The Image of Gold

by Mike Ratliff

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. (Matthew 10:16-19 ESV)

If we listen to the common message from the vast majority of “Christian” leaders these days we will not receive one of eternal focus, power, or value. Instead, if we believe the message, we know that God desires for all of His people to have it their way, to have their best life now, to live any way they choose all the while seeing that the point of Christianity is to be blessed here and now. If we suffer then we must have sin in our lives that we have not confessed. Is the point of Christianity the believer’s health, wealth and prosperity? Is the focus of our faith primarily on this life now?

We have reached Daniel Chapter 3 in our study. I have a New Testament I found in the bottom of a box of books I was preparing to sell. When I saw it, I rescued it. It is white with gold page edges. The color isn’t really white anymore. It is more of a dirty tan color. On the front cover my name is embossed in gold letters. It says “Michael Ratliff.” On the flyleaf a person with very good handwriting wrote this:

To Michael (age 4)
For Sunday School Attendance

That means that this Bible is at least 51 years old. I still remember that Sunday School class. I had a teacher who read us stories from the Bible. One of the first stories I remember was the one from Daniel 3. Of course, I was very young and when I heard the story of the three young men being preserved in the fire by God I believed it. There was no doubt in me. I can’t remember any one else in the class scoffing at it either. My teacher was very good. She made sure that we focused on the commitment and obedience of the three even if it meant being thrown into a furnace. Isn’t it amazing how these truths from God’s Word stick to us like super-glue?

1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (Daniel 3:1-7 ESV)

Some atheists and those who hate God’s word have attacked this story from Daniel 3 stating that engineers have calculated that a gold statue of these dimensions could not stand without crumbling in on itself from the weight. However, the language tells us that this is an “image.” That word in Aramaic simply means a “human form.” It was more than likely a bas-relief image on a wall or escarpment. It could have been a statue that was simply overlaid with gold. Either would make perfect sense. In either case it was probably covered in gold not made of solid gold. It was very tall and impressive. It is as if Nebuchadnezzar took his dream of the image from Chapter 2 in which the head of gold was his kingdom, and created an image entirely of gold for people to worship him and his nation. It is amazing that pagan cultures like this will allow other religions as long as their own religion is honored. Nebuchadnezzar was actually creating a new “god” for his subjects to worship in addition to the rest of the Babylonian and Chaldean gods.

Those in attendance at this meeting called by the king are satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, justices, magistrates, and all of his officials of the provinces. This was all of his administrators and officials that could be there. Even though Daniel wrote this book and he was Nebuchadnezzar’s prime minister, he is not mentioned at all. Perhaps he was away on the King’s business elsewhere when this took place. Since he was the King’s chief counselor it is hard to believe that he would counsel the king to build this image and demand self-worship.

The worship of this image was to be accompanied by all sorts of music from horns, pipes, lyres, trigons, harps, and bagpipes. When the people heard the music they were commanded to fall down and worship the image. Along with the command is a threat that stated if anyone disobeyed it they would be cast into a fiery furnace. This part of Daniel seems to be a foreshadowing of how the false prophet will cause people to worship the Beast (Antichrist) and his image within the Scarlet Woman during the Great Tribulation. In any case, when the king’s musicians play, all of those present fall and worship the image. However, not all did so.

8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:8-12 ESV)

Religion is not a guarantor of faith. I honestly feel God is removing His Remnant from the quickly apostatizing Church at this time. I have found that God is not allowing me to become religious again. Perhaps I have a tendency to substitute my religion for my devotion to my Lord. In any case, I love to worship my Lord. I love to pray to Him. I love to serve Him. However, for a reason known only to Him, I have been removed from being part of any church at this time. Why? I still attend when I can, but my service to Him is totally outside of church. Perhaps that is what he desires from us all. In vv8-12 we find that Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego have refused to bow to and worship the image. God does not hide them. He allows those jealous of their place and position in the kingdom to accuse them before the king. Their accusation is also leading. They maliciously accuse them. They don’t just tell the king what they are doing or not doing, but that they “pay not attention to the king.” They are deliberately trying to have these men removed from power. Yes, God does allow these things to happen to his people. Yes, it can even lead to persecution and death.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:13-15 ESV)

Nebuchadnezzar would never make statements like that when Daniel was around to counsel him. This king would also know that these three worship the same God as Daniel who could interpret dreams. He also makes the huge mistake of thinking that he is equivalent with God. He says, “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” That almost sounds like a challenge to the Living God, the Most High, doesn’t it?

