“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold” as the focus of a new system of idolatrous worship for all “peoples, nations, and languages.” Standing on “the plain of Dura” at ninety feet tall and nine feet wide, this object was not merely a work of art. When the music of various instruments was heard, everyone was to immediately “fall down and worship” or face the deadly sanction of being “cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
Certain of Nebuchadnezzar’s officials who had access to the king used this occasion to attack their enemies. They “maliciously accused the Jews,” particularly noting Daniel’s three friends, as offenders who would not obey the king’s edict. “These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Nebuchadnezzar, in “furious rage,” called in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to explain themselves. They were given opportunity to comply with the king’s law, which they refused. Their answer was simple, direct, appropriate, and in its own way, respectful: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand.” Jehovah was infinitely greater than Nebuchadnezzar. “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
The king was “filled with fury.” He ordered that the heat of the fire be raised very substantially, so much so that the guards who brought the three Hebrew men to their expected doom were themselves killed by their exposure to the flames. Meanwhile, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not only survived the ordeal, but were miraculously preserved in every way.
Everyone there that day saw a fourth figure in the furnace, one “like a son of the gods.” He was with them in their worst trial. Did they all die instantly? No, only the ropes that had bound them were consumed.
No one was able to deny that the condemned captives had experienced a powerful deliverance. What did Nebuchadnezzar conclude? “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants, who trusted in Him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.” The king went on to issue a new decree prohibiting any speech against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He also promoted them in the province of Babylon.
Who was that fourth person who entered into the furnace with the three men of faith? Was it an angel of the Lord, or was it God Himself in a visible manifestation? We know that God is able to rescue His people from any situation, and that He has saved us eternally and supremely by coming into this fallen world to suffer and die that we might live forever. Even now Jesus will carry us through every difficulty. God is our strength and our salvation. We trust that He will give us faithful words to say in any time of testing.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Great God and King, the rulers of this world are so easily carried away with their grandeur. We will not worship them or serve their false gods. Help us to be respectful, to submit to lawful authority, and to serve You by living in an orderly way. Keep us faithful to You if we should ever face the persecution of powerful people. Surely You will either deliver us from our trials or bring us immediately into Your glorious presence. In all the difficulties that we face, we trust that the Son of God is with us. The fire of men is nothing compared to the eternal fire that Your enemies will face. You alone are able to save us, for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.