Perhaps one of the more popular stories of the exile period, the story of the fiery furnace is epic.
Daniel 3:1 (CSB) — 1 King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet wide. He set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
We do not know how much time has passed since the king has the dream about the statue, but eventually he decides to create a statue or image. (unrelated to his statue dream)
· It was probable NOT of himself (Apparently Babylonians did not deify themselves)
· It was probably NOT of any other human figure as the proportions are way off
o 90’ x 9’ would be like, if you were 6’ tall you would be 7” wide
· It was probably of gold leaf and not solid gold because there is not believed to have been enough gold to make an image that size in Babylon
· It could have been an image to one of his gods, like Bel Marduk, Nebo, Nergal or Ishtar
We are not given the details of the image. That is interesting. It is simply a tall, very noticeable shiny pole type image that was meant to make a statement and be seen.
The plain of Dura is obscure. However, the fact there the is a plain, in Babylon where a tall image is erected towards the heavens to make the name of a man great SHOULD draw us back to Genesis:
Genesis 11:1–4 (NLT) — 1 At one time all the people of the world spoke the same language and used the same words. 2 As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. 3 They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region bricks were used instead of stone, and tar was used for mortar.) 4 Then they said, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”
· Unified language: Remember that the Jews brought into service were made to learn the language of Babylon (Daniel 1:4), this was the Chaldean language. (Aramaic, which parts of Daniel are written in)
· Tower to the heavens
· Built in a plain in Babylon
· With the intent to bring glory to man and his accomplishments to the rejection of God
The sin of arrogance and self-glorification we read about in Genesis 11 are repeated by king Nebuchadnezzar. And God will confound the people once again, but this time in a different way.
Note on Nebuchadnezzar’s name: both z’s are pronounced, like “ts-ts-ar”, and the fact that it is more than 3 syllables total is a give-away that it is a foreign word, not native to Hebrew. Same with Dan & Co’s new names.
Rather than scattering the people, God is going to use this massive gathering of people from all the lands to remind them of his power and glory.
Daniel 3:2–3 (NLT) — 2 Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. 3 So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
So, the NLT takes a shortcut here. I think I prefer it for time sake, but it misses some of the repetition of the original story:
Daniel 3:2–3 (CSB) — 2 King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the rulers of the provinces to attend the dedication of the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the rulers of the provinces assembled for the dedication of the statue the king had set up. Then they stood before the statue Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
There are seven types of rulers listed. Scholars do not know the exact meanings of all these titles, but we are meant to be impressed. Not only impressed that so many existed, but in the completeness of the list (7 of them). To make sure we are impressed the list is repeated.
The picture has been painted for us: King Nebuchadnezzar has put a tall tower in a flat place so it can be seen from far away. All the important leaders of all the regions Nebuchadnezzar had conquered have been invited, with no real option to decline. They stand in this plain, before this enormous statue and await the words of their king.
Daniel 3:4–7 (CSB) — 4 A herald loudly proclaimed, “People of every nation and language, you are commanded: 5 When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, you are to fall facedown and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 But whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, and every kind of music, people of every nation and language fell down and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Again, the NLT takes a shortcut here, so I wanted to read it from the CSB (or ESV). The list of musical instruments is not very significant regarding what they are. There is a lot of speculation on the types of instruments. Like the “drum” (CSB) is “pipes” (NLT) and “bagpipe” (ESV) and the NKJV translates it as the phrase, “in symphony”.
The music, this massive orchestra, was meant to be a signal that the people were to pay homage/respect to the king by bowing before this image.
It would not be uncommon for a king to establish some way for the conquered leaders to pay respect. Bowing with face to the ground before someone was a symbol of being defeated in war and in submission to the victor. Therefore, resistance would be considered a challenge to the king and, in this case, punishable by being made into a burnt offering!
So, the plethora of instruments sound off and all the people bow down. Notice, “people of every nation and language”, showing both the extent of the Babylonian reach as well as echoes of the Genesis 11 encounter.
All of this sets the stage for our second crisis of faith in the book of Daniel. The first was whether to eat the king’s food and be defiled. This one goes to the very core of the Jewish faith, the Shema.
