And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. (Revelation 13: 7-9).
The lessons for the last few weeks have been all about the importance of and the defense of our Faith. We have looked at biblical examples of faith, the righteousness and trustworthiness of God, and His character. Today’s lesson is about the next step: acting in faith. The world is an exceedingly wicked place. How do we stand boldly in our beliefs when there are consequences? Think of social status, the woke culture, or the political correctness of our day. The consequences of standing for one's faith can be intimidating; however, there is coming a day when the stakes will be much higher than simply our feelings, promotion, or being accepted by public opinion.
Prior to the writing of this chapter, the nation of Judah had been exiled to Babylon. The long-prophesied captivity has happened. Interestingly, King Nebuchadnezzer has selected the best and the brightest of the young captives to train in the ways of the Chaldeans. It is here that we first meet Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego as they refuse to eat the foods given to them that would defile them. It would have been easy for them to enjoy the luxuries provided for them, after all Jerusalem has been devastated, the inhabitants that have remained are in horrific condition. Other exiles are here as lowly slaves, but these young men are being served food from the king’s table and privately tutored and cared for. Even though they were separated from their culture, families, and religion, they remained faithful to the instructions given by God in the law. This is the first example of them taking a stand for their relationship with God. They were blessed miraculously for their obedience, becoming healthier and more favored than those who accepted the king’s offerings. How do we stand boldly in adversity with consequences? By standing in the small things and building our Christian character. As this lesson progresses, the stakes become higher and higher. How important is your faith in God? Do you faithfully stand in the truth regarding the little things? Is your example faithful enough to make a difference to those around you?
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
It is recorded that the king was given a dream by God, but he was frustrated that upon waking, he couldn’t remember the dream. He called his advisers, those he had been taught had the power of discernment and supernatural knowledge, but none of his magicians, sorcerers, or wise Chaldeans could interpret a dream that even he could not remember. This led the king into a crisis of faith, and he became furious.
Apparently, those he’d put his faith in were as powerless as he. In his wrath and disillusionment, he ordered that all his advisors be slain, including the young men who had arrived from Jerusalem. Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego prayed, and God gave Daniel the dream as well as the interpretation. Like Joseph before him, Daniel did not claim to have superpowers but let the king know that God had given him the knowledge. Daniel saved the lives of many because He had a relationship with God, and because of this, Daniel and the three others were raised in status to governors and rulers over the affairs of Babylon.
At this point, the king had taken that vision God had given him about the rulers of the earth, and misapplied it to create an image of gold representing himself. Completely gold (not just the head as in his dream), he wanted his subjects to bow to the statue in reverence and worship of him. The Bible tells us that Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego refused to obey the king’s command to worship the idol.
14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
There will come a time in every believer’s life when they will be forced to make a decision. Nebuchadnezzar is personally insulted that they would not be a part of his belief system. “Do you not serve my gods?” He asked. It is as if to say, "haven't I been very good to you, why won’t you go along with what I believe?” In truth, compared to the treatment of many other Jews, they have received kindness from the king, but their loyalty is to God first. It would have been easy to go along to get along, they didn’t have to mean it. Never compromise away your faith in God, not for convenience, or self-protection, or expediency. Not for any reason, should we value the approval of man over pleasing God.
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Plainly, there is so much more than this temporary life to consider. We serve a God who has offered us eternity, why should we put so much value on how long we live here. When you find out what is worth dying for, you’ve only then determined what’s worth living for.
20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
The first question you might be asking is, “Where is Daniel?” We don’t know. Daniel is the author of this account, and he has chosen not to reveal that information. It could be that he wasn’t there at the time, but it is highly unlikely that considering his character he would have taken part in the worship of a golden idol. While these “Hebrew children” as we call them, were part of the government of Babylon, they were determined to remain personally separated unto God. As Christians, we are called to be in the world, but not of it. We have, in a sense, dual citizenship as God’s children, and our heavenly home takes priority over our earthly home.
21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
22 Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flames of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Nothing is recorded in the Bible on accident or without purpose. To those blindly obeying the king’s unjust orders, God gave no protection. Those executioners could not have thought that they would be the ones to die that day. Verse 21 lets us know that the execution was speedily carried out, the men had to be ready to face the consequences of taking a stance for God without time to offer a sin sacrifice, or to pray, or to even change their clothes and say their goodbyes. It was a good thing they didn’t wait until that moment to determine that they would remain loyal to God. They were ready. Their faith in God wasn’t new, it was a living faith.
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
Nebuchadnezzar’s rage quickly turned to astonishment. He had expected to see those who would challenge his authority destroyed; instead, he catches a glimpse of the real king, who holds all power and authority.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
I wish I could have looked in! What could it have been that allowed a pagan king to recognize the son of God? How did Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego recognize Christ walking in the midst of the fire; did they even know before this that God had a son? I have so many questions. They were loose, they were unharmed, they were in the presence of God himself, but where were they walking to? It’s an oddly specific detail. Did God speak to them there? Were they reluctant to leave? How long did they get to stay in His presence?
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.
They were put in the fire, but they came out on their own. Nebuchadnezzar’s thoughts have come a long way in a very short time, in the plain before the idol he had been proclaiming that he was a God to be worshiped, but now he confesses that the most high God was there in the fire. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. When we realize that we are counterfeit rulers of our own lives and that there is a God in Heaven to whom everything and everyone belongs, we are at the starting place of understanding all the other things.
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
Added just for good measure……
29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
From rage to respect. The world rages against God, they blaspheme His name and profane the gospel. They persecute those who believe and hate the cause of Christ beyond all reason. Those who catch a glimpse of Him here have an opportunity to repent, and it often comes from the obedience of God’s children to stand up to the consequences of being faithful. Some will, like King Nebuchadnezzar, will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord before it’s too late. Others will die in their sins and face the judgment and wrath of God for eternity, but regardless of their decision:
At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!