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R/Dean Daniel Lesson 15

Sufficiency of God in the Fiery Furnace – Daniel 3:1-23

 

We continue our study in Daniel, we now start in Daniel 3 which is one of the most widely known stories known in the Old Testament; I think the only Bible story in the Old Testament that is more widely known, perhaps, is the story of Daniel in the lion's den.  But Daniel 3 tells the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace.  There are some tremendous lessons to be learned in this chapter and it is a great example for the purpose for this book, that Daniel is written to be a wisdom book, it focuses on application for the believer's life.  We have to remember that Daniel is written to tell believers and to show believers how they can live in the midst of a pagan environment.  Babylon always represents the most extreme forms of paganism in the Scripture, the most extreme form of the kingdom of man that is set against the kingdom of God; the most extreme form of human viewpoint.  And yet here you have believers in the persons of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego or Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, that's their Jewish names, who are having to live in the midst of all this hostility and pressure on them and yet unlike many of the Jews in their own generation they maintain a steadfast commitment to the truth in applying doctrine and how they do that and the way in which they do that is important for us to learn because that is the application.

 

Daniel is a wisdom book, it wasn't written to be included in the book of the Prophets but in the Wisdom section of the Old Testament.  Therefore it is designed not simply to tell us about the future, although there are many prophecies in Daniel, it is primarily written to teach us how to live in the midst of paganism, how to live in the midst of a hostile environment.  We have seen that in both Daniel 1 and 2.  In Daniel 1 we saw these young men taken out of their homeland, out of their comfortable environment, out of a home where they were loved, where they were trained by their parents and taken thousands of miles away to Babylon where they were being brainwashed, as it were, inculcated in a complete pagan system.  So that everything that happened to them basically was a challenge to what they believed, but they didn't challenge everything that was happening to them. 

 

They picked and they chose their battles and that's the issue of separation.  Jesus said that we are in the world but we are not of the world.  We are surrounded by the cosmic system, many of you work in environments where there are policies in place that are somewhat antagonistic to the Word of God, some more so and some less so.  So you have to deal with the issue in a very practical way of when do I take a stand for the Word; when am I pushed into a position where I have to compromise and I have to make decisions to get along and when do I take my stand and make an issue out of Christianity even if it might cost me my job or my career.  That is faced in many places here in Daniel. 

 

In Daniel 1 we learned some principles on the doctrine of separation which is when and under what circumstances does the believer make an issue of the fact that he is separate from the world system or the cosmic system around him.  We saw that the way in which they approached it was they didn't challenge everything, even though their names were changed to names that reflected loyalty to the pagan gods, they didn't do battle on that.  Even they had to go to classes day in and day out teaching them all kinds of systems of human prophecies, everything from necromancy to astrology, they didn't challenge that because they knew they could pass whatever exams they had and yet they didn't have to practice that if they didn't want to.  So they didn't challenge that.  But when it came to a specific issue that was addressed in Scripture, for example their diet, they were under strict, direct over commands of Scripture to eat a certain diet in the Mosaic Law and when they  went to Babylon and they were to eat a diet that was contradictory to that, then they made it an issue. 

 

Notice they didn't make an issue out of something that was not specifically taught in Scripture.  They made an issue out of a command that was specific in Scripture and they were told to directly violate that particular command.  It's not something vague, it's not just some general principle derived from Scripture but it was a specific mandate of Scripture that they were told to violate.  And the way they handled it was in wisdom.  They went to the people in charge, they showed respect, they had good manners, they didn't just mad and antagonistic to the people in authority, they showed their respect for the position of authority, for the position of the government leaders and they offered an alternative solution.  They were very wise in the way they handled it, they went to the first in charge and tried to appeal to his set of values.  That's not compromise. 

 

Sometimes when I've talked about witnessing to an unbeliever you don't step out of your frame of reference, which is divine viewpoint, into their frame of reference, which is human viewpoint, in order to try to win them back over to divine viewpoint.  But that's not what's going on here, this isn't a witnessing situation.  This is a situation where they want to be allowed to eat according to the Mosaic diet.  So what they had to do was appeal to the ultimate value system of the leadership and they said look, if we eat according to our diet we'll be stronger, we'll be healthier and we'll be smarter than everybody else.  That appealed to the other guy's system, to the human viewpoint system, and so they were allowed a test case.  And God blessed them so that at the end of the test period they were smarter, stronger, and wiser than anybody else.  So God honored that commitment on their part.  So we saw how they challenged them then.

 

Then in Daniel 2 we saw how Nebuchadnezzar had had a dream and the entire bureaucracy and educational system of Babylon, the entire empire was threatened, Nebuchadnezzar was going to kill everybody who worked for the government and everybody in the education system because they weren't able to tell him what his dream was and they weren't able to interpret his dream.  But nevertheless, Daniel challenged the dream, he said hey, I know the answer, I can pray God will reveal it to me and we saw how he handled that situation.

