“The Gospel According to Daniel”

Lesson 4 – In the Fiery Furnace

The end of Daniel chapter 2 seemed to end on a happy note for Daniel and his friends as they received government promotions. Not only did Nebuchadnezzar learn of his dream and its interpretation, he was introduced to the true living God.

Let’s read Daniel chapter 3 together.

Nebuchadnezzar ordered the construction of a towering image made completely of gold. This image was approximately 90 feet high and 18 feet wide (Daniel 3:1). It is apparent that Nebuchadnezzar had this image built as an act of defiance against what God has decreed. Nebuchadnezzar was not content to just be the head of gold from his prophetic dream. He believed that the empire he helped build would never fall.

Nebuchadnezzar planned to use the image to unite everyone in his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar gathered his government leaders to come before the image and commanded that they were to bow down and worship before the image when they heard music being played. If anyone refused to bow down and worship they were to be sentenced to death immediately by being thrown in a fiery furnace.

Like the builders of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:2-4), Nebuchadnezzar tried to usurp the worship of God for himself. This false system of worship was designed for the worship of man, not God. In addition, this system used violence as a last result to compel worship. True religious worship is never compulsory – it is a sincere voluntary act upon the part of the worshiper.

However, Daniel’s three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (known to the Babylonians as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) did not bow before the image. Nebuchadnezzar had them brought before him and he gave them a second chance to bow and worship before the image. Nebuchadnezzar also reminded them of the death decree if they failed to worship before the image.

Yet, in spite of the threat of death, Daniel’s friends give this remarkable answer in Daniel 3:16-18:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

The faith Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah showed in Daniel chapter 1 in the seemingly minor matter of diet shines forth here in a matter of life and death. Note that their faith in God is independent of their external circumstances. The tell Nebuchadnezzar plainly that even if God chooses not to save them, they will remain faithful to Him, even if it means their deaths.

John the Baptist was faithful to God, yet he was beheaded in prison (Mark 6:23-24). Abel was faithful to God and gave a better sacrifice than Cain, yet he was murdered for his faith (Genesis 4:8). Many of God’s prophets, most of Jesus’ disciples, and Paul the Apostle died the deaths of martyrs (Hebrews 11:36-40). Like Daniel’s friends, all these individuals were not focused on the here and now, but they were focused on a future with God.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s rage upon hearing this response, he had the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal and ordered for Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to be immediately thrown in the fiery furnace. The heat of the furnace was so hot, the men who threw Daniel’s friends into the furnace died from the heat.

As Nebuchadnezzar looked on, he witnessed a miracle in the fiery furnace. Not only were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah still alive and walking around in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar saw a fourth individual in the furnace with them. Who was this fourth individual?

In Nebuchadnezzar’s own words: “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:25) It was none other than Jesus in the fiery furnace with Daniel’s friends!

Friend, Jesus is with us when we go through trials in life (1 Peter 1:6-9; 4:12-14). Jesus does not save us from trials – He saves us through trials (John 17:15). Noah was not saved from the flood; he was saved through the flood. Paul the Apostle was not saved from a shipwreck; he was saved through it (Acts 27).

Whatever happens in your life, remember that you are only immigrants passing by in this world. We have a heavenly country waiting for us. Will you stay faithful to Jesus until the very end?

Happy Sabbath!

A Short Prayer