Facing the Fiery Furnace

Posted: January 26, 2017 in Daniel, Uncategorized

Daniel 3, “Facing the Fiery Furnace”

For parents of a certain generation, it’s almost impossible to think of some Bible stories without remembering the cartoon Veggie-Tales version of them.  “Rack, Shack, and Benny,” happens to be one of them for me.  To read the account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (or Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) is to immediately think of grey-haired cucumbers, chocolate bunnies, and soul music.  Yet, as is usually the case, the actual events are far better!  First of all, this isn’t a fictionalized account – it is actual history.  The events we’re about to read actually happened in real time to real people.  It might sound fantastic & mythological…but it isn’t.  It’s real.  Secondly, this would be better served as an action film than a kid’s story.  This is exciting, heart-pounding stuff!  There’s political intrigue, death-threats, determination, incineration, and of course, miraculous deliverance.  That ought to be enough to pique anyone’s interest beyond a kid’s story!

What is found is a two-sided story.  First, is the obvious: Hananiah’s, Mishael’s, and Azariah’s determined faith in God, despite immense pressure and oppositions – as well as God’s sovereign protection of them.  The second story may not be as easily seen: the patient outreach of Almighty God to Nebuchadnezzar, slowly bringing him to faith.  Although some wonder whether or not King Nebuchadnezzar ever truly became a faithful servant of God, there is no question that Daniel’s writings show the king eventually coming to some form of faith, and the events of Chapter 3 fall right into the greater narrative of that.

Chapter 2 of Daniel had shown King Nebuchadnezzar troubled by a recurring dream – one that was not a nightmare, but incredibly confusing to him.  Although none of his “normal” wise men & sages could either tell him the dream or its interpretation, Daniel the Jew was able.  Still a young man at the time, in the process of his training to become a wise man & advisor to the king, Daniel trusted that God would provide the interpretation of this dream, and so He did.  God showed Nebuchadnezzar an account of kingdoms & empires that would follow his own, leading all the way until the end of the world system as we know it.  As glorious as Babylon’s empire was in Nebuchadnezzar’s day, it wouldn’t last – nor would any world power that would follow.  The only eternal kingdom is that of God’s, and God’s rule would cover the whole earth. 

Upon receiving the interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Daniels’ God to be “the God of gods” (2:47), but any faith the king had at that point was truly superficial.  He was impressed by the fact that Daniel’s God could reveal secrets that none other could – but apparently Nebuchadnezzar was not yet ready to accept God’s supremacy and prophetic word.  But a seed had been planted.  That seed would be watered during the events of the fiery furnace, and would eventually come to fruition later on, after God had to humble Nebuchadnezzar in the most public of ways (something which is narrated in Chapter 4).

In the meantime, what happens?  The king attempts to promote his own ideas for Babylon’s future at the expense of everyone – even the Jews who worshipped the same God as Daniel.  Would God truly show Himself supreme?  Would He be strong not only in the end-days, but in the present-day?  That is exactly what Nebuchadnezzar, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are all about to find out.

Daniel 3

  • The image (1-7)

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.

  • This was a tall statue!  90’x9’ – not very wide, but tall.  What was it?  Speculation abounds.  Many have supposed it to be a statue of Nebuchadnezzar himself, though the dimensions makes this unlikely, unless perhaps a smaller statue was placed on top of a very tall base.  (Otherwise, the human features would be highly distorted, as if a person was stretched from top to bottom.)  It’s possible that Nebuchadnezzar built an obelisk, per some of the sites he would have seen in Egypt.  Or it’s possible that some other image/memorial was made.  We cannot be dogmatic on the type of image itself, and honestly, it doesn’t really matter.  If the Holy Spirit had thought it important for us to know, He would have had Daniel record it – which he didn’t.  The bottom line is that the king built an extremely tall image, overlaid it with gold, and put it in a very public location for the people of Babylon.
  • The type of image may not be significant, but the gold is.  Remember that in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, his own kingdom was symbolized by a head of gold (2:38).  Here, the entire image is made of gold.  The Babylonian king wanted more than just a head; he wanted the whole thing.  Whether he was inspired by his earlier dream, or frightened by it, we don’t know.  What we do know is that he broke the symbolism at this point.  God had told him that his kingdom would not last, but it would give way to a kingdom of silver, then of bronze, etc.  Nebuchadnezzar defied this, and in essence declared that his kingdom would last forever.
    • We can fight against God’s word, but we will never invalidate it.  We may not like what the Bible says in some places, but we cannot change the truth of it.  Far better to submit to God’s word than to deny it.  One way or the other, it will be proven true.  Man may lie, but God never does.  (Don’t kick against the goads!  If God has said something, abide by it!)
  • When exactly all of this took place is unknown.  The LXX inserts a chronological note of this being in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar, most likely putting it in line with the final fall of Jerusalem.  Yet nowhere is that date supported in other manuscripts.  It certainly could have been 16 years after the events of Chapter 2, but there’s no reason it need to have been.  All we know is that it did take place after Chapter 2, as the three Hebrew friends are apparently already in their positions of authority, just as the end of Chapter 2 proclaimed.
  • Whenever the construction project began, eventually it was completed & the king had a purpose for this statue.  Thus he lets the rest of the kingdom know – vs. 2…