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 ESV)

This must be our stand as well. As we walk through each day we are given test after test with a few trials thrown in from time to time. Each are designed to put us in positions of standing as these three young men did or compromising. The Apostate church in our time is marked by compromise disguised as political correctness or in-offensiveness. If those with discernment rebuke professing Christians then they are accused of being un-Christlikeness or worse. I have some very close to me try to make me see that it is wrong to expose the lies of false Christian leaders. They say it casts the church in a bad light. They say it is divisive. They say we should just stay quiet and get along the best we can. After all, perhaps they do have enough of the truth that we can learn from each other. Well, no thank you. Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me. We must fix our eyes like flint on our Lord and our eternal place with Him. We must get over the lie that this life is more important than the eternal. No it isn’t. These three young men knew that. They know that their obedience to their God was far more important than avoiding the fire.

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:19-23 ESV)

This furnace was more than likely a brick kiln. Babylon was constructed mostly of mud bricks. The kiln was probably used in the construction of the worship area on the plain of Dura where the image was set up. Nebuchadnezzar loses his temper at the audacity of the response from these three young men. The rage we see in the king is demonic or Satanic in origin. This is the type of anger our enemy incites in those he is using to attack God’s people. The results can be very brutal as we saw a few weeks ago in Turkey. The fire is so hot in the furnace that the heat and flames kill those who throw the three young men into the kiln. Their clothes probably ignited from the intense heat.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:24-25 ESV)

Who is the fourth person in the fire with Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego? The Aramaic Nebuchadnezzar uses to describe this person is how he would refer to a supernatural being. The Babylonians believed in angels so he could have thought an angel was protecting them. It could be the pre-incarnate Son of God as well. The deliverer of these men’s lives from the fire could have also been their Lord. Notice how God uses this to get Nebuchadnezzar’s attention.

26Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:26-30 ESV)

When God performs a miracle it is never done halfway. The smell of the fire was not in their hair or clothes. Nothing was singed. They were completely unaffected by the fire except that their bonds were either burned away or removed by their protector. Notice how Nebuchadnezzar worships the Most High God! He recognizes that those who serve the Most High have a God who does miraculous things that cannot be faked or copied by men. His religious leaders used magic and illusion in their worship of their gods, but that was paltry and counterfeit compared to the work and power of the Most High God. God was glorified in this. He never does miracles to magnify people, only Himself. Daniel gives God all the glory here as does Nebuchadnezzar. He intended to make an example of them and ended up promoting them because they serve the living God, not some impotent idol worshipped by man-made religion.

In these last days we must read these passages and see that religion is not what God wants from us. Instead, he commands our obedience. I am convinced that much of what we see going on in our churches resembles the burnt offerings of the Israelites. They were very religious, but they did not obey the Lord. By the Grace of God my relationship with Him is closer than ever. My walk is holier and more pure than any time in my life. He is using me and I pray He is glorified in me. We must dedicate ourselves to our obedience and love of Him first. If a church or pastor or writer or whoever or whatever takes the place of that then we are in idolatry. We must examine ourselves. Are we walking before the face of God in personal holiness as a way of life or are we using church to substitute for that? God is calling us to come out of the idolatry and become devoted to loving and serving Him for His glory alone.

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30 thoughts on “The Image of Gold

  1. Wow thanks for this post, Mike!

    I really needed to read this today and as far as I’m concerned the Lord had you write this piece especially for me.

    I’ve had a very strange day today and have been in a bit of a funk after a particularly unfriendly exchange with Frank Turk over at Pyromaniacs.

    Basically Frank came out and told me that he believed I was leading people to hell with my blog ministry which really stunned me. After another round he banned me altogether from the Team Pyro blog. I’ve already blogged on it over at my place if you interested in learning more.

    Please understand I’m not feeling any self-pity nor am I seeking pity from you here. I’m just sharing this to demonstrate that even in the Christian blogosphere resistance to the truth of the apostatizing church is rampant. I honestly can’t understand why anyone who is in Christ would be unable to discern this trend which is so obvious to me.

    At any rate, keep up the good work and thanks again for this post, my heart soared as I read it – twice!

    I believe – according to my understanding of the Holy Writ – that we’ve only seen the beginning of things for according to John 16:2 the time is coming when “whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”

    Lord help us to be faithful and obedient to You and Your Word in all circumstances and under every manner of persecution, regardless of its origin. Amen.

  2. Isn’t it ironic that the devil knew enough to include music in his idol worship?

    I pray for you, Mike, the closer you walk before the Lord the easier it is to take some form of pride. I know you realize it is all of Him and even your surrendered heart was empowered by His Spirit.