 

Throughout all of this we've seen that there is a consistent witness from Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael and Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar.  He is reaching a point of God-consciousness.  This is going to extend through the next chapter.  We have to keep this in mind, it's a lengthy process.  It took several years, maybe even as long as 15-20 years but what we see is that Nebuchadnezzar's God-consciousness is being worked on, so that at the end of Daniel 2, after Daniel has revealed the dream to Nebuchadnezzar and the meaning of it, Nebuchadnezzar offers a praise at the end of the chapter, verse 47, Nebuchadnezzar says, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries," but even in that statement he is couching it in polytheistic terminology, God is not THE God, He is just a God over all the gods, he is the Lord over all the kings, He is just the greatest of all the gods, not the One and Only true God.  So Nebuchadnezzar is coming to an understanding of God also in the midst of this there is a conflict.  Nebuchadnezzar is going to react eventually to what has happened because in negative volition the unbeliever always misunderstands and distorts the revelation of God and he's going to misunderstand it and distort in Daniel 3 which is going to create a situation that presents these three men with two different tests. 

 

Now there's a number of different ways God tests us in our advance to spiritual maturity.  Two of them are system testing and system testing often comes in the guise of governmental bureaucracy and people testing because as we are advancing to spiritual maturity there are always going to be those people who make us a target.  There are always going to be people who are antagonistic to us and I think that any time we are advancing to spiritual maturity and we're recognizing that the Word of God and Bible doctrine is to be the highest priority in our life Satan is going to try to do everything he can within the cosmic system and within the scope of the angelic conflict to distract and derail us so that we become more concerned about the details of life or people or situations than in making doctrine the highest priority. 

 

So in this chapter these three men are going to face this kind of people testing, the antagonism to them, and unlike the first chapter, where they had to separate from the cosmic system around them and they challenged it and they received an answer that allowed them to continue, here they are going to receive a negative answer.  As they seek to solve the problem of living within this cosmic environment and the unjust laws that are being promoted they are going to be told there is no middle ground; they are told no to their attempt to compromise and so here we're going to see how the believer is to stand his ground in the midst of a hostile environment.

 

In Daniel 2 we saw that God had given Nebuchadnezzar an incredible dream and that Daniel had interpreted that dream before Nebuchadnezzar and that dream was of the image of the kingdom of God and it had the head of gold.  And when Daniel interpreted that to Nebuchadnezzar, in verse 37 he said, "You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory, [38] and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all.  You are the head of gold."  Remember, Nebuchadnezzar, though I think there is some level of positive volition there, one of the things that we have to understand is somebody can be positive at God-consciousness when they are 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10 years of age and then there can be years of negative volition after that.  But God is still just and righteous and God's going to make sure that person that at one point had gone on positive signals at God-consciousness, that that one individual is going to hear the gospel, and they may have to hear the gospel 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 100 times, even to the point of the Apostle Paul and almost be hit over the head or have a blinding flash of lightening occur on the road to Damascus when the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ had to appear to him. 

 

Too often we think it's simple, they're just going to hear the gospel, if they're positive they hear the gospel once or twice, that's it, but we don't think of the fact that it may take years before they finally respond and that's what happens in the case of Nebuchadnez­zar.  It happened in the case of the Apostle Paul too.  I think Paul, if you work out the chronology Paul was in Jerusalem during our Lord's ministry, he heard the gospel, and then he persecuted the Church for probably two or three years before he was saved; he heard the gospel probably at least 100 times; there's no way of telling but I would think he heard the gospel well over 100 times before he finally responded and then he didn't respond to a human witness, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. 

So Nebuchadnezzar has to get hit over the head almost as emphatically and that doesn't occur until we get into Daniel 4.  But at this point he is still negative; he's at God-consciousness, God is working on him right where his area of weakness is, but Nebuchadnezzar is reacting and the standard operation of the pagan mind is that when they reject God they are always going to substitute something in the creation for God, and in the ancient world this particularly appealed to the arrogance of leaders because the one that was substituted for God was the head of state.  So Nebuchadnezzar has al the excuse he needs to because he has been identified as the head of gold and God has put him as the highest of all the kings on the earth, he is to be the king of kings over the earth.  And so he is reinterpreting that and distorting it within his human viewpoint frame of reference.  And he's distorting the idea that God said that he was the head of gold, that he ruled at the pleasure of God, and he is instead identifying himself with God and with God's plans so that he looks upon himself as God.  Now this is a standard operating procedure in the ancient world because there was often the tendency in the ancient world to view the king as a God. 

 

In fact there's a panel from Assyrian in the Bas-reliefs taken from, I think it was at Nineveh, where Ashurbanipal is out hunting and on the Bas-reliefs in the lower panel you have Ashurbanipal in his chariot hunting the lions, and he has his spear drawn and the lions are in front of the chariot and it's incredible, if any of these pictures actually represented what they did, it reminds you of the scenes described in 1 Samuel of David where he tells Saul, well I killed lions and bears while I was protecting the sheep when I was a young man, and we have pictures of the kings of Assyria hunting lions from their chariots where they would ride the chariot up and they would throw the spear into the lion right next to them or the lion would charge and they would have long spear and they would maneuver the spear so that as the lion charged it would impale itself on the spear.  Now that takes real courage to stand still, bracing yourself with that spear out in front of you while that lion is charging at about 40 miles an hour, making sure you're going to impale that lion on that spear.  But that's what they did.  Anyway, in these panels, on the lower panel it reflected what the king was doing and in the upper panel you have the god doing the same thing, he's in a chariot and he is hunting the lion.  And what that was to say is there was an exact one to one correspondence between what happened in the realm of the gods and what was happening in the realm of man, so that the king becomes identified with the actions of the god and the god is so closely identified with the actions of the king that they're viewed as one.

