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The Christian Counter

   
A Faith More Precious Than Gold
Lesson 42
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I Did It My Way

Now remember that Nebuchadnezzar believed that he had earned his throne through political savvy and military prowess. (Daniel 4:30) He heard, but did not comprehend the words of Daniel, indicating that the God of Heaven had given his kingdom to him. Therefore, the king thought a golden image and a loyalty test would bring an end to the rumor that Babylon was predestined to fall. It is possible that this is the most expensive lie ever told. Consider the amount of gold that was required to cast a statue 90 feet tall. Consider the amount of labor for making such an image and the amount of travel and logistics necessary to bring thousands of administrators’s from the farthest corners of the Earth to the Plain of Dura. The whole story highlights an interesting point about the carnal heart: Power can be of greater value than money. Men will go to extremes to gain or hold on to power. (We regularly see politicians spend millions to win a government office that pays very little money. Why do they do this?) To keep the lie covered up, Nebuchadnezzar prevented Daniel from attending the service. He had highly honored Daniel for telling the truth, but now that he was implementing a great lie, he did not want Daniel to be at the service to observe his foolishness.

A Time of Testing

When Daniel was promoted above the wise men of Babylon, Daniel asked that his friends be recognized for their contribution toward solving the mystery of the vanished vision. (Daniel 2:18,49) Their promotion almost proved to be the curse of their death. The king wanted everyone who was someone in his government to be present at the dedication of the golden image. In a political setting, the question of loyalty is paramount to everything else. One man can exercise power over others only if the others are willing to submit.

When Daniel’s friends, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, knew the test of loyalty was coming. What should they do? They could not run and hide because they had been given high positions in the government of Babylon by the king. Furthermore, the impotent wise men of Babylon were jealously eager to have Daniel and these “three Jews” removed from their high offices. Therefore, if they were to avoid the dedication of the golden image they would show reluctance in honoring the king. Hesitation on this point could be regarded as treason. As the date approached, I am sure Daniel and his friends met together to ask the Lord for divine intervention. On the basis of their testimony during the dedication service, it is safe to say that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego obediently went to the service expecting to be thrown into the fiery furnace. What courage! But, this is exactly what God wanted! God needed three young men who were willing to go to their death so that He could exalt His holy name. Remember, this story began when God wanted to correct the bad impression that the nation of Israel had given of Him. The Jews had profaned His holy name and god wanted to set the record straight. In order to do this, God needed an expensive golden image, a pagan king who knew the truth, a large crowd of world leaders who were confused by rumors, a very hot fiery furnace and three young men who would be faith-full unto death.

The Moment of Truth

“So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. Then the herald loudly proclaimed, ‘This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kings of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.’ Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews.” (Daniel 3:3-8)

All of a sudden, the dedication service was stopped. As far as the eye could see, all but three Jews had bowed down before the golden man. The wise men wasted no time reporting this anomaly to the king. The three men were arrested and presented to the king. The golden image was forgotten. The music stopped. Everyone looked around to see what was about to happen. Every eye focused on three young Jews who dared to rebel against the monarch of Babylon! As they approached the throne of the king, the king must have uttered some bad Babylonians words under his breath, “How did they get here”? The king was embarrassed and frustrated. The whole dedication service could unravel and the result could be worse than the truth he was trying to hide!

Did you notice who reported the insolence of the three Hebrew? The wise men were the first to denounce the Jews. This is amazing. The wise men who owed their very lives to these three men and yet, the wise men were the first to report their disobedience to the king. (There is an end time parallel here.) “They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘O king, live forever! You have issued a decree, O king, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kings of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into the blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.’ Furious with [embarrassment and] rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said unto them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?’” (Daniel 3:9-14, insertion mine)

The king personally knew Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He knew their integrity and loyalty. He knew they were close friends of Daniel, but somehow they had been overlooked. They should not be present. Now, he had no other option but to destroy them if he wanted top protect his throne. The king was “up the creek.” Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Earth, had created a big lie, but the God of Heaven had gathered everyone together to hear and see the truth that was greater than Nebuchadnezzar’s golden lie. (The truth of God is best seen when it is confronted with a great lie.) The king responded to rebellion of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego with feigned generosity, hoping they would humor him on this matter. The king had a big political problem on his hands (which he had created by threatening the wise men), and he knew he did not need a showdown with the Most High God of these three men. So the king tried to appear generous: “Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (Daniel 3:15)

The words of Nebuchadnezzar are interesting. The king honestly knew these three lads were not rebellious toward him; after all, they had joined with Daniel in seeking an answer to his vanished vision. But the king was haughty enough to taunt the lads with the remark, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” The king uttered these words because he knew of their loyalty to their God. He may have even known about the second commandment of their God. The action of the king reveals another interesting fact about the carnal heart:  The performance of a miracle does not always change it. (Centuries later, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in the presence of many unbelievers and some of them still refused to accept Christ as the Messiah! See John 11.) In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, the king had personally experienced the vanished vision and witnessed a second miracle when Daniel told him what he had dreamed. But neither event changed the king’s heart. When confronted with their loyalty to the King of kings, the king of Earth thought he had the high ground, but as it turns out, he was on holy ground! To protect his lies, the king had to kill those who stood for the truth. He knew that they knew the truth about the vanished vision because he had promoted them. He also knew that he could never recover from public disgrace if he showed any kind of weakness or timidity in the presence of thousands of his administrators. So, the king did what every carnal heart would do and the young men did what every born-again believer would do. The metal in each heart was revealed.

