In this episode, we come to the end of the fiery furnace incident and its repercussion. The miraculous intervention of God protects his faithful people. Many years later, The Apostle Paul addresses the early church on submission to authority and how to interpret the fiery furnace passage. This story, like all of The Book of Daniel, is a call to be faithful to God and to live life as God commands.
So the three amigos tell the king, hey, we don’t need to talk to you about this at all. If you decide to throw us into the furnace, our God can deliver us. And even if he doesn’t, he’s going to take us away from you, from your hand, and we’ll be saved by our God. We’re still not going to worship your statue no matter what you do to us.
Here you have, probably, the most powerful king on earth at that particular time telling you to worship like all the rest of the people are doing. Everybody around you is doing it. We have a figure of authority and a whole bunch of peer pressure from all the people around them just to do what they are told. Everyone else is doing it. Just follow along, follow the law as proclaimed by the king. Save your own life and just do what you’re told.
They didn’t know for sure God would save them. They didn’t know God was going to intervene. They had faith. They had commitment to God. And their faith was demonstrated on the ultimate scale here. They did this in the face of sacrificing their own lives. They showed what overcoming is all about is all about. They’re being faithful witnesses when they’re faced with death. They’re about to undergo the literal fiery trial for their own beliefs.
How do we do when we’re put under these intense pressures from the people around us? These cultural or societal norms that we deal with every day? Do we continue walking in the Spirit as Paul calls it, or do we drift towards the flesh?
Most times it’s not even our lives on the line on the line. It’s usually our reputation or some kind of a social status or social standing or possibly even our jobs that we give up for our integrity and for our faith when we face trials that we’re asked to overcome.
But the three colleagues decided to disobey the king and disobey the law.
Paul on submission to authority
Let’s look at Romans where Paul talks about how we should obey the law and how important that is. Let’s look at Romans 13.
Romans 13:1 says, Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.
Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.
For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.
For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
And Paul goes on to say love your neighbor and put on Christ throughout that chapter.
But how do we know when we should be following the law of the land verses the law of God? Are Daniel and his three friends giving us permission to disobey the law? The person put in charge is God’s servant. He’s put him there. And Nebuchadnezzar, in the beginning of Daniel—which even talks about Nebuchadnezzar as “the Lord’s servant”—God is using Nebuchadnezzar to fulfill the prophecy.
Well to answer this, first we see that Daniel is all about the appeals process. So when things are maybe not the way they should be, we’re supposed to appeal. Secondly, we see that the only time Daniel and his friends disobey the law of the king, is when it comes into conflict with God’s law.
Daniel’s compadres were being asked to violate the first two commandments, right? They’re being forced to worship a God other than the one true God, and this other deity is an idol.
So, for example, in the book of Daniel, we see that we should violate man’s law when it goes against God’s law. We should stand up for what God tells us to do despite the consequences. Those consequences may be social, they may be physical, or even family related.
If the law requires us to violate one of the Ten Commandments or to not love the Lord with all our hearts and love our neighbor as ourselves, then we shouldn’t follow it.
The king’s three counselors didn’t give up; they didn’t give in to the temptations, and they stayed committed to their faith and to God’s commandments.
Now let’s travel back in time to Daniel where we see what happened to Daniel’s friends. In Daniel 3:19.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
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.”
“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.”
So the three eunuchs are taken to the furnace which is heated seven times more than it normally would have been.
The king’s trying to make a statement here, right? He’s making it extra hot for them. He’s trying to show his subjects here that he is not to be disobeyed. The furnace is so hot that these guards that are throwing them in there, they combust just moving the three men towards the furnace. They’re just consumed by the heat immediately.
Nebuchadnezzar notices that there aren’t just three men running around inside the furnace now. There are four, and the fourth is an angel or what the king recognizes as a god-like being. So it’s pretty astonishing for him.
We go on to verse 26. It says, 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.
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.
Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel 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!
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.”
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.
When this starts off in verse 26, obviously the furnace has cooled down at this point as Nebuchadnezzar goes towards the furnace and comes up next to it. And he sees that not a single hair on their head has been singed by the furnace that caused the guards to combust just by walking near it.
He then calls the three men servants of the Most High God. This is a big admission for the pagan king. We saw in chapter 2 he recognizes that their God is probably real, but just one of many. Now he’s recognizing that God is the Most High God. Now he’s probably still thinking he’s one of many, but now he’s the God of gods. He’s the real deal. He calls him the Most High God and not just “god.” He’s recognizing him as above all other gods.
He even goes on to throw his coercive power behind God by saying, “If anyone speaks out against the Hebrew God, they’re going to be cut into pieces and their houses burned down.”
This is a pretty significant moment. It’s a defining moment for Nebuchadnezzar, really. He recognizes that God is legit. What a significant emotional event that must have been for him to see this happen. He’s seen an actual miracle in front of his own eyes and an angel of God.
He even goes on to promote the three men in the province of Babylon, so they come out of it looking pretty good.
When we go through fiery trials, we’re called to face them with faith and courage and overcome. And we see the example of this with these three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.
Sometimes God’s presence is more deeply felt in some trials than in any others. We can see Isaiah 43:1-3, it says—
But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name;
You are Mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you.
For I am the Lord your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I gave Egypt for your ransom,
Ethiopia and Seba in your place.
When we don’t feel God’s presence in our fiery trials, it might just be we’re not listening well enough.
When things in your life aren’t going your way, good. When circumstances in your life seem to be challenging your faith, good. When it seems the whole world is turned against you, embrace it and see it for what it is. See that it is an opportunity to remember that God is in control. When we remember that, our attitude becomes one of choice instead of one of victim. We have a better perspective. We start to ask questions like “What should I be learning right now?” instead of pitying ourselves. That attitude will, in turn, reflect in our actions.
You know, this works in reverse as well. When we recognize ourselves as having poor actions, it’s usually a reflection of a really poor attitude. And when we have a really poor attitude, it’s usually a reflection of who we believe is in control. Do I trust God, or do I trust someone other than God? Do I believe God is in control, or not.
Poor actions are from poor attitudes, and our poor attitude is from not trusting in God.
Daniel’s three friends trusted God and were overcomers of fiery trials, both figuratively and literally. Their attitude of faith and commitment was reflected in their actions of being martyrs, faithful witnesses. May we uphold their example in our own trials.
So as you look at this and say, “What can be taken from Daniel?” it’s easy to read something and say, “That’s a great story.” But where do I see myself in it? And what we see is a story full of faith and commitment to obey God’s law and do life right, to have the belief that God is in control, to have a better attitude about it, and then have actions that reflect that attitude and that belief.