 

So Nebuchadnezzar is viewing himself in this frame or reference as being the voice and the will of God, so whatever Nebuchadnezzar wants God wants; whatever God wants Nebuchadnezzar wants, so he's seeing himself in this position.  So by distorting the revelation that God gave him in chapter 2 he's come up with a false syllogism and it's something like this.  First of all, his major premise is that God has called him to be king, and Nebuchadnezzar knows from what the image represented that he is the head of gold and he is to be king.  But then his second premise is the false premise, he is thinking that Daniel's God is like the gods he knows, He's just like the gods of Marduk and the other gods of the Babylonian pantheon and so he thinks of himself as being the reflection and the one to one correspondence with his gods; he doesn't view Daniel's God as the God but as simply the greatest of all the gods.  So he's now identifying himself with the gods so that he basically is saying that the state, which is personified in himself, is God; the government of the state, of the nation is the will of God.  So the conclusion that he comes to is that Nebuchad­nezzar thinks that he is the voice of God so his will is God's will and God's will is his will.  This is standard in any kind of negative volition. 

So then we have the events of Daniel 3:1.  Now between Daniel chapter 2 and Daniel 3 the Septuagint suggests a period of 16 to 17 years takes place.  We don't know, the Scripture is silent on the time gap, but that seems to reflect the Jewish tradition handed down over the years, is that a period of 17 years had gone by.  At the end of Daniel 2 Daniel was promoted as the ruler over the whole province of Babylon and he became the chide prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.  So he has a specific responsibility in the city of Babylon that puts him over its administration, and that may explain why he's not mentioned in chapter 3.  But at the time that Daniel is promoted, he also recommended Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego for their promotion and they're set over the administration of the province.  So he's in the city over the province in the city and then they're serving under him and he is operating, the last clause of the chapter says he operates at the king's court.

 

Now some time goes by, we come to Daniel 3:1, we read: "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."  So it's not in the city, it's in the province, it's outside of Babylon.  Now this is standard operating procedure in the ancient world.  There is nothing unusual about this; this is a statue that is ninety feet tall, a cubit varied from one country to another but the average was about a foot and a half, about 18 inches.  So this is a statue that's 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide.  That seems to be an odd proportion and I'll explain that later.  But this is not unusual; some tremendously large statues were built in the ancient world.

 

For example, the great sphinx in Egypt is 240 feet long by 66 feet high, so that's much larger, it's not as high as this but it's much larger.  It had a body of a lion and a human head and was built about 2500 BC.  Other examples in the ancient world would include the Colossus of Rhodes which was built about 300 BC and it stood 105 feet tall, so it's approximately 15 feet taller than this statue.  And then there was the great statue of Zeus that was 40 feet high in Greece, and according to the Greek historian, Herodotus, there was a stature of Marduk in Babylon at least as early as the time of Cyrus that was made of solid gold that stood 18 feet tall.  In fact, Herodotus writes in his history: "We know in the same precinct," he's talking about inside the city of Babylon, "that there's a second temple in which is sitting a figure of Jupiter, all of gold," solid gold he claimed for that statue, "before the figure stands a large golden table, and the throne upon it sits and the base upon which the throne is placed is likewise of gold.  The Chaldeans told me that all the gold together was eight hundred pounds worth." 

 

Now that would be worth several billion dollars today.  "Outside the temple are two altars, one is solid gold, on which it is only lawful to offer sucklings.  On the other, a common altar, but of great size, on which the full grown animals are sacrificed.  It is also on the great altar that the Chaldeans burned the frankincense which is offered to the amount of a thousand talents worth every year at the festival of the gods."  And then he states, in reference to what I just stated, "In the time of Cyrus there was likewise in this temple a strange figure of a man, twelve cubits high," that would be about 18 feet, "entirely of solid gold," perhaps that's an image based on this earlier image.  He goes on to say, "I myself did not see this man but I relate that the Chaldeans report concerning it that Darius plotted to carry the statue off," he was of the Persians, "but had not the courage to lay his hands on it.  Xerxes, however, the son of Darius, killed the priests who forbade him to move the statue and took it away."  

 

So this is not uncommon to have this kind of a statue developed here and with all the wealth and man power that Nebuchadnezzar had he certainly could erect a statue like this.  One person has figured that on the basis of current value of gold if this statue were of solid gold it would be worth about 20 billion dollars in today's market, if not more.  Now according to the quote I just read you from Herodotus, Herodotus claimed that not only was the altar there of solid gold, but also that the statue of Jupiter was of solid gold.  Now it's not necessary for this statue to have been of solid gold.  For example, in the Scripture the bronze altar is not solid bronze, it's wood overlaid with bronze but it's still called an altar of bronze, as well as the table of showbread was gold plate on top of wood.  So the statue doesn't have to be solid gold and I guess we don't know for sure whether it was solid gold or just a wooden statue that was gold-plated but nevertheless, it was a magnificent image, that because of the brilliance of gold and its reflective capacity would have been seen for quite a distance. 

 

It rose to a height of 90 feet, about the size of a nine story building but the dimensions seem quite odd, unless it was on top of a platform.  Now if it was a statue of a man on top of a platform, then if the platform rose to 40 or 50 feet, then the statue itself was only 40 or 50 feet high and 9 feet wide, so that might have made it a little more human like.  Evidence for such a base was possibly discovered by a French archeologist in the middle of the 19th century, a man by the name of Jules Oppert, located a brick structure that was 45 feet square and 20 feet high; it was located 12-15 miles south of Babylon, and he believed, and many others do as well, that this was the pedestal of this image, and that the image was set up on top of that so that it could be seen from quite a distance.  And the location of that particular statue was in a place that was also called Dura in the Aramaic.  Now according to Daniel 3:1 "he set it up on the plain of Dura," Dura, there are many different sites in Babylon that have the name of Dura, it comes from an Akkadian word that has to do with a walled off area.  So it's out in this plain of Dura which indicates that it was probably surrounded by mountains, just about 15 miles south of Babylon that he established this enormous statue.  And it was probably something that during the time of its construction everybody wondered what was going on out there and what was going to take place.

 

Then in Daniel 3:2 we read: "Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble," and then we have this long list of government officials and it seems rather repetitive because in verse 3 the list is repeated again.  And you say well, why is all of this repeated, why doesn't the Holy Spirit just summarize it with some sort of collective noun.  It's because the Holy Spirit wants us to pay attention to something.  Whenever we read through something and we have that kind of reaction we ought to stop and think now why is it that that is written in that particular manner.  Because the Holy Spirit wanted to draw our attention to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar wanted every single government official to be out on the plain, from the highest to the lowest, and that nobody was missing.  He wanted the entire spectrum of government authority, the entire political establishment to be present because he views himself as God, the state is equivalent to God, the state is the definer of absolutes and it is the bureaucracy that is the mediator for God.  The will of the king, the will of Nebuchadnezzar is being mediated to the people through the bureaucracy.  That sounds somewhat familiar, even though every state in human history, every major government, has always seemed to have pretensions to deity. 

 

So they call out all of the individual bureaucrats.  The first group are called the "satraps."  The New Revised Standard translates it that way; it's also called "the princes" in the King James Version, and it is from the Aramaic word achasdarpenin, and these were the highest officials in the land under the king, they ruled all of the different regions in Babylon.  The second group are those that are under the satraps, it's translated "the prefects" or "governors" in some translations.  This is from the Aramaic word signayya  "prefects."  Then underneath the prefects, the next level down were the "governors," and that word is pachawata  the "governors," these administrated the smaller regions in the provinces.  And then under them you have the adarggazrayya, the advisors, who were the low-level administrators in the smallest area, probably like a mayor or regional director.  Then under them were the gedaberayya, and these were the treasurers, the financial people who handled the money and the financing, probably tax collection in all of the different provinces and regions, and then the final group are the judges, the tiptaye and these were the ones who handled the administration of justice and in the jurisprudence system that was established.

 

So from top to bottom, everyone involved in the administration of the empire has to get out on this plain in Dura and they have to bow down to worship this idol.  Daniel 3:1 we're told, "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, [4] Then the herald loudly proclaimed: 'To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language," now when we get into verse 4, there's an interesting word here, the "herald," this is karoz in the Aramaic and it is a cognate of the Greek word kerux and that referred to the herald who went forth announcing… they didn't have newspapers so whenever the king made an announcement he would send a herald out who would walk through all the streets of the town and villages and announce whatever the king wanted to be announced.  He wasn't to be sidetracked, he wasn't to get involved in a disputation over the veracity of the decision, all he was supposed to do was go and announce it. 

 

See, that's the word that's translated "preacher" in the New Testament, a preacher is someone who proclaims the truth, and it does not have to do with a certain form of expression.  A problem that we've gotten into in our culture is that we think of preaching as a certain oratorical form and teaching as a different oratorical form.  But preaching has to do with proclaiming the truth and it is not confined to any sort of form; preaching does not have to be haranguing, it doesn't have to be in the typical homiletic form of three points and a poem.  Preaching should be teaching, it should be instructive, they are not different concepts.  Preaching just has to do with the fact that it is proclaiming something; teaching focuses on the fact that it is explaining to people how they are to apply it and how it makes a difference in the way they think. 

 

Now the liberals have come along and they say the presence of this lone word like this indicates a late date for Daniel, and as I've stated before, there are many examples of Greek terminology that had made its way around the ancient world at this time.  So in Daniel 3:4 the herald goes out and he announces to the people gathered: "To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language."  So there's quite a collection here.  You have people groups, you have the Chaldeans, Babylonians, Medes, probably others from different groups including the Jews; "nations" those who are there who have been captured, the nations that have been defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, "and men of every language."  So it was a melting pot. 

