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ch. 3:1-31

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The Image Of Gold And The Fiery Furnace (Ch. 3:1-30)

Many Bible scholars believe that what takes place in chapter 3 took place about 18 to 20 years after chapter 2.  It's likely that the dream and what had transpired with Daniel and the God of heaven had long faded from Nebuchadnezzarís mind.  

 

This time laps tells me something about how God relates to godly men and their ministry.  We don't know for sure, but we have no record of Daniel functioning in his prophetic ministry during these 18 to 20 years.  It thus appears, as we see with other men and ministries in the Bible, that the specific task God has for us isn't always a daily thing.  The apostle Paul spent many years after his salvation before he began his apostolic ministry.  Patience is important in the plan of God.    

 

In verses 1 to 3 we see that Nebuchadnezzar made an image and decreed that everyone in the kingdom must worship this image.  It was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide.  Ninety feet would be close to a nine floor building.  This was a large statue.  You will see a list of government officials who were mandated to come to the dedication of this stature. 

 

This image was made of gold.  Although this could have been 20 years after Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzarís dream, and maybe it had faded from his mind, it might be significant that the stature was made of gold.  In the king's dream, the head of the stature was made of gold and that represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom.       

 

The place where this statue was erected was in a place called Dura, which is about 6 miles southeast of the city of Babylon.

 

The text gives us no reason why the king built this statue and decreed that everyone worship it, yet historical literature may give us a clue.  In 596 B. C. there was a revolt against Nebuchadnezzar that failed.  By building this image and forcing people to worship it might well have been an attempt by the king to secure his position in the kingdom and put an end to the revolt.

 

In verses 4 to 6 the instructions were given.  When certain music was played everyone standing by the stature had to fall down and worship it.  It did not matter what nation, language, or cultural background you came from, you had to worship the statue.  If anyone failed to do so he would be thrown into a fiery furnace and burned to death.  In other words, the king who believed he was a god, was creating his own Lake of Fire. 

 

Verse 7 tells us that all the people present did as they were told when they heard the music pay.  They did fall in worship before the statue.  All this reminds me of the book of Revelation.  The anti-Christ creates his own statue that must be worshipped.  Of course, as is with prophetic history, many prophecies of secondary meanings to them.  This might well be one. 

 

In verses 8 through 12 we note that everyone did bow to this idol except for three men.  The astrologers went to the king and told him that the three Hebrew men that he had appointed as administrators in his kingdom neither worshipped the Babylonian gods or king's the statue. 

 

The men that the astrologers referred to were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedgnego.  Earlier I gave you these menís Hebrew names and their meaning and now I will give you the meaning to their Babylonian names.  Shadrach means illuminated by the sun gods.  Meshach means who is like the moon god.  Abednego means the shining fire.

 

In verses 13 through 15 we see that Nebuchadnezzar is furious and calls these three men into see him.  He warned them and gave them another chance to worship the image.  If they continued to refuse the king's decree, they'd be thrown into the furnace of fire.  Then, as the king said, "what god will be able to rescue you from my hands".  The king is certainly exhibiting much arrogance here.  He has little clue that the God of Israel will rescue these men from his fire.  The king was mocking the God of Israel, as the king's and men of the world do today.  That doesn't changed things.  The God of the Bible is just as much in control of kings and nations today as He was in Daniel's day. 

 

It appears as time went on Nebuchadnezzar got more violent and did forget much of how he felt when Daniel interpreted the dream for him.  At that time he seemed amazed at the Hebrewís God, the God of heaven.  Now he does not seem to think that their God is capable of protecting them from him, making himself to be more important than the God of heaven he earlier reverenced.  This is one serious mistake, but man does the same today.

 

In my thinking verse 16 is one of the most important verses in the Bible.  How these three men responded to the king should be fundamental in our lives as followers of Jesus.  These men had put their complete trust in their God.  This is certain because they replied by saying, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods, or worship the image of gold you have set up". 

 

These are the words of men who have laid their lives down before their God in complete trust.   Theyíve held nothing back and now they are faced with death by a blazing fire.  Note that they donít even feel the need to defend themselves. This reminds me of Jesus.  He did not defend Himself before Pilate either.  The fact that these men felt no compulsion to defend themselves and attempt to save their lives shows us that their trust is not in their own argument or defense.  Most of us in this situation might well attempt to save our lives by defending ourselves as vigorously as possible.  These three men, like Jesus, and like the first apostles, weren't out to defend themselves.  They were out to defend their God. 

 

These men show their trust in their God by saying that He will rescue them from the kingís hands.  Theyíre sure that God will not cause the fire to burn them alive.  What comes next, if spoken by any other person other than these three men, would be seen as a lack of faith to those of the Ultra Faith persuasion. 

 

The men tell the king that even if their God does not rescue them, they still wonít bow down to worship the Babylonian gods or the kingís statue.  They were willing to die in what would appear to those in the world a death of  defeat.  Ultra Faith teaching would suggest that these words are a lack of faith.  The simple insertion of the word "but" would demonstrate doubt in the eyes of Ultra Faith people.  I know this would be the case because it has been said to me on more than one occasion.  If we are convinced that God will deliver us from death, then why even suggest that God might not deliver us.  Ultra Faith people see this as weakness of faith. 

