Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Sunday afternoon Bible study. Today is study #1 of Daniel, chapter 3, and we will read Daniel 3:1-18:
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 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. This is one of the best known stories in the Bible. It is a story that many children have been told and many Christians are very familiar with it and so are many people in the world. It stands out because of the faithfulness of these three men and their seeming fearlessness. Actually, we do not know if they were afraid. The Bible may have just recorded their words, but did not record their anxiety or nervousness. The threat was obvious. This king was not someone you would want to defy because he was a very evil king. We do not know their feelings, but even if they did feel some trepidation or fear of the danger, that is not important. What is important is their reaction. Despite, perhaps, their fleshly desire to protect themselves (and they were people just like us), they were led by God to be faithful. God saves the souls of His elect, but our bodies are not saved until the “last day,” so these men would have had unsaved bodies. In their souls they would have had great confidence and faith and a desire to do the will of God, but there would have been a struggle within them as would be the case with any believers, a struggle to take the easy way out and to give in. The world would say, “Do not be stupid. Do not be foolish. Just do what everyone else is doing. Take a look around you! It is a command to all the provinces and to all the people, whether they be judges or counselors or sheriffs or anyone in the kingdom. Look around and see that everyone else is obeying the command and they have fallen to their knees.” If you would ask the world, they would say, “Come on, get down here with us. We do not want to do this either, but it only takes a minute and then it will be over and we will all stand up and forget all about it – it does not mean anything. Just fall down and bow. Do not cause a scene. Are you stupid? Do you want to die? You know he will throw you into a burning fiery furnace, so bow down.”
Certainly, it was not just all the other nations of people, but there were other Jews in the province besides Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and what did they do? They were right there with all the other nations, bowing down and telling themselves, “Well, I am a captive. I am stuck here in this city and as they say, ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do.’” If there has ever been a more worldly thought than that, I do not know, but the idea is to submit to the authority and power and the peer pressure. Submit, or die. Especially in that circumstance, what else can you do? There is no other option and that is how the natural-minded person would view it and, in a worldly way, they would be exercising common sense. It is the obvious thing to do. Maybe later on you can rebel or try to escape or maybe you can even put up a fight, but in this particular situation there is no way to escape. “If you refuse to bow down, what will it get you except an awful death? Who wants to be burned alive in a furnace? It would be a very painful death.”
So, feeling pressured and feeling there is no other choice, everyone bowed down except for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, God’s elect. You know, this is why a great number of people do not like God’s elect because it makes them look bad when God’s elect refuse to bow down. It really highlights that everyone else has given in and, in fear and weakness they have bowed their knees and submitted to the king of Babylon, but these three men did not do so.
I do not think we should think that all the people that fell down thought that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were wonderful people. Many probably despised them for it and secretly felt they deserved death for not complying and they may have thought, “They are really making us look bad.”
But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not concerned. Actually, we cannot say they were not concerned because deep down in their flesh they may have had some concern about what other people were thinking, but any concern was overridden. Whatever fear they had was overridden. Whatever their natural thoughts might be were overridden. It was overridden by God’s Spirit that was within them. When God saves someone and gives them a new heart and a new spirit, He also gives them a desire to do the will of God and that strong desire overrode everything else because these three young Hebrew men knew that God commands that images are not to be made or worshipped. It says in Exodus 20:1-5:
And God spake all these words, saying, I am JEHOVAH thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I JEHOVAH thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew this commandment. It is one of the Ten Commandments and, certainly, they were aware of it and they were also aware that the leaders and people of Judah had violated this commandment. That was one of the main reasons that God had given up the nation of Judah into the hand of the Babylonians and allowed King Nebuchadnezzar to overcome them. It was why so many of the Jews were taken into captivity. God allowed the heathen nation of Babylon to defeat His own people because His people were not faithful on this point – they did bow the knee to their “high places” and fell into the worship of other gods. So this was a very telling point. As we have seen already, the Book of Daniel pictures the Great Tribulation that came at the time of the end of the church age and end of the world. It is a time in which the people of God are faced with strong testing. From the very beginning in Daniel, chapter 1 Daniel and his friends were tested in regard to the food they would eat and the drink they would drink because the king of Babylon had prescribed food and drink that went against the Law of God. Daniel and his friends were proven for ten days in their request to eat “pulse” instead and that was their first test. But, now, they are still in Babylon and they are still being tried and tested.