 

In Daniel 3:5 they're told "that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, the flute, the lyre, the trigon, the psaltery, the bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up."  Now it's important here to notice the role of music, that music has always played an important role in life.  Music is designed to move people emotionally.  Now here they would have an orchestra that was involved in their music and worship and that was the key to when everybody was to bow down and worship. 

 

Now if you think about it, music is always tied to emotion.  We're not talking about words.  This is one of the reasons why people today need to take a hard look at the kind of music that is used in church, and I'm not talking about the words, the words too often today are too superficial, but if you think about it, when you're watching a movie or a television show and you hear a certain chord, or you hear a certain rhythm, you immediately think somebody is going to die, or you begin to get scared, you begin to realize, oh oh something's going to happen, and the suspense builds and it's just the music.  See, music is tied to the emotions, and too often what happens in worship is music is used in order to manipulate people's emotions so that then they operate on their emotions and not out of thinking.  And the music in Christianity is designed to express the thinking that doctrine has given us in our soul and it's not designed to move us emotionally.  And yet that's the way music is used in 99.9% of church services today. 

 

We went through a (quote) "worship" revolution in the mid-80s when everybody was talking about worship this, worship that, and you saw changes taking place and a lot of the influences for those changes came out of the charismatic movement, and that was the precursor of much of the music that was popular in the so-called contemporary chorus movement in the 80s, it's taken on a whole new form now I understand, but a lot of the songs that came out in the 80s came out of southern California, Maranatha group and a lot of that music and people who don't have the discernment to understand the context that produced this kind of music just gobble it up, think it's so wonderful because it makes them feel closer to God.  And that's the whole point.  Worship has nothing to do with how close you feel to God.  There are all kinds of people who think they feel close to God and they don't have a clue who God is; they don't know the least little thing about the Scripture. 

 

And so music today is used in most churches as a manipulative tool to get people into a certain mindset, a certain emotive state which is identified as worship, if you just didn't reach that state then you didn't worship.  It has nothing to do with the content of the teaching and the content of Biblical instruction that has come out of the pulpit.  But worship has to do with obedience to the authority of God, submission to God, and learning doctrine and applying it in our lives and if we're not in fellowship, remember what Jesus said to the woman at the well, we are to worship by means of truth and by means of the Spirit; I don't recall Him saying by means of music.  It has to do with our approach and our relationship with the truth of doctrine.  And false religions always use music in order to manipulate people emotionally. 

 

Now this is just one thing that's going on here, when they gathered the symphony, it's interesting that the final word here, translated "bagpipes" and that is an accurate translation; it's the Aramaic word cuwmpowneyah, does that sound familiar, cuwmpowneyah was also borrowed from Greek, the Greek word cuwmpowneyah which is where we get the word symphony, and it referred to a musical instrument that was very similar to a bagpipe.  So they gathered these various instruments together and when they were to blow everybody was supposed to worship the image, bow down before this golden idol.  But there was also a penalty.  See, this is what happens when the state starts identifying itself with deity, it starts imposing penalties in the spiritual realm.  This is a violation of the first divine institution of individual responsibility and volition.  Nebuchadnezzar is going to control and manipulate everybody through his idolatry. 

 

He said, Daniel 3:6, "But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire."  Now this was not uncommon in the ancient world, this was a typical means of execution at that time.  The Babylonians used it, there's a reference to it in Jeremiah 29:22 which records that Nebuchadnezzar had burned to death two men named Zedekiah and Ahab, so it was not an uncommon procedure.  The furnace, the fiery furnace was in fact a huge kiln that would have been necessary to have smelted the metal for the gold on the statue, so it was there in place, and they could heat it up and it would probably reach a temperature as high as 1000 degrees centigrade, or 1800 degrees Fahrenheit.  So we can only imagine what it was like; it was conical in shape and they would feed it from a door at the base and that's where there would be air flow, proper ventilation in order to get oxygen in there to increase the heat and the burning and the flames would come out the top.  So as they gathered together before this idol on the side there is this enormous furnace or kiln that had been prepared for the smelting of the ore to build the statue.  So they're all ready. 

 

And then in Daniel 3:7 we read, "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."  Now that gives us the introduction to the situation and the problem. 

 

Then in Daniel 3:8 we're introduced to the test.  Well, that's really test one, test one for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego is the system test of an out of control government or bureaucracy that is passing unjust laws that they have to live with.  So the issue is how are they going to separate from the government and not have to obey this unjust and unjustifiable law.  At the same time we also want to ask the question, where is Daniel in all of this.  And there are all kinds of suggestions as to where Daniel was, maybe he was out of town on business, maybe he had a responsibility in one of the outlying provinces.  Some people suggest that because Daniel is not mentioned that maybe Daniel had compromised but that doesn't fit anything that we know about Daniel.  We can't know for sure, but probably the best suggestion goes back to what we learned at the end of Daniel 2 is that Daniel is in charge of carrying out the administration in the city of Babylon itself, he's over everything in the capital city and if the king and all the other administrators an the whole bureaucracy in the nation are out on the plain of Dura then who's minding the fort, whose back home guarding everything?  Well, Daniel was probably back in Babylon taking care of all of the details while everybody else is out being manipulated.  So that's the first test; the first test that they have to face is the test of an unjust system.

