III. A Test of Faith in a Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3:1-30)


III. A Test of Faith in a Fiery Furnace (3:1-30)

3:1-7 Clearly, Daniel was God’s kingdom man, and the actions of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in chapter 3 illustrate another type of kingdom response, one that is common to our era: protest through civil disobedience. This involves deliberate personal resistance to a government decree that violates God’s standards.

The gold statue that Nebuchadnezzar ordered to be built must have been awe-inspiring: it was ninety feet high (3:1). The king may have set it up with the intent of consolidating his power, gathering all the classes of his officials to a great ceremony. These rulers were to attend the dedication of the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up (3:2) and to fall facedown in worship of it (3:5). Anyone who rejected this command would do so on pain of death by being thrown into a furnace of blazing fire (3:6). Nebuchadnezzar intended to establish himself as the supreme religious authority in Babylon as well as the undisputed political ruler, so everyone did as told (3:7). Or, at least, almost everyone.

3:8-12 Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were among the officials present for this huge gathering, a confrontation was unavoidable. When all the people who were gathered bowed down, these three men did not (3:12). But, like children in church looking around during prayer time to see whose eyes are open, some Chaldeans saw the three Hebrew boys standing tall among all those who’d prostrated themselves and ran to Nebuchadnezzar to tattle (3:8-12). Jealousy drips from their accusation against the three Jews who’d attained high positions despite their status as captives. These petty court officials saw their chance to destroy Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because their faith forbade them to worship any god but the true God of Israel, and they didn’t miss it.

3:13-15 Nebuchadnezzar flew into a furious rage at the report (3:13). It’s surprising that he gave the accused an opportunity to answer the charges against them (3:14-15). That he did may indicate the esteem he had for them. But, make no mistake, the king would only accept one response: complete capitulation. They’d worship the giant idol of gold or be burned alive. Despite his previous praise of the Hebrew God (2:47), Neb-uchadnezzar added, who is the god who can rescue you from my power? (3:15). As before, the king’s question would eventually be answered.

3:16-18 These courageous Jewish men refused the king’s direct order and placed themselves in God’s hands. Their answer is impressive: If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire. . . . But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue (3:17-18). In other words, they declared, “We’ll fear our God rather than your furnace any day. But, even if he sovereignly decides to let us burn, we’ll still serve the living God rather than bow to your dead idol.” Priceless! They preferred death over unfaithfulness to God and had no doubt prepared themselves for the possibility of this day far in advance.

3:19-23 Nebuchadnezzar’s level of rage when his authority was defied is difficult to imagine, but apparently his face was livid. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary to match his fury (3:19). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were tossed into the flames, the radiant heat was so great that the men carrying them were killed (3:22). No doubt wearing flammable clothing (3:21), the faithful Hebrews had no hope—unless hope itself intervened.

3:24-27 Nebuchadnezzar stood amazed because he could see that not only were the men walking around in the fire unharmed, but there were four of them! The fourth looked like a son of the gods (3:25), which suggests that he was either the pre-incarnate Christ or an angel. When the king realized that the men he’d condemned had been divinely rescued, he called for them to come out (3:26), and not a hair of their heads was singed (3:27). Getting thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s deadly fire had proved to be nothing but a walk in the park.

3:28-30 The king exclaimed, Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him (3:28). Believers today should take note of the actions of these young men and the glory God received as a result. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God (3:28). Are you prepared to do the same?

Following a familiar pattern (see 2:48-49), the king rewarded the three Hebrew boys and honored their God (3:30). But, this was not Nebuchadnezzar’s last encounter with the Most High (3:26). Once again, the king would forget God and exalt himself. And, once again, the living God would humble him.