2 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. 3 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.

  • That’s a lot of various officials – and the idea is that the whole government showed up.  Nebuchadnezzar gathered everyone together for the celebration of this image, with no one being exempt.  Depending on your Bible translation, some of these government positions are labeled a bit differently, and due to the mixing of Persian and Aramaic names, not all of them can be precisely identified.  Even so, the basic idea is the same: all were gathered, called by the king to the plain of Dura.
  • With everyone together, what was the command?  Vs. 4…

4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 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; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

  • Not only had all the governing officials been gathered, but so had the royal musicians.  When the orchestra struck up the tune, all who were present were to fall to the ground, worshiping the golden monument Nebuchadnezzar had built.  It was to be a singular moment of unified idolatry.
  • Why?  Perhaps it was more political than religious.  Nebuchadnezzar was the king over many kingdoms.  As the herald said, there were many “peoples, nations, and languages” present that day.  Each of these nations worshiped their own individual gods, and the only thing unifying them together was the forced will of Babylon.  Thus Nebuchadnezzar gave them a unifying element.  They would acknowledge the god(s) of Babylon, and more importantly, acknowledge the political and religious authority of King Nebuchadnezzar himself.  Even if the statue was not a personal image of Nebuchadnezzar, it certainly was a symbol of his authority.  By commanding them to bow and worship it, he was commanding them to bow before himself.  To his mind, this was a pledge of allegiance – a symbol like us saluting the flag.  It was to be an act of loyalty and subservience to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.
  • Which is why the penalty for disobedience was so severe.  It’s doubtful that Nebuchadnezzar cared about which god the people worshiped during their private time – he just wanted an affirmation of their fealty to him.  Anyone who didn’t bow and worship the image was, in a sense, not promising their allegiance – and that was an offense punishable by death.  And not just any death!  This was a horrendous, painful death.  It’s one thing to be beheaded on the spot – it’s another thing to be burned to death in a furnace.  That sort of torment would be enough to cause any person to rethink his/her dissent!
  • And there wasn’t much dissent to be found.  Vs. 7…

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.

  • The people obeyed – and for good reason: they wanted to live!  They had a choice between idolatrous worship or death, so they chose the idolatry.  Granted, the vast majority of these people were already engaged in idolatry, so a little more didn’t matter.  But there would be others who had religious convictions to the contrary.  What choice would they make?  Would their faith really matter, or would they find ways to justify their faithlessness to their God?
  • To the ears of an American Evangelical, this all sounds rather far-fetched, or at least something that has passed into ancient history.  Yet for multitudes of Christians all over the world, this is a present-day reality.  Christians who are minorities living in lands populated by militant Muslims or Hindus often face a similar choice: they can pledge allegiance to the gods of the majority-population, or face torture or death.  Although Islamic apologetic websites will claim that there ought to be no compulsion in religion, evidence from predominantly Islamic nations show something very different.  Coptic Christian girls in Egypt have been kidnapped, and shown days later reciting the Muslim creed (June 19, 2016 – http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/681009/Christian-girls-abducted-forced-to-convert-to-Islam-spate-horror-kidnappings-Egypt).  A 2015 report from Pakistan reported an estimated 1000 Hindu and Christian girls each year who were forcibly converted to Islam (August 15, 2016 – http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2016/08/15/pakistan-activists-hindu-christian-forced-convert-islam/).  It happens all around the world, to men and women alike, forced to choose between death and apostasy.  Suffice to say, this is not ancient history.  The lessons of Daniel 3 have extremely practical implications for today!
  • The accusation (8-18)

8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews.