 

This is not a weakness of faith.  It is rather the strongest faith one could have.  These men trusted God so much, that theyíd trust Him even if He did not rescue them. Their trust was a trust unto death.  Their trust was not in whether God would or could rescue them.  Their trust was simply in God.  Thatís it.  They did not trust God for what He would or wouldnít do.  They trusted Him for who He was.  This is the true meaning of Biblical faith. I strongly suggest you stay clear of Ultra Faith teaching as well as Prosperity teaching.  Both are unscriptural. This teaching only appeals to our own fallen selfish nature.  In other words, let's get as much from God in this life that we can.     

 

This kind of trust, or faith, should be found in us as well.  We donít trust God for what He can or canít do in our lives.  We trust Him for who He is.  As Iíve said on many occasions,  I did not become a Christian for any benefit Iíd receive by doing so.  I became a Christian because I was convinced that Jesus is the ultimate truth of the universe, and once knowing this, I had no other logical choice to make, but to give myself to Him.  This giving is what faith is.  So, I gave my life to Jesus, not for what Iíd get, but because of who He is.  This is real faith.  Ultra faith is a present day fantasy, not a New Testament reality.

 

In verses 19 to 24 we see that the response of these three men made the king very angry.  He was so angry that he ordered their death immediately.  He demanded that the fire be seven times hotter than usual. The fire was so hot that the men who took Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to the fire burned to death. 

 

Excavations have been made and some feel that this very furnace has been discovered.  If itís not this very furnace, it is one like it.  These were huge furnaces and the down draft itself could have easily killed the men taking these three Hebrew men to the fire.

 

In verses 24 to 26 we see that Nebuchadnezzar is astounded by what he sees as he watches these men in the fire.  He suddenly sees four men in the fire, not three.  He confided with those around to make sure they actually threw three men into the fire and not four.  Everyone agreed that only three men were thrown into the fire. 

 

The king is amazed and says that the fourth man "looks like a son of the gods".  These words have confused many people over the years.  Thereís no doubt that the forth person is at least an angel, although most Bible students believe this is Jesus Himself.  Some might say it is an appearance of God in a human body.  Iíd say that to be true, but who is God in a human body?  Itís Jesus.

 

The question arises of the use of the plural word "gods" and not the singular "God" in this verse.  In Hebrew there are a number of names used to name God.  "Elohim" is one of the most basic words that are translated as God in our English Bibles.  We see this in the Genesis account of creation.  "Elohim" is a plural word.  Seeing God as a plural identity is not heresy.   The doctrine of the Trinity is based on the plural nature of God.  Besides, Nebuchadnezzar did not believe in one god.  He believed in many gods, thus from his perspective what he saw was a son of a god, that is to say, a god appearing as a man.  He was close to the truth in his thinking, but close isn't good enough. 

 

What the king saw was the Son of God, and thatís Jesus.  Bible scholars call this type of appearance by Jesus in Old Testament times as a "theophony",  meaning, God appears as a human in order to be seen by men.

 

In verse 26 the king commands the three men to come out of the furnace.  He calls them "servants of the most High God".   Heís now recognizing that the God these men serve is the God over all other gods, much like he thought when Daniel interpreted his dream.  Once again, the king was close in his thinking, but still heís not thinking right.  The Hebrew menís God was not the highest God of all gods.  He is the only God over no other god.

 

This chapter ends with an about face by the king.  He praises the three Hebrew menís God and decrees that no one speak against their God, and if they do, theyíll be put to death. 

 

The king also acknowledges the faith of these three men.  They trusted in their God in the face of death.  This was the witness that Nebuchadnezzar saw.  Many Bible scholars feel because of their witness and the appearance of Jesus in the fire, the king became a believer.  I donít think we know that for sure but once again, the king was astonished by the God of heaven.

 

As a result of all of what took place the king ended up promoting Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to an even higher position that they already had.  Of course, God was behind this promotion.  We can never forget that God works behind the scenes of both men and nations to accomplish His will.  His will in this instance was that His people would be in places of authority, so, when the time came, He would use them to free His people.   

 

God came through for these men, yet they were willing to trust Him even if He didnít come through for them in the way they expected.  Iím reminded of Stephen in Acts 7 who had the same trust in the same God and how God responded to Stephenís faith.  God didnít rescue Stephen in the same way He rescued these men from the fire.  As the stones were hurled towards Stephenís head, he saw the gates of heaven open and the Lord Jesus standing and waiting for him to enter the gates.  The stones killed Stephen, yet in the same spirit of faith and trust, the result was different than what we see here in Daniel.  In both cases, God's will was done.  Just because Stephen died does not mean he was outside of God's will as Ultra Faith teaching might suggest.  Our circumstances do not determine God's will.  We must not judge others by what we see.  Death, poverty, or whatever, can't

 

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