|Photo by Andreas Borchert 2012|
As we saw last week, Daniel exemplified triplets of Christ-mind in that he knew God’s Word, took it to heart, and applied it to his life by obeying God. He shared his God-given wisdom with Nebuchadnezzar, for he correctly told and interpreted the king’s dream.
This was the first of three interpretations Daniel would share with Babylonian kings, as we shall see in subsequent posts.
This first dream was of a great (powerful), bright (brilliant), and terrible (frightening) image (Daniel 2:31), symbolizing three future kingdoms that would replace Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. The king revered Daniel for his wisdom, falling on his face before him, worshipping him, and offering sacrifices to him as one would to a god (Daniel 2:46).
Although the king spoke favorably of Daniel’s God as a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets (Daniel 2:47), indicating head knowledge regarding the one true God, he lacked heart wisdom to fear God and understanding in his heart to worship God, not Daniel. Nonetheless, God used Nebuchadnezzar’s admiration for Daniel to place His faithful Hebrew servant in a position of great power in a pagan kingdom, as he did with Esther, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
Nebuchadnezzar made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon, as well as chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon and minister of affairs over his newly promoted companions, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 2:48-49).
Because of the king’s lack of wisdom and understanding, however, it was not long before his thoughts turned from Daniel’s interpretation of the vision to gratifying his own ego. He had an image (presumably of himself) made of gold, threescore (three times twenty, or sixty) cubits tall and six (three times two) cubits wide (Daniel 3:1).
Although three is God’s perfect number reflecting the Trinity, six is the number of man (Genesis 1:27-31; Revelation 13:18). These dimensions are therefore fitting for this statue glorifying man rather than God. Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the political leaders, judges, and civil servants of all people, nations, and languages to hear a special proclamation. Whenever they heard special music, they were to fall down and worship the idol or be thrown into a burning fiery furnace within the hour (Daniel 3:2-6).
But Daniel’s three companions, who were now in charge over the affairs of the province of Babylon, refused to worship the idol, for their allegiance was to the one true God. Here was the proof of Daniel’s leadership: these young men had not only learned from David’s example in following God’s dietary law (Daniel 1:8-14), but now they were making even bolder wise decisions on their own to obey, worship and serve only God, regardless of the consequences (Daniel 3:12).
By following God alone, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had disobeyed the king; they refused to serve his gods, and they did not worship the golden statue. When Nebuchadnezzar confronted them, they stated their position without fear, trusted God’s power to deliver them from the fiery furnace and the king, and would not disobey God even if His will was not to rescue them (Daniel 3:12-18).
In his fury, Nebuchadnezzar commanded them to be thrown into the burning fiery furnace (three words emphasizing the extreme heat, foreshadowing the flames of hell; Mark 9:43). But hell has no power over those who are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Although Nebuchadnezzar demanded that the furnace be heated to seven times its normal temperature, it could not harm those under God’s protection (Daniel 3:19-21).
Seven is God’s number of perfection or completion (Genesis 2:2-3; Matthew 18:21-22, etc), indicating that His power is absolute, and man’s schemes against His children are no match for it (Romans 8:31-39).
The guards who threw the prisoners into the furnace were themselves burned to death, while the prisoners remained unharmed, thanks to a fourth man “like the Son of God,” namely a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ Himself. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the prisoners were “servants of the most high God,” commanded them to exit the furnace, and ordered them to come close to him so that he and his entourage could get a better look (Daniel 3:22-26).
As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego left the blazing furnace that had no power over them, not a single hair of their head was singed, nor was their clothing changed, nor did they even smell like smoke! Nebuchadnezzar said their God was blessed, for He sent His angel, and delivered His servants who trusted Him. They had proved their trust in their God by not following the king's decree to worship his false god, by offering their bodies to God’s will, and by worshipping Him alone (Daniel 3:27-28).
Despite his personal knowledge through experience of God’s miraculous power, and his subsequent actions which seemed to show understanding of what God would have him do, it still appeared that Nebuchadnezzar lacked a heart relationship with God. Instead of naming God as his own Lord, he referred to Him as “the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” Nonetheless, he ordered that every people, nation, and language saying anything bad against that God be cut in pieces and their houses brought to ruin.
God rewarded His three faithful servants by sparing their lives, by giving them an amazing testimony before the king and his court, and by increasing their political influence, for Nebuchadnezzar promoted them (Daniel 3:29-30).
Daniel must have blessed, thanked and praised God when he learned that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had not only followed his example of obedience, but exceeded it and used it for God’s glory! May we be Godly mentors like Daniel, leading not as dictators but by example! May those who come behind us find us faithful!
© 2016 Laurie Collett
The fiery testing of those three witnesses is the only such case recorded in the Bible, other than a bush surviving a fire when God appeared to Moses. Whether King Nebuchadnezzar was truly saved after such miracles is hard to say, as was the case of Pharaoh when Joseph interpreted his dreams for him, or for that matter, King Darius after releasing Daniel from the den of lions. Then not forgetting Paul's testimony to both Felix and Festus. Are people in authority really that hard to convert? After all, the purpose of all miracles recorded in Scripture is to bring the onlooker to faith in God. Especially that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abdenego, I think was the most dramatic miracle other than Lazarus' resurrection in public, and Jesus' own resurrection.
An excellent post, God bless.
Very true, this miracle was unparalleled and unprecedented, and to me, a very vivid reminder that once we are saved, even the flames of hell have no power over us.
I also believe that earthly power, whether in the form of riches, status or rule, does make it more difficult for one to be saved, because the natural bent of those who are successful is to think they did it on their own. Pride is the greatest barrier to salvation.
Thanks as always for your thought-provoking comment and words of encouragement.
I consider Teh three men's answer to Nebuchadnezzar one of the greatest statements of faith in the bible. While they believed God had the power to save them, they were going to obey him whether he chose to save them or not. They trusted God to do what was best instead of just what they wanted.
Amen, Donald! May we trust Him to do what is best fr9om His infinite perspective and motivated by His infinite love, rather than demanding to get our own way. Thanks as always for your insightful comment.
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