Wow, we’re on part 8 and we are just now starting the third chapter of Daniel. Chapter three is my favorite part of the book, and one of my favorite events in the Bible, not because three people get thrown into a “fiery furnace”, which is pretty intense, but I get excited about what happens in the fiery furnace and who decides to jump in it with them.
Last week we ended on a high note for Daniel. Through the Lord’s intervention he was able to score a major victory for team Jehovah. Nebuchadnezzar is blown away by Daniel and his God’s ability to interpret dreams and even read minds. So much so that he “prostrates” or throws himself on the ground face first before Daniel and the Lord. There is much rejoicing and praising the “God of heaven”. Daniel is even rewarded handsomely for his ability. He also takes advantage of this opportunity to include his buddies in his promotion.
“48Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 49Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.” Daniel 2:48-49 NIV
We’re not sure how much time passes between chapters two and three, but Nebuchadnezzar’s newfound appreciation for Daniel’s God seems to be short lived or he has failed to comprehend the whole concept of monotheism (The worship of only one God), because at the beginning of chapter 3 he builds a large idol of worship, and it’s not for Yahweh.
“1King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.” Daniel 3:1 NIV
This image or statue is 90 feet high and 9 feet wide or about 27 meters high and 2.7 meters wide. It’s monstrous. Nebuchadnezzar isn’t playing around when he has an idea. This thing is HUGE! Now, there is nothing wrong with building statues or putting up decorations, but this isn’t just any statue to be viewed and appreciated. I took art appreciate in college and we used to joke that we just looked at art, said “we appreciate that”, and we got an A, but that’s not exactly how it worked.
It’s unclear who or what this statue represents. Was it formed in Nebuchadnezzars image or was it built to represent one of the Babylonian God’s? We just don’t know, but we find out that this image would be used as an idol of worship that Nebuchadnezzar wants everyone, “all nations of peoples of every language”, to bow down and worship it.. So, he gets everyone together for the “dedication ceremony” and makes this big announcement. Check it out.
“4Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Daniel 3:4-6 NIV
As usual, king Nebuchadnezzar has contrived a nasty punishment for those who won’t bow down and worship it. It seemed that all of Nebuchadnezzar’s requests or commands were accompanied by punishment, torture, and death. Last time it was slash everyone to pieces, dismemberment. This time he’s going to barbeque those who don’t obey.
So, back to the pressure cooker. Sorry, poor choice of words. Back to the story. After the big announcement and ceremony, it’s time to worship the image. So, all the instruments play, and it says that “all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” (Daniel 3:7 NIV) However, there is a development. An entourage of the king’s minions, tattle tales, and informers bring the king some troubling news back to the king.
“12But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:12 NIV
The Jews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t bow down. I don’t know where Daniel was during all this, if he was on vacation, he picked a great time to get away. Well, the king’s minions aren’t happy about it. They are quick to point out that “those Jews” that Nebuchadnezzar had picked to be over the affairs of Babylon have violated company policy. You can hear them saying, “Can you believe that? Well of all the nerve. Your majesty! You know they’ve never listened to you anyway. We should really throw them in the fiery furnace like you said.” The king responds in typical fashion. He has a fit and summons the defiant triplets to account for themselves, and asks, 14 “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? (Daniel 3:14 NIV)
I don’t know about you, but I can sense a little bit of surprise in the king’s voice. “Is it true?” It’s like he can’t believe it. I guess they didn’t have a conversation about the Ten Commandments and only worshiping one God stuff. This is probably a good example of the necessities of communication. Major communication breakdown! Regardless of this oversight the king has no choice but to throw them into the fiery furnace. He can’t go back on his word no matter who it is, whether he’s fond of them or not. Nevertheless, they get tossed into the furnace. Then something interesting happens, and by interesting, I mean miraculous, astounding, supernatural, amazing, incredible, mind blowing, huge, kachunga…Okay I’ll stop.
“24Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25 NIV)
Woe! Shut the front door! This is crazy. “I thought we only threw three of ‘em in there and now there’s another one running around in there. Where did he come from?” There is something special about this fourth guy. He looks like a “son of the gods” or we could say, “Son of God”. Could it be? Is this Jesus? He hasn’t even been born yet, right? Well, I’ll just share a passage of scripture and let you digest the possibility that this could be Jesus in the fiery furnace, and then next week we’ll look at it a little bit more as we move into chapter 4 of Daniel.
“1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.” John 1:1 NIV
Love y’all! Have a great weekend!!!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC