In this episode Daniel and his companions bear witness to the power and authority of God through the miracle of the fiery furnace. A royal edict to worship a statue, a man-made idol, puts the faith of believers to the test. Those faithful to God refused to worship anything other than The Lord, unwilling to put any false gods before them.
For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been in Daniel; and we said that—looking back at our previous study in Revelation—that Daniel is really a great companion book to go with Revelation.
It’s great for a couple of different reasons: First, when you look back at Revelation, we get to see that God is in control, that he’s got this. We don’t need to worry about all these things. He’s in control. We’re just supposed to be faithful witnesses. Even in the face of death, we’re supposed to be a faithful witness. We’re to be overcomers. We’re to overcome these fiery trials.
And we get to see this take place and unfold really nicely in the book of Daniel, through Daniel and his three friends.
The first week we were in Daniel, we really just got through Daniel 1:1-8 and kind of set the political season for what was going on at the time when the book was written.
We saw that Jeremiah had spent about 23 years prior to this prophesying about what’s going to happen if people don’t turn back to God. Obviously they didn’t turn back to God, and Nebuchadnezzar came in in about 605 B.C. and came against Israel and took a bunch of people captive. And Daniel was one of these people taken captive.
Then we saw why some of these younger people—because Daniel’s about 15 at this time—why he would take some of these younger folks and then try to put them in positions of power. The idea here is he’s going to take some of these people and put them in charge of the other Hebrews. They’re going to be forced to serve these other Israelites in the kingdom of Babylon.
Again, Daniel’s about 15 year old. He’s good looking, very smart, a very capable person. He’s probably castrated, a eunuch at this point. Then he sat through about three years of study to learn the Chaldean culture, the Chaldean language. And he’s just inundated with everything the Chaldeans do, it’s all around him. He’s away from home, probably for the first time for an extended period, and yet he stays faithful to his culture. He stays faithful to his God.
He’s surrounded by some of the most technological and scientific achievements of the time inside of Babylon. You remember the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were created under Nebuchadnezzar, more than likely. And he had this awesome palace that he built, these awesome engineering feats that Daniel gets to see every day. It’s the first city in the world to reach a population of over two hundred thousand people.
So all of this stuff going on around him for a guy who just came out of Jerusalem, and he’s exposed to all this for the first time. To Daniel, this would have all been really amazing. Probably quite overwhelming, actually.
And we saw that despite his young age and him being renamed from Daniel—which means God is my judge—and he is now named Belteshazzar—which is servant of Baal; and being away from home in this amazing place with the ability to have just about anything he’d like to have, with no one to tell him any different, he does not lose faith.
In fact, he knows the prophecy of Jeremiah. He’s read it. And he knows that they’re probably going to be away from home for 70 years. He’s probably not going to live through it. Or if he does, there’s not going to be a lot of time left at the end of his life for him to return back to his homeland. He’s either going to die in captivity, or at a minimum, have little time left on the earth by the time he’s released.
He doesn’t get angry with God about this. He doesn’t act like a victim. He doesn’t lose faith in God. Instead, he takes all of these fiery trials and overcomes. When things got tough for him, he still had a choice. He recognized that choice.
When things are difficult in our own lives, there are really three things that happen: We give up, or we give in to the temptations around us, or we choose to stay committed and keep going the way Daniel and his three friends did.
We also saw that Daniel was really good at this appeals process when he’s being told to do something that he knows he shouldn’t be doing. We saw this with the food that they were trying to get him to eat. And, probably, at that time either that food was used in some kind of idol worship or it’s something against the Levitical laws that they weren’t supposed to eat that type of food. So he appealed that, and he won that appeal.
The same with the king’s wine. He didn’t want to live in that kind of situation. It would have been overindulgence, and he didn’t want to live like that. So, again, he appealed. And he’s really skilled at this appeals process to prevent him from breaking the king’s laws.
Last episode, Tim completed Daniel 1 and moved into Daniel 2.
This episode we’re going to into chapter 3. And I wanted to do this to have a little bit further discussion of the point brought up a couple of episodes ago, too, about how we’re supposed to obey law, and what Paul talks about in Romans 13, and how it’s going to conflict dramatically with what we see today in Daniel 3.
Daniel 3 isn’t really going to focus much on Daniel. In fact, he’s not in there at all. It’s just going to be about his three friends.
