The Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. The Book of Daniel recounts the story of Daniel’s three friends during this time. Their very lives were threatened because they would not bow before a golden idol. The king threw them into the fire for their unwillingness to bow before his statue.
What would you do? Would you bow and then later, in your own private corner, ask God to forgive you? Could you say that you were willing to die for what you believe in? Would you stand up for the One who took your place?
Plenty to think about, but you should decide now what you would do, long before you ever find yourself in that kind of a decision.
The all-too familiar teaching about the third chapter of the Book of Daniel portrays it as an account of 3 young men who were willing to die for the God they served. People tell us that it is a story about loyalty to God unto the point of death. Teachers would have us believe that this story is about men’s faithfulness to God.
I am here to tell you that it is the opposite: This is a story about God’s faithfulness to men! This is a story of uncompromised faith in God that He will do what He has promised to do. Get ready to see this story in a new light.
Now before I proceed, I want it clearly stated: Every Christian should be ready to lay down his/her life rather than deny God. We should be so committed to following Him, that the threat of death to do otherwise should in no way sway us.
“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! [Luke 12:4-5]
Do you fear God? Or do you fear man? The fear of man will cause you to be far less than God has called you to be. Fearing God alone will free you up to live your life to its fullest potential.
The story starts out with a new law requiring all to worship something less than God, and a death penalty was established for those in violation.
You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. [Daniel 3:10-11]
I am compelled to add, at this point, that the final book of the Bible, The Book of The Revelation of Jesus Christ, foretells of a day (in the not too distant future, I believe), that Christians will again be put in the position of “bow down to a tyrant and do what he says” or die. That tyrant will be no less than the anti-christ.
He [the beast] was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. [Revelation 13:15-17]
You will get no second chance here if you decide to bow down and “play the game”! There will be hell to pay if you do. Ironically, our King also threatens with a burning fiery furnace.
Do not take the mark of the beast!Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.” [Revelation 14:9-11]
Okay, back to our story:
There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. [Daniel 3:12-13]
Notice here, that the king is furious and raging.
Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? [Daniel 3:14]
On a positive note, see that the king does the right thing by not taking someone else’s word on a matter, and gives them an opportunity to defend themselves. Perhaps because he is so fond of Daniel, he is willing to give his friends a second chance.
Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. [Daniel 3:15]
He sets forth this case: When you hear the music, if you bow and worship as commanded, all will be well. But if you hear the music and don’t worship, you’ll be thrown into the fire. He then asks them
And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” [Daniel 3:15]
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. [Daniel 3:16, KJV]
Note their boldness before their executioner! They are basically telling him, “we are not afraid of you.” Now here it comes…
Our God is able and He will deliver usIf that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. [Daniel 3:17]
Here is one of the greatest statements of faith in the entire Bible! Most Christians can say in almost any dire situation, that God is able to deliver them from it. But who can take the next step of faith and say God will deliver me? Sadly, there are few believers that would dare make such a bold statement. Worse yet, is that the vast majority of believers upon hearing such a claim would accuse that person of being presumptuous or even arrogant. They think, “Who are you to say what God will do? After all, God is sovereign.”
Sovereign? Yes. Promise breaker? No.
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” [Psalms 50:15]
“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? [Numbers 23:19]
Daniel’s friends did the very thing that so many would frown upon, discourage, or flat out prohibit: they stated that God not only could, but that God would! And they fully believed it.
Did they put God on the spot? Did they put him in an awkward position? Or were they just absolutely certain that He would do this? And if so, how could they be so certain?
If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. [Daniel 3:17]
But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” [Daniel 3:18]
Many incorrectly read verses 17 & 18 as saying, “Our God can and Our God will, but if He doesn’t…”. That is not what the scriptures say! Yes, I am aware that some, like the NLT, have brought that unsupported bias into their translation. That is unfortunate.
Verse 18 is not adding to the statement of whether or not God will. In fact, if verse 18 was to be added to the “He will deliver us” in verse 17, as many suggest, it would instead subtract from that awesome testimony of faith! It changes the dialog into something like this: “If you try to kill us, our God will deliver us, but, you know, he might not, and um, well just in case he doesn’t, then we still won’t bow down.” That is called wavering or doubting, and the Bible has something to say about that.
For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the LordBut let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. [James 1:6-8]
Verse 17 begins with “If that is the case”, while verse 18 begins with “but if not”. Verse 18 is the opposite case. You must connect the IF NOT with the IF that precedes it!
These men were not saying give us liberty or give us death. Neither did they say they would rather die than bow to him and his idols. Nor were they saying “if God allows us to die” (in other words, God doesn’t deliver us). Look hard and you will not find this in their reply: the word death or any hint of it! Their response wasn’t about death, because they had the faith that said “Our God will deliver us”.
