ABLE TO DELIVER
Pride And Punishment
King Nebuchadnezzar commissioned a massive statue that was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar believed his own press when Daniel interpreted the dream in chapter two and erected an image illustrative of his pride and power. This statue served as the visible sign that he should be worshiped. King Nebuchadnezzar had his top officials gather for the dedication ceremony including the satraps, the prefects, the governors, counselors, treasurers, justices, magistrates, and all officials of the provinces. The crowds assembled to witness the dedication ceremony for the idol. A Herald gave instructions to the crowd so they could respond in an expected manner. Music would serve as the signal for the people to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar set up. Absolute allegiance was demanded, and if anyone refused to comply, they would be cast into a fiery furnace. When the signal was given, and the music began to play, the vast majority of the people bowed before the image in worship as they had been instructed. However, there were three young Hebrew men that refused to bow before this monstrous idol, and it was not long before certain Chaldeans come forward bringing charges against these Jewish men. The accusers were malicious and were intent on seeing these men suffer. These men were driven by their own selfish motivations, not the good of the Nebuchadnezzar or the kingdom. They were skilled manipulators and approached King Nebuchadnezzar with false humility. They repeated the decree issued by the king and reminded him of the punishment that he had set forth. These Chaldeans did not mention the offenders by name. Instead, they spoke of them as a group in condescending terms calling them certain Jews which was a statement laden with antisemitism. They mentioned their position in the kingdom as men appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon and then finally they identified them by name: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The accusers cited their lack of respect for the king, their refusal to worship the gods of the land, and their blatant disregard for the king's command.
Fury And Fire
The fire was not the only thing that was hot that day as King Nebuchadnezzar flew into a furious rage. He summoned the three men, and the interrogation began. Nebuchadnezzar clarified the charges and verified the facts. This provided the opportunity for the three men to criticize their accusers or explain their reasoning, but they did not. The king offered them another chance to comply with the law and reiterated that their failure to bow would result in immediately being cast into the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar's pride was then put on full display as he implied that no god could deliver these men from his hands because of his great power. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded in faith with respect but without any hesitation. These men offered no apology for their actions, but it was not a disrespectful willful rebellion, it was a firm conviction. They confessed their commitment as servants of God. They testified to his power and his ability to deliver them. These men would not worship the Babylonian gods or the golden statue, and they were prepared to die for their faith if God did not rescue them from the fiery furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar was publicly humiliated, and his countenance changed as he filled with fury. He ordered that the furnace be heated to the maximum temperature and he had some of his best soldiers to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The flames were so intense that the men who carried out the execution were killed in the process due to the excessive heat from the fire. The crowd watched as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell into the furnace still bound.
I See Four Men
As King Nebuchadnezzar looked on, he was startled and jumped up to double check what he saw. He asked his advisors about the number of men who had been cast into the fiery furnace, and then he exclaimed that he saw four in the oven and they were walking in the midst of the fire completely unhurt by the flames. King Nebuchadnezzar identified the fourth man as a son of the gods due to his appearance. The king approached the door and called for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out, labeling them servants of the Most High God. Every official watched in amazement as these three men walked out unharmed. They didn't even smell like smoke because neither the king nor the fire had any power over these men. King Nebuchadnezzar blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The King had stated earlier that he knew of no god that could do such a thing for his servants, but now he had witnessed firsthand God's power. God sent his angel and delivered his servants who were willing to die for their faith. King Nebuchadnezzar was a bully, and he issued another decree stating that no one would be permitted to speak ill of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego without penalty of death because there was no other god who could rescue in this way. King Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon and the crowds returned home with quite a story.
Things To Consider:
- Do you think that the golden image may have been connected to Nebuchadnezzar's dream? Why or why not?
- Why is pride so dangerous?
- What are ways that you struggle with pride?
- How do we build things to worship?
- How should you handle accusations whether true or not?
- Why do you think Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were respectful to the king in their disagreement?
- How should we treat political figures with whom we disagree?
- How do you feel when you read about their bold declaration of faith?
- Why do you think these men were so confident?
- How is anger like a fire?
- Are there times that you have had to stand for your faith? Are there any circumstances that you are facing that require faith?
- What comfort do you receive in knowing that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not left in the fire alone?