BUT IF NOT!
*Good morning. I hope and pray that you are doing well. I was looking ahead at the work we still have to do in the Old Testament and discovered that we don't have that much farther to go before we get to the New Testament. If you think the Old Testament study has been fun (hopefully so) just wait until we get to the New Testament. Today, we will return to where we left off yesterday with the three Hebrew "children" (as they are usually referred to) facing a fiery furnace.
"Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Adednego. So these men were brought before the king..."Is it true...that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold that I have set up?" (Daniel 3:13-14)
If you remember from yesterday a statue had been erected by the king and at the sound of music the people were to fall down and worship the image. If they did not do so then they faced the fiery furnace. Remember, we said that the king would have had no issue with the Hebrews worshipping their God, as long as they did what they were to do when the music played. These three Hebrews refuse to serve the king's gods or worship the image he erected. The king reminds them of the consequences and asks them: "Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" (Daniel 3:15) Again, these people serve many gods. They have a god for everything. So, again these three could have worshipped Yahweh, as long as they worshipped the others too. It's kind of like the old saying: "You can have your cake and eat it too." Everything would have been fine if they would have just listened to and obeyed the king. But, they were adamant:
"If we are thrown into 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." (Dan. 3:17-18)
Notice, the faith of these three was not based on believing that God would prevent them from experiencing harm. Their faith was simply in God himself. Whether God acted or whether God did nothing, they still would not serve any other god. How much of our faith is dependent on what God does for us?
Will God always keep us from harm? Should God keep us from harm? Why didn't God prohibit the king's men from throwing these young men into the fire? Is there a reason for the fire? Hmm...lots of questions. Well, we know that these young men were in fact thrown into the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar is so furious over the "stubbornness" of these three that he "ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual." (Dan. 3:19b) Now, I know that sounds really bad, and it is meant to sound bad. But, let's see...300 degrees...500 degrees...1,000 degrees? Either way, it is hot! Plus, the hotter, the quicker death would come. Or at least I would think that would be the way it would be.
The temperature of the fire is so hot and intense that it kills the soldiers assigned to throw these men into the furnace. The author wants us to realize the threat these men faced for their refusal to bow to the king. There is great risk associated with refusing to "go along with" and "to conform." In our world today we are pressured to do the same thing as these young men were. Granted, there are many ways in which we are pressured, but we are. The fire today may not necessarily be a furnace, but the fire comes in many forms. The person throwing you in the fire is not necessarily the king. If you stand today for what you believe, no matter what it may be, you are taking a risk. These men had faith, and they had a backbone. And, they are thrown into the fire.
"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...Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like the son of the gods." (Dan. 3:24-25)
Of course, translations very on whether he said "son of the gods" or "son of God." Remember, this king worshipped many gods, therefore it would have been more likely that he said "son of the gods." Either way, we sense the amazement that he experienced. This is where the cliché' (yes it has become a cliché) "God did not save them from the fire, but God saved them in the fire," originated. It is true, sometimes we go through the fire, but it is there that we truly discover God's presence.
The question here is, "Who was most affected by the appearance of the fourth figure? The three Hebrews or the king? Yes, the three Hebrews were saved, but what happened to the king? Yes, he made a new decree that if any one was to say anything about the God of the three Hebrews they were to "be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble." (Daniel 3:29) Wow! It is as though everything had to be met with violence. But, then the king makes an interesting statement: "for no other god can save in this way." (Dan. 3:29b) Was he converted? Umm...not quite...but... Remember, I asked, for whom did the fourth man appear? I would propose that the things that happen to us are not always about us. We will learn more about the king as we go. I will propose that what the king saw that day had a lasting impact on him.
Join me tomorrow as we continue our look at the Book of Daniel. -Pastor Rick