  • No doubt, this was the moment these “Chaldeans” were waiting for.  Daniel 1:20 told us how Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were found to have more wisdom than all of the other wise men & astrologers in Babylon.  Chapter 2 affirmed the same, as Daniel was able to do what none of the Chaldean magicians and astrologers were able to do.  By this point, Daniel & his friends had been promoted above all of the other wise men of the land.  To the Chaldeans (those of the same nationality as Nebuchadnezzar), this would have been unthinkable – a tremendous blow to their pride.  How could these Jews be in a higher position than themselves?  How could the king value the Hebrews more than them?  Surely they were waiting for an opportunity to bring an accusation against the Jews, and they found it.
    • It’s a reminder of the fact that we are in a spiritual war.  There is never a time when our enemy takes a break – he’s always looking for a way to trip us up, bringing us down to destruction.  Don’t be surprised when you get hit with a spiritual attack out of nowhere.  The devil roams about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. (1 Pt 5:8)  He’ll come after you when you least expect it.
    • The good news is that God never leaves us alone!  We can fight the devil – not through our own strength, but through the strength of the Lord.  Stand firm in Christ – stay filled with the Holy Spirit.  That’s the only way you’ll be able to fend off the attacks of the evil one.

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.”

  • It would seem like an open & shut case.  The Chaldean astrologers basically read the law back to Nebuchadnezzar.  He had personally commanded people to worship the golden image, and his favored Jewish boys hadn’t done it.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (their Babylonian names) had disregarded the king’s command, thus disrespecting the king.  They had not shown him the allegiance he demanded, and they proved that they would not be united with the Babylonians in worshiping the gods of Babylon.
  • Note: all of these accusations were true.  The Chaldeans may have spoken with evil intent, but they didn’t lie.  They certainly did not tell the full story – anyone at all familiar with the Hebrew customs (as these learned wise men would have been) would have known that the Jews would never be able to bow in worship to another god.  That wasn’t an issue of disrespecting the king; it was a matter of integrity to the true God.  Even so, the Chaldeans didn’t directly lie about them.  They told the truth: the Jewish friends refused to bow in worship, and thus broke the law of the king.
    • If you’re going to be accused of being a Christian, you might as well have enough evidence in your life of being found guilty!  The world ought to be able to know we are believers in the Lord Jesus simply by looking at us.  The sad part isn’t their accusation of our faith in Christ – the sad part is when they don’t have enough evidence with which to accuse us.
    • How about you?  If you were taken to court on the accusation of Christianity, would there be enough evidence for a conviction?  What could be said about your day today that would show your allegiance to Jesus?

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.

  • Note that this was no minor irritation for the king.  He was “in rage and fury” – from his point of view, things could not have been more insulting.  The Hebrew friends had taken a risk (rightly so), and were now reaping the results.  Not that this was a bad thing – quite to the contrary!  But these were simply the facts.  To disobey the king is to incur his wrath, no matter how much he may have liked them in the past.  Choices have consequences, and we need to be prepared to live with them whatever they may be.
  • Question: Where is Daniel in all of this?  Were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah the only Hebrews who had refused to bow to the image in worship?  Surely there were other Hebrews among the gathering in Babylon who had not been accused by the Chaldeans.  Had they chosen to bow?  Maybe – maybe not.  It’s possible the Chaldean astrologers were so focused on their Hebrew rivals among the wise men, that they didn’t care about anyone else.  As for Daniel, that’s a tougher question – and one that the Scripture never addresses.  All kinds of theories have been presented.  Perhaps Daniel’s high position exempted him from showing up on the plain of Dura (which seems unlikely).  Perhaps Daniel’s official duties to the king had him elsewhere in the kingdom at the time of the command (which is possible).  Perhaps the Chaldeans thought they could get away with accusing Daniel’s three friends, but not Daniel himself (which is again unlikely, considering the later accusation against him with the lion’s den).  It’s been suggested that Daniel’s absence is a theological type of the Church, in that the Church will be raptured and removed from the earth during the days of the Great Tribulation, as the three friends were about to endure.  This is indeed a possibility, but in the end, it’s unprovable.  Daniel himself would be the best person to explain his absence, yet he makes no attempt to do so.  Why he was gone is a mystery – yet there is little doubt that if he had been present, he would have been another Jew accused of treason before the king.
  • In any case, these three had been accused, and now it was time to face the king.  Vs. 14…

14 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? 15 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?”

