Daniel 3, “Saved from the fiery furnace”
Nebuchadnezzar made an entire statue of gold, representing his reign and authority lasting forever. If anyone refused to worship the image, it was considered not only a religious offense but treason. It was proclaimed that when the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image.
Some Chaldeans brought to his attention that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego had not worshiped the golden image that he had set up. In rage and fury, he gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego to him. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? If you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Daniel 3:17,18
“Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace”
At a safe distance from the raging heat, he peered inside – “I see four men loose… and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Nebuchadnezzar tells us who the fourth person was – the Son of God.
The trial had no power over these men because they were thoroughly submitted to the power and will of God. “The smell of fire was not on them” Their deliverance was complete.
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego” Nebuchadnezzar gave glory to God, but he recognized that this great God is not his God. He was still the God of these three brave men. Nebuchadnezzar makes a proclamation that nothing evil should be said against the God of the Hebrews.
“Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.
We see Nebuchadnezzar giving God praise in Chapter 2. But here, we see him return to idolatry and make cruel, arrogant and rash decisions.
However, the threat of death had no power over Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. They refused to blaspheme their God and continued to stand firm in the hardest of circumstances.
Did they know for certain that God would save them this time? No, but even if He didn`t, they still would praise Him. They did not worship God because of what they expected to get in return, they served Him simply because He was worthy of being served.
“Faith” means trusting God regardless of personal cost or benefit. Faith wouldn`t be faith if it always guaranteed the outcome we desire. What is our expectation we have when we serve God? Do we serve unconditionally? Or do we expect to get something back in return?
God can deliver us from a trial, or He can miraculously sustain and strengthen us in a trial.
Daniel 4, “God humbles Nebuchadnezzar”
This unique chapter is a continuation of the testimony of a Gentile king and how God changed his heart. One of the greatest Kings of all times disclosed his personal bout with insanity and how it caused him to submit himself to the God of the people he had conquered and humiliated.
Nebuchadnezzar had a puzzling dream about a large tree. “The tree grew and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, with beautiful leaves, abundant fruit and its capacity to shelter animals and provide a home for birds. It was huge, flourishing, and prosperous.
Daniel genuinely cared for Nebuchadnezzar and was clearly affected by the meaning of the dream. He didn’t want it to be true of his friend Nebuchadnezzar. But, Daniel, lovingly, spoke the truth to Nebuchnezzar about its meaning. The tree represented the King. The cutting down of the tree symbolizes him being humbled. Daniel 4:25, ” You shall be driven from among men, you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, til you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will.” Daniel advised the King to change his ways.
The dream was not fulfilled immediately, perhaps to give Nebuchadnezzar time to repent. Twelve months later, however, he had not changed his ways. God`s judgment came, just as the dream prophesied. Daniel 4:33, ” He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. ”
Historians have noted that mentally ill people have, at times, imagined they were animals. Nebuchadnezzar endured mental anguish for seven long years, unkempt, hair down his back and fingernails like bird claws, wandering in the hills, eating grass like an animal. Finally, he lifted his eyes to heaven, acknowledged that God rules over all.
“Now I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and worship and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are right and His ways are just and those who walk in pride, He is able to humble. Daniel 4:37
Did he really trust God alone, or did he simply respect the God of the Jews as one of the greatest of all gods? Remember from Chapter 3, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego” Nebuchadnezzar gave glory to God, but he recognized that this great God is not his God.
The Israelites were captives in Babylon. God`s temple had been destroyed and their place of worship had been taken away. They lived under the frightening rule of a capricious, often irrational pagan King. However, God was still God, and He, not Nebuchadnezzar, was in control. God`s humbling of King Nebuchadnezzar, must have encouraged them, as it led to him acknowledging God’s sovereignty.
To think about:
Perhaps, Nebuchadnezzar’s madness foreshadows the madness of Gentile nations in their rejection of God.? Perhaps, Nebuchadnezzar’s fall typifies Jesus’ judgment of the nations?. Perhaps, Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration foreshadows the restoring of some of these nations in the millennial kingdom.?
Are there situations in your life that make you feel threatened and powerless? Remember that God is greater than all of these circumstances and He is always in control.