does, because He operates outside of His own created universe.
A miracle, then, is an occurrence that comes from God’s sphere of spiritual existence and is put into the sphere of mankind, the earth. It is so totally different from the human sphere that it is obviously a miracle, abnormal, outside of human existence, divine. Even then, Christians who observe or are given a miracle, are amazed for only a short while, before they go back to their human frailty and disbelief. The answer is to live in the divine all the time.
This chapter should remind us that our God is supreme and can intervene in our lives at any time. He will also intervene with judgment in the lives of those who continually claim salvation but still prefer their sins. Be both warned and delighted by God!
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
The date of this event is not known but some scholars think it may have been in the year 576BC, roughly 19 years after Daniel was taken into exile, placing him and his friends in their mid or late thirties. The friends had been ruling Babylonia for some time, and Daniel was the chief judge and second in charge of the country and its provinces.
The statue was 90 feet tall and covered in gold. It was erected at the end of a civil uprising, which gives it a political meaning as well as a religious one, heavily underscored by the king’s brutal demand that everyone should bow to the statue because he said so. It was a way of telling the people who was in charge!
The location of the plain of Dura (‘dwelling’) is uncertain, but it was somewhere in the Babylonian empire. The problem is that there are two known places named ‘Dura’ – one on the Tigris and the other on the Euphrates; the statue could have been on a sandy flat area near one of these, but we do not know.
To cover such a monolithic edifice took huge amounts of gold. Though the Babylonian dynasty would only allow a few more kings before the Persians took over, it shows how fabulously rich the empire was, even during its slow demise.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
Nebuchadnezzar seemed to have a fine eye for town planning and the good things in life, but he was also quite ruthless, with a temper. Yet, he seems easy to turn from his pagan ways, at least in words. For now, he had forgotten God’s miraculous power shown through Daniel nearly two decades before. It was time for him to get another reminder!
Unaware of what was about to unfold, he sent messengers throughout Babylonia for all leaders and officials to attend the inauguration ceremony of his idol. So, on a specified day, they all gathered around the towering image.
Princes – satraps; governors of Persian areas.
Governors – slightly different. Prefects of a province. Also called ‘Magi’.
Captains – also governors.
Judges – counsellors in matters of divination.
Treasurers – finance controllers
Counsellers – lawyers or judges.
Sheriffs – these were magistrates.
Rulers of Provinces – mainly officials of high rank.
The statue was to be dedicated as a new god… and this was the stumblingblock for the Jews. A herald shouted out the king’s decree to all people of any language, to obey. They were to fall prostrate on the ground before the statue, because it was an idol, and worship it. This is no different to the way homosexuality has been made an idol in society today, with government demanding our total obedience and preference.
The cue would be the playing of music on a number of instruments: cornets (horns), flutes (pipes), harps (lyres or zithers), sackbuts (triangular stringed instrument with four strings, similar to lyres), psalteries (stringed instruments, again triangular), dulcimers (wind instrument – panpipes or bagpipes), and other instruments, probably including drums, cymbals, etc.
The herald finished the command with an ominous warning: those who refused to worship the idol would be burned alive immediately, in a furnace, which was already lit. In this case it seems to have been a pit filled with wood, etc. Not surprisingly, everyone present lay before the idol when the music began to play. It made no difference to them, because they were heathen anyway. No doubt some did not wish to obey, but they were forced into it by threat of death - and a godless conscience was a very poor substitute for staying alive.
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.
Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
The Chaldeans, still smarting after all this time from Daniel’s success in giving the king answers to his queries, and governed by the three friends of Daniel, set out to discredit them for good. They sauntered up to the king and told him that though his decree was very clear, “certain Jews” did not obey. They were referring to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. The Chaldeans, those wise men who were not so wise when it came to the vital vision interpreted by Daniel, told the king that the three Jews were not obeying his command and refused to serve the Babylonian gods or lay prostrate before the golden statue. They hated Daniel, the three friends, and their own displacement before the king. Though the Hebrews had been in favour for almost two decades, the Chaldeans still hated them.
There are always enemies of God, who hate his people and His word. They will go to any lengths to discredit them, or even to cause their deaths. We are already experiencing this wickedness in the West, in godless laws, laws specifically aimed at Christians, and in social outcasting. Will death be next? It is well within the real of possibility. If it can happen under a Stalin, or Hitler, or in any Islamic country today, it can certainly happen under a modern socialist government! However, ways of removing Christians may nowadays be more technical – restriction of means to buy and sell, mortgage problems, job loss, and so on. In other words, as prophesied by God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king.
Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Like any king of that period, Nebuchadnezzar demanded total obedience in everything, so his sudden rage against the three Jews (note that Daniel was not amongst them) was not unexpected. He erupted into “rage and fury” and commanded for the three to be brought to him straight away. The word ‘rage’ indicates his high irritation that anyone should dare to reject his command. ‘Fury’ tells us his anger was hot.
When the men arrived, the king questioned them, asking them if what the Chaldeans said was true. It is likely that even if it was true, he would have been satisfied with a lie to save their lives, because then the king’s command would appear to remain intact and all powerful. But, the three Jews were faithful to the Lord.
The three advised the king that they spoke freely, saying that they would be delivered unharmed from the furnace and from the king’s anger. Just as Daniel’s utter faith was incredible, so was the faith of his three friends! This is unlike anything we normally find in the churches today, where ‘faith’ is a mere word used in the Bible and in tepid discussion! They KNEW God would deliver them and said so, even before they were told their fate. This kind of faith is almost unheard of in an overfed, lifeless West.
Here is your challenge: if you have a severe test or problem, can you say to others that “God will deliver me”? Without doubt or wavering? Without fear or anxiety? If you cannot (and most cannot), then what is that thing you call ‘faith’?
It is true that the men also said to the king that even if God did not save them from the flames, they would not bow the knee to false gods, or the golden image. I must confess that when I was faced not just with job loss, but also with multiple other attacks, such as legal and other threats at the same time by my employer in 2005, I faltered. I cannot blame it all on the sudden nature of what happened. It was a problem of faith deep within, and I was temporarily brought low with fear and almost made the error of backing-down from my stand of faith. So, beware of sudden attacks, that they do not find you unprepared!
God gathered me up, a rather messed and battered individual, and helped me to carry on. I still feared and sometimes was anxious, but He kept me going in faith. I am so grateful for that, because few understand my position or how it affected me after two years of intense harassment. Those who read my website and work thought I was an ‘iron man’, and some even felt that I had ‘let them down’ by my temporary failure… but, I can assure you, I am as weak as the rest! I can fail, but God never does. Any strength I have is from him, not me. And this is what Daniel and his friends prove.
I could not come up to the ankles of these three men of God! Can you? The difference comes from God not from my, or your, own will or desire. If strength were within myself I would never win! God alone can give us faith and strength in the face of sudden, or chronic, hatred and attacks from the enemy of our souls. Let us rely only on Him.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
As Christians in darkening days we must all, me included, face the fact that the times are very dangerous for Christians. None of us is able to stand firm unless our hearts are fully given over to God. We must, as a matter of urgency, check the health of our faith, before we are struck hard with a full-on body-blow from our enemies. We must know how to respond, and how true our faith is. It must be done now. Daniel and his friends, though still youngish men, were true to their Father. They were in exile under foreign rule, yet they maintained a depth of faith rarely seen today. That is how we ought to be, every single day of our lives, even if most have yet to know persecution or attack.
The men’s answer to Nebuchadnezzar sent him into a raving fury and his face contorted with anger (the text tells us this). He was not used to denial or rejection of his commands! He ordered his men to heat the furnace up seven times hotter than it was. Then he got his strongest soldiers to bind the three friends and to throw them into the roaring fire. The men were tied up in their clothing and cast into the flames.
