Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Sunday afternoon Bible study. Today is study #8 of Daniel, chapter 3, and let us read Daniel 3:15-18:
Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
I will stop reading there. We have been looking at this passage for some time. In our last study, we saw that God’s people cannot be burned or destroyed spiritually by the wicked or by anyone because God has given us eternal life. However, physically a child of God could be burned. A few hundred years ago, many people were burned at the stake. We can die physically in this world and that is where the threat happens as the wicked threaten God’s people. It is in the physical realm that there could be danger.
Also, there is a threat in the religious realm. For example, when God saved the great multitude that came out of Great Tribulation some of these people had to leave their religion, like the Muslim religion. In that religion, they threaten people that if they leave that belief system they will not go to heaven. The apostate churches of our day also threatened people and made charges and accusations, implying that if a person left their church he or she would be under the wrath of God. They pronounced their condemnations against the people of God.
However, insofar as the souls of the children of God, there can be no change. Once God saves us, we are born again and we have eternal life and nothing can harm us. Ultimately, nothing can damage or injure the soul of the child of God in any way. Of course, this fact gives the true believer tremendous comfort and confidence and it gave Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego confidence in what could be considered the worst situation possible. There was the very real threat by a vicious king: “You will bow down to the image or you will die a horrible death. You will be thrown into a burning, fiery furnace.”
We can understand that due to the spiritual condition of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they were able to respond to the king, saying, “There are two possibilities, O king. We cannot obey your command because your command goes contrary to the Word of God and, therefore, we have no other option.” It was not because of anything in their upbringing that they responded this way. We cannot say that they were courageous because of the way they were raised. It has nothing to do with that because all the other Jews in Babylon were falling down to the image and there must have been others that had been raised with courage and honor. The only reason these three young men did not was because of their spiritual condition. It was because God had changed them inwardly by saving their souls and giving them an ongoing desire to do the will of God. In good conscience they could not disobey the command of God that said they were not to bow down to another God. Based on the Spirit of God that had been placed within them, they had the strength and the will to obey God. Remember that the New Testament says that the people of God can do all things because it is God that moves within us to will and to do of His good pleasure. Certainly, it was God’s Spirit that operated in these men to give them the power to take this stand, no matter the consequence. They would continue to uphold the Word of God and refuse the command of the king.
Since the Spirit of God directed them in this way, they had two options and they expressed those options to the king. There was a determination to do things God’s way and they were willing to accept the consequences. They said, “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter.” Then they said, in Daniel 3:17:
If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
They considered the God of Israel whom they served and they realized their God was all-powerful and almighty. Of course, being faithful Jews, they would have been familiar with the history of Israel and God’s mighty workings in delivering Israel out of Egypt and bringing the plagues upon Egypt. They would have considered how God brought the mighty army of Egypt to complete destruction, and so forth. We do not need to recount all the true, historical accounts recorded in the Bible, like the walls of Jericho falling or the 185,000 men in the Assyrian army that God slayed at one time. There had been miracle after miracle and these miracles were a display of the mighty power of God. In the Old Testament era, God could (and did) break the barrier of the supernatural. He had shown that He would do that on occasion. He would fight for His people against their enemies, as He broke the barrier of the supernatural and showed His mighty deeds. This was in the time about 600BC, so it was over 600 years before the Bible would be completed. It was only at the point the Bible was completed that God declared He would no longer break the barrier of the supernatural. He would no longer do things like bringing water out of a rock or raining down manna from heaven. He would no longer do things like parting the Red Sea or parting the River Jordan. Once the Bible was completed, God would no longer break that barrier, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were living at a time when it was still possible that God would intercede in the physical world and act on behalf of His people.
Therefore, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew that their God was able to deliver them and they took that into account, as they remembered Biblical history. When the people of God would humble themselves and beseech the Lord, God would intercede. God often came to the aid of His people in a miraculous way. I should point out that even though the Bible was completed in the 1st century AD and God no longer breaks the barrier of the supernatural and show Himself in that kind of way, we also need to recognize that God still helps His people in our day. He still fights for His people. He is still on our side. Throughout the church age and throughout the Great Tribulation and in this present day, the people of God can still beseech God to help us against our enemies. Oftentimes, God would help, but the manner in which He helps us is different than the manner in which He would help His people before the Bible was completed. Even now in the Day of Judgment, God can help His people through His control of circumstances and events. He can help in various ways that we may not even realize, except that He will not supernaturally cause a “wall to fall” or to “part a sea.” God will not perform those kinds of overt miracles, but He is still God and He is almighty and His eyes are always upon His elect. When we cry out to Him, He hears us and God still helps His people. We need to point that out.
