The Image of Gold and the Fiery Furnace
A long, long time ago, in a distant land there was a king whose name was Nebuchadnezzar. He made a huge graven image (an idol) that was fashioned of gold and had it set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
When the building of this huge image was completed, the king sent out invitations to all the princes, governors, captains, judges, and to all the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs and all the rulers of the provinces; namely all who were considered the important people of the land (all those who had positions of authority under him) to come to the dedication of this great impressive image that he had set up. (Daniel 3.)
The people all came to the celebration in honor of Nebuchadnezzar's request and gathered around. While they were standing before the gold statue, a herald (an official messenger of the king) made a loud proclamation that all the people were to fall down and worship the gold image whenever they heard the band begin to play music (the band comprising of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer), and that those who refused to bow, would be thrown into a burning fiery furnace.
Nebuchadnezzar had made this worship of his image mandatory and it was now the law of the land; if the people did not obey this new ruling, they would be cast into a burning fiery furnace and burned up alive.
So the men and women did what they were told and when the band began to play, they fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up; after all it was the law of the land, they must obey the king.
But oh my, some Chaldeans who were of the province of Babylon came running to the king and tattled on certain ones; they reported that there were men that were among the Jewish captives that had not done as they had been commanded but had refused to bow down to the golden image. It was further explained to the king that these men who refused to bow down were some Jews who had been appointed to serve in the province of Babylon; namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These Chaldean spies told the king, "...these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." (Daniel 3:12)
Well, the king became quite angry, he thought how dare these three men disobey him and refuse to worship his god that he himself had made; how dare they rebel against the great king of the great nation of Babylon, the audacity of these men to think that they could refuse to obey the laws of his kingdom and get away with it!
So Nebuchadnezzar, in a fit of rage, commanded to have these three men brought before him. When they were brought and stood before him, the king inquired of them as to the charge brought against them and asked them to their face: "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?" (Daniel 3:14)
Before they could respond, the king added that he was willing to give them one more chance to fall down and worship the golden image the next time they heard the sound of the band playing the music. He threatened that if they still refused he was going to have them thrown into the hot fiery furnace within that very hour. And in his boastful arrogance, he basically said, "Do you think for one minute that your God will deliver you from my hand and what I have decreed for you?"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and boldly declared to the king that they would not hide their decision as to what they would do in regard to the king's command to worship his golden image. They calmly told him that they were not going to bow to it no matter what the king threatened.
They confidently said that their God, whom they served, was quite able to deliver them from the fiery furnace and that He could, most assuredly, deliver them from the king's hand if He so desired; and even if He did not choose to deliver them at this time, it still did not matter, they would not serve the king's gods nor worship the golden image that he had set up.
Their answer so infuriated the king, that his face became contorted with intense anger against these men who would dare to defy his orders. He was so angry that just having the furnace hot enough to burn up anything thrown into its flames was not enough for these men who would dare to disobey his edict to worship his god in the form of the golden image. In his rage the king commanded that the furnace be stoked up seven times hotter than it already was and that the strongest of his soldiers bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound but were kept clothed in all their garments including their outer coats and hats and were thrown into the hot furnace. Right at the outset God performed a miracle by having the soldiers who threw them in burn up instantly, while Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell down bound into the very midst of the fiery furnace without catching on fire. Not only did they not burn up while the soldiers that threw them in went up in flames, the three Jewish men continued to be unharmed and were even seen walking around in the midst of the fiery furnace (now unbound) with no apparent harm being done to them at all.
But suddenly as the king was watching he became incredulous! He could not believe what he was seeing! He had to ask his counselors to verify that indeed there had been only "three" cast into the midst of the furnace, for now he was seeing four men and the counselors confirmed that, yes indeed, there had been just the three men cast in. The king must have rubbed his eyes in amazement and exclaimed, "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." (Daniel 3:25)
The king walked over to the opening of the furnace as close as he could without being burned himself and yelled out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, calling them servants of the most high God, to come out of the furnace. Notice how he now calls them "servants of the most high God". They came out and the fourth figure must have faded out of the scene for only the three came out.
