Daniel 3



The Image of Gold and the Fiery Furnace (3:1–30)

1–7 Apparently forgetting what happened to the statue in his dream (Daniel 2:35), Nebuchadnezzar built a huge gold image (possibly of himself or his patron god Nabu) and ordered all the officials in the province of Babylon to bow down and worship it (verses 4–5). The penalty for not doing so was death in a blazing furnace (verse 6). Naturally all the people fell down and worshiped the image (verse 7)—all, that is, except three Jews.

8–15 Nebuchadnezzar was informed that Daniel’s three friends—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (verse 12)—had refused to worship the image. The king angrily warned them that they would be thrown into the furnace if they continued to refuse.9

The Apostle Paul wrote that we should obey our earthly rulers, since they have been given their authority by God (Romans 13:1–2). However, we must not obey them if they command us to do something that God forbids—such as worship idols, or keep silent about Jesus Christ (see Acts 4:19; 5:29). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were absolutely right to disobey Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the golden image (see Exodus 20:4–6).

16–18 The three Jews, full of faith, gave a courteous but firm answer to the king: “. . . the God we serve is able to save us” (verse 17). “But even if he does not . . . we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold” (verse 18).

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego loved God more than they loved their own lives. They were totally committed to worshiping God and Him alone—no matter what the cost. Their faith and obedience have inspired generations of believers down through the centuries. The author of the book of Hebrews includes them among the heroes of the faith (Hebrews 11:34). Since Jesus’ time, thousands of Christians have faced the same choice these three young Jews faced and have accepted death rather than betray their Lord.10

19–25 But in the case of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, God had a special plan in mind: He would indeed save them from the fire, and thereby demonstrate to the world that He was the one true God of all people—including the king of Babylon!

The three men were thrown into the furnace, but the fire did not touch them. Nebuchadnezzar could see them walking around in the fire—together with a fourth man11 (verse 25).

26–30 Once again Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge that the God of Israel was greater than any other god—“for no other god can save in this way” (verse 29). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were then promoted by the king (verse 30).

Modern Christians may think that this story of the fiery furnace has little to do with them. But though the story is ancient and the details strange, it has muchto say to Christians today. Peter wrote: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you (1 Peter 4:12–13). Christians are called to suffer (1 Peter 2:21); they need to expect to suffer as they follow Christ (John 15:18–20; 2 Timothy 3:12). Furthermore, Christians are called to glorify God in their suffering—whether they live or whether they die (Philippians 1:20,29–30).

But suffering for Christ brings great reward. God has promised that after we have suffered a little while, He Him self will restore us and make us strong, firm and steadfast (1 Peter 5:10). He will “promote” us, just as He promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (verse 30). God does not promise to keep us “out of the furnace,” but He does promise to be with us “in the furnace.” He promises to bring us through the suffering (Isaiah 43:2) and to glorify Himself through us—whether we live or die—in order that we may also share in his glory12 (Romans 8:17).