Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 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 the blazing furnace. Daniel 3:19-23 (NIV).
Nebuchadnezzar thought of himself as a god, so he let his anger overtake him. A brutal sovereign, he was also cunning and discerning. Not when he got angry, however. He who would smite an entire city gave into his rage and decided to smite his close officials: all because they refused to obey the king’s order to worship that golden statue.
A few things to remember in this whole episode. One, this is the first recorded instance in the Bible of man-worship. There had been other idols, statues, false gods, and such throughout history; idolatry was nothing new. Yet this is the first recorded occasion when a person made an image of himself and demanded others worship it. In this, Nebuchadnezzar mimics Satan while foreshadowing the antichrist, who will one day do the same thing. Another way of looking at it is to see how it’s the devil himself, working through gullible, furious Nebuchadnezzar, who engineers all this.
Second, remember the court magicians. One resource (http://www.biblebookofdaniel.com) said that the court politicians who ratted on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Chaldeans: a people whose prominence pre-dated that of Babylon itself. They were jealous of the Jews, and jealous that these three upstarts would dare to take their own place in the king’s administration. It was these inside operators who engineered this terrifying form of execution for their enemies. Not surprisingly, they did it not understanding how our God would turn and use it for His glory.
What’s a lesson for us? Idolatry still happens today. Don’t believe me? What about housing rushes, celebrity culture, and the official stance of every communist nation on earth? Are these not idolatrous? Money? 401K? Houses, cars, “the right school,” our kids? Idols. You get the picture, my fellow Babylonian. Scheming? Still happens, no matter the cost to the rest of us. And rage? Oh brother: let me tell you some stories about that. Miracle accounts like that of the three men in the furnace are just as instructive to us today as they were to them back then.
For further reading: Leviticus 26:18-28, Daniel 3:24
Lord Jesus, thank You for the timeless stories of the Bible and the lessons they teach us now.
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