However, in the days before the Bible was completed, there were ways God would intervene by showing His power very dramatically to the “natural man” and they could see God’s works in the physical arena as He performed mighty miracles. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego took this fact into account and they considered the situation, realizing that God could help them. That would have given them much hope. They said, “God is able to deliver us,” but they were not being proud and arrogant and they were not demanding: “God, you must help us. You must save us from this burning, fiery furnace. You cannot allow us to be thrown into it.” Sometimes, we hear people that speak arrogantly in these matters, as if they could order God to work on their behalf. God’s people are “servants” and that is why the three men said, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.” They properly acknowledged their position before God – they were not ones that would order God to do their will. They were lowly servants of God and that is what they declared. They let the king know that there was the possibility that God would help: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.”
This word translated as “able” is found in Job 42:1-2:
Then Job answered JEHOVAH, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee.
Job is saying, “I know you are able to do everything.” God is able. All things are possible with Him, as we read in the New Testament. God possesses the necessary power. He spoke a word and the universe came into existence, with its countless stars and planets. There is the sun, moon and stars and all the creatures that God created to populate the earth. Mankind was created in His image. When we look at the earth, we see the mighty oceans and all the wonders of the creation and they are all a result of the spoken Word of God: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
So, these three young men were in a difficult situation and we have difficult situations in our own lives, but we know God has the ability to help us and He can help us. That is certain. There is no question that God has the power to help, no matter how bleak the situation or how impossible it appears. If we look at the situation of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Babylon, it was just about as impossible as anything could be. There was no way to fight their way out of their plight. They could not fight the mighty army of the Chaldeans. They could not run away and escape because they would have been pursued and captured. That is why all the other people bowed down to the image, as they perceived there was “no way out.” Humanly, there was no way to avoid doing what the king wanted them to do. They did not see the options that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego saw as these three men acknowledged: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.” Of course, people that are not saved do not perceive that option. They do not see the spiritual realm to see God, who is Spirit, by faith. They do not see His power. It is as if they are blind to that option. All they can see is the option seen in Daniel 3:18:
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
The natural-minded individual only sees “Option B.” He does not consider or think about “Option A,” regarding that God may deliver them. They go right to “Option B” and they see that as the only possibility. The king will follow through with his threat and they will be destroyed. They will die. They will cease to exist. All they are thinking is, “We will burn.” Since the natural-minded individual has everything invested in living in this present world, this is his inheritance and this is where his treasure is and, therefore, the world is everything to him. He has no eternal life to come and He has no abounding spiritual riches for evermore. He has none of that, so this present evil world and this present life is everything to him. We can understand why they would bow down to the image, even though that action would be dishonorable and it would indicate their fear and lack of courage. They want to preserve the only life they can relate to and are sure of and, therefore, they bow the knee to the image. They will serve the evil king and his kingdom and do what he wants them to do.
They see “Option B” as being thrown into the fire and destroyed, but they do not view “Option B” in the way that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego see it. Again, these three men had “Option A,” but even with “Option B,” they knew that if God decided not to deliver them, then it was not in the will of God. The true believer takes this into account because we do not know what God’s perfect will is, but we know that whatever happens will be according to His perfect will. It will be what God intended and, therefore, we accept it and we do not fight against it. We do not know how God will work out His perfect will, so these three men knew that if God did not deliver them by rescuing them from the fire, then their response to the king was, “Very well, but we will still not serve your gods or the golden image you have set up.” Again, they could only respond this way only because they were true believers and because they viewed “Option B” differently than the unsaved persons.
To the unsaved, death is the worst possible thing that could happen to them. In that very day, their thoughts would perish and they would be cut off forever and never live again. Their inheritance would be taken from them and they have lost their only treasures. They would have nothing. Of course, some natural-minded people deceive themselves into thinking they will go to heaven, but the reality is that they know deep-down that they are in trouble with God. They do not see the possibility that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego saw. These three men knew that if it was God’s will not to deliver them from physical death, they would still be victorious. They would still “win” because they had eternal life.