Daniel 3:8–18 (CSB) — 8 Some Chaldeans took this occasion to come forward and maliciously accuse the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever. 10 You as king have issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music must fall down and worship the gold statue. 11 Whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are some Jews you have appointed to manage the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men have ignored you, the king; they do not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” 13 Then in a furious rage Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to bring in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
The Chaldeans (so some of the higher ups) repeat the kings edict and incite the king against the Jews. (If you have studied Esther this will sound familiar). The king is filled with rage and anger.
It seems like many of the Bible characters we study have multiple names. I want to give secondary names or titles to the foreign kings:
· Artaxerxes the winebibber (Esther)
· Nebuchadnezzar the rageful (Daniel 2:12, 3:13, 3:19)
So, the king has them brought before him and has this conversation:
Daniel 3:14–15 (CSB) — 14 Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”
In a way, Nebuchadnezzar is being merciful. He did not have to give them a second chance. Perhaps this was his way of verifying the story of the jealous, malicious Chaldeans?
So, we get the 4th listing of the instruments. Lol
The key here is the last phrase the king says, “who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”
King Nebuchadnezzar has already seen evidence that the God of Israel reveals and interprets dreams in a way nobody else thought was possible. And the disbelief of the Chaldeans at that time was “the gods do not live among men.” They were wrong. There is one God who has lived among men since the creation and desires to do so. Yahweh.
Now, the king is in open defiance to Yahweh. He has achieved the original Babylonian goal and now stands in arrogance to all gods, especially Yahweh.
Though very few of us, as Christians, would defy Yahweh with a statement like, “what god is going to stop me”, is it possible that we can also have a god complex?
A god complex is when someone has inflated feelings of personal ability, privilege of infallibility. There is nothing I cannot do, there is nothing I cannot have, and I am never wrong.
Not only does a god complex defy Yahweh, but it degrades others who are made in the image of Yahweh. The two great commandments are to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves. A god complex replaces the love of God and others with a love of self. We no longer see others as image bearers and valuable to God, we see them as servants and subjects. We no longer see God as provider and sustainer but excuse or obstacle.
Nebuchadnezzar had a serious god complex.
While most of us will not face the fire, or a firing squad, for believing in God and refusing to serve other Gods, our devotion to Yahweh will be tested. Though we may not be forced to bow down to other gods, we will be enticed to worship the things of this world:
Romans 1:25 (CSB): 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.
Deuteronomy 4:15–19 (CSB): 15 “Diligently watch yourselves—because you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you out of the fire at Horeb—16 so you don’t act corruptly and make an idol for yourselves in the shape of any figure: a male or female form, 17 or the form of any animal on the earth, any winged creature that flies in the sky, 18 any creature that crawls on the ground, or any fish in the waters under the earth. 19 When you look to the heavens and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the stars in the sky—do not be led astray to bow in worship to them and serve them. The Lord your God has provided them for all people everywhere under heaven.
1 Timothy 6:7–11 (CSB): 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out. 8 If we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation, a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires, which plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from these things, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 (CSB): 10 The one who loves silver is never satisfied with silver, and whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with income. This too is futile.
Matthew 6:19–21 (CSB): 19 “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Colossians 3:1–10 (CSB): 1 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5 Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, 7 and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. 8 But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.
The crisis of faith comes when we must choose what we will truly live our lives for. Or, better phrased, WHOM we will live our lives for.
Daniel 3:16–18 (CSB) — 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
I love this response! What an incredible response from a group of guys who are captives and exiles, slaves in Babylon because of God. God put them under Neb but they believed God could also rescue them from Neb. Wow.
