NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S

IMAGE

 AND HIS

FIERY FURNACE

DANIEL 3

 

Go to Facebook  Facebook button  or Tweet @strangework to interact.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3:1-7

Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the herald loudly proclaimed: 'To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.' Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

In chapter 2, we learned from Nebuchadnezzar's dream that he would be the first king in a succession of Gentile kings that would extend all the way down through history to the day when God would set up an everlasting kingdom on earth. At the time, Nebuchadnezzar gave God the glory for his dream and its meaning, but his true beliefs and nature were demonstrated when he fell down and worshiped before Daniel (2:46). The events recorded here in chapter 3, occurred some thirteen to eighteen years later. And, what Nebuchadnezzar had learned about God from his dream experience seems to have long since been lost. All he seems to remember is that he was the head of gold in his dream. Thus, he proceeded to pervert the interpretation that God had given him by ordering a image of gold of himself be made. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar was only the head of the statue. Now, however, Nebuchadnezzar had so blown it up in his mind that he ordered an entire golden statue of himself to be made. Then, after it had been constructed, he issued a decree that all peoples of his realm were to fall down and worship it.

 

 A depiction of people worshipping Nebuchadnezzar's image with his fiery furnace in the background.

 

It is very important to note that this was the first instance of man-worship in human history. Prophetically, it is pregnant with significance. That is because the Bible prophesies that the last and final instance of man-worship on earth will likewise occur in the same way and in same place ... Babylon ... way down in history in the last days. It prophesies that this will come about when Antichrist, the last in the line of Gentile world rulers that will follow Nebuchadnezzar, will also erect a golden image of himself and order that all the peoples are to fall down and worship it. Then, just as with Nebuchadnezzar before him, he will call for the death penalty on all who do not comply (Revelation 13:14-15; II Thessalonians 2:3-4). Shortly after that, however, the stone ... cut out without hands ... will violently strike Antichrist's man-worshiping Gentile kingdom ... and bring it to a sudden and violent end. After that, man centered, Gentile kingdoms will cease to exist forever and God's everlasting kingdom will become all in all ... just as was depicted in Nebuchadnezzar's dream.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________   

3:8-15

For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: 'O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.' Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, 'Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well but if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?'

Notice here, it was the Chaldeans who reported the three young Hebrews to Nebuchadnezzar. As I mentioned before, this segment of Babylonian society predated the Babylonians. They were the "old guard" ... and proud of it. As such, they were naturally jealous of these three new-comers, Shadrach, Mechach and Abed-nego. They saw them as "outsiders" and deeply resented their appointments over the administration of the province of Babylon. Doubtless, they thought, Now it's payback time!

Satan, and those who are a part of his dark kingdom, love to throw obstacles before God's people, by the way. They send them with great regularity to try and force believers to compromise their convictions and their walk with God. These troubles from Satan and those in his world system are continuously trying to back the committed child of God into a corner in hopes they will fail or fall, disgracing the name of Christ. Therefore, it is a common for a believer to be forced to publicly take a stand for what is right versus what is wrong and it takes real grit, spiritual maturity and commitment to persevere and overcome these attacks. So, don't be surprised when Satan sets you up, dear saint. We are in a war down here. Here are a couple of scriptures that speak to this fact.

    Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. I Peter 5:8-9a

 

    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:10-13

Coming back to our text, no mistake about it, Nebuchadnezzar's image was a Satanic set up to cause Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego to compromise and turn their backs on their God ... or die. But, these young men were "sold out" for God. They were too well grounded in the Scripture to yield. They had their feet planted squarely in the Word of God and they knew his will. So, as far as the worship of Nebuchadnezzar's image was concerned, there was no question what they would do. Exodus 20:2-6, was their marching orders.