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter [because you know the truth and we know the truth about the vanished vision]. If we are thrown in to the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’” (Daniel 3:16-18)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had prepared for this moment. Through prayer and fasting, they had strengthened their resolve to stand firm for God. This event was a showdown between the gold of Babylon and the pure gold of faith in God. When the king saw that these young men were not going to acquiesce and “go along” with his plan, he became very angry. They had publicly rejected his authority and this was the very thing he was trying to protect with the creation and the dedication of the golden image!

“Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spoke, and commanded that they should heat the furnace seven times more than it normally heated. And he commanded the mightiest men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen [trousers], and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” Daniel 3:19-21 KJV, insertion mine)

I used the KJV for these verses because I like the language. The Bible says ‘the form of his visage was changed.” I understand this to mean that Nebuchadnezzar’s face turned fiery red (maybe his blood pressure hit 220/160). He was hooter than a firecracker on the fourth of July because his kingly ego had been hammered. Here is a mystery: Even though the carnal heart is full of rebellion, the carnal heart hates rebellion more than anything else. When the carnal heart cannot get its way, its fury knows no limits. The king was rejected and no king or carnal heart can tolerate rebellion. Rejection or the fear of rejection is the underlying basis for peer pressure and a lot of social torment. To successfully deal with rejection, a person must receive daily injections of spiritual courage and stamina. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were at peace with their fate on that day because they had walked and talked with God. They had practiced obedience in small things – this was not their first test. This is a very important point. Loyalty that can withstand the prospect of a fiery death does not come overnight. Instead, it comes in little steps.

The God of Heaven Takes Over

“The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into a blazing furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They relied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’ So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisors crowed around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” (Daniel 3:22-27)

The death of Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers proved to the vast audience that the heat of the furnace was extreme. The soldiers who threw the three Jews into the furnace went to their death because they were loyal and obedient to their earthly king. The three Hebrew that were supposed to go to their death were obedient and loyal to their Heavenly King. (Exodus 20:2-6) In both cases, loyalty was present, but the greater question is this” “Which king deserves highest loyalty?” While the three Hebrews were being bound and thrown into the furnace, the king’s mind was in turmoil. He had to recover from the showdown caused by the three Jews. He watched with interest as the young men were bound and thrown into the furnace. As he observed their fate and his authority over their life, the king is surprised! Instead of seeing three bodies consumed by fire, he saw four walking around in the furnace. The king jumped to his feet and asked, Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” His attendants assured him this was the case. Then the king exclaimed, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire…” Nebuchadnezzar immediately recognized this had to be the presence of God with the three Hebrews.

Nebuchadnezzar knew the golden image service was a charade. Nebuchadnezzar knew he was in the wrong when he sent Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to the fiery furnace. In spite of knowing these things, the king followed a course of action that protected his material interests. He did this because his highest loyalties centered on himself. In this sense, Nebuchadnezzar demonstrated a carnal heart that plagues all of humankind. Nothing on earth is more selfish and self-seeking than the carnal heart. The root of the world’s problems today is selfishness.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 8:29-30)

What does a humiliated king say to an enormous gathering of world governors when his death decree upon three Jews was made null and void by a miracle? The king did not admit defeat, nor did the king offer an apology to the god of the Heaven. Instead, he turned to his impotent wise men and confused administrator’s and said, “If any of you speak evil about the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, you will be cut in pieces!” Wow! The king deflects his responsibility once again. The carnal heart of the king rejected another chance to be transformed. Later, the God of Heaven finally got the king’s attention by exiling him to the field as an animal for seven years – but that’s another story.

The End of This Story

When the administrators and governors returned to their distant homes, they had a story to tell! In a few words their story went like this, “Yes, we saw a golden man, but let me tell you about the god of the Jews. He delivered three young men out of a roaring fiery furnace. We saw it with our own eyes. The fire was so hot it killed the king’s soldiers, but the flames did not hurt those three Jews! That is some God the Jews have.” This story, repeated by a thousand pagans all over the world, exalted the God of Heaven. As a nation, the Jews had profaned the wonderful name of God, but god found three Jews who had a faith of pure gold and He was able to exalt His holy name through their obedience and loyalty.

There are many important end time parallels in this story. During the end time, there will be an “image to the beast” and all people will be required to worship it or be killed. (Revelation 13) You and I will be players in the drama that is forthcoming. It is possible that we may have to stand before the dreaded king of Babylon (Lucifer). Will we have the faith of pure gold? “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and disciple. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him that overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:14-22)

Quiz:

  1. My friend, do you see that your personal faith in Jesus is growing?  Explain!
  1. What three sins in this lesson will exhaust God’s patience with His children?
  1. Do you think that God is unfolding a plan for you if you remain faithful?
  1. Do you think our wise men of today or politicians are doing God’s will for us?
  1. In your own words, what is the carnal nature?
  1. Are you ready for the time of testing that’s coming during the Great Tribulation?
  1. This will be the test or sealing that will take place in the Great tribulation. Everyone will:

1.      Be exposed to the everlasting gospel. (Be my people, I’ll be your God)

2.      Decide for or against the everlasting gospel.

3.      Be tested in your decision.

4.      Be sealed in your decision.

Dear friend, what decisions are you making right at this moment?

Notes:

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