Three Men Go Through the Fire – Daniel 3

When we finished Daniel chapter 2, we saw that King Nebuchadnezzar recognized that the God of the Hebrews is the One True God. The king said “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” It would seem like with this incredible revelation from God and the admission from the king, Nebuchadnezzar would worship God for the rest of his life. However, that’s not quite how it happens in Daniel 3, and it makes for a good lesson for us! The king seems to suffer from short-term memory loss. It happens to all of us. We tend to forget what God did for us yesterday, last week, or last year.

1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages,
5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”

So here we see right out of the gate in chapter 3 that the king has already forgotten the God of the Hebrews, or at the very least he has forgotten God’s power. He decides to build this incredible idol that is 90 feet high and 9 feet wide! That’s about as high as an eight story building and it’s made of gold (probably gold plated). Wow, when he decides to confront God, he decides to do it BIG!

The king requires all of his government employees from his entire kingdom to come admire and worship his new idol. This includes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they were appointed to the government in the last chapter (as was Daniel):

“Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.” Daniel 2:49

Look at Who is Missing!
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.
~ Daniel 3:7-13

First, we see that the text says that “all the people” fell down and worshipped in verse 7. But then in verse 12 we see the Bible tell us that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not fall down and worship the idol. So what’s the story – does the Bible contradict itself?

Well, it could be that Daniel is simply telling us that the entire crowd in verse 7 obeyed the king, except those mentioned in verse 12. Or it could be that they were in hiding hoping that no one would notice they were missing. That would have been me! I’d be off hiding under a bed somewhere hoping they’ll be so busy with other things they won’t even notice I’m gone. As we see in verse 13, they are “brought” before the king, as if they were not present at the time. Either way, they somehow defied the kings command to bow before the idol.

But here’s the thing about “hiding” under the bed: the world watches us as Christians. They are looking to see what we will do, particularly in difficulty. That’s a chance to shine for Christ! So don’t hide under the bed. Let the world see you glorify God.

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. ~ Matthew 5:13-16

The other person we don’t see here in the Biblical account is Daniel. We don’t know if he was out of town on a diplomatic mission, or maybe he was above the command to bow.

Stephen is Another example
We find another beautiful example of this kind of faith in Stephen in the book of Acts where some of the locals falsely accuse Stephen:

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.
And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.”
And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.
~ Acts 6:8-12

The local leaders didn’t like Stephen’s preaching and telling the truth, so they made a decision to silence him completely by killing him:

Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. ~ Acts 7:57-60

The world will often try to silence the truth of God. They hate hearing it and they don’t want it preached. With Stephen, they were successful in killing the first martyr in the book of Acts. In Daniel we will see them fail in their attempt to kill these three men. Whether the accusers kill or don’t kill is in God’s hands. Regardless, the Bible tells us that God’s word does what God intends – which is to glorify Himself and turn human hearts to Him. So in Daniel, God’s word shows us a miraculous deliverance of the three men. In Acts we see Stephen killed for his faith and teaching. Both situations in Scripture accomplish what God intends them to accomplish.

For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater,
So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
~ Isaiah 55:10-11

God tells us in Isaiah that it’s just like when God waters the earth with rain. The rain doesn’t immediately go right back to heaven again. No, it goes through an entire ‘water cycle’ of moistening the earth and watering plants, feeding streams, people, fish,and animals. It then evaporates back up into the sky to fall again later. The rain falls and does it’s work on earth bringing fruit just like God’s Word brings fruit.

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
~ James 1:21

Receive the rain of God’s word in your life and let it do what God intends!

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.[fn] 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.”
~ Daniel 3:14-18

I love their reply! “God will save us, but even if He doesn’t save us, we still won’t bow” (obviously paraphrased). Oh to have that kind of faith! When Stephen was teaching in the book of Acts, he knew that the local leaders were angry with his message. Yet he continued to preach, letting his “light so shine before men” and allowing God’s word to accomplish it’s work like the rain does when it falls on earth.

The lesson? Be bold in our faith! God will use that testimony of ours if we act in faith.

That Fire Burns Hot!
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.

When I was a kid in a Spokane summer, probably 11 or 12 years old, my brother and I were fighting in the kitchen. I had a smoke bomb firework in my pocket along with a lighter. I threatened my brother by igniting the lighter in my hand and I held the smoke bomb fuse near the lighter (thinking I was being clever). Without actually touching the flame to the fuse, the fuse suddenly lit up because the flame near it was hot enough to cause it to ignite.

Of course you can guess the end of that story: now I have a lit smoke bomb in my hand, brother screaming at me, Mom walks into the kitchen yelling, smoke bomb goes off, kitchen filled with nasty smoke, Anthony is grounded for eternity.

The point is, these servants of the king actually had no choice but to disobey the king and be killed for it, or get near enough to the fire and die anyway because of the intense heat. No good options for them for sure. But that’s how hot that fire was. Did that discourage Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from obeying God? Not one bit.

These guys could have written the song of Psalm 17:

Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry! Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From your presence let my vindication come! Let your eyes behold the right!
You have tried my heart, you have visited me by night, you have tested me, and you will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.
With regard to the works of man, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,
from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me.
~ Psalm 17:1-9

Nebuchadnezzar is Astonished
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.

Remember, the world watches us as believers in Jesus. They want to see and know how we will handle adversity. And their words, which God wrote on their hearts to speak, were not spoken without having their desired effect on the heart of the king. He fully recognizes the power of Almighty God and the complete weakness and worthlessness of the god he tried to create in gold. Let your light shine before men!

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
~ Isaiah 55:11

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