The test always comes back to what the Bible and the Word of God says versus what the king of Babylon says that contradicts what God has said. The king of Babylon demanded obedience and submission to his commandment and submission to the image that he had set up. This all ties into Satan’s role at the end of time during the Great Tribulation after God loosed him.
We see here that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to submit. It was not that they just wanted “to be different” or that they just did not want to be “like everyone else.” Sometimes the world views the child of God’s obedience with a “shake of the head.” It is like they are saying, “Why can’t you be like everyone else?” For example, at work when your job switches to a requirement to work on Sundays, you go to the boss and you say, “I am sorry. I cannot work on Sundays. I will work any other day you want, but I cannot work that day.” The boss may try to pressure you, threaten you or the boss may fire you, but no matter what the child of God has to say no. Sometimes, by the grace of God, it works out and things get adjusted to where you do not have to work on that day. However, everyone else is working that day and no one else has a problem with it. Some of them actually like it because it may be a day that pays a little bit more and they say, “Why do you have a problem with it?” They do not understand.
Another example would be that of a woman whose husband is beating and abusing her. Her husband may be a drunk and he has lost his job. She talks to her friend and her friend says, “Why do you not just divorce him? Are you silly? Why do you keep putting up with this for twenty years? Get out of there – you have to do what is right for you. Do something for yourself.” She is given all kinds of worldly advice and to the world it is very obvious what the wife should do and, yet, the wife is a child of God. She says, “No, I cannot do that. The Bible tells me that there is not to be divorce. No matter what, we are married.” The world just shakes its collective head and they think, “What a fool! You are doing something that brings you discomfort and pain.” The world does not understand someone being willing to lose his job or to continue in a painful marriage relationship. The world does not suffer these kind of things. The people of the world do not experience pain and suffering for these kinds of things, if they can help it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are going to experience suffering for something “needless,” the people of the world would say.
By the way, why was Daniel not accused and brought before the king? Obviously, Daniel was not there. I am not sure why, but in all probability he was away. He could have been in another land conducting the king’s business. I do not think that we should think that Daniel was also there, refusing to bow down. Of course, if he had been there, he would have refused to bow down along with the other three men. It could be that knowing that Daniel was recently elevated by the king, they did not dare mess with him and that is a slight possibility, but since Daniel is not even mentioned in this account I think it is obvious that he was somewhere else for some other reason. God does not get into that. The focus is on these three men in this chapter. Daniel will have the focus back on him later on in regard to the lion’s den, as it says in Daniel 6:7-10:
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
So, again, we see that a law was passed that threatened the death of being cast into the lion’s den, but Daniel did not submit. Here, the king in Daniel 3 is also making a decree or law – everyone must bow down and worship the image. It was a law that everyone in the kingdom was subject to, with no exception.
I was not planning on talking about this, but we should address the position of a child of God when it comes to obeying the laws of his or her government. The Bible is actually very clear on this point. Sometimes we see professed believers complaining about the government and taxes, and so forth. You know, it is never a good thing to talk (negatively) about the rulers of your country. There is a Scripture that says you are not to speak evil of the rulers in power, so it is never good to complain about the government taking your money, and so forth, because God has established the government. We read in Romans 13:1:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
This is probably a good verse for the child of God to memorize: “The powers that be are ordained of God.” If someone lives in a Communist country, who ordained that government and allowed Communists to be in charge? If someone is living in a dictatorship with an evil leader that tortures and kills his own people, who put that individual in power, ultimately? God did. When we read in the Bible of evil Pharaohs, like the Pharaoh at the time of the exodus, who put him in charge? Since we are looking in the Book of Romans, remember what it says in Romans 9:17:
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
God raised up Pharaoh. God raised up the Babylonians that were ruled over by the fierce king, King Nebuchadnezzar, to come against His people of Judah. God is the one that ordains governments. Actually, it is fairly rare that there is a good government with good rulers in power, but God raises them up, also, but when there is an evil ruler God is the one that raised that person up and allowed that person to possess the power they possess. It goes on to say in Romans 13:2:
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
This refers to trying to overthrow a government and trying to usurp the authority of a given government. I know the world glorifies that idea and good things can come of it. We know that the United States was founded upon a rebellion against the rule of the British and, certainly, God used it for good in many ways in the sending forth of the Gospel into the world, and so forth. But it does not justify the initial rebellion. That rebellion (as well as all rebellion against governments) goes contrary to Romans, chapter 13, verse 2 that says, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.” There is no way around that. God has established the power and the power is not to be resisted with violence and rebellion. If you can protest or vote the power out, that is fine because God has given that way to change the government and be within His Law, but there is not to be resistance outside of the law.