  • Though furious with the three Hebrews, King Nebuchadnezzar mercifully (in his mind) gave the men another chance.  He recounted the accusation back to them, asking them if it was true.  Even if it had been true in the past, he gave them the opportunity to change their answer for the present.  If they followed his command at the sound of the orchestra, and worshiped the Babylonian gods and golden image, then all would be forgiven and forgotten.  Things could go back to as they knew it.  They would continue to enjoy their position of privilege, and remain in the favor of the king.  If not, they would die.  The choice may have seemed difficult, but it wasn’t complicated.  In essence, he said: “Bow, or die.  Say what you want in your heart or under your breath, but just fall on your face before the gods of Babylon, and all will be forgiven.”
    • What would you do?  Can we even know, without being in that situation?  God give us grace for the moment!
  • The kicker was Nebuchadnezzar’s prideful claim at the end: “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”  Right here, Nebuchadnezzar is claiming his supremacy over all other gods.  He knew which God it was that the Hebrews worshiped.  That much was acknowledged when Daniel gave him the interpretation to his dream.  Daniel 2:47, "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.”"  Earlier, he claimed that the Hebrew God was greater than all other gods, and was the Ruler over all other kings.  What had changed?  His ego.  Earlier, Nebuchadnezzar had a taste of the truth, but never personally came to faith.  Time passed, and his ego got bigger.  He thought he knew better than Daniel’s God.  Daniel’s God said that the Babylonian kingdom was passing away – Nebuchadnezzar was going to ensure otherwise.  Daniel’s God had known the thoughts of the mind of the king, but now the king had chosen to change his mind.  HE was in control of Babylon; not any national God of a people conquered by him.  (Or so he thought…he would soon learn differently!)
    • Remember that this story is more than that of three Jews and their faith under pressure – it’s also that of a Babylonian king coming to faith in the true God.  At this point, it’s evident that there was still much for him to learn.  As long as Nebuchadnezzar remained proud & self-inflated, he would remain in his unbelief.  He would have to have his pride deflated, which is exactly what will take place here – but it will need to take place to a greater extent later on.  God mercifully gives Nebuchadnezzar the opportunity to humble himself…sadly, he doesn’t take it.
    • God reaches out to us time & time again!  How many times did God reach out to you before you finally came to faith?  Praise God for His mercy!  The key to respond sooner rather than later.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.”

  • Using their Babylonian names, Daniel records an incredibly wonderful reply from his friends.  Whatever the king needed to do, he needed to do…they weren’t going to change one bit.  There was “no need” for them to go back and discuss the matter, no need for them to debate it with the king, no need for them to prolong things with arguments.  Their minds were made up, and not about to change.  They would not bow to other gods, no matter what.  If God delivered them, great – if not, so be it.  Their faith in God was not dependent on God’s response to their situation.  God was deserving of their faith, despite their circumstances.
    • And He is!  Yes, Jesus did intercede wonderfully in our lives – He died for us while we were yet sinners.  But if Jesus did nothing more for us than die at the cross & rise from the grave – if He remained silent to our prayers, or had zero further interaction with us – He would still be deserving of our faith.  Thankfully, God interacts with us in many ways: Jesus prays for us, the Holy Spirit dwells with us, God the Father provides for us, etc., but He doesn’t have to do any of that.  If God did absolutely nothing, He would still be worthy of faith, simply because He is God.  The fact of our existence is proof of His worth of worship.  He gave us breath – He gave us life.  That alone makes Him worthy of our praise.  That He gives us anything else at all is amazing!
    • Too often, we make our worship of God dependent upon our circumstances.  “If You do ___, then I will praise You…”  “I feel like worshipping today… I don’t feel like it…”  That is not at all what God deserves.  Worship isn’t something God earns from us; it’s something we are already obligated to give Him simply because He exists.  Worship God!  He’s worth it.
  • Notice what else the three Hebrews tell the king: God is able.  Nebuchadnezzar proudly claimed that no other god could deliver them from his hand, but the three friends knew better.  Yes, their God could.  Their God created the heavens and the earth in six days.  Their God formed their entire nation from the seed of Abraham.  Their God destroyed the Egyptian firstborns, and parted the Red Sea.  Their God could do anything.  Whether or not He chose to do so was another matter, but could God do it?  Yes!
    • Our God can do anything!  As a prophet contemporary to Daniel wrote: Jeremiah 32:17, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You."  Nothing is too difficult for the Lord Almighty – He can do it all! 
    • Do you pray with the mindset of “God can”?  Obviously we do not place demands upon Him in our prayers.  After all, God is God & we’re not.  He chooses to act according to His own will, and we are the ones who need to find ourselves in the will of God, rather than asking for Him to do our will.  Even so, we need to know that God can.  We will never pray for something we don’t believe God can do.  We will never have faith for a promise we believe God is unable to perform.  Yet God is not limited.  He is able to accomplish all things.  If He created the heavens & the earth – if He could send His only begotten Son on your behalf – if Jesus could bodily rise from the grave – then there is nothing that God cannot do!  Believe it!
  • The furnace (19-25)

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. 20 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. 21 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.

