Daniel Session VI – The Fiery Furnace
Good evening! Welcome to Fuel – RockChurch’s midweek Bible Study where we are digging into God’s Word and receiving Fuel – Strength to power through this life that God has blessed us with. Just as a newborn needs and craves milk to grow and develop we need and crave the Word of God so that we can grow thereby.
And so tonight we are continuing our study in the book of Daniel. If you were here last week you will remember we took a little day trip. We left the book of Daniel and spent our time in the book of Revelation, where we got a front row seat to the greatest event in world history that was actually the fulfillment of the prophetic dream God gave King Nebuchadnezzar 700 years before he gave the Apostle John the full interpretation. The event I’m referring to of course is the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. If you remember we picked up at the very end of world history, at the time when the antichrist led an army with the intent of waging war, if you can imagine it, against Jesus. John sees heaven opened and Jesus on a white horse, ready to lead the most awesome invading force ever assembled. And the time comes, and they depart heaven and return to the earth – Satan’s forces are defeated. The Antichrist and the false prophet are cast into the Lake of Fire, and Jesus Christ sets up his earthly kingdom from which, the Bible says he will rule and reign for 1,000 years –
If you’re joining us tonight for the first time and have no background in Daniel or Revelation that’s ok. As time goes on we’ll continually reinforce these themes, and even if you only get some and not all, that’s ok. I promise, if you stick with it, it will become clearer and clearer. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the wonderful joys of studying the Bible, is that God will always use Scripture to meet us where we are at, but 1 year later, 10 years later, 20 years later it will still meet us where we are at. Regardless of how much we have grown in our knowledge and relationship with God there will always be more to glean from and grow from. Because this was written by an infinite mind, it makes sense that its depths are infinite as well.
Commentators usually say the following statement when it comes to the book of John, but the truth of the matter is that it is applicable to all of the Bible.
“The Bible is shallow enough for a child to walk through and deep enough for an elephant to swim in” It doesn’t matter where we are at in our lives, the Bible will speak to us.
Now, last week was thrilling. Getting to see up close, how the second coming of Christ is going to play out was amazing. But let me just say that tonight is going to be amazing as well, because tonight we are going to take a look at one of the most loved stories in all the Bible. At that’s the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and the Fiery Furnace. And even though many of us are very familiar with it, I believe that tonight it will speak to us in a fresh and new way that will be relevant to our lives, right where we are at right now. And as we get ready to dig into this chapter, I want you to put 2 questions in the back of your mind.
1. Where’s Daniel? Throughout this chapter we have a lot going on, but one thing that is notable because of its absence is Daniel. Where’s he at?
2. The other question is “What in the New Testament is this story like?”
I’ll leave that there but more details to follow.
Okay, let’s open our Bibles and turn to the book of Daniel. Chapter 3, verses 1 through 6.
Scripture – Daniel 3:1-6
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
Ok, let’s break this down. The scene opens for this next chapter, and we’re taken to the plain of Dura. It’s a large flat area somewhere within the province of Babylon and it’s a place with a lot of room. It can hold a lot of people. And as we look we see out there in the middle of the plain this huge image of gold.
It’s about 90 feet high – to give you an idea of what that would look like, let’s look at a couple of pictures of Buddha statues. Interesting to note that this kind of worship is still very prevalent. Technology may change, but mankind’s basic core doesn’t change. We were created to worship and so if we don’t find the true God, we will find something to worship. Amen?
So it’s 90 feet high and it’s covered all in gold. Most experts believe it was gold plated and not solid gold, but either way, it’s a pretty amazing site to behold.
Nebuchadnezzar had this thing built apparently out of pride. Remember when Daniel interpreted his dream and he said, you O King are the head of gold. It looks like the king really took that to heart. He took the ball and ran with it. He creates a whole statue of gold, and let there be no doubt, this is an image of himself. With his massive ego – his massive pride – he wants to be worshipped. It was Lord Acton, the British Historian who said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. King Nebuchadnezzar has absolute power in Babylon and is totally corrupted with pride because of it. This pride is really going to get him in trouble, as we will see in chapter 4, but for now, he’s in all his glory and he’s ready to be worshipped.
It’s also a political thing, though. He gathers all the officials of his kingdom. The judges, the magistrates, the governors of the provinces, and all the officials. This is a huge affair, and what he’s doing is not only in his pride is he wanting everybody to bow before him. But he wants them to make a public display of their allegiance to him. If anybody has a problem with this they will identify themselves as an enemy of his kingdom. It’s a very strategic move actually.
And then, it’s a display of force. It’s a line in the sand, so to speak.
Because the herald declares that as soon as they hear the music that are to fall down and worship and those that don’t will be immediately executed by being cast into the burning fiery furnace.
He’s making a statement here that he is in control, they have their positions because of him, and if they aren’t totally loyal to him then they are done. Let’s keep reading – Daniel 3:7-12
Scripture: Daniel 3:7-12
Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
So, the music starts playing and everybody hits the ground. Probably as fast as they can they dive to the ground and try and show how loyal they are. Everybody does it – they know that the King is not playing around here. I suspect in a crowd this size there were people who believed in the one true God, but maybe they were used to compromising their beliefs. When this ultimate test came, they hit the ground with the rest. What about us? What compromises are we making or have we made? The good news is that if we’ve blown it, Jesus is at the ready. Ready to forgive us as soon as we bring this to him. But we need to ask him to help us not compromise. Amen?
And so everybody is down on their faces, except for these three Hebrew boys. Again, they show themselves to be of an exceptional character, and they know the 10 commandments. The 2nd commandment clearly tells them not to bow down or serve carved images.
They have a choice to make and, I think they saw this coming. Working in the positions they held helping Daniel govern the province of Babylon I believe they knew this was coming and they all made their mind up together that no matter what, they weren’t going to bow.
This is a huge illustration of why it’s so important that our closest friends are ones who love and serve God. Hard decisions like this are so much easier, when you have a buddy to go through it with. Soldiers make it through battle, not because of a passionate patriotism, but because of deep friendship with their fellow comrades who are enduring the same pain that they are.
And so, picture the scene. There’s this huge image. And up on a platform is King Nebuchadnezzar. (Now on a side note, I want to put a little bug in your ear. Have you noticed that somebody is missing from this scene? Where’s Daniel at? Think about that for a bit, and we’ll circle back to it a little later. )
So there’s the image, there’s King Nebuchadnezzar and his entourage, and there’s all these people assembled on the plain of Dura and they are all on their faces before the image that represents the King – All except these three guys.
Now watch this. You think you have backstabbing going on at your workplace? It says that certain Chaldeans – now remember the Chaldeans? They were the chief advisers that Daniel showed up when he interpreted the dream. Apparently his promotion and the promotion of these three didn’t sit well with them and so they see their opportunity and they strike. They say, hey king you’ve got some troublemakers here. You’ve got some guys that couldn’t care less about you, this image, or your gods. They are in full scale rebellion against you!
Okay, so before we go any further I want to lift something out of this and zoom in on it.
In the book of Romans, chapter 13 we are told to be subject to the governing authorities. It tells us that those who resist the authorities resists what God has appointed. Yet we see the Hebrew children here defy the Kings orders, and also in the book of Acts chapter 4 we see the apostles, who have been warned to stop teaching in the name of Jesus, declare – is it right to obey God or man? Of course that was a rhetorical question. They are going to obey God.
Since we know there are no contradictions in the Word of God so we can take these and put them together and see on one hand that God is not pleased with random rebellion and hatred against authority. Raging against authority “just because” is ungodly and satanic in nature. On the other hand, complying with unethical, ungodly laws that compromise your relationship with God or cause you to be an instrument of injustice to another human being is a reason to refuse compliance.
Martin Luther King said it very well, I believe, when he wrote from his cell in a Birmingham Jail. He said, “”One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
So these guys tell the king, you have some people in your kingdom who are rebelling against you. Let’s see the king’s reaction. Chapter 3:13-18
Scripture: Daniel 3:13-18
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 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? 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?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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. 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.”
This is quite remarkable here. Nebuchadnezzar goes off in a furious fit of rage. Remember, he’s unstable. But when they bring the offenders to him he pulls himself together. He sees that it’s Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – now remember we found in chapter 1 that he likes these guys. God’s favor is on them. So he slows things down a bit and gives them a second to think about it and change their minds. He gives them the ultimatum. If you’ll get on your face like everybody else when the music plays all is well – However, if not you are going to be burned alive! Now, their response is amazing. They don’t give themselves time to rationalize so they can compromise. They answer immediately. They say, we don’t need any time to think, we’ve already thought this through. We are not going to deny our God. We’d rather die being loyal to God, then live in a compromised state. Wow! That’s pretty convicting right there. What an example to you and I. And then I imagine they look him dead in the eye when they say that last part if God doesn’t deliver us from this “be it know to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
And then Nebuchadnezzar says, oh, sorry guys. I made a mistake. You’re free to leave.
Not really – let’s look at his reaction in verses 19-23
Scripture: Daniel 3:19-23
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. 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. 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. 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. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
So, the king gives them a chance to wiggle out of this, but they are whole heartedly committed. Like Daniel in chapter 1 who had resolved not to defile himself by eating the king’s food and drinking the king’s wine, they have resolved not to bow. I pray that God would give us all the heart to resolve to follow him no matter what comes our way.
And so, the king in his characteristic manner, flies off the handle. The furnace setting is changed from high, to super mega high. 7 times hotter than normal. I mean the king is furious and he’s ready to make an example of these guys. And it’s so hot that the mighty men of his army, as they grab these three kids, the fire was so hot and they were moving so fast that they got too close to it and it killed them. I could stop and park there for a while, but let me just same, some of you – because of your relationship with God – have survived things. Survived hardship and pain that have taken out other people. So as the men tasked with putting them in the furnace are falling, we see Hananiah, Mishael, and Abednego – now they are tied up – and so, as their guards let go of them, they fall bound into the burning fiery furnace. That should be the end of the story, but that’s not the end. If you’re in the fiery furnace of a trial today, it may look like it’s over. It might look like there is no way out – and in the natural there really is no way out. But hold on – this ending might be the beginning of something beautiful and amazing. Amen? Let’s keep reading – Daniel 3:24-27
Scripture: Daniel 3:24-27
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.” 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.”
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. 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.
So these three Hebrew boys are in the fire. But they are not being consumed by it. As a matter of fact they are walking around in it! And everything they are tied up with has been burnt off. They are unbound and walking around. Now I wonder if there was any conversation going on. Hey Hananiah, can you believe this? Woo hoo! I mean I bet they were having revival up in there. Can you imagine the sight? And not only are they walking around in it, but the king just about loses his mind when he sees a fourth man. He doesn’t know what to call this fourth man so he says his appearance is like a son of the gods.”
The king calls them out and him and his cronies take a look and are blown away to see that the fire did not have any power over their bodies or their clothes. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even smell of fire. It was like they were in the fire, but they weren’t. They were under the protection of that fourth man in the fire. Let’s look at this
So, remember when we started this book, we said that even though we are in the Old Testament it was still all about Jesus. Jesus told the religious leaders of his day that they search the Scriptures, they search the Old Testament, but the Old Testament actually bears witness of Him. The disciples on the Road to Emmaus, after the Resurrection Jesus appears to them and explained to them things that Moses and the prophets wrote concerning the Messiah and they said “Did not our heart burn within us, when he opened to us the Scriptures?”
The Old Testament is all about Jesus – and this is to call your attention to the fact that we’ve seen him at least twice now in the book of Daniel. First, in chapter 2, he makes an appearance in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, where we see the Rock cut without hands, smiting the feet of the image. And now, we see him in what Bible scholars call a Theophany, or even a Christophany. We’re going to look more in depth at this next time, and see some other examples in the Old Testament, but a Biblical Theophany is by definition – a visible manifestation of God to humankind.
And that’s who these guys are walking with in the fire! They are walking with the preincarnate Christ! Amazing!
Like I said, we’ll talk a little more about that next time. Let’s go ahead and finish up now – verses 3:28-30
Scripture: Daniel 3:28-30
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. 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.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
So, it happens again. A divine turn around. These guys stand with God – These guys stand for God – And God shows up and makes a statement to the entire government of the lone world super power of the day. Powerful stuff!
And so much encouragement and instruction for you and me.
I believe that this is a Word for some of us going through a fiery trial even as we speak. So I’m going to close, and I’m going to pray, but I want to leave us with this verse and I want you to receive it as a direct word of comfort from God to you tonight. God is present with us and this is what he is saying.
It’s found in Isaiah 43, starting in verse 1 and going into verse 3, it reads
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Okay – one last thing – Next Week. If you remember earlier I had you ask the questions ‘Where is Daniel?’ And ‘What in the New Testament, is this story like?’ But we never got to it? Well, pack your bags again, because next week we are going to explore these questions a bit and take another trip into the Book of Revelation. It’s going to be very interesting, to say the least.