Learning About Faithfulness From The Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3

What will you do? Jesus said “in the world you will have persecution.” He warned us not to be surprised by persecution. Instead, we should expect suffering. Jesus said, “t “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. “It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matt 10:24-25)

            Persecution is coming. The tides of our cultures’ worldview has ebbed away from Christianity and not flows against Christianity. At the forefront of this storm is the discussions about sexual morality and the right to life for those who are unable to speak for themselves. What will Christians do?

            Daniel 3 provides another good example for us to note so that we might see how to handle persecution appropriately. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue demanded worship. The faithful knew they could only worship the one true God and were willing to be thrown into the fiery furnace to remain faithful. This chapter is divided into two sections and at each section we find a declaration that only God should be worshiped (3:16-18, 3:28-29)

Trial and Faithfulness in Daniel 3

Trial By Nebuchadnezzar’s Statue

Daniel 3:1-7

            Just after the Lord had represented Babylon as the head of gold, Daniel records that Nebuchadnezzar constructed a golden statue 60 cubits tall and 6 cubits wide. All of the leaders and people of Babylon were called to the plain of Dura to “fall down and worship the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” Those who did not worship would “immediately be thrown into the middle of a furnace of blazing fire” (Dan 3:6-7).

Faithful Promises

Daniel 3:8-18

            Some of the Chaldeans, Daniel tells us, were against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. This antagonism was likely caused by their faithfulness to God and the blessings God poured on them. The Chaldeans would have been jealous of their positions and angry at their faithfulness to God instead of service to the Babylonian gods. The Chaldeans pointed out that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not worship the image devoted to Nebuchadnezzar. “Although the charges were true, it was a case of obeying God rather than man (cf. Acts 4:19–20). God had specifically revealed his will in regard to this (Exod 20:1–5), so these three godly young men had to disobey the king.”[1]

            The Chaldeans warned Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel’s friends would be faithful to God’s worship rather than to worship the golden statue. Nebuchadnezzar warned them saying, “you will immediately be thrown into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can rescue you from my hands?” (Dan 3:15). Nebuchadnezzar’s warning challenged the three friends and God himself. Would they be faithful? Would God be faithful to them if they were thrown into the fire?

            Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered, “we are not in need of an answer to give you concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and HE will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, let it be known to you, O King, that we are not going to serve your gods nor worship the golden statue that you have set up” (Dan 3:16-18).

Faithful Actions

Daniel 3:19-30

Nebuchadnezzar “was filled with wrath” and ordered the furnace to be heated seven times more than it was usually heated” (Dan 3:19). Some scholars have estimated that these furnaces could regularly be 1000 degrees centigrade or 1832 degree Farenheit. Nebuchadnezzar ordered his “valiant warriors” to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them “into the furnace of blazing fire” (Dan 3:20). The fire was so hot that the men who carried them into the furnace were overcome with heat and died. “But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell into the middle of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up” (Dan 3:23). Baukal points out, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not only saved from the conflagration, but also from asphyxiation, CO poisoning, and possibly from other toxic fumes generated during the combustion process. This further heightens the magnitude of this spectacular miracle.”[2]

            They were faithful to God and God was faithful to them. God’s faithfulness did not spare them from the experience, but God did spare them from the heat. More than being protected, God was with them. Nebuchadnezzar noticed “I see four men untied and walking about in the middle of the fire unharmed, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” (Dan 3:25).  

Jewish tradition has typically taken the fourth individual to be an “angel,” and the Talmud even asserted that it was the archangel Gabriel (Pes. 118a, b). In the preponderance of Christian tradition, however, the fourth individual has been understood as none other than the preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ.246 Collins (190) comments regarding Hippolytus, who is believed to have written one of the earliest commentaries on Daniel: “Hippolytus wonders how Nebuchadnezzar recognized him and saw here a prefiguration of the recognition of Christ as Son of God by the Gentiles.” In the book of Daniel we find both angels and Messiah referred to (assuming, for instance, that “one like a son of man” in Dan 7:13 is a Messianic prophecy).[3]

Christians are on good grounds to understand this one who was “like a son of the gods” and “the angel of the Lord” to be a manifestation of the preincarnate Christ. Joshua 5:13-15 helps us to see how the Commander of the Lord’s army was treated as divine rather than just an angel. God was present with his people in the midst of the fire. This is an incredible prelude to Jesus in the incarnation. He saw our suffering and entered into the suffering world to go through the suffering and save us from the fire.

            Nebuchadnezzar, once again, was amazed and humbled by God’s work. Following the salvation from the fire, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the kings command, and surrendered their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God” (3:28). Nebuchadnezzar wanted to ensure that no one ever spoke against the God of Israel and said that anyone who blasphemed the God of Israel would “be torn limb from limb and their houses made a rubbish heap, because there is no other god who is able to save in this way” (Dan 3:29).

Will We Be Faithful?

            Persecution is certain. We will find opportunity to endure for Christ. As we are given these opportunities we should feel blessed that we are counted worthy to suffer for his name (Acts 4). We should also remember that this suffering comes from sin and will be overcome by the Savior as he brings us into glory. In the 2nd century, Clement wrote:

The righteous were indeed persecuted, but only by the wicked. They were cast into prison, but only by the unholy; they were stoned, but only by transgressors; they were slain, but only by the accursed, and such as had conceived an unrighteous envy against them. Exposed to such sufferings, they endured them gloriously. For what shall we say, brethren? Was Daniel8 cast into the den of lions by such as feared God? Were Ananias, and Azarias, and Mishael shut up in a furnace of fire by those who observed10 the great and glorious worship of the Most High? Far from us be such a thought! Who, then, were they that did such things? The hateful, and those full of all wickedness, were roused to such a pitch of fury, that they inflicted torture on those who served God with a holy and blameless purpose [of heart], not knowing that the Most High is the Defender and Protector of all such as with a pure conscience venerate His all-excellent name; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. But they who with confidence endured [these things] are now heirs of glory and honour, and have been exalted and made illustrious12 by God in their memorial for ever and ever. Amen.[4]

These three men demonstrated how to be faithful to God in the face of fiery persecution. They also remind us that God will be faithful to us and will be with us amid persecutions that we endure.

            Ultimately, we must look into the fiery furnace and see the one who is the Son of God so that we can have total confidence in this life.

[1] J. Paul Tanner, Daniel, ed. H. Wayne House and William D. Barrick, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), 237.

[2] Cited by J. Paul Tanner, Daniel, ed. H. Wayne House and William D. Barrick, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), 252.

[3] J. Paul Tanner, Daniel, ed. H. Wayne House and William D. Barrick, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2020), 253.

[4] Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 17.

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