“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Daniel.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height [was] threescore cubits, [and] the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
Uh-oh. I fear Nebbie may have drawn the wrong conclusion from his recent dream , and seen it as validation of his own glory rather than a reminder of his own finitude. Or, worse, he is in fact using this whole exercise to hide from his own mortality from himself. Which would explain why he needs the validation of so many other people:
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
And not just their passive observance, but very active submission:
Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, [That] at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
Now, I realize this sounds incredibly egotistical, even insane. But, it makes a certain amount of political sense. After all, he’s trying to build the world’s first multicultural empire, and he needs something to bind them all together. Even if it is just fear of him:
And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
Which appears pretty effective:
Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down [and] worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
With one small exception:
Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, [that] he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
And your point is…
There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Somehow I suspect that they are more motivated by resentment at having a foreigner set over them than they are by loyalty to their king. Though the king is grateful (after a fashion) for the information;
Then Nebuchadnezzar in [his] rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.
And though obviously ticked off, I am impressed that he takes the time to check his facts:
Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, [Is it] true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
And, even more generously, gives them a second chance:
Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; [well]: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who [is] that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
In fact, I’m even willing to believe that Nebbie isn’t so much mocking God as pleading with them to not be foolish, but rather (literally) bow to the reality of the situation. Alas, they choose to answer to a higher reality:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we [are] not careful to answer thee in this matter. 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. 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.
Maybe it is just the unseasonably cold weather here in California, but their answer gives me the goosebumps. While at one level it is very courteous, there is absolutely zero submission to the king’s demands. They not only disagree with his assessment of their chances, they make it perfectly clear that they would prefer to death to idolatry.
Needless to say, Nebbie doesn’t take well to this flouting of his generous offer. Both his rage and his furnace are heated to epic proportions:
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: [therefore] he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that [were] in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, [and] to cast [them] into the burning fiery furnace.
As Rack, Shack, and Benny discover firsthand:
Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their [other] garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Well, that would seem to be the end of that. Except, of course, it isn’t:
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, [and] spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
Again, I am impressed that he takes the time to double-check his facts. Even if they’re unbelievable:
He answered and said, 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.
And even more impressively, he rapidly revises his position in light of the new evidence:
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, [and] spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come [hither].
Not only is he treating them with respect, he is also very careful to honor the God who not only showed up, but showed him up!
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
Now, that’s what I call “surviving with style”. 🙂
[Then] Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed [be] the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
I can’t help but wonder — and grieve — at the fact that Christians (at least in the U.S.) aren’t really known for betting their lives for what they believe. Oh sure, we vote, lecture, and give our money to causes we believe in. But far too few non-Christians really see us laying our lives down in a self-sacrifical way. If more did, perhaps they’d respect us as much as Nebbie does these three Jews — and their God:
Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
While I cringe a bit at his barbaric expression of devotion, I can’t help but admire the sincerity (and thorughness!) of his belief. And just to complete the Hollywood ending:
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
It sounds strange to say it, but I really wish we had more “enemies” like Nebbie. Someone who would draw a bright line in the sand, offering an incontrovertible test of theism. And, more importantly, who would willingly submit to the results of that test.
Assuming, of course, we had the guts to take it.
God, I thank you for the example of these three brave men, who were willing to lay down their lives rather than dishonor you. Thank for the countless men and women throughout history who have made similar choices. I thank and praise you even more for the miraculous way to intervened to not merely save, but glorify those who earnestly sought you; though I know that not every story of devotion has such a happy ending, at least in this world. Father, make me a man who doesn’t flinch from the test, but remembers you in the hour of trial. I ask this in Jesus name, Amen.