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God Is Able to Deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Furnace of Fire: Daniel Series #4

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God is Able to Deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Furnace of Fire

Daniel Series #4

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God Is Able to Deliver Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Furnace of Fire: Daniel Series #4

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Why is this particular sequence of events recorded for future generation to read about? Surely, many Jews in Babylon face many difficult trials… pressures to assimilate… pressures to bow down and worship the state.

Transcript

The God Who Delivers

Daniel 3:1-3 Daniel 3:1-3 [1] Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was three score cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. [2] Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. [3] Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
American King James Version×
 Just before this section of the book Nebuchadnezzar had experienced a dream of a golden statue which Daniel, the man of the true God in heaven, interpreted for him. That dream foretold the sequence of worldly kingdoms that would dominate the earth from the time of Israel’s demise, until the return of the Messiah at the end of the age. In that vision Nebuchadnezzar had the flattering position of the head of gold while the subsequent kingdoms were of lesser value.

Later we’ll see that he might have let this go to his head…

Nebuchadnezzar had  down before Daniel and acknowledged YHWH as the God of gods. Here was a God who truly could speak to the mysteries and foretell the future.

In similar manner we might be convince of YHWH as the God who gives us revelation of truth. Who, tells us what is good and what is evil. Who gives us a glimpse into the future, and promises of glory beyond our death in the flesh.

All that is true. However, God is more than a source of reliable information! The living God is an active being who s engaged with His creation… especially with those whom He has called and chosen. Your God can deliver you from trials, tests, and calamity... and He wants you to have this view. A god of power and knowledge… not just knowledge.

John 11:21-27 John 11:21-27 [21] Then said Martha to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died. [22] But I know, that even now, whatever you will ask of God, God will give it you. [23] Jesus said to her, Your brother shall rise again. [24] Martha said to him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. [25] Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: [26] And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believe you this? [27] She said to him, Yes, Lord: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
American King James Version×
 We might try to soften our disappointment at unanswered prayer by looking forward to the final deliverance from death... but God also wants us to trust in Him in the action of the moment. So, if you are in a trial, in trouble, call out to Him as the God who delivers.

What Might Nebuchadnezzar Have Been Thinking?

Based on the sequence of events it is likely that Neb got the idea for building an actual giant image from the dream he had. He would use this image as a test of loyalty to the Babylonian state. In the mind of a man like Neb this must have made sense, the God of heaven had  given him glory, power, and dominion over man, beast and territory. The God of heaven had even said he was the head of gold. Why shouldn't all people swear allegiance to such a glorious state?

The statue would have been about 90 ft. tall [about the height of a 9 story building]. The dimensions provided seem weird if the image was of a human form [very tall and thin]. The height may include a base platform on which the figure stood. In the late 1800's French archaeologist, Julius Oppert, located the remains of a enormous brick structure  twelve miles southeast of modern day Hillah which is about four miles south of ancient Babylon… which corresponds to the location described in scripture. Some think this forty-five ft. square and twenty ft. high structure was the pedestal of Nebuchadnezzar's colossal image.

Large statues constructed by kings of ancient times were not uncommon. For example, the Great Sphinx in Egypt (240 ft. long by 66 ft. high) with its lion body and human head was constructed about 2500 B.C. Ramses II and other pharaohs built large statues of themselves and placed them throughout Egypt. Additional examples of huge statues are the Colossus of Rhodes (ca. 300 B.C.), which stood 105 feet tall, and the great Statue of Zeus (forty ft. high) at Olympia, Greece (fifth century B.C.).

So, this is not the stuff of myth, or fantasy, or children’s story books.

Was The Image of Nebuchadnezzar Himself?

Possibly, but the Babylonians did not consider kings to be divine beings. More likely it was an image of Marduk the head of the Babylonian pantheon. Marduk [Bel] would serve as a representation of the glorious nation state of Babylon.