Not only did the king see this miracle unfold before his very eyes, but the rest of all those who had gathered for the dedication witnessed this as well. They all crowded around the three Jewish men and saw that not only had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego been protected from the flames, but not one of their hairs was singed and their garments showed no signs of any scorch marks at all. Even after being in the very midst of a burning fire, they had no trace of the smell of smoke on them!
Nebuchadnezzar was humbled enough by this whole experience to then bless the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to acknowledge that their God had miraculously delivered them by sending His angel from being burnt up.
Even when threatened with the sentence of being thrown into the fiery furnace, these faithful servants of God still chose to defy the king's edict to bow down and worship the golden image, and God saved them. They showed the king and all those who were with him that they were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God, the true God who commands His covenant people to not have any other god before Him and to not worship or bow down to any other god than Him.
Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar made a decree that any person of any nation or language who spoke a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, would be cut in pieces, and that their houses would be made into a heap of rubble. The king of Babylon had come to see that there is no other God that can deliver the way he saw God deliver his faithful. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to positions of honor in the province of Babylon.
(This is a paraphrase of Daniel 3, please see whole chapter.)
Do We Worship God or Do We Bow Down to the Gods of This World?
This is quite a lesson for all mankind who will some day witness the deliverance of all those who make a choice to obey God and follow Him whithersoever He goes; those who come to love God with all of their hearts and refuse to bow to the god of this world nor worship any of his false idols.
We may not realize it, but God's servants who are the called out Ekklesia are going through similar situations living in this modern day Babylon. It may not be as blatant nor are we being threatened at this time by an edict to be thrown into a fiery furnace, but we are all being commanded in one way or another to fall down and worship the gods that the men of this world have set up.
Idolatry is everywhere and is so common-place that we have to stay very close to God to even be able to see it in our midst for what it is. We live in a Babylonian society and God commands that we come out of it and not worship its gods, nor its system as the men of the world do. Isaiah gives an apt description of what the nation of Israel would be like even up to our modern day.
Isaiah 2:6 “Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers.
7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:
8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:
9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.”
We read in Revelation that we are to come out from the ways of Babylon and stop worshiping the false gods around us.
Revelation 18:4 “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
5 For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (and Daniel, too) knew the true God even though they were captives living in the land of Babylon, and they knew what His commandments were including the command to have no other gods before Him. And they wanted to obey God above anything else with all of their hearts even in the face of death.
Deuteronomy 5:6 “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.:
8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”
The golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had made and his command for all the people to fall down and worship it, is an allegory of all the different kinds of idols that men have set up and then expect those they rule over to serve and obey.
Carnal men make false gods with their own hands, whether they be material or their own man-made governmental systems or false traditions, anything that dictates that we are to put other things before God and His commandments. This includes all corporate organizations that men set up in the world and their leaders (and even those organizations and the leaders that are set up within the Ekklesia) that take us away from the true God, teaching us to follow them rather than to follow our Creator and to walk in all of His ways.
Leviticus 26:1 “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”
God through the prophet Isaiah speaks the following words of comfort to His people with a promise to protect and save them when they throw aside all of their foreign gods and become examples of what it is to follow and obey Him and when we proclaim to the world the truth about our Great God; "before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour." (Isaiah 1:11)
Isaiah 43:1 “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
3 For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
4 Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.
12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God.
13 Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?”
As God's people we have a choice, we must not be fence sitters: either we worship the gods and the men of this world; or we obey and serve our Great King, the God of all Creation.
1st Kings 18:21 “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”
We need to stand up for what is right as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did to the king of Babylon and to those who would oppose and challenge us (or tempt us).
Daniel 3:16 “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.”
In this way we are to be examples for those who are watching us and we can encourage the believers (those who may still be hesitant) to step out in faith to live by the truth of God's Word.
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the apostle Paul boldly preached the Gospel message in the face of all kinds of threats and persecution and was never afraid to speak up for God. This is our modern day commission as well.
Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
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