Daniel Chapter Three
Daniel chapter three is a classic study regarding the wisdom and determination of man to attempt to change the revealed will of God Almighty. In chapter two God, the One who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10) has declared that the kingdom of Babylon, the golden head, will come to an end and that an inferior, silver kingdom, will replace Babylon. In Daniel chapter two Nebuchadnezzar is willing to surrender to this announcement. In the process of time it would appear that Nebuchadnezzar is no longer happy with God’s feedback. Nebuchadnezzar decides that as the King of the kingdom of gold, he, Nebuchadnezzar, will change the history of the world and change God’s view of history.
Nebuchadnezzar decides that he will build an image out of solid gold thus stating that his will will be done on earth and that even if God Himself declares what will happen in history Nebuchadnezzar will change it. So when the image is built on the plains of Shinar, an area near the capital city where all of his leaders can come and pledge their loyalty and acceptance of his power over the God of the Israelites. When all the leaders of his kingdom are gathered together Nebuchadnezzar gives instructions that when his music is played all are to bow down to his idol and worship it or they will face the death decree of being placed in a burning furnace, Nebuchadnezzar’s version of hell fire. When the music is played all bow down and worship the image except 3 Israelites – Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – the ones called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
When the king is informed by certain Babylonian accusers, those jealous of the rise of the Israelites into the political high levels of the kingdom, the king is furious. But not willing to lose three of his quality leaders, Nebuchadnezzar gives them another chance to surrender to his will rather than to the will of God – the pre-incarnate Messiah. He tells them that if they will bow down at the next playing of the music he will forgive them and allow them to live. But the three men tell the king that he does not have to go through the whole thing for them for they will not bow down and would rather die than sin against God. They acknowledge that God might not rescue them from the fire, even though He can do all things, but if He does not rescue them they will not bow down anyway.
The king goes into the rage that the proud get into when their wills are thwarted by serious Christians/God fearing peoples. The king commands that the furnace be heated 7 times hotter to be sure to intimidate all others who might be influenced by the three followers of God. When the furnace is hot enough to satisfy the king he commands his mightiest soldiers to throw them into the furnace. The men are thrown into the fire completely clothed in their office attire. The furnace is hot, in fact so hot, that when the soldiers throw in the men, the soldiers are killed by the heat. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are thrown into the fire and the king is satisfied because by his estimation these men will die and all others will be properly intimidated by the death of the few.
After a few moments the king is shocked. He calls his wise men and asks how can it be that three men are thrown into the fire and yet there are now four men loose and walking freely in the fire? The wise men can not answer the riddle of how three men thrown into the fire turn into four men walking in the fire. Finally Nebuchadnezzar calls out to the men in the fire and commands them to come out. Three of the men come out but the fourth, the One who looks like the Son of God, stays in the fire for He does not answer to the commands of men, for He was the God Himself. He was the pre-incarnate Son of God – Jesus the Christ. He came to save His three servants from the fire and from the wrath of man.
When Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were called to come out of the fire Nebuchadnezzar used and interesting phrase. He called them “ye servants of the Most High God.” He did this because he recognized that only the True and Living God could do this. When the three came out of the fire the three were still clothed in their office garments, and nothing had been burned on them but the ropes that had bound them. They were without harm. All of the leaders forgot the fake image and turned their backs on it and focused in on the true and real miracle which the God of heaven had just done in front of them. While the leaders of the kingdom were focused on God’s people they recognized that the fire had no power on God’s people. They were not singed, their clothing was not coated in smoke, and there was not smell of fire upon them. Again, the leaders recognized that no one could do this but God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar began to sing praises to God and to His people. He recognized that God had sent all power to watch over His faithful servants because they insisted upon obeying God’s commandments rather than the king’s commandments. Nebuchadnezzar also recognized that God had changed his word, but Nebuchadnezzar could not change the Word of God. For a moment the king recognize a power greater than himself. Therefore Nebuchadnezzar recognized that the worship of God was the highest requirement for any and all of God’s true worshippers. He may not have understood the principle shared by Jesus in Matthew 15:1-9 that obeying the traditions over the commandments of God negate the true worship of God, but He had come as close to the principle as an earthly ruler could.
In the end the king still acted in his non-converted manner and threatened all the people who would not worship the way he wanted, even though he was willing to acknowledge, at least in a surface manner, that there was no other God who could do the things that the God of Israel could do.
Finally, the people who were jealous of Daniel, Mishael, Hananiah, and Azariah, were to be more jealous yet for Nebuchadnezzar was willing to promote the his three faithful workers to new heights of honor in the kingdom. This is a type of what God will do for all of His faithful children. He will exalt them to the very throne of God in heaven and share His throne with His faithful people. Revelation 3:21.
This chapter is a promise to all of God’s people that God will bless us as abundantly today as He did those who trusted Him in the past. God has not changed neither will He change in the future. The revelations of Jesus Christ, in this chapter are to alert us to His power and grace, so that when we go through the experiences of Revelation 13-14 we will not fear for the power of God. We pray that we will be as faith filled in the time of spiritual Babylon as Mishael, Hananiah, and Azariah were in the time of literal Babylon.