    By the way, the first sign of pride is when you take pride in a four year old’s Sunday Scool attendance. Shame on you!! (satire from a friend)

  3. Rick,

    I knew that someone would pick up on the music and I thought it would be you. Yes, you are absolutely right. I appreciate your prayers Rick. I am a no body outside of Christ. In Christ I am his servant. I take credit for nothing.

    I showed the award Bible to my son the other day. I asked him what sense it made to award a 4 year old for SS attendance. He got it.:-) Yep, they should give those awards to the parents.:-)

    Thanks for the satire break brother.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  4. Amen Mike,

    I can just picture God heating up that furnace daily. People have no fear of Him! They don’t know Him and He isn’t in them. They are making a mockery of God and heaping coals on being poured out on their heads. I am grateful that He took me out of darkness and all we can do is warn them and the best we can do is pray. Praise God!

  5. Deborah,

    I had not made that analogy of God’s judgment with the fiery furnace. Yes, I’m sure that along with the place our Lord has prepared for us, our Father has prepared a place for His enemies with the same care. Yes, we must warn everyone of the wrath to come.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  6. Coram Deo,
    I apologize for AKISMET had put your comment in the SPAM bucket. I recovered it brother and I pray that God will continue to use you to open people’s spiritual eyes to the growing Apostasy.
    I don’t hate church nor church people. However, I am convinced that there is a wedge between most of them and God that is caused by their idolatry. They are in Idolatry because they love their denomination, their church, their pastor, their whatever or whoever more than God. Many think they are genuine Christians because of their religion. No, our religion should be born from our faith not the other way around.
    I met Frank a few weeks ago in his store in Arkansas when we were there for my Brother In-Law’s graduation from John Brown University. When these things happen like this conflict between you two I do wonder at what is going on.
    I pray for all of those in darkness to be drawn into the truth.
    In Christ
    Mike Ratliff

  7. I’m Sorry if I seem a little angry today. I just spent time over on C.R.N. and read what America’s favorite Mega-?? R.W. was up to now!
    God help us.

  8. Deborah,

    These things anger me as well, but we must not allow our enemy to incite us to sin in our anger. I have done that in the past and it only leads to a place of having to confess and repent of it. I believe we must pray for the man that God will break through and bring him into the light. But, we must also understand that God may be in this. Could this be place settings for the complete falling away that is coming? If so, then we are indeed getting closer to that day when our Lord comes to take us to be with Him forever. In that, I say come soon Lord Jesus!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  9. Mike,

    I just suggested the exact same thing to a fellow believer! I really believe it is the falling away! He doesn’t know anything about Rick Warren even though there church went through the 40 days of purpose a couple of years ago. I enlightened him I’m sure. He is elderly and very concerned with the government part. I need to show him how to use the internet.

  10. Deborah,

    Yeah, my parents are like that as well. They know something isn’t right but they don’t know what it is. To them “church” is the ONLY way to serve God. I would like to find where that is supported in the Bible…

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  11. Oh yes, I do get angry and find myself confessing and praying! I just feel the urgency to warn people to wake up! Thank you Mike. Yes, our wonderful Father is in complete control.

  12. Hey Mike,
    We think the ‘cleansing of the temple’ is happening. Whether its in an organized church building, or in a true believer, to come out of the apostate ‘church’ which seems to be an epidemic right now. We are in a very odd time but we do need to ‘look’ up because Jesus said this was going to be allowed to happen. We know there is a few good churches out there but they seem to be in another state or so far away in your own state you can’t drive to them! And with gas prices being so cheap (lol) we get to visit just once in a while. Keep up the good work Mike. We want to encourage you. Grace and blessings to you brother.

  13. Paul,

    Thanks for the encouragement and also the insight into the “cleansing of the temple.” I had not considered that, but yes that is what I see happening. We are in the midst of it.

    Let me share something else with you. For the last two to three years I cannot get past this: God is calling for His people to turn their hearts back to Him. That means away from whatever they are idolizing. I think “church” is part of the problem. People are deeply involved in idolatry in these local churches that profess that they have the truth, but all they do is provide a venue for religion. Even in good churches there will be people who are in idolatry. God is dealing with His elect one-on-one right now in drawing them from this idolatry, opening their eyes and hearts, then turning their love and devotion back to Him where it should have been all along.

    In any case, that seems to me to fit the temple cleansing you spoke of.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  14. Yes Mike we also believe its a one on one dealing right now. There is a famine in the land of the hearing of the Word. Even if some of the real believers stay in the organized churches Jesus says He sees them and that they have not ‘defiled their garments’. He sees that some don’t worship the idol which is religion……. Man centered gospels, social gatherings and etc. His elect won’t be fooled whether they are in an organized church or not. Looks real good, but it won’t fool us. He has sent the delusion for them to believe the lie because they love not the truth.