It goes on to say in Romans 13:3-5:
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
It says, “Ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath,” which means that you are not only to submit to whatever government is in power because they carry guns, but it is for “conscience sake.” In other words, it is God’s will that these particular leaders are in power and it is by the will of God and it is not to be resisted. We are to submit to and be subjects of that government.
So, when we find that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were forcibly taken captive out of their country and taken to Babylon, the natural-minded person would definitely resist and they would be thinking, “I am going to fight. I am going to escape.” They hate every moment of it, but God had previously instructed His people to go into captivity and submit to the king of Babylon, so we find that Daniel and his friends are obedient citizens. While living in Babylon, they do submit to the law of the land and to the government ruled over by the evil king Nebuchadnezzar. They were not trying to overthrow or resist the government in “all things lawful.” I guess that sounds like a contradiction when we find in Daniel, chapter 3 that the three young men are resisting because they were commanded by the king to do something. Did these three men do something wrong? Are they disobeying God by failing to submit to the ruler ordained by God?
This is teaching us another principal that can be found throughout the Bible and that principal is that the laws of kings and government are to be obeyed to the point where a given law does not go contrary to the Law of God as found in the Bible. In this case, an image was made and there was a command given to fall down and worship it, but we read in Exodus, chapter 20 where God said that we are not to make an image or bow down to it. That is in direct opposition to the Law of God.
Whenever a law is made by men and that law is in agreement with the Law of God, then it is to be obeyed. When men make a law that we are to go 50 miles per hour on a highway, does that violate the Law of God? When we do a search in the Bible, we see that God does not have a contrary Law, so we should obey that law or a law that says we are to go one way on a one-way street or a law that says we are not to break into someone’s house. If the government passes a law that says you cannot break into someone’s house and steal property, it agrees with God’s Law that says, “Thou shalt not steal.” The law of the land says that you cannot shoot or stab someone or kill them in any way and the Law of God says, “Thou shalt not kill.” Whenever governments pass laws that are in agreement with the Law of God, we are to obey. There are many points of law that governments pass like speed limits and stop signs, so the government has “free reign” in that area and we are to obey those laws. They are the lawful government and they can also tax their citizens. In the Bible the Lord Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” When we look at our own currency we see images of Presidents and we are to pay our taxes. The Bible has no problem with that and God does not indicate that 10% is a fair tax and no more, and since the Bible does not address the percentage the government also has leeway to tax whatever they want to tax. The child of God seeks for conscience’s sake to do the will of God and we submit to the government. We may not like the government and we may not think it is a very good system of government, but we are to submit to it.
However, the moment the government says that we are to fall down and worship another god, we cannot do it. Or, there may be a nation like China whose government forcibly dictates to its citizens (due to their tremendous population of about 1.5 billion people) a law that goes contrary to the will of God; they have declared that families can only have one child and if they have another child, they must abort it. It is a grievous sin against the Law of God and it goes contrary to God’s Word because “abortion” is the taking of life and the taking of life is murder. God has said, “Thou shalt not kill.” God’s Law supersedes the law of mankind. Men can rise up in the ranks in a judicial system and they obtain to the Supreme Court and they are very well respected and revered among men. Once this court issues a decree, it is the final say on the subject, but, again, that is “amongst men,” but there is a Higher Court and a Higher Law and God is the Supreme Judge. His Word, the Bible, is the Supreme Law and whatever the Bible says is the final word. What the Bible decrees is the final law. There is no law above the Law of the Bible and there is no judge above God, the Supreme Judge. When the judges and legal system of a nation develop a law that contradicts the Supreme Law of God, then the child of God is placed in the same position as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. In their case, the government of Babylon made a law that contradicted one of the Laws of the Ten Commandments in regard to making an image and bowing down to it. In the case of abortion in China, that nation’s law has also violated one of the Ten Commandments that states, “Thou shalt not kill.”
The child of God very humbly must not submit to these kinds of laws and we know that we might have to face consequences if we do not submit to the law, but we cannot submit. That is exactly how these three Hebrew men dealt with it, as it says in Daniel 3:16-18:
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.