 

The second test is a people test and that comes from the accusation that's leveled against them in Daniel 3:8, "For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews."  Notice, they didn't bring charges against Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego as individuals, the charges are against them as Jews.  Now what does it mean, "certain Chaldeans," well the term Chaldean comes from the Hebrew or Aramaic word, Kasdayim and it may refer to Babylonians generally, it was sometimes used as just a broad term for anyone who lived in Babylon.  It had a more technical use in reference to the ethnic Chaldeans who ruled the nation and sometimes it referred to an even more specific group of wise men who acted as direct counselors to the king.  These were also called astrologers and often that's how they advised the king, was through their intricate system of astrology. 

 

Now Daniel and his three friends were all members of this Chaldean hierarchy but they weren't native Chaldeans, they weren't ethnic Chaldeans, they were outsiders, they were Jews and so there's a jealousy here, there's an anti-Semitism that is being developed here and this is one of the first statements of anti-Semitism in the Scripture.  Instead of accusing them as individuals they are accusing them based upon their race.  And the worst form of racial prejudice is anti-Semitism because the Jews are called by God, they are God's special people, God has made certain literal promises to the Jews, as we have seen in the Abrahamic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, the New Covenant, the land covenant, all of the covenants have promised certain specific things to the Jews and Satan is out to attack the Jews and to destroy the Jews because if he can wipe out the Jews then he can nullify the promise of God.  He can say see God, You can't really control Your creation, You can't bring about your promises, I'm better than You are so I won the angelic conflict. 

 

So Satan's greatest tool is anti-Semitism and unfortunately there are many believers and many conservatives who've gotten caught up in the horrible sin of anti-Semitism.  And if you know anyone, or are tempted in that direction you ought to run away from it as much as possible.  Some of the worst and most virulent anti-Semitism today comes out of the Arabs.  When I was down in Houston I had a friend who had some contacts and business dealings with the Arab community and one of these Arab businessmen gave them a bunch of books having to do with the Jews and it was just the most horrendous pack of lies that you could ever imagine, just bitter virulent jealous stuff, and the Arabs don't care whether they're marketing the truth or not, they want to destroy Israel.  And they are filled with lies; in fact one of the greatest lies is the existence of Palestinians; there's no such thing as a Palestinian, they are just Arab Bedouins who lived in the land of Israel before Israel came and reestablished herself as a nation in 1947. 

 

Nobody ever heard of a Palestinian until the early 60s, they were invented by the Arabs to give them an excuse to fight Israel.  And it was a name given to the refugees who were coming out of Israel and as a matter of fact there were fewer Palestinians who left Israel than Jews who that were forcibly removed from Arab nations around them.  All of the nations, the Saudis, the Syrians, the Iraqis and Iranians, all forced all the Jews in their area to leave once the Jewish state was established.  But even though you had a lot of refugees who decided to leave the land of Israel there was plenty of land in Saudi Arabia and in Syria for them but the Arabs would not let them come, they would not give them any land because they wanted to use that as an excuse to fight Israel.  So here we see the beginnings or some of the beginnings of anti-Semitism, they are going to just unjustly accuse them because they are Jews and because they're jealous of all the power and prestige that these men have received and all the honor they have received during their time in Babylon. 

 

In Daniel 3:9 we read about their charges.  "They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king; O king, live forever!"  Notice what sycophants they are, they're just sucking up to the king in order to gain his favor.  Verse 10, they say, "You yourself, 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.  [11] But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire."

 

Now here comes the charge, Daniel 3:12, "There are certain Jews," notice it wasn't all the Jews, it was just like today in the Church, most of the Jews had compromised, most of the Jews had come up with some sort of a rationale for why they could bow down to the idol.  Remember, this is one reason they had been ejected from the land under discipline in 596 BC is because of the idolatry of the northern and southern kingdom.  So most of these Jewish refugees in Babylon who had been deported from the land are still involved in idolatry, they haven't learned the lesson yet, and so they're still bowing down, and they're probably rationalizing like so many Christians, well, you know, I'm in a position where I can witness at work and nobody will really notice if I bow down, after all, this is just ritual without reality so it doesn't really matter what I do out here, if I don't do it and if I don't do it I'm going to die and if I die I can't witness to anybody so I'll do this and then I can be a witness.  We're so good at rationalizing compromise and we come up with ideas, and these young men, in fact, when they were challenged they could have said well, you know king, we have football injuries, we can't really kneel down, our knees are bad and we played a little too much tackle ball when we were in training so we can't bow down.  They could have just said the Chaldeans are lying, we bowed down, and with all the large number of people there Nebuchad­nezzar couldn't watch everybody so they could have claimed it was a false charge. 