I would suggest from the text that none of them cried out in fear or shock. How many of us complain and moan about our various problems and ailments? Is this how we ought to be? I do not think so. I say this as one who has, at times, fallen to this unfaithful habit! Not very often, but I have done it. It is a kind of self-pity, and I should never be like it. Let us, as His royal family, honour the Lord by praising Him at all times, even when under attack or going through hard times.
The fire was so hot that the soldiers who threw the men in were themselves killed by the severe heat. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego fell into the fire, bound.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
What strikes you about this text? Something should…
Then the king was “astonied and rose up in haste”. That is, he was tĕvahh – alarmed. He was so startled he jumped up from his seat, calling “to his counsellers”. He was astonished: ‘Didn’t we just throw three bound men into the raging flames?’ The counselors confirmed it. The king made a remarkable statement: ‘But, I just saw four men, untied, and they are walking about in the fire unharmed!’
Daniel’s answers about the king’s vision were remarkable, but this sign of God’s power must have seemed beyond human comprehension! And it truly is! But, the thing that should strike us is what the king said next: “the fourth is like the Son of God”!
The “form”, or appearance, rev, of the fourth man was “like the Son of God”. What did the king mean by this, for the word he used for ‘god’ is the Aramaic ‘elahh. It can mean either the Hebrew God, or any god. However, notice how Daniel emphasized the word ‘God’ and ‘Son’ with capital first letters?
You will notice the king said ‘Son of God’, not just ‘god’ or God. Why say ‘Son’ of God? Why, coming from the king’s lips, is the word started with a capital letter? ‘Son’ is bar, or ben. The word is used frequently in Chaldee. We could understand it if the Hebrews had said it. But, here we have a pagan king in all his anger! Why should he speak not just of ‘god/God’, but ‘Son’ of that god/God? In the normal sense of the situation, in a heathen scenario, we could see why he thought the fourth man was a god. But, why say it was the ‘Son’ of god/The God. And why preface the word with the definite article, ‘the’? To most readers this might seem to be just technical debate, but it is not – it is remarkable.
We may only deduce that Nebuchadnezzar recognized that only a god/The God could deliver the men from the flames. He had already come across the power of ‘The God’ before. I have a notion that he said ‘Son of God’ because God placed the words on his lips as a testimony to the power and Might of Christ, the divine Son. It can be the only reason why the king said the words. They would not have come naturally to him, as a pagan and heathen. Thus, we know it was Jesus Christ walking in the flames with the three men, whose true faith brought them the only possible answer and safety!
Again, I ask which of us has this kind of faith? If we have it and call upon Christ, or even if we have no time to do so, He will indeed come to us and walk with us, keeping us safe and on His holy path. This is what He promises us. It is what He later promised us in Matthew. Do you believe it? Then prove it!
If you do not presently live in true faith, then do so from this moment on, or lose your way. Live a holy life immediately and for the rest of your time on this earth, for you never know when you will be attacked, or when God will call upon you to prove your faith. You may even be cast aside on this earth if you continue in your forlorn life, free of genuine faith but claiming to have it. If you want Him to walk by your side and protect and keep you, then act like a believer! Do not continually seek His face and yet walk as a sinner. Do not dishonour and disgrace His name in that way. You either walk with Him, or you do not. This is said with Biblical authority.
Many have ‘problems’, yet they call upon God vainly. They have a vague idea that God will help, but they are not willing to throw away their sinful lives. They do what is wrong; they live in sin; they refuse to knuckle down to being holy; they blame it all on their ‘problems’. It has nothing to do with it! They refuse to be holy because they do not want to live without the secret delight of their sins! They will readily point sternly at their fellows and say “No, you speak/do wrongly”, but they will not turn their stern gaze upon their own selves. They are pretenders to salvation and if they constantly refuse to walk the path of righteousness, they are not saved at all. That is why they - we - MUST PROVE IT!