Notice that verses 17 and 18 are talking about the future: “If you do this, then here are the possible outcomes.” Proponents of the usual interpretation of this passage must see verse 18 as really saying “if God doesn’t show up for us in the fire, then we will not worship you.” Then we will not. Do they really make a point by saying if God does not deliver us, then we will not worship or bow down to your gods? After all, if God did not deliver them, they would, in fact, be ashes. And we know dead men don’t worship!
So what is happening here? Verse 17 says “if that is the case”, and verse 18 is finishing that condition with “but if that is not the case”. So what is the case referenced here? It is the case that Nebuchadnezzar put before them in verse 16: “If you bow down, all will be well. If you don’t, you’ll be thrown in the fire.” The king gave them only 2 possible outcomes. Burn or bow. The possibility of burning, they refute in verse 17. The alternative case of bowing was refuted in verse 18!
In essence, what is being said is this: If it is the case that when we don’t bow down, you throw us in the fire, then know that our God will deliver us. But if that is not the case (in other words, if you decide not to throw us in the fire or even do something else), know that we will still not bow down.
The dialog goes generally like this:
Nebuchadnezzar: You will bow or you will burn.
Shadrach/Meshach/Abednego: We will neither burn NOR bow!
This is the response that sent the king from rage and fury (remember verse 13?) to an even higher state of anger and distress.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. [Daniel 3:19]
Think about it. The face of an already angry man has the expression on his face changed! What does that even look like? What caused this explosion of further indignation in him? It was their bold confidence that declared “Our God will deliver us!” I believe their bold response caused him to wonder: maybe my fire is not hot enough. They were not the ones to doubt–the king was! So, he further intensified the heat to see that there would be no way to escape it.
The wishy-washy, namby-pamby “maybe He will save us, maybe He won’t” response does not enrage anyone! If anything, that would cause the captors to mock their God!
And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” [Daniel 3:20-25]
God showed up for those men in no small way! Even the guys throwing them into the fire were burned up! Note how detailed the Bible is about how flammable those men were. And their garments weren’t even touched. They didn’t even smell like smoke! Nebuchadnezzar not only intensified the heat, he multiplied the magnitude of the miracle!
Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. [Daniel 3:26-27]
God literally showed up, too. But why? Because they were full of faith that He would! Not just the outward appearance of faith or a great positive mental outlook, but faith that said “I believe God’s word enough to declare it.” Where did this faith come from? They had access to God’s word. Daniel speaks of reading the scriptures and the Book of Jeremiah in Chapter 9. Before Jeremiah’s book was Isaiah’s book and the Psalms. They had access to the scriptures, therefore they knew the testimonies of God’s great works and His promises to the children of men.
Some believe that God just shows up every now and then. “The ways of God are mysterious”, they say. Or “Who can know what God will do?” Let me tell you, God is not random. Neither is He unpredictable–especially if He has made a promise to show up! People think you can’t predict what God will do. We don’t have to–he predicts Himself! Predict means to say beforehand what will happen. That is how we can know what God will do, because He has already told us!
You see, around 100 years prior to this, Isaiah had already written these words:
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch youBut now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. [Isaiah 43:1-2]
I firmly believe that these men not only knew those words, but believed them! As Isaiah inspired faith in them, they inspired faith in Daniel about whom it was written:
because he believed in his GodDaniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God. [Daniel 6:23]
I said earlier that God came through for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego because of their faith. It was not a random act of kindness, it was a deliberate, predictable, response by God to their faith! How can we be sure? Hebrews 11 is called by many the faith chapter of the bible. It is a hall of fame of sorts of those who believed God. You can see Daniel and his friend’s faith commended here:
who through faith…quenched the violence of fire…who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. [Hebrews 11:33-34]
How confident are you that God would pull you out of the fire or a lion’s den? Are you still stuck with only the thought that God can, but struggle to say that God will? Friend, everyone knows God can. That is practically the definition of being God. Common sense says “God can.” But faith–real faith–goes further. Real faith says God will. And it is not arrogance, but bold confidence in His word–the kind that pleases God.
Look, even Paul had that kind of confidence:
the Lord will deliver me from every evil workAnd the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! [2 Timothy 4:18]
Did you see it? The Lord will deliver me. Where did he get that bold confidence? From the same scriptures Daniel and his friends had access to: the Psalms, Isaiah and Jeremiah!
Look what God has promised to us…
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles. [Psalms 34:17]
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. [Psalms 34:19]
Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” [Psalms 50:15]
He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. [Psalms 91:15]
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ [Isaiah 41:10]
Then the LORD said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.” [Jeremiah 1:12]
God clearly says He will come to our aid. Do you believe it?
In addition, Paul was far enough along in his walk to know by experience, that same delivering, rescuing, saving power!
out of them all the Lord delivered meBut you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. [2 Timothy 3:10-11]
No wonder Paul had that kind of confidence. And you can, too!
And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I BELIEVED AND THEREFORE I SPOKE,” we also believe and therefore speak [2 Corinthians 4:13]
If God says He will, then you can say He will!
It really is that simple.