 

But it shows their courage and their unwillingness to compromise, they knew what the issue was and the issue was that they were being commanded, being forced into a situation where they had to do something that was in direct violation of the Scripture.  Now I missed one word, I want to back up.  There's an interesting word in verse 8, the Chaldeans came and they "brought charges against the Jews."  The translators have cleaned that up a little bit, the word for "brought charges" is based on the Hebrew word, 'akal, which is the Aramaic word, which means to eat, to consume or devour.  We could translate that into our idiom really well, "the Chaldeans came forward to chew out the Jews."  They wanted to consume them and destroy them; it is an extremely strong word which reveals the bitterness and the animosity that these men felt towards the three men.  And this just once again shows that they were under a very harsh people test, where they had all of this bitterness and hostility directed towards them. 

 

So in Daniel 3:12 we read, "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 are disrespectful to you, "they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."  Now how are they going to handle this?  Let's review what we've learned about the doctrine of separation.  How do we live separate from the world system and how do we make a decision when it's time to make an issue out of something? 

 

First of all, we have to pick our battles.  We've learned that we have to choose where to fight; you can't fight on every little challenge.  You have to pick something that is a direct violation of the Word of God, and we're going to see this in this section, so that it is the character of God and the Word of God that becomes the issue. We have to pick our battles. 

 

The second thing, we have to be in prayer.  Remember when Daniel faced the execution squad because all of the wise men couldn't tell Nebuchadnezzar the dream, the first thing they did was they went to prayer.  So we need to pray for the government, we need to pray for the institution, whatever it is, at work or local government or whatever the situation may be, whoever is bringing that pressure against us, we need to bring that to the Lord in prayer.  We need to pray about that, pray for the problem and pray for the wisdom to apply doctrine in the situation.

 

The third thing, we need to offer legitimate alternatives that appeal to the unbeliever's scale of values.  We need to appeal to them on the basis of their own scale of values, give them an alternative suggestion and hopefully the Lord will be kind to us and that person will change their mind, the Lord will influence them in another direction.

 

Fourth, when a direct conflict develops and the appeal is rejected, we need to maintain our respect for the proper authority but we still need to stand our ground and then leave it in the Lord's hands.  We need to maintain respect for the authority because it's legitimate, but we need to stand our ground and then leave it in the Lord's hands. 

 

Now there's also something else going on here that's very subtle and that is that the leaders are saying king, these are the men that you put into positions of authority.  So they're trying to blame Nebuchadnezzar for this and Nebuchadnezzar doesn't want to be blamed for this so he recognizes that he had given these Jews positions of authority so now he's got to force them to obey his commandment.  Now we come to verse 13, we see the inquisition.  Nebuchadnezzar is going to start giving them the third degree to find out what's going on.

 

Daniel 3:13, "Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger," and in the Hebrew this is what's called a hendiadys, it's the Hebrew word regaz for fury and rage, chamah, and it refers to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar is operating on pure emotion at this point and it has just lost all control and all objectivity.  And he's no longer thinking rationally or objectively as a magistrate and as a leader should.  So he's no longer showing good leadership, he's just concerned with his own personal agenda at this point and he's completely out of control and it shows because he can't even make a good decision about their execution and he makes such a horrible decision that it ends up destroying some of his best and mightiest warriors. 

 

These men were to be brought to him and in Daniel 3:14, "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?'"  So in the face of his anger and rage, remember he's the mightiest man on earth, they still say no.  Now in Daniel 3:15 he says, "Now if you are ready, and the moment you hear the orchestra, fall down and worship the image that I have made.  But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire," and then here's the challenge, notice what happens, he makes it personal with God.  He challenges God's character, "what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"  And one thing that we need to learn is that whenever we're involved in an issue that directly challenges the Word of God, somehow, some way, without preaching, without being dogmatic, without sounding like some flak-o fundy, we need to make sure that the issue is clear that it's obedience to God's Word.  You don't do it out of antagonism; in this kind of a situation it's hard not to be reacting, not to be angry, just make it clear, well I believe in the Scriptures, that it's the Word of God and the Scripture says that this is how I'm supposed to behave.  Just make it that clear, don't try to make it a personal issue.  Then just leave it there and let God handle it.

 

But one thing I find interesting is how they responded.  Notice, Daniel 3:16, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  [17] If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us," now a lot of people have camped out on this and said well, maybe they didn't trust God, but this was a time when they didn't have a prophet handy to give them God's direct will in the matter.  So they didn't know if God would deliver them or not but they knew He could, they're not questioning His power but they're questioning whether it's God's will at that instant in is time to deliver them.  They know He can, this is their operation of the faith rest drill.  The reason they are able to do this is like any maturing Christian, we should recognize we're dead, our future is in heaven; what happens in this life is irrelevant, we're not going to hold on to it, we're not going to grasp after it, the issue is not what happens in this life.  This life is irrelevant to us; all of the material things in this life are irrelevant compared to the eternal value of glorifying God.  So they're able to sacrifice everything and give up their life because their life is meaningless.  And that's the way our values should be in the Christian life.  So they don't care what the torture is, "our God can deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king." 

