7.25 Daniel -- The Fiery Furnace
As immediate proof that he missed the point of his dream, Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden statue 60 cubits high. It hardly matters whether the statue depicted the god Nabu (NIV Study Bible 1303), or Nebuchadnezzar himself. In commanding that "peoples, nations and men of every language" worship it (Dan 3: 4-5), he was arrogantly asserting his supremacy over all subject peoples and religions.
Worshiping the statue was distinguished from worshiping the king’s gods (Dan 3:12-18). It would seem that Nebuchadnezzar did not usually attempt to police his subjects’ religious observances. It was enough for him that he could dedicate their divine treasures to his gods, and consecrate their persons by placing his gods’ names on them (Dan 1:2, Dan 1:7). The statue, on the other hand, was something new, a clear-cut test of loyalty.
Apparently some of the king’s astrologers saw an opportunity to overthrow the officials recently set over them. Observing the Jews’ strict monotheism, they denounced Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 3:12). Daniel was not named, but it is unlikely that this was an oversight. Perhaps the astrologers were deliberately proceeding in stages, removing the middle tier before they went after the top man.
We see here, and again in chapter 6, the stupidity and blindness of absolute power. Nebuchadnezzar, and later Darius (Cyrus), allowed themselves to be used by petty politicians in pursuit of selfish ends. They threatened with death their most loyal and able administrators. But these men refused to compromise. They were not intimidated by Nebuchadnezzar’s power, because they had grasped the sovereign power of the Lord (the Stone). Even if He did not deliver them from the furnace, He would deliver them from the power of any earthly king (Matthew Henry, 1435).
What follows is one of the Bible’s great deliverance stories. Thrown into an overheated furnace, the three men were not harmed, nor their clothes scorched. Nebuchadnezzar, looking on, shifted from rage to amazement:
"Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods" (Dan 3:25).
Much has been made of the fourth man visible in the flames. Baldwin argues that this term is parallel to "angel" in Aramaic paganism, and should not be taken as "the Son of God" (p. 106 n.2). But it was definitely some form of divine manifestation, God’s protecting presence. In the very capital of a great pagan empire, the Lord showed that He is sovereign, rescuing those who put their trust in Him. Even the spiritually dense king was impressed:
"Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants!" (Dan 3:28).
Yes, fool, and it was your command He rescued them from. Where does that leave you?