  • Although the response of the Hebrews sounds wonderful to us, it was infuriating to the king.  His temper was stoked as hot as the furnace was about to be!  No longer did he look upon these Jews as favored servants, but as treasonous enemies, and he commanded their immediate execution.  The furnace was stoked to maximum heat, and no time was given to Hananiah, Mishael, or Azariah to say good-bye or make any further preparations.  They would be thrown into the furnace, ceremonial clothing & all.

22 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.

  • How hot was the furnace?  It even killed the guards.  There’s a bit of irony here that the guards died while the condemned went on to live.  Just the fact that the guards died along the way was a bit indicative of the future outcome.  If the guards died from the heat, surely the Hebrew friends ought to have done the same.  Yet they outlived their captors – even to the very entry to the furnace.
  • BTW – there’s a bit of a lesson about the consequences of rage in all of this.  These guards were “mighty men of valor” – prized warriors in Nebuchadnezzar’s army.  Yet they were killed in the process of the king’s wrath.  He had intended to punish the Hebrews, but instead he punished the innocent, who were just following orders.  Uncontrolled, ungodly anger always carries unintended consequences. It’s natural for us to get angry from time to time, but beware of ungodliness that accompanies it.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians to be angry, yet not sin (Eph 4:26).  Anger doesn’t have to be sinful – but we need to be careful to guard it from becoming so.  Otherwise, we’ll end up hurting many more people than those with whom we’re actually angry.

23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 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.” 25 “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.”

  • The old action movies would say “Two men went in, but one came out!”  The experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego was the opposite: three went in, and four were found there.  They were fully “bound” when entering the fiery furnace, but although their bonds were burnt away, no harm came them personally.  Their guards had died on the way, but they lived on.  And they weren’t alone – there was a fourth man, giving aid and comfort to these Hebrews who had remained so faithful to God.
  • Question: who exactly did Nebuchadnezzar see?  Although the phrase can be translated (as does the NKJV) “the Son of God,” a better rendering is “a son of (the) gods” (per NASB, ESV, NIV, etc.).  No definite article is included in the Aramaic, and Nebuchadnezzar would not likely have had any concept of the pre-incarnate Christ, better known as the Angel of the Lord (YHWH).  That being said, it is certainly possible (perhaps likely) that this particular being was none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus, come to comfort and deliver His people from the midst of the fiery furnace.
    • Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had the presence of God with them in their fiery trial.  Do we?  Without doubt!  As born-again Christians, we experience the personal presence of God in a way that the three Hebrew friends never knew in the furnace: we have the Holy Spirit!  God the Holy Spirit dwells inside us, giving us our new birth, sealing us for eternity, interceding for us in prayers that cannot be uttered, and empowering us to live as witnesses for Christ Jesus.  Our God is with us!  Jesus promised to be with His disciples always, even to the end of the age (Mt 28:20), even as He was about to bodily ascend to heaven.  How would He be with them?  Through the presence of the Helper: God the Holy Spirit.  God is with us – always!
    • You may not see Him in your trials, but you can trust He is there.  Even when things seem darkest, as a born-again Christian, God has not abandoned you.  He never will – you have His promise on that.  Trust Him – be encouraged by Him – be strengthened by Him…He is with you.
  • The aftermath (26-30)

26 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.

  • Notice quite the change in Nebuchadnezzar!  He still commands the Hebrew friends, but no longer is he raging in his fury, but he is humbled as he calls to them.  He “went near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace,” but not even he could go where the three Hebrews were.  So long as they were there, they were kept safe by the presence of God, and Nebuchadnezzar knew it.  No longer promoting himself as being beyond the reach of the gods, he realizes that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were “servants of the Most High God.”  Whatever gods had been commanded to be worshipped earlier at the site of the golden image were nothing in comparison to the God of the Hebrews.  That God was higher than all gods.  Nebuchadnezzar had thought this in his earlier experience with Daniel, but had soon forgotten.  He wouldn’t forget this event so easily!
  • Nor would anyone else who witnessed it.  Vs. 27…

27 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.

