Daniel Ch. 3 - The Golden Image and the Fiery Furnace

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. (Daniel 3:1-3)

The image was the most prominent object for miles around. It’s a picture of the things that we make important in life. We can turn anything into an idol –even a Christian ministry!

The king (our human soul) spoke with two groups of people: The astrologers, magicians and enchanters (noted in previous chapters); and the various administrators listed in verse two above. The former represent those ideals and beliefs that we entertain in our souls to attain meaning and purpose to life. The latter represent the methods used to put those ideals and beliefs into practice. In this case, the king focused all of his energy into one this object and it totally consumed him.

When the herald loudly proclaimed, “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Daniel 3:4-7)

In chapter two we saw that the king had given up all hope in life. It showed what we go through in our minds when there appears to be nothing –all that we have and all that we do– is worth living for. And even after Daniel showed him the solution to his life needs –a parallel to our soul receiving the gospel– the king still made the image of gold into the most important thing in his life.

Our entire being is pictured here as the kingdom and every part of it had to pay homage to an idol. Through His word, God has shown us that he wants to be a living sacrifice to Him –our being dedicated to Him –not just to something we think is important.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans  12:1-2)

At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But 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, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:8-12)

Earlier I mentioned that we can even turn a Christian ministry into an idol. This passage gives insight to this notion.

After hearing about Jesus coming to earth and living among us (our Hananiah), telling us who and what God was (our Mishael) and leaving us with the Spirit (our Azariah), it’s common for a new Christian to dedicate his life to what he thinks is desirable to God. It could be going to seminary, striving to be a Sunday school teacher, working in the nursery, being in the choir, or any number of other well intended goals. But God wants our entire being (the kingdom) to be available to Him like in the Romans 12 verses above. Pouring our energies into a ministry can become an idol to God.

And after a while, it might seem that this Christianity-thing doesn’t really work –burn out occurs. The “ministry” becomes contrary to the simple message that God gave us in the first place: “Accept My Son, He lived with you so you can trust Him. He told you all you need to know about Me. When you receive Him, you will have My Spirit living with you and leading you every moment of every day.”

The messenger bearing bad news finally arrived. He came from that first group –the one that offers up an ideal or belief that needs to be followed. God had given the king a warning message previously. Now the messenger had come in as if to say, “The ones that you considered to be representatives from God are now against you!”

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (Daniel 3:13-15)

The king has put God’s witnesses to the challenge. He has effectively told God to bless what he has decided is important. Doesn’t that sound a bit like what we do in our religious lives? In opening prayers, we ask God to bless what ever it is we gather for. This would be the pinnacle of pride –telling God that He has to agree to it!

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

The king (our human soul) was faced with rebellion. Here is a depiction of the choices that God has given us. We can either accept His way to salvation or we can perish after plainly seeing these witnesses. It’s like that passage in Deuteronomy where Moses said to the people: “I have set before you life and death; choose life!” God does not bow to man’s ways, so we can either accept or reject His.

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. (Daniel 3:19-23)

Nebuchadnezzar decided to play out this challenge –he tested God’s message. As bad as this sounds, it’s exactly what we Christians do. We test to see if God is faithful to His word –and not just once! We test Him to the limits and it’s in that testing where we find the truth “where sin abounds, grace all the more abounds.” (Romans 5:20) We “test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Then 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, O king.” He 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)

The result of “testing God’s word” while going through the difficult circumstances of life is so that we can see the reality of the gospel. By knowing His word, we also get to intimately know His Son. It’s those hardships that bring us to finding what He wants in our lives. And what He wants is a total dependency on Him rather than the things that we think are important. Religious ministries are nothing in comparison to knowing the Son of God!

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. (Daniel 3:26-27)

God always shows His word to be faithful. It isn’t tainted by our testing. And He doesn’t hold it against us either. What we do doesn’t affect His message of grace. That’s shown in this parallel with the three men going through fire (His witnesses about His gospel and Himself) didn’t even a hint of fire or smoke on them or their clothes.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:28-30)

The result of testing showed the king that God was all that mattered. With Nebuchadnezzar representing our soul, there is a clear picture of what happens when we believe His message and start putting it into action in our life.