Daniel’s promotion and Shadrach’s, Meshach’s, and Abed-Nego’s positions.
We’re going to start Daniel 3. And this happens right after Daniel interprets the first dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s. So let’s start in chapter two.
Daniel 2:46. Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him.
The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.”
Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.
Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.
Daniel interprets the king’s dream in chapter 2; that’s what chapter 2 is all about. Now he’s being promoted.
So, Nebuchadnezzar’s introduced to God through Daniel, and he recognizes that God’s the real deal. Daniel’s God, the God of Israel, is the real deal. He sees that because of the interpretation of the dream.
Daniel and his three buddies are promoted by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s allowed to serve the king in the gate of the city.
Now, if you’ll recall, the gate of the city—this is where most of the major decisions are made. The king didn’t generally rule on every little thing. So people would come to the gate, and the person that sat in the gate of the city would make the judgments. They would rule on some of the smaller conflicts between people, settle all these small disputes.
Daniel gets to sit in the gate of the city of Babylon. This would have been a position of great responsibility and great influence.
What does Daniel do? He immediately petitions the king and says, what about my three buddies over here? I’d like to see them promoted too. So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are set over affairs in the province of Babylon. Daniel would have had the city of Babylon; and then out in the province would have been his three friends to make judgments and do some rulings out there. It would be like Daniel in Washington D.C. and then his three friends out in the states. Something like that.
Edict to worship the statue
Now let’s move into chapter 3. And chapter 3, again, this is all about Daniel’s three friends out there in the country or the province.
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.
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.
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.
Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 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; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
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.
In the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from chapter 2, Daniel told him that another kingdom would replace his own. The king was probably, at this point, feeling a little insecure. So he goes out and builds this giant statue of gold that’s 60 cubits tall and six cubits wide. That’s about 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. This would have been a giant statue.
It was made to resemble the statue from the dream, but he also put it there to glorify himself.
I guess the next time you’re feeling a little bit down in the dauber, just go create a giant statue of yourself, and maybe you’ll feel a little bit better to some degree.
Nebuchadnezzar decides to have this great unveiling of the statue in the country. And it’s proclaimed that everybody must drop down to their knees and worship the statue whenever they hear all this music played on all these instruments listed in Daniel 3:5.
If they fail to do so, then they get thrown into this fiery furnace and killed.
This is no big deal for the Chaldeans, right? They’re a polytheistic culture anyway. They worship several idols, so what’s one more? No big deal. Every time they heard the music, they just prayed to an idol.
Nebuchadnezzar puts the statue out there to remind the people who’s in charge.
Now he has to be very coercive with his leadership style at this time. He’s taken captives in from all over the place but especially from Israel. He’s got all these foreigners living in his land. And now he’s going to put this statue out there to remind them who’s in charge.
If people don’t worship or follow his proclamation, they die. Obviously, there’s a lot of great incentive here to follow this proclamation. Nobody wants to go into the fiery furnace. Do or die kind of thing.
In those days, kings or rulers would have several houses throughout their provinces where they would go, and they would stay for a month here and a month there, and they would do that to remind the people that there’s still a presence here, to remind the people who’s in charge.
It would have been something like that—the statue out there to remind the people that the king, Nebuchadnezzar, is still the man. He’s doing something similar there with that.
Won’t worship the statue
Now let’s look at what Daniel’s three friends do with this situation. So Daniel 3:8.
Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews.
They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! (That’s the official greeting that they have to say every time, right?)
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; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
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.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king.
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?
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?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
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.
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.”
So here we have some Chaldeans coming forward to complain to the king that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are not falling down and worshipping when the bells and whistles of the orchestra play. They’re expected to conform to the rules of the king’s proclamation, but they didn’t. They violated the law.
And the Chaldeans who are probably a little put out because Daniel interpreted the dream that they were supposed to have interpreted got a reward, and they didn’t. And now they’re trying to get back at them. So they’re going to throw them under the bus. They play the king against the three very nicely, and probably just thinking about themselves and bumping them off to be able to move up that chain, get rid of the competition for the king’s favor.
So the king calls the three believers to him and tells them that if they don’t start to worship the statue right now (as soon as the orchestra plays), they’re going into the fiery furnace; they’re going to be killed.