1. We do not answer to you, ultimately, Neb, we answer to God that is greater than you.
Acts 5:29 (CSB) — 29 Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people.
a. Interesting to contrast this with passages like Rom 13:1-2, Heb 13:17, 1 Pet 2:13-14, Titus 3:1, John 19:11
2. Our God is able to save us from you. He is more powerful than you.
a. Gen 18:14, Heb 13:6, Jer 32:17, Job 26:14, Ex 15:6, Luke 10:19, Is 40:29-31, Matt 10:28
Hebrews 13:6 (CSB) — 6 Therefore, we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
3. Even if he does not, our loyalty to him supersedes our loyalty to you.
a. I think this is an amazing statement to make. IF they are to seek the best interest of the people who are over them (the exile directive) then it truly is in the best interest of the king for these guys to remain faithful to God so God can continue to bless them and the king. What a concept.
The last time Israel was oppressed by a nation, it was Egypt. And as God rescued them from the Pharaoh and took them to the wilderness, God demonstrated his provision, protection and power over and over. This recurring theme of bondage to freedom is one of the major threads of the Bible that points to the Messiah.
God took them to the Sinai wilderness and the base of Mount Sinai, he gave them some words through Moses. These words were meant to guide the people through all the challenges they would face in the years/generations to come.
Exodus 20:1–6 (CSB) — 1 Then God spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. 3 Do not have other gods besides me. 4 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, 6 but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands.
The FIRST of these words is to not have any other gods but Yahweh. Not to bow to idols or worship anything or anyone but Yahweh. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were being tested by God for sure! Of course, as we studied last week, beliefs with out actions are not real convictions. These 3 get tested BIG TIME about what they believe.
The statement of these three men is something we all should model. GOD CAN – but he does not have to. Regardless of what God chooses to do, I WILL CHOOSE to honor him.
This is a firm statement of the power of God as a non-negotiable. The display of God’s power, or lack of display, does not alter the reality of his power. God is able, but he does not have to.
NOTE: I often find myself praying this way: God I know you can do this or that, but even if you don’t I will trust and follow you. God, I am asking you to heal, provide, protect, etc but even if you choose not to, I know that you are just and your ways are best and I will follow and trust.
Daniel 3:19–27 (CSB) — 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary, 20 and he commanded some of the best soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 So these men, in their trousers, robes, head coverings, and other clothes, were tied up and thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 22 Since the king’s command was so urgent and the furnace extremely hot, the raging flames killed those men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego up. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king. 25 He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God—come out!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them.
SOOOOO much drama here!
· Rageful king
· 7x hotter furnace
· Keep them clothed (and list all the garments)
· Tie them up and drop them in
· The guards burn up from proximity of the fire
The fourth man is a mystery. Some suppose it to be an angel, some pre-incarnate Jesus, we do not know, and (just like with the details of the statue) it does not matter. Though, I must admit, I would love to know what they were talking about as they wandered around in the furnace!
Though the cords that bound them are gone (presumed burned up) their hair, clothes and skin are unharmed and do not even smell like smoke.
Daniel 3:28–30 (CSB) — 28 Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.” 30 Then the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
The king did not rescind his order to worship the statue, nor the order to throw the men in the fire, but he did add another order: mess with Yahweh and be torn limb from limb.
The original intent of Neb was to draw all people from all nations and languages to show respect and honor to him. In the end, that respect and honor goes to God through him. (reminds me of Haman and Mordecai in the book of Esther!)
So, in front of the satraps, etc – instead of Nebuchadnezzar being exalted, Yahweh was exalted and Nebuchadnezzar humbled. We do not hear about the music or the statue again.
There is no god who is able to deliver like Yahweh.
So this story, which was written with an abundance of repetition, was meant to be passed along and shared. The final decree of Nebuchadnezzar was to all peoples about the way that the God of Israel had saved these three men and that no one is to dishonor that God. This message would have made its way to all peoples (as it stated) which would have included all of the Jews who were in exile.
Imagine the hope!
God is greater than the nation that has made you captive. God has placed you where you are, but it is still his goal to use you as his people to point to his glory. God has not forgotten you.
God was using this experience to draw honor to his name among all the nations and to give hope to his people.
God still does this today!
When we choose to live for God by standing strong on the first commandment, it will impact the people around us. Some may be hostile (especially at first). But in the end, it is not about us, it is about declaring the greatness of God. God can use us to draw nations to Him and as we see his mighty hand at work our hope is strengthened.
But be careful: