Daniel 3:1 In the last chapter Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a statue, the head of which was of gold, the breast and arms of silver, the middle portion of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. As Daniel interpreted the dream, the head represented the great kingdom of Babylon, the silver representing the less valuable but stronger kingdom of the Medes and Persians followed by the still lesser in value brass but stronger kingdom of Alexander’s Greece, which was followed by the iron representing Rome which is the strongest but then in the feet the iron is mixed with clay which weakened the base of the entire image.
At the end of history, a rock, representing Jesus, will strike the world’s kingdoms, destroy them, and then grow to fill the whole earth. It may be that Nebuchadnezzar after thinking about his dream over time may have thought since the head represented him that he thought to build an image like his dream only all of gold.
It may be that he thought by building a statue of himself 90 feet tall all of gold that he could supplant the image and its interpretation, thus attempting to keep his kingdom from being supplanted. In doing so he was trying to defy God’s decree through Daniel that his empire will not endure. That is why this chapter really is about whose god is God? Who rules history? It is not just a question of bowing down or not bowing down to an idol—though it certainly was that. It was a matter of bowing before the will of God or rebelling against the will of God. This is a battle that all of us face every day.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Statue and the furnace provide for us a picture of faith and Submission. We all have trials in life. When we do we need a strong and steadfast faith in the Lord. We need to surrender, submitting our lives to the Lord, trusting Him to deliver us. Nebuchadnezzar utilized the golden image to unify his huge kingdom consisting of many different ethnic groups.
Religion is always one way that far flung empires find unity. This common state religion could be the unifying thread of the empire. It was the state that provided security, prosperity, and public services for the people. To achieve the unity he sought Nebuchadnezzar combined his dream and political expediency utilizing the gold image, probably of himself as an object of worship.
Nebuchadnezzar equated religious fidelity to fidelity to the state. Throughout the empire, the faith of true believers was severely tested. The first three believers to face the test were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The huge statue was not built in the city of Babylon, but rather in Dura, which was about 15 to 16 miles outside the city.
Daniel 3:2-7 As soon as the image was finished, the king summoned all his officials to attend the dedication of the image (Daniel 3:2). On the appointed day they stood before the statue and at the command of the king the kings officials were to instruct the people. The people at the sound of the royal musicians the people and their officials were to fall down before the huge gold statue to declare their loyalty to Babylon and their king.
If any refused to obey the king’s command, he would be thrown into a blazing furnace. The furnace was sitting where everyone could see its flames. At the appointed time everyone bowed before the image except Daniel’s three brothers in faith, who stood tall above all who had bowed down before the golden image.
Daniel 3:8-11 The consequences of their behavior was to be charged with treason. Some of the kings wise men immediately approached the king to attack the Jewish advisors. In all likelihood their attackers were jealous of Daniel and his three friends, resenting the fact that King Nebuchadnezzar had promoted and showed favor to them. The truth is that those whom God loves the god of this world despises. This is true of faithful Christians and Jews, because they are the object of God’s unearned favor (Revelation 12:13).
Humanly speaking their accusers were angered that the king elevated three Jews over native Babylonian leaders. Note how they emphasized that the three men were Jews. In the minds of the advisors, these three had betrayed Babylon and her king and needed to be thrown into the furnace for their betrayal. This of course was the supreme test.
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah either had to disobey the Lord or disobey the king. And their decision was a matter of life or death. It was easy for the other officials to declare their loyalty to the state since the Babylonians believed in many gods. The image was merely another god to be added to the others worshipped throughout the empire. But not to Daniel’s three brothers in faith. They believed in the Lord, the only living and true God as revealed in God’s Word.
They knew Him in a very personal way, and they loved the Lord and knew what the Word of God demanded of them. They believed that their lives were not their own and that they were His witnesses to the truth of His Word and His reality. This test was not just for Israel’s God but their witness was also an invitation for the Babylonians to believe in the God of Israel. They were His witnesses. His command to them is the same to us; to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
They were strangers in a strange land, just as we and they were ambassadors of the King and His Kingdom. Their first loyalty was to the Lord. Their obedience would affect the eternal fates of those watching. They could not worship any so-called god formed by the imaginations of men or give their first loyalty to the state of Babylon. Their worship and first loyalty belonged to the Lord and to Him alone. Their faith was being tested to the ultimate, would they believe that God would overcome this situation, would they trust and obey or would they bow to their natural inclination to be afraid of death.
When our faith is tested, we must continue to trust the Lord. We must cast our life totally into the Lord’s keeping. Generally we are not tested to this extent but we are daily called to trust and obey God. Even if the test is a matter of life or death for us, we are never to deny the Lord. We are to take our stand and continue to confess the Lord. We must entrust the keeping of our souls totally into God’s hands. No matter how strong the temptation or how difficult the trial, God expects us to continue to believe and trust Him.
In our case our faithfulness can affect not only our own destiny but the destiny of our families and those who observe our behavior in the face of such trials. Our call is not to waver or collapse, but to remain strong in the Lord. This kind of faith comes from God’s Word and walking in His Spirit (Mark 9:23;John 3:15-16;5:24;11:25;20:31;Romans 10:9-10; Hebrews 11:6;33).
The faith and convictions of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego provided their enemies (and God’s enemies) an opportunity to accuse them of treason, which is what they did. Their remarks to Nebuchadnezzar provoked him to take immediate action.
Nebuchadnezzar brought the three before him to determine if what was said about them was true. No reply is recorded, but there must have been one. Nebuchadnezzar offered to give them another chance in Daniel 3:15, and has the chutzpah to ask them what god will be able to rescue you? This shows how short our memory of God’s grace and miracles in our lives are. This is not merely a demand to do an openly wicked thing or die for refusing to do it (like refusing to turn over or kill Jews in Nazi Germany).
The fact is that any pressure to disobey the teachings of the Bible, whether by peers at work or employers, or by whoever – our responsibility before God is the same. Yes we are commanded to obey the state for God has ordained the authority vested in the state (Romans 13:1-5). While Nebuchadnezzar had been established by God, that did not make Nebuchadnezzar God. The fact that God raises up rulers does not make rulers autonomous. It does not give them unlimited power.
On the contrary, it limits their power, for they are responsible to the One who has set them up – whether they acknowledge him as God or not. The duty of believers at times is to remind the state that God has established boundaries to their authority. We do it by our words or if necessary, by being willing to martyred which means literally to be a witness in the Greek language.
Daniel 3:9-12 This incident illustrates the affirmation Peter and John in Acts 5:29 when they said “We ought to obey God rather than men”. These verses record the accusation brought by some of Nebuchadnezzar’s officials. The style of narration conveys a principle that the people of faith do not need to make a “big deal” out of their acts of heroism.
They don’t need to draw attention to the fact that they are different from others. They simply act according to the Lord’s Word and allow their actions to speak without any drama. It was the Chaldeans who drew Nebuchadnezzar’s attention to what happened.
The wording of verse 1 suggests that they did so as the result of a well prepared strategy. They accused the Jews (literally, “ate their pieces,” or as we might say, “got their teeth into them”). Their words in v 12 are revealing, “There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon”. They seem to be attacking the influence Daniel and his brothers have. Their accusation is without compassion as they accuse them of not paying respect to the king.
In doing so they were undermining the influence of God’s kingdom that was being brought near to them under the guise of their own faithfulness to Nebuchadnezzar. This was a battle between light and darkness, the children of God vs the children of the Devil. the world have a wisdom of their own. The Chaldeans had a firm grasp of human psychology; they knew their man.
If they had a price so that Nebuchadnezzar could buy them (they chose to worship his idol rather than lose their lives), they likewise knew he had a price. They knew that whatever Nebuchadnezzar recently experienced, he was no true convert to the God of Daniel. All they needed to mention was the failure of the Hebrews to pay respect to his wishes (Daniel 3:12) and his retaliation would be certain.
Daniel 3:13-15 -The king responded with rage and summoned the three young men to appear before him. Angrily questioning them, he asked if the charges were true. Had they refused to bow before the gold image that represented the state? Without waiting for a reply the king demanded that they prove their innocence (Daniel 3:15). Nebuchadnezzar was offering them an opportunity to save their lives. Probably because they were held in high esteem by him.
But his esteem would not exempt them from declaring their first loyalty to the state. He said he would have the musicians play again so that they could bow before the image. If they refused they would die. What he says in Daniel 3:15 demonstrates that his supposed profession of faith in the last chapter was not a genuine conversion but just words. This is true of many professing Christians today.
Nebuchadnezzar was exalting himself above all so-called gods. He declared that no god, not even the Lord God of Israel, would be able to deliver these young men from his hand. No god had that kind of power. Even believers tend to forget the power of God unless their faith is strengthened through the Word of God. Their execution in the fiery furnace was certain unless the three obeyed the law of the set down by the king.
Daniel 3:16-18 The three refused to plead for their lives. Trusting and loving the Lord with all their hearts, they committed their lives into the hands of God. They told the king that they didn’t need to defend themselves, that their first loyalty belonged to the Lord alone.
Moreover, they knew that their God was able to save them from the fiery furnace. They were casting themselves on the Lord to rescue them. But even if the Lord chose not to deliver them, they still would not deny Him. No matter what the king did to them, they could not worship the gods of Babylon or the gold image that represented the state. Their faith is a picture of total surrender to the Lord. They humbly submitted themselves to God’s will, knowing that He could deliver them if He so chose.
But they also knew it might be His will for them to perish in the furnace. They knew that God could rescue them, but He might choose to let them die as a testimony to their faith in the Lord. What a testimony of complete surrender and faith, this is the testimony that God calls us today and is not really present among professing believers here. It is the reason why Beleivers look no different than those who are not believers (Revelation 12:9-12).
Daniel 3:19-23 Their refusal to obey the king threw Nebuchadnezzar into another violent rage, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. He commanded that they be executed (Daniel 3:19-23). He commanded some of his strongest soldiers to bind them and throw them into the blazing furnace. Their execution was to be a public example and warning to others against treason and rebellion against the king and the state.
The soldiers quickly carried out the king’s orders. They bound them and then walked up to the furnace to throw them in. As soon as they approached the open furnace, fire leaped out and consumed the soldiers, burning them alive. The three men, securely tied, fell from their grip into the furnace.
In times of trials or temptation, the one thing we need above all else is a strong, steadfast faith. These three young men could have easily compromised their faith. They could have done what we are so often tempted to do and take the easy way out, thinking such things as, everybody else is doing it, so why not me?
If I don’t I’ll lose my job. If I don’t I’ll lose my friends. My spouse won’t know. I can do more if I compromise and stay alive than if I refuse to compromise and die. Throughout life, we face critical decisions just as these three did. If we choose to deny the Lord, we may escape the threats and the suffering for a brief time, but these test are necessary for us to progress in our walk with the Lord and if we keep on denying the Lord and obeying Him the day of departure from this world will still come.
Eventually, we will die. And the person who denies the Lord will face the judgment of God. For this reason, the Lord encourages us to place our faith in Him and to grow a strong and steadfast faith as we follow and serve Him. Matthew 10:32-33 everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. James 1:12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
Daniel 3:24-27 One of the most amazing miracles in all of history took place, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were rescued from the furnace by the power of the Lord. The Lord demonstrated His love for Nebuchadnezzar enabling him to witness His deliverance of them. Having seen the soldiers consumed by the flames and the three fall into furnace, the king was stunned by what he saw next.
To make sure he was seeing rightly, he asked his officials if they had thrown three bound men into the fire. When they confirmed it, he replied that there were now four men walking around in the furnace unharmed by the fire. Nebuchadnezzar’s described the fourth a divine being. The fourth person was a preincarnate appearance of Yeshua.
The king called for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out, confessing they were servants of the most high God. When they came out their bodies and clothes weren’t singed and there was no smell of fire or smoke on them. The Lord demonstrated to the King and his officials that He is the only living and true God. This is now the second time Nebuchadnezzar submitted himself to the Lord (Daniel 2:46-49).
Daniel 3:28-30 – His response was praise to God because the angel of God had saved them, because they had trusted their God and refused to betray Him, and because they had defied the king and were willing to die for their God.
Secondly he issued a decree that prohibited anyone from speaking against the God of the three. The consequences for any who would dishonor or speak against their God would be death by dismemberment and destruction of their property.
Third, Nebuchadnezzar promoted the three friends. The lesson for us is the lesson that God has continually been teaching his people from the Exodus; that when we walk through the trials of life, the Lord promises to be with us and to walk with us, no matter how severe the trial or hardship. He will either strengthen us to bear the trial or deliver us from the trial.
If we truly follow Jesus, obeying God’s commands and abiding in Him, God will give us the strength to be conquerors over all the crises of life, even over the crisis of death. God watches over us and is aware of even the most minute happenings in our lives. The Lord loves and cares for His obedient children. The Lord uses these crises as a witness to His saving power. His hope is that unbelievers will turn to Him because of the peace and strength He gives to those who trust and obey Him.
This is why we should always walk faithfully before the Lord, even when the trials of life come our way. When we walk in faith, God promises us His wonderful deliverance. Consider His Word to us: (1 Corinthians 10:13;2 Corinthians 1:8-10;Hebrews 2:14-15; 13:5-6;Psalm 91:3;107:27-31;Isaiah 41:10;43:1-2;46:4).