The truth that the world does not understand is a truth that the Bible presents only to the child of God. It belongs to God’s people and no one else because only God’s people are truly saved. The truth is that God’s people cannot help but “win.” God’s people cannot help but be victorious in the end. The world loses. The world likes to portray itself as being the victor and, of course, Satan likes to portray himself as the “winner.” There are times in the history of the world as God’s salvation program unfolded and his Judgment Day program unfolded when it appeared that Satan and the enemies of God were winning.
For example, we can look back to the time of the cross during Jesus’ earthly ministry when the kingdom of God seemed to be winning as the miracles of God were shown to all people. Christ was healing people and giving sight to the blind, ears to the deaf, legs to the lame and life to the dead. He raised the dead right before the eyes of people. It was a glorious time and appeared to be triumphant for the kingdom of God. Then the enemies of God arose and the leaders of Israel conspired against Christ and turned Him over to the Roman authorities to be crucified. The Roman governor, Pilot, had no option because the people were yelling, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The forces of the world were working with evil forces within the corporate body of that time, Israel. All of them were confederate against the Lord Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God. They slayed Him on the cross. Everything turned from what was a victorious and triumphant time period for the apostles and disciples into one of the most dark and terrible times imaginable. There was the Saviour (God in the flesh) hanging on the cross. Even the sun was darkened. Everything must have seemed like a huge defeat; the enemy had won. Satan appeared to be victorious.
That is how it appeared to be, just like what happened on May 21, 2011. God permits these types of appearances. However, we know that early that Sunday morning in 33AD Christ rose from the dead victoriously and He encouraged His people by showing Himself at different times during that 40-day period after the cross. Then came the day of Pentecost when 3,000 people became saved and God’s salvation program continued. Satan can appear to win at times and, certainly, that was the case when God loosed him at the end of the church age on May 21, 1988 and Satan entered into the churches and ruled as the man of sin in all the congregations of the world as well as ruling over all the unsaved of the world. This is really what we are reading about in Daniel, chapter 3. It is a historical parable of the time of the Great Tribulation when Satan (typified by the king of Babylon) would rule over all the nations and all the corporate churches. He overcame the camp of the saints and he was the victor and winner. For 23 years from 1988 to 2011, wherever you turned in the world it was Satan winning and the people of God could have wondered if he had won. However, God had told us to be prepared for this and on May 21, 2011 Satan was defeated. It is important for us to understand that. Christ was triumphant and Christ is the winner of the spiritual battle that raged throughout history. Christ has won the war and Satan has been deposed and the entire kingdom of Satan has fallen. Babylon is fallen, is fallen. Now is not the time when the world wins any longer. The world is suffering defeat at the hand of God. The world is being spiritually destroyed over the course of this prolonged Day of Judgment. Because we are aligned with God, the people of God always win, in Christ.
You can look at any two individuals. Pick a billionaire and look at his life. You may see a life of riches, comfort and ease. He has a big yacht and many mansions and everything is at his fingertips, including modern technology. He has everything and anything a person could desire. He has the best food, the best doctors, the best clothing and everyone respects him and speaks well of him because that is what men tend to do toward the rich. So, this individual appears to have it all. He has won, has he not? He has won the “battle of life” and he is victorious because he is super rich and he has everything a man could want.
Contrast that with a poor individual that suffers, day by day, just trying to get by. This poor man is a child of God and he has gone through many hardships and difficulties. If it is not one thing, it is another. He struggles to pay his bills and he may have an illness and he does not have sufficient funds to get the right medical treatment. In addition to this, he must deal with the battle between flesh and spirit and he is trying to live to the will of God in a world that lives contrary to the will of God. It is one difficulty after another, as this poor man barely makes it through from one day to the next. What a loser! The people of the world look at this individual and part of the reason he is considered a “loser” is because he would not do certain things to get money.
This is the way the world looks at individuals. Person A is rich and he has everything. He is a winner. Person B struggles in life and has so many problems. He is the loser. However, what does the Bible tell us? The Bible tells us about the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man ate well and Lazarus desired to be able to eat of the crumbs of the rich man’s table. But the “curtain is pulled back” after both men die and we see that the rich man is in “hell” or the grave and he wants Lazarus to give him just a drop of cool water and, yet, Lazarus went into Abraham’s bosom in heaven. And who won? Who ended up as the true winner?