 

Daniel 3:18, "But even if He does not," you see, this is the thing as Christians, we need to realize that sometimes God has suffering for us to go through and the only way we can glorify God is to go through the suffering and not to escape it.  This is the principle of 1 Corinthians 10:13, that "there is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful who will with the temptation make a way to escape," not to get out away from it, but a way to handle it, "that you may bear it," that's the last clause, everybody forgets that last clause.  So they say, "But even if God does not deliver us, 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."  So they're going to take their stand, much as Job did, "Lord, even if you slay me, yet will I trust You." 

 

So Nebuchadnezzar throws a temper tantrum, Daniel 3:19, his face was filled with wrath, he was completely contorted and he gives orders to heat the furnace seven times more.  ["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."]  Now that was a dumb decision because we all know if he wanted to torture them he would reduce the heat by seven times, not increase it by seven times.  A good slow burn is a lot more painful than just evaporating them in an 1800 degree furnace and not only that but he lost some warriors.

 

Daniel 3:20, "And 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."  Now why did he get these mighty strong warriors?  Because they called on God to come and rescue them so he wants his mighty strong warriors there to protect them so that God can't deliver them.  So they're going to cast them into fire, and as they take them up it's those men that are going to lose their life.  Daniel 3:21, "Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coast, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the blazing fire."  That's not "trousers," it was their tunic, and their outer tunic and their turbans, that's a better translation.  But normally in a situation like this the victim had his clothes removed, he was put in the furnace, he was burned alive, but in this case their clothes were left on.  Now that's an important detail; they're cast into the furnace with all their clothes on and they're trussed up, they're tied up with ropes. 

 

Daniel 3:22, because they're in such a hurry, because the king's out of control, the king's best men burn up in the process, they collapse, either the outer wall of the kiln collapses because of the heat and they fall in, we don't know, or it was just so hot they burned up, but the three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Aged-nego all make it inside the furnace.  ["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."]

 

Daniel 3:23, "But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.  [24] Then Nebuchadnezzar the king," he's watching, "he was astounded and stood up in haste," he's just going nuts here, the Hebrew uses participle upon participles here that indicate the action that he's just jumping around and repeating this over and over again, didn't we put three men in there, but there are four, what's going on here… he's just beside himself.  And in verse 25 "he said, Look! I see four men loosed" they have been loosed, it's past tense, their bonds are gone.  Now their turbans, their outer robes, their under robes are not being burned, the only thing that burned was the men who were putting them in their and the ropes tying them up.  And so he sees four men loosed "and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth like a son of the gods!"  Literally it's "the son of God," and this is a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, the angel of the Lord, who has come to deliver them in the midst of this execution.  So Nebuchadnezzar looks in and he sees the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ and this is just one other evidence of the fact that God is God and God's going to use that to impress Nebuchadnezzar with his need for salvation and that will eventually come at the end of chapter 4. 

 

So Nebuchadnezzar goes to the door of the furnace, called on them to come out, "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."  Then in Daniel 3:27 we see the reaction from all the unbelievers, "And 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," they didn't even have that sooty smell, they were in perfect condition.

 

Now in conclusion, several principles to wrap it up.  First of all, it takes years for God to work on a person; we see this with Nebuchadnezzar, probably 20 years before Nebuchadnezzar is finally saved at the end of the next chapter.  Sometimes a person may seem negative but God is still working. 

 

Second, when there is an issue demanding separation we must make sure that the issue is the character of God and the revelation of Scripture, not our opinion, not something that is just some principle we've derived from Scripture, but a clear command, mandate or prohibition in the Scripture. 

 

Third, the most powerful witness in those situations is the actions, the works of the individual, but not the works alone.  See, so many people will say to somebody, well, my life is a witness.  Well how are they going to interpret your life if you don't use some words to explain the meaning of your witness, not in a preachy way, not in an antagonistic way, but just so you can tell people like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego did, look, we're going to trust God, we can't bow down to your idol so we're going to do what God says to do and take whatever comes.  So that's their witness.  And notice, one thing else you should notice, with Nebuchadnezzar and every other time in Scripture when people are witnessing and have a witness before an unbeliever, that when it becomes clear that that unbeliever is locked down into negative volition, what happens?  The believer shuts up, doesn't just keep nagging.  This is especially true or applicable in a situation where you have an unbelieving spouse with a believer.  You don't just keep beating them over the head with Bible verses, you make your stand, explain why you do what you do, and then live you life before them.  That's what Jesus did before Pilate, when it became clear that Pilate was negative Jesus just shut up, He didn't say anything more.  He just made it clear from his actions.

 

The fourth point, during the times when God is silent, for example at this time there is no prophet there to tell them exactly what to do, when the canon is closed like in our situation, our only guidance in specific situations comes from the faith rest drill and wisdom principle from Bible doctrine in our souls.  So if you don't have doctrine in your soul and promises memorized then you won't have a clue how to behave under people testing and under system testing when the crunch comes.

 

The fifth point, some of the most difficult testing will come when there is no other believer around.  See, Daniel, who is the most mature of the group, isn't there for them to rely on, they can't look to Daniel's leadership, they can't rest on his spiritual life and spiritual growth, they have to make the decisions from the doctrine that's in their own soul and they pass the test with flying colors.


Next time we'll go on to see how Nebuchadnezzar is finally faced with the reality of God's