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

As the result of the Chaldeans' report ... Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego were summoned to come before king Nebuchadnezzar. Then, having stated their case, Nebuchadnezzar spoke. Doubtless, with fire in his eyes and anger in his voice, he said, I'm giving you one last chance. The next time you hear the music play, YOU WILL BOW DOWN TO MY IMAGE AND WORSHIP ... if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands? Notice, this was not just a threat to Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego ... it was a slap in the face of God, as well. Big mistake! Nebuchadnezzar would find out what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?!

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 3:16-23

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.' Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.

To a dedicated child of God, doing the will of God takes precedence over life itself. Martin Luther was drummed out of the church for telling the truth. He said, Here I stand. I can do nothing else. A few years back, in Iran, a native pastor was taken out and executed. All he had to do, in order to live, was to agree to stop telling his church to share Christ with their neighbors. But, for this dear brother, doing the will of God took precedence over life itself. Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego were cut from this same cloth. You will have noticed that they displayed another characteristic of dedicated children of God. And that is that they were bold! Proverbs 28:1, says,

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

Did you note these young men contradicted the king? When Nebuchadnezzar said there was no god who could deliver them out of his hand, they answered, Our God is able to deliver us out of your hand but, whether he does so or not, know that we will not worship your gods nor your image. I love it, don't you? Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He immediately called for his most valiant warriors to come and bind Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego and to heat his furnace seven times hotter than normal. Then, he said, Cast them into it! His lead warriors were men of renown. They were the Charles Atlas' of their day. Another of Satan's tactics, by the way, is to attempt to strike fear into the heart of a child of God. But, don't fall for it. Jesus said,

Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego were not about to commit the sin of idolatry, even though everyone else was doing so. They were willing to give their lives, if necessary. My, how such "sold out" young men and women are needed today ... way down here in the year of our Lord, 2015, aye? May the God of Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego multiply their number in our midst!  I'm certainly glad that these three young giants of the faith knew that Nebuchadnezzar and his goons were no true threat to them. They knew that the worst that could be done to them was to kill their bodies. The people of God have always had their martyrs and these three young men were fully prepared to enter their ranks. Hebrews 11:36-38, puts it this way,

...and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

The bottom line is this. Sometimes God delivers from the fire ... and other times he delivers through the fire ... but every time, he delivers his own! As you have it in Hebrews 13:5-6,

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. (KJV)

_________________________________________________________________________

_________________________________________________________________________

3:24-30

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, 'Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?' They replied to the king, 'Certainly, O king' He said, 'Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!' Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, 'Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!' Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, 'Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.' Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.

The story of what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego experienced that day in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace will live on throughout eternity. It has become a permanent part of the eternal Word of God for all to read and take encouragement from. It was a huge miracle and an amazing deliverance. Many believe that the fourth man who appeared in the furnace with those three young Hebrews, was the pre-incarnate Son of God himself. I believe that that was the case, as well. The Scripture tells us that it is Jesus Christ who is the Deliverer, you see. He told his followers,

In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33b

and again,

I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Matthew 28:20

Jesus will never leave nor forsake his own. And, by the way, when he delivers ... he does so completely. The Scripture here, says that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were not only saved from being burned ... but their clothes and hairs were not even singed ... nor could even the smell of smoke be found upon them! Praise be to our great God, who delivers his own from every tribulation and preserves us through every circumstance. 

Nebuchadnezzar was astounded. So much so that subsequently he made a decree that if anyone in his realm said anything bad about Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego's God ... they were to be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap. Then, he promoted the young men. His actions, however, were anti-climactic ... in light of the incredible miracle that had just taken place before his very eyes ... as well as all the other eyes of those who were present at the furnace that day.

More important than the miracle of the fiery furnace, however, was the fact that Nebuchadnezzar had now arrived at a new understanding of the power and heart of the God of Shadrach, Mechach and Abed-nego. The fiery furnace was another step in the mysterious way in which God was working to reveal himself to that ancient king of Babylon. God's greatest miracle, you see, is the way that he speaks to a human heart and saves a poor lost sinner. Someone put it, The greatest miracle of God is the unlocking of a human heart. Thanks be to God for his wondrous grace and mercy to the children of men. Amen?

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Proceed to the next chapter