It reminds us of sporting events or games (like football or basketball) and the game takes a period of time to complete and during the course of the game there may be a team that is losing the game for most of the time, but what matters is the final score. What happens at the end? It is the final score that determines the winner and that is exactly how it is regarding life in this world. It is what happens at the end, as we see in Psalm 73. There was a man that was envious of the wicked. If you are envious, you are going to be discontent and unhappy, but this man finally realized the truth of the situation when he went into the sanctuary of God, as it says in Psalm 73:17-19:
Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thou castedst them down into destruction. How are they brought into desolation, as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors.
It is like the analogy regarding the billionaire. Everyone is envying and lusting after his life. “I wish I could be this billionaire. He has fifty billion dollars. He has everything imaginable. There could not be a better life. I want to be like him.” That is why people play the lottery. They want to be super rich because that is what “life” is and that is when you really have something. A person is envying the billionaire. He is young and has all these desirable things. He has a beautiful family. One day he gets out of bed and he is dressing himself and walking along as he is buttoning the top button of his shirt. He does not see one of his children’s toys at the top of the stairs and he steps upon it, loses his footing and falls down the spiral staircase and breaks his neck. He is taken to the hospital, but the prognosis is that he does not have long to live. The individual that envied this man the day before now hears this. Does he want to be that person? Does he want to be in the hospital on life support and expected to die shortly? “I do not want to be him.” Why not? He is still a billionaire and he still owns all those riches and he still has a beautiful family. “Yes, but he is going to die.” It goes without saying that when you die you lose everything. When you consider his end, a person loses that sense of envy. Now the envious person realizes that the rich man is going to die and have nothing. You see, that is what the rich man had all along, spiritually – he had nothing.
That is the point of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man had nothing, as far as true riches were concerned. Lazarus had the true riches because he had eternal life. He had the salvation of God – the grace, the mercy and the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. He had the gift of eternal life and the gift of the new heaven and new earth and all the glorious spiritual riches that this inheritance entailed. In the parable, the rich man in the grave desired just a “touch” of what Lazarus had. He just wanted a drop of water. He wanted the Gospel water that would provide him with just a little of those tremendous spiritual riches for evermore. But, it was not to be so. He had his life of comfort. He had his portion or inheritance. Lazarus did not have the riches of this world. Christ does not try to tell us that the true believer would have wonderful times. We go through trials and afflictions and they are grievous. God tells us that our lives will be grievous and full of trouble, but as the children of God alive on the earth today we are right at the end of the world. Whether we die today or tomorrow or whether we live until 2033, or whatever time there may be, we have these riches in our possession. It is dishonoring to God and it does not glorify God when His people complain and murmur about their temporary difficulties. The Bible says it is but a light affliction, as we read in 2Corinthians 4:17:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
Our affliction is a “speck of dust” when compared to the eternal weight of glory in the eternal life soon to come. God says in Hebrews 12:11:
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
We must think about “afterwards” and we must think about the end of the unsaved as opposed to our own end. Think about things to come: the glory, the wonder, the beauty, the life, the riches for evermore. These things will be showered upon the child of God. It is close at hand, so God tells us in Hebrews 12:12-13:
Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
Gird up the loins of your mind if you are feeling sorry for yourself and moping around because it is Judgment Day: “Woe is me. There is no more salvation and it is a dark time and I feel depressed and sorry for myself.”
What do we have to be sorry for and what does God owe us? If we think about it, does God owe us anything? Does He owe us a wonderful time on earth? Does He have to give us good days in this world? Sometimes we magnify our present circumstances and it diminishes the things God has in store for us for evermore. We tend to think, “Oh, yes, I know I have eternal blessing, but today I do not have that. Today I have physical ailments. I do not have enough money.” We tend to build the “mole hill into a mountain,” and we make the mountain a mole hill. The Bible tells us to get right in our thinking: “Gird up the loins of your mind.” Stop letting your hands hang down. You can see the picture. Your head is down and your hands are hanging down and your knees are feeble. But God says, “Lift them up,” because we do not deserve to feel sorry for ourselves. We have no cause to feel sorry for ourselves because we are children of God and heirs to the kingdom. We have the most glorious future imaginable and it is just ahead. We ought to live like that is true because it is true for the true believer.