Declare Yourself

Demands to pledge allegiance to the state are very common... in the U.S. we have our pledge of allegiance which seems fairly benign. The early Christians had lots of friction with the Roman state which expected people to offer incense the images of the emperor who was declared a god.

In our day pledges of allegiance are have very little religious content, but that can change at any moment. We also might be called upon to declare our approval of certain things God detests.  In the past few years it has become increasingly common to hear demands that everyone declare their approval of all sorts of controversial behavior… in the work place… on social media etc.

Many of these controversies seem secular but end up getting mixed together with religious attitudes which creates a lot of confusion.

Right now this calls for wisdom, in future it might call more upon our courage and faith Romans 14:22 Romans 14:22Have you faith? have it to yourself before God. Happy is he that comdemns not himself in that thing which he allows.
American King James Version×
- "Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves".

Daniel 3:4-7 Daniel 3:4-7 [4] Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, [5] That at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up: [6] And whoever falls not down and worships shall the same hour be cast into the middle of a burning fiery furnace. [7] Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
American King James Version×
 Babylon's government was very cosmopolitan. They appointed officials and bureaucrats from all the territories they conquered. They wanted everyone to assimilate into the giant super-state they were creating. The call the fall down in worship points toward this being an image of Marduk rather than the king himself… but the circumstances seem more political that religious… it’s was a confusing mixture of politics and religion.

Death in a fiery furnace was a common form of capital punishment in Babylon Jeremiah 29:22 Jeremiah 29:22And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make you like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;
American King James Version×
. The fiery furnace Nebuchadnezzar was probably the smelting furnace used in the construction of the statue. Therefore, it was nearby and ready to go.

Daniel 3:8-12 Daniel 3:8-12 [8] Why at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. [9] They spoke and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. [10] You, O king, have made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: [11] And whoever falls not down and worships, that he should be cast into the middle 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 Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded you: they serve not your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.
American King James Version×
 there was probably a lot of resentment and jealousy towards these Jewish men. They ate different food, they got high level appointments, what's not to hate? [Jealousy?]

Daniel 3:13-18 Daniel 3:13-18 [13] Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. [14] Nebuchadnezzar spoke and said to them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not you serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? [15] Now if you be ready that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if you worship not, you shall be cast the same hour into the middle of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? [16] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer you in this matter. [17] If it 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, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.
American King James Version×
 Neb appears to be almost in disbelief that this could be happening... Is this true? How could they act this way after all he had done for them. For some reason he offers them a second chance... perhaps he was fond of them?, or knew them to be good and loyal servants.

What God Can Rescue You From My Hand?

Through the dream and its interpretation provided by Daniel YHWH had shown Himself to Neb as all knowing, able to foretell the future, speak truth, and dispense enlightenment etc.

Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar was the sort of person who was wiling to see YHWH as a spiritual entity… but didn’t think He had  much power in the material realm. Such a God would not be able to intervene…such a God would not deliver these three… such a God would not thwart the will of the great king. The god's have their realm... but kings have theirs.

Through the trial and testing of Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego the God of Israel was about add to Nebuchadnezzar's understanding. The God of Israel is more than a God of mind, spirit, and enlightenment... He is the  God supreme ruling power over all material and created things.

The three are put to the ultimate test. Their response and subsequent delivery is a witness. YHWH does have such power over physical and material matters "He is able". Most translations go on to say "He will deliver us" however, it could also be translated as "He may/can deliver us".

Which Statement Shows Greater Faith?

  1. Accepting the translation "will" seems to indicate a more solid confidence in God. A person might say "God will cure me of cancer!"... but we know that faithful people do die of cancer. This is not because God does not have the power to deliver, its a matter of His divine wisdom. Endurance unto death may be the best way to develop holy righteous character, trust and faith.
    1. If the three  are saying "He will" we might want to look upon it as a short prophetic claim which will give immediate proof to Neb.
  2. Accepting the translation "may" entertains the possibility that God may not deliver. However, it is not a matter of YHWH's lack of power over material events… this leaves the matter up to His sovereign will. Notice that they say "even if He does not rescue us" indicating they knew it was a possibility but would not change their decision Job 13:15 Job 13:15Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain my own ways before him.
    American King James Version×
    , Matt10:28
    .

This is how we must face our own personal trials a) with total confidence and faith that God is able to deliver b) focused on our obedience and loyalty to Him no matter what may happen. Shadrack, Meshech, and Abednego’s response to Nebuchadnezzar should be a go-to scripture for all of us facing trials. It provides the balance of wisdom and faith we need.

Into the Furnace

Daniel 3:19-26 Daniel 3:19-26 [19] Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. [20] And he commanded the most mighty men that were in 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 coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the middle of the burning fiery furnace. [22] Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flames of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. [23] And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the middle of the burning fiery furnace. [24] Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spoke, and said to his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the middle of the fire? They answered and said to the king, True, O king. [25] He answered and said, See, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. [26] Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spoke, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the most high God, come forth, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the middle of the fire.
American King James Version×
 the typical smelting furnace would have looked like a bottle; open on the  side so people could climb into it to get the refined metal [see diagram]. Neb would have been looking through this window when he saw an outcome he did not expect.

He saw Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego... plus a fourth person. Neb assumed this fourth was of the race of the gods [possibly appearing as burning white light]. Was this Christ? Was this a cherubim? Not sure. What matters is that the three were delivered, and Neb acknowledged this deliverance was the work of the "most high God", or the God of Israel, God of the Jews Isaiah 43:2 Isaiah 43:2When 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; neither shall the flame kindle on you.
American King James Version×
-3.

Daniel 3:27-30 Daniel 3:27-30 [27] And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, on whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. [28] Then Nebuchadnezzar spoke, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. [29] Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. [30] Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
American King James Version×
 here the fourth person is referred to as an angel/malek. Malek means messenger, representative, ambassador [like the word angelos]. So a malek can be a cherubim or a manifestation of God Himself [ex. Genesis 18:1-2 Genesis 18:1-2 [1] And the LORD appeared to him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; [2] And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, see, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
American King James Version×
].

Nebuchadnezzar was a military fighting man and political leader. He recognized power when he saw it. He could also have been making an attempt to appease this powerful God who he has greatly offended by mistreating His followers. Again, Nebuchadnezzar is not converted to the true faith, he  remains a polytheist but respects the power of  YHWH.

Why is this particular sequence of events recorded for future generation to read about? Surely, many Jews in Babylon face many difficult trials… pressures to assimilate… pressures to bow down and worship the state.

Legal Protection for the Jewish People in Babylon

First, through this horrible trial Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's faith brought about legal protection for the enslaved Jewish people so they would not assimilate and disappear to history. God still had a purpose for the exiled Jews and works out matters such that they can survive.

Later, at the appointed time, they will be allowed to return to the holy land which will then set the stage for the 1st coming of the Messiah. So the suffering and faith of these three appears had great meaning and purpose. We too should always view our personal trial as having great meaning and purpose in the work of spiritual creation He is performing in us.

Second, Babylon had defeated Judah militarily. The pagan would have believed their victory over a foreign nation was proof of the superior power of their national deity. Through these three men God provides a witness that He is more than "the God of Israel". He is the true, living God with complete sovereignty over all created things.

Third, the personal example of these three men is recorded to encourage the faithful people of God who would follow. Their story should be a go-to scripture when any of us face a trial Hebrews 11:3 Hebrews 11:3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
American King James Version×
,6.

Conclusion

  • Set your priorities right: if the commandments of men conflict with your obedience to God you must choose to obey God rather than human government.
  • Set a good example for others in how you face trials
  • Have confidence that God can deliver you.
  • Understand that God is not bound to act upon your demands or requests. He has the freedom to not deliver you from physical trials, but in doing so He is actively working out His good purpose

Nothing is impossible with God.