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellers, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
In his amazement the king got as close as he dared to the mouth of the furnace, and shouted to the three Hebrews. ‘Servants of the most high God – come out!’ The three men walked out, unscathed. Everyone around them looked on in astonishment, because none of the men were bound, or had the merest hint of a burn; their clothing was untouched, their hair was not singed. And they did not even smell of smoke!
Can you recognize the enormity of such a miracle? Try to think of how impossible the situation was: men in a furnace so hot it killed men standing around it. Yet, they walked around inside the flames, with Christ; they bore no burn marks at all and did not even smell of smoke! It is impossible. And that is what makes it a miracle. God did these things in times past. He did them in the days of Christ on earth. He does them today.
The king had no option but to look on in amazement. Yes, he could have praised his local gods, but he did not – he praised the God of the Hebrews, because, despite his unbelief, he recognized the true God in the situation. Do YOU praise when a miracle is witnessed? In fact, do you know what a miracle is, and when one occurs? (Do not be confused by events that are just extraordinary… a ‘miracle’ is very different).
Many today refuse to believe miracles happen in our day. This tells me they have a poor understanding of Who and what God is. They have a poor faith. They have no expectations of good coming from Almighty God in their own lives.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar spoke publicly, praising “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego”. The way he put it tells us he did not reject his own gods, but only said that the God of the three men was very powerful. Many Christians are like this. They praise God but only when they see some ‘big’ evidence of His greatness, or when roused by an emotional event. At other times they sink back into a form of religious humanism, never seeing or expecting anything divine from God.
And that is why they are usually low in spirit and always ask questions of God and men, wondering ‘where God is’ in their lives. He is right there in front of them, but they do not see Him, because of their peculiar unbelief mingled with a smattering of weak faith. The three men of God walked boldly into the fire confident that God would save them. Today, most Christians would hold back in fear, calling out for help but not expecting it because the flames are fierce; their ‘faith’ is no faith at all! They run around in anxiety not seeing the doorway, opened to them by God, or some other safe answer.
Nebuchadnezzar told the crowd that the Hebrew God had saved His people, and gave a very public show that He was greater than the king’s word and intentions. The king acknowledged that this same God prevented the men from obeying the king in worshipping the idol, so that they would only worship Him.
The king then made a law, on the spot, that anyone who spoke anything against the Hebrew God would be cut in pieces and their belongings ruined! He was repeating a similar command he made before Daniel years before. Like most men who come face to face with God, he had no pretensions to salvation, but knew when to acknowledge God. This kind of marvel never lasts long. It disappears when sin and self come to the fore again. Even the greatest of miracles do not cause an unelected man to fall on his knees before God forever! His astonishment is temporary. The king said that no other God can “deliver after this sort”. Yet, he soon went back to his paganism.
Christians do this all the time. They marvel at something good God has done, and swiftly forget. The next time something arises as a problem they shrink back to despair and loss of hope. It is a dishonour to the Lord, but we all do it from time to time. Instead, we should walk in the midst of the fire daily, talking with the Christ and fully expecting the best, no matter what the circumstances are.
The king then “promoted” the three men throughout Babylonia. That is, he made them to prosper with many honours, riches and royal presents. This is better than happens with pastors and teachers of the Lord, who rarely are shown consideration for their office or spiritual gifts, by those who claim to belong to God. Sadly, many of these men are seen as employees, who must comply with the congregation’s idea of what they must do. They get paid a stipend, or wage, and the people expect him to do certain tasks throughout the week.
This is not how God works! He commands a pastor or preacher to work as He wishes. Yet, most comply with the traditional way of thinking. Why? Because they know that if they do not, they will not get paid! Yes, a few do their tasks because they genuinely feel it is what God wants… but even these do not realize that what they are doing is obeying men rather than God. Unpaid pastors are freer, but continue unpaid, though scripture says even the ox should enjoy food thrown at his feet for his labours. No man should enter ministry for the money, but he should expect that those who benefit from his labours should support him. Sadly, only a few are supported in this way, and those who are should be commended and supported by prayer for their faithfulness to God.
© November 2009
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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