Notice that they do not take this as an opportunity to speak evil of the king. They are very respectful as they call him, “king,” and they recognize him as the ruler of the country, but they are stating the fact that they serve a greater King and they will not bow down or worship and serve his gods because they serve the true God, the King of kings. They respectfully decline to obey on this point because it would violate the Supreme Law of the Supreme King. Yet, they are willing to suffer the consequences, as they said, “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.” This is always the case when we, for conscience sake, must obey the law of a government of a land. The child of God is also willing to accept the consequences and, in this case, it was a burning, fiery furnace.
In our time, who knows what the consequences could be? It could be a fine or it could be being thrown into prison or even death in some countries. Perhaps, in a Muslim land if a child of God was called upon to do something contrary to the Law of the Bible, they may face physical death.
God has given the child of God the spirit and the desire to do the will of God, so the child of God cannot give in on these points. Again, the world does not understand it: “It is a little thing,” they say. You know, people like to say that. I remember one time we went to a church and it was after the church age had ended, but we did not know it. We thought it was simply a time when the churches were becoming less and less faithful, but we thought we had to find a reasonably faithful church. We thought we had found a reasonably faithful church. The pastor was teaching about “hell” and, at that time, we thought that was a good thing and he was teaching solidly on many points, but there was the matter that they required a “head covering” in that denomination. Many Family Radio listeners went to that church because this pastor taught on Family Radio and he seemed to be teaching solidly in several areas. Even though all the Family Radio listeners realized that when God spoke of a “head covering” there was no need for women to wear an actual head covering, but that their “hair” was given to them for a covering and it was simply a picture of the covering over of sin. And, yet, as all these Family Radio listeners went to this congregation and they could not partake of the Lord’s Supper or be a member of the congregation, more and more of them began to put on “head coverings” even though they disagreed with it: “It is just a little thing – what does it matter?” That is how Satan often works. At first, it is just a “little thing” or a minor doctrine, so we compromise and we submit on that particular little point. Then we know the Bible says a woman is not to teach or usurp authority over a man in the church, but in this particular church the woman is starting to teach a Sunday school class, but it is outside the main worship time, so man justifies violating the Law of God on yet another point.
The true believer, however, is uneasy about things like this. It is not a “little thing” to a child of God because God’s Word says one thing and this church or the world says another. Of course, the church age is over and we do not have to deal with the corporate church any longer, but there have been many people that were following the way of truth and, yet, they end up submitting on one point. They might say, “Well, I know some of the deacons are single men, but in every other area they are so solid and faithful.” But it soon leads to more compromises and error and going in a wrong direction, so the true believer just stays with the Bible and we follow for conscience sake. We may suffer for conscience’s sake and God’s people often do suffer for conscience’s sake because we know what the Bible says and we have to follow it and we cannot do what is against what the Bible says.
When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are refusing to submit, that was according to the Biblical principal that we obey governments in “all things lawful.” When a child of God says they will obey a government and it is a terribly wicked government, the world may view them as “spineless.” They might say, “How can you say you will obey this kind of a government?” They just do not understand that we are really obeying God who ordained that government. The child of God “cannot win” in the eyes of the world.
On the other hand, with the situation that occurred in Babylon when the image was made and the command was decreed to fall down and worship it, the child of God may have been viewed in a negative way for their refusal to submit to the king. Remember. Micaiah. That might be a good thing for us to look at, in 1Kings, chapter 22, about another situation in another kingdom. In this case it was Israel and the king of Israel had many prophets that all told him what he wanted to hear. It says in 1Kings 22:10-14:
And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith JEHOVAH, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them. And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for JEHOVAH shall deliver it into the king's hand. And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good. And Micaiah said, As JEHOVAH liveth, what JEHOVAH saith unto me, that will I speak.
Everyone else spoke with “one mouth.” They were all a part of the government or the rule. They are going the way the nation is going, so they say to Micaiah, “You speak what they speak. Speak good things. Be patriotic, Micaiah, and uphold the king’s desire to go to war. While you are at it, tell us all how we are going to be victorious. Speak like all the other prophets!” It is not that the child of God just wants to be contrary. It is just that we a different person. We are a different creature because God has made us a “new creature” and we have our citizenship in another kingdom and our desire is for our King, so when God has said something, we must declare it. We have to follow it and it sets us apart. It makes us different than the people of the world and different than people that merely profess to be God’s people. There is no mistaking the child of God.