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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