  • Representatives from all who had gathered in the plain of Dura were apparently present next to the furnace, and they witnessed all that took place.  When the Hebrews were standing among them, it was as if nothing had happened to them at all.  So much did God protect them from the fire, that they couldn’t even smell it on these Hebrew men!  Their bonds had burned away, but their hair was unsinged.  It was a miracle!
  • It was a miracle, but is it believable?  Absolutely!  Again, we’re talking about the work of the God who created the heavens and the earth.  Nothing is impossible for Him.  People so often try to constrict the work of God or explain it away, but God’s actions speak for themselves.  When God moves, it cannot be denied. 
    • This is one of the great aspects about your personal testimony.  People might debate you in regards to doctrine – they can try to counter Biblical beliefs with beliefs of their own – but they cannot deny the work God has done in your life.  They cannot negate your testimony.  Don’t hesitate to share what God has done for you…it is powerful in evangelism!

28 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!

  • He hadn’t yet fully come to faith, but Nebuchadnezzar was reaching a point of change.  Earlier, he was only amazed at the God of Daniel – now, he proclaims the God of the Hebrews to be “blessed.”  The Aramaic term is similar to that of the Hebrew, and it speaks of blessing or praise.  The God of the Hebrews was a God to be praised – He is a God truly worthy of worship, of bowing the knee.  Neither Hananiah, Mishael, nor Azariah could bow before the gods of Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar now understood why: they could only bow their knees to the true God.  He is blessed beyond all others!
  • God had “delivered His servants,” and Nebuchadnezzar understood why.  (1) They “trusted” God. (2) They “frustrated” the king. (3) They “yielded” themselves.
    • They trusted God: They believed God for who He is.  They did not presume upon Him, but they knew Him to be the only God worthy of worship.  From this belief, they would not back down.  They knew the truth, and thus they knew their response.  Like Martin Luther responding to his Catholic prosecutors, they knew “Here I stand – I can do no other.”  If God truly is God, how could they possibly turn away from Him?  Better to die and fall into His hands, then to deny Him and face Him later.
    • They frustrated the king.  They made a stand against the pressures of the world.  The king had demanded they bow their knee to him, but they determined to bow only to God.  That did not only frustrate the mind of the king, but they also frustrated his plans by not dying in the fire.  Everything the world threw at them was turned upside down, because they had given themselves over to God in faith.
    • They yielded themselves.  They had surrendered themselves to God, no matter the cost.  They were willing to die, if need be – only if God be praised.  They had taken their stand, and they were willing to face the consequences – even if God chose not to deliver them.
  • How do we maintain our faith in a culture that is so opposed to Biblical Christianity?  We trust in God – frustrate the plans of the enemy – and yield ourselves to God.  We determine to walk in faith, no matter what – no matter what the cost might be – no matter how angry the world might get, and what sort of pressures they put upon us.  This is the sort of faith shown by Christian bakers who compassionately, but steadfastly refuse to participate in homosexual weddings.  This is the sort of faith shown by Christian teachers who respectfully, but steadfastly refuse to teach doctrines opposed to the Bible.  This is the sort of faith exampled by multitudes of Christians all over the world in nations where simply believing in Jesus is illegal.  Trust God.  Will it frustrate the enemy?  Sure…but remain surrendered to the Lord, and let come what may.

29 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.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.

  • Quite the change in tune!  All of the Chaldeans who had originally brought the accusations against the Jews were surely rethinking their strategies.  The Hebrews were now a protected class in Babylon – something which ought to have been impossible for a conquered captive people.  Surely, this was as much of a miracle as was the deliverance from the furnace!

Conclusion:
What is God able to do?  Anything!  What is He deserving of?  Faith – no matter what.  No doubt, we will face trials.  Perhaps we won’t face anything as dire as Hananiah, Mishael, or Azariah, but at some point, you will be asked to deny your faith.  Maybe it comes as a subtle compromise – maybe it will be something more drastic, as if your job depends on it.  Be willing to count the cost!  God is worth our worship, whether He chooses to deliver us or not.  He’s already given us life – He’s already delivered us from our sin through the work of Jesus Christ – what more needs to be done?  Determine to be faithful.  Set yourself now to be set upon the truth of God.  Be intentional about your trust in Him.

In addition – keep praying for those who are lost.  Nebuchadnezzar was a true enemy for a time, but he did not remain so.  He was in the process of coming to faith.  God was being merciful to him, giving him the opportunity to see God for who He is.  Your enemies today might be your brothers and sisters in Christ tomorrow.  You don’t know how God is working in their lives.  Don’t give up hope for them – keep praying for them.

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