  15. Speaking of the temple. Has anyone else been to the ? It is out of Jerusalem. These Jews are have everything ready to be assembled so that when the time is right, the third temple will go up very quickly. All of the special sacrifical instruments have been made and so are the special priestly garments. You can look at pictures of everything on the website. It is amazing to see the clothing with the bells and pomegranites after reading about them in the old testament. You can also see all of the jewels on the high priests garment and the engraved names of the 12 tribes in the jewels.

    Most of you probably know about the red heifer. Ashes from a perfectly red heifer must be mixed with some other elements and then used to anoint the temple and items in the temple etc. for purification. (This is all in the old testament) Red heifers are extremely rare. Its been awhile since I first researched this but I think only 1 in 50,000 are born. Most of you probably know that a couple of years ago a red heifer was born and of all places it was born in Israel (I think they named her Melony or Melody). According to the website only 9 red heifers were sacrificed between the time of Moses and the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. They say that supposedly ashes from the last red heifer have been hidden away and no one knows where so either the ashes from the 9th heifer have to be found or another red heifer has to be raised and sacrificed. Children have to be raised up purely as well (I suppose to be priests). The website says that is exactly what they are doing right now (raising the heifer and the children).

    *Now what I did not know until a couple of days ago researching is that the Jews of the Temple Institute (which only started in 2003) believe that the MESSIAH HIMSELF will sacrifice the tenth red heifer. Of course they believe they are raising this tenth red heifer right now. Very interesting.

    While I do not believe in reading too much into any one thing, I cannot help but see so many signs around us these days

    Love in Christ,

  16. I am praying for the body of Christ for I know the Lord is coming back for his glorious Church without spot,wrinkle or blemish soon. God is the refiner and if we do not fall on the stone the stone will fall on us! I am excited about what the Holy Spirit is doing and the wind of his Spirit is trully blowing. I am confident that he shall complete his work in us and as he is so shall we be in this present world! Amen

  17. Yes, I think we are very close. I pray pretty often to escape and to be able to stand before the Son of Man.

  18. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principlities, nor things present, nor things to come ,nor powers, nor height, nor depth ,nor any other created thing shall be able to seperate us from the Love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

    I need to remember were not fighting people but principalities. Praise Him

  19. I need clarify! I pray to be “BE ACCOUNTED WORTHY to escape and stand before the Son of Man”.

  20. Rachel,

    We are worthy in Him. There is no worthiness in us. Our Righteousness as as filthy rags to Him. However, His Righteousness has been imputed to all who are in Him. Yes, what a joy it will be to be found worthy in Him and able to stand before Him!

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

  21. Mike,

    We are the church, the body of Christ. He is the head of us. We can’t go to church as we are it. We can fellowship and that is what we are doing right now. That’s what I tell people when they ask were I go to church. When two or more gather in my name I will be in their midst. I would go to a buliding to fellowship but I can’t find an obedient one. The last group I almost joined last year, the ministers wife asked the congregation if the Holy Spirit was present. I figured if she didn’t know we were all lost. Besides I believe women aren’t allowed to start a service. We are to be quite. I used to attend a legalistic religion way back in the late 70’s to mid 80’s.

  22. Amen Mike, nothing of ourselves is worthy or righteous! I just did not want to misquote or misparaphrase Luke 21:36. The KJV says to pray that we are accounted worthy to escape. Interesting to note is that the NAS translates this as strength to escape and ASV translates to prevail. Interesting prayers to pray if we are not to be here.

    Love in Christ,

  23. Mike,

    In response to your (rhetorical) question in the first paragraph, certainly not; the primary focus of our faith is clearly not this life. I find it sad though that those who for example hold to the Hebrews 11 definition of faith (primarilly this will include the word-faith, kingdom dominion and purpose-driven cults) tend to misrepresent that definition because they are earthly-minded.

    Hebrews 11:1
    1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

    This verse is often used to validate “faith” teachings that encourage people to ‘use’ faith to get temporal things. However, reading through the passages point us clearly to the focus of our ‘hope’ and what exactly the ‘things not seen’ are.

    Verse 10 says of Abraham that he looked (hoped) for a city whose builder and maker is God. Verse 16 says they desire a better country – a heavenly city. Faith is the substance of our heavenly hope and the evidence of our unseen home.

    It is also very striking to me that of all the ‘heroes’ of faith listed in Hebrews 11, not one of them was listed for seeking anything of this world. Each individual’s citation refers to their singular lives and actions of obedience and sacrifice to God.

    The Lord will uphold us and help keep our eyes single.

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