Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 14 2019 - Daniel 3 – The Fiery furnace

Nebuchadnezzar seemed to have been humbled by his dream of the giant statue with its head of gold representing him but which was then reduced to dust by the king and kingdom which God himself was going to set in place. But that humbling does not seem to have lasted long. Rather, the dream seems to have given him the idea of constructing a gigantic statue of his own, about ninety feet tall, this time made entirely of gold and entirely representing him. Nebuchadnezzar had fallen down at Daniel's feet after he had explained the meaning of his dream. Now Nebuchadnezzar demands that people from every nation and every language should bow down to his image. He declared that whoever did not bow down to the image when all manner of musical instrument were played would be thrown into a blazing furnace.

Daniel had been put in charge of all the wise men in Babylon and, "at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chief ministers over the province of Babylon" (2:49). These wise men, or "astrologers" owed their lives to Daniel, but his elevation over them and the promotion of his friends seems to have filled them with envy. They used the demand that all should fall down to worship Nebuchadnezzar's image of gold to raise an accusation against Daniel's friends – perhaps thinking that these were an easier target than Daniel, their boss.

Nebuchadnezzar was furious with rage when he heard that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow down to his image. When challenged by the king they replied (vv. 16-18):

King 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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.

Nebuchadnezzar was blazing with anger and commanded the furnace to be heated seven times hotter. The soldiers throwing the three Jewish men into the furnace were killed by the heat but the three men were seen walking around unharmed in the furnace along with a fourth man who looked "like a son of the gods" (v. 25). The three men were called to come out of the fire and emerged without a mark on them. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the God whom these men served was more powerful than all the gods of Babylon. He then promoted these men.

God does not always intervene to save his people from trouble. Stephen was stoned to death and James, brother of John and leader of the church in Jerusalem, was put to death by Herod – though Peter was saved from prison. We cannot presume that God will rescue us from all pain and harm, but we can be confident that the Lord Jesus Christ is with us in every situation we are called to face. I believe that it was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus who was with these three men in the furnace and he has also promised never to forsake us:

This is what the LORD says …
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you…
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God. (Isaiah 43:1-3)

Living God, thank you that you came to live and to walk among us in the person of the Lord Jesus. Thank you that he endured the worst that human beings can inflict on one another and has promised to be with us in all our trials. Help us by your Spirit to have faith like the three men we read of today, to trust in you and to be faithful to you even in the most difficult of circumstances. May our words and actions bring others to acknowledge that you are the living God. 

Peter Misselbrook