Daniel 3:13-30 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 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. 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.” 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. 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.
Nebuchadnezzar’s response to Daniel’s dream interpretation for a moment seemed positive. In chapter 3, we realize that he had taken the interpretation of the dream in a whole different direction. Nebuchadnezzar has an image constructed 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide covered in gold leaf. Scholars do not believe this was an image of the king himself but something representing a deity. When people bowed to the deity, it would also mark their loyalty to the king.
It seems that after Nebuchadnezzar receives the dream interpretation he is determined to solidify the entire kingdom’s loyalty to himself through pagan worship. Daniel is never brought into this narrative. There is no mention of him bowing or not. It could be possible that he was away on official business and therefore not affected immediately by the decree.
The whole scene was that of a royal ceremony to include a large orchestra choreographing the whole process. When the band played, they were to bow down to the image or face the consequences. It quickly reached the king’s ears that three Jews refused to prostrate themselves at the directed time.
Nebuchadnezzar was furious and demanded they be brought to him. He threatens them, and they continue to refuse and reveal their trust in the one true God to be faithful to them. They expressed their trust whether they were delivered or not.
The king’s fury rages, the furnace is heated to maximum capacity, and the three friends are tied up by a strong man and tossed into the furnace fully clothed in festival attire. The king, prepared to watch the three quickly burn to death, is shocked to see them walking around with a fourth person. He calls them out and realizes that they were not only unharmed but didn’t even smell like smoke. In an instant he decrees that no one would be allowed to speak against the God of the Jews and gives the three men a significant promotion.
1. Your last victory wasn’t your last fight.
It seemed that Daniel had found favor with the king and there was at least a recognition of the one true God, but now the king is demanding participation in pagan worship or suffering death.
If faithfulness is the objective, we must have a realistic perspective. “The best is yet to come” can be a self-defeating worldview. My hope does not rest in the idea that things will always improve but that He will always be faithful.
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
The church cannot lose focus because things are getting worse around us. We should be more convinced of God’s faithfulness the more culture declines.
2. Quiet Confidence
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.”
There is no benefit to being nasty when we are trusting God to be faithful. The statement was simply made that they had come to the decision to not bow regardless of the consequences.
You can tell the difference between a thief and the Savior by what they say on the cross. We, as followers of Christ, must meet opposition with grace. Never be shocked when your grace still makes people angry.
3. Either Way
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.”
God’s way could go either way. Their faith wasn’t connected to a specific outcome but who God is. If we are going to stand in a changing culture, we have to release the results to God. Faith does not include ultimatums.
No matter what happens in our culture, Jesus is still saving. God continues to redeem people who call out to Him. Our hope doesn’t come from a perfect culture - it is because we have a perfect eternity.
1 Thessalonians 4 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
4. You may still get tossed in.
Unmet expectations are the enemy of faith. We create expectations based on false doctrines, and then when those expectations are unmet, we allow them to infuse our minds with massive amounts of anxiety when it comes to the ultimate faithfulness of God and our eternal outcomes.
In our culture, it could seem like God has not been faithful. It could actually require a devastating trial to tangibly see God’s faithfulness in a new way. Stop blaming God or yelling at the king for the hot furnace.