Into the Fire! · October 01, 2008 [click to listen]
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This month we will continue with our series “When Babylon Rules Again.” The book of Daniel reveals to us the practical principles of what is going to happen to God’s people at the end of time. Daniel is a type of our times. He and his friends represent the faithful people of God who will stand through the greatest trials – whose lives will be on the line when Babylon rules again. The other Hebrews in captivity in Babylon represent those that are not faithful, but think that they can compromise in order to have favor with the powers that be.
In chapter one of Daniel, Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were placed in an awkward spot. They were faithful to the Lord and the Lord honored them with wisdom that was 10 times greater than all the other Hebrews. At this point the difference was not so noticeable except to the few that had examined them. But their later experience made it very clear who was with the Lord and who was not.
In chapter two of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which he could not remember. But God gave Daniel the dream too in order to elevate him to a most prominent position in the kingdom so that the king would trust him and his three friends, and confide in him, and learn of the true God. The other Hebrews in Babylon were not privileged with the inside information. They owed their lives to the faithfulness of Daniel.
Now in chapter three, we read of the defiance of Nebuchadnezzar to the God of heaven. He thought he knew better than God. He was strong and was tempted to think that he would never become weak. His arrogance and rebellion was made very clear in the great image that he built on the plain of Dura. It was all of gold, as if to boastfully say that God was wrong and that his kingdom would last forever.
Reading from verse one, the scripture says, “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.”
Nebuchadnezzar was hoping to get all the leaders of his realm to worship the image which ultimately represented him. And as usual, he announced severe penalties for disobedience. Verse two and three tell us that the king called them and they came. These included princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, counselors, sheriffs and all the rulers of the provinces.
When all had gathered on the plain of Dura, a declaration was made. In verse four we are told that “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, psaltry, 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.”
Notice that Nebuchadnezzar set up an image and demanded that all must worship it or they would receive the death penalty. This law was both civil and religious in nature. The church and the state were mixed together in ancient Babylon.
We are told in Revelation 13 that the lamb-like beast of verse 11 also sets up an image, this time an image to the beast and also demands that all must worship it. This law is also civil and religious in nature. The church and the state will be comingled again similar to what it was in ancient Babylon and during the 1260 year period when Rome ruled the world.
The issue at the end of time, just like in the days of Daniel and his three friends, is worship; worship of a false god and a false system. The first beast found in Revelation 13 is the Roman church. This beast historically caused anyone who did not agree with her or worship in her way to be killed, if possible. Many got the death penalty and lost their lives because they refused to obey Rome. Now the second beast; the lamb-like beast sets up an image to the first beast, similar to when Nebuchadnezzar set up an image like the one he saw in his dream. Then it was a physical image on the plain of Dura, now it is a replica of the old principle of mixing church and state as Rome did in the Holy Roman Empire as she calls it, with a mirror image that acts the same way in the United States. The central issue will be worship of a false god and a false system, and it will also have the death penalty for disobedience just as it did in ancient Babylon. Verse 15 says, ”and he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.”
Notice also that music is involved in false worship. Whenever Satan wants to get the people prepared for idolatry, he brings them Babylon’s music. Pagan music is always dancy and mesmerizing, and involves sensual sounds. No doubt the music on the plain of Dura was very similar. Modern Babylon is Rome. Rome is seeking to work with the nations of the earth to control the worship of all human beings. When dancy sounds are used in worship, you can be assured that Satan is trying to mesmerize the people and prepare them to do his bidding. Music was the signal that the worship of the image was to begin. Could it be that when we hear Babylon’s music coming into God’s church, even though it has religious words, it too will prepare the people to start worshiping the image of the beast?
Think about who was on the plain of Dura that day. Not only were all the Babylonian leaders there, but the Hebrews who had been appointed to important positions as rulers-in-training were there too. And there were more than Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, many more in fact. You may remember that Daniel and his three friends, after their year of eating only “pulse” and water, or a vegetarian diet, had special spiritual gifts. Daniel chapter one vs. 17 says of them that “as for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. This was clearly more than their fellow Hebrews who had compromised with Babylonian indulgence in the kings food.
This is a solemn lesson for us as well. If we want to have spiritual wisdom; if we want to have victory over sin; if we want to be about to withstand the powers of evil in the last days, we must also have a simple vegetarian diet. Please note what Joel chapter 2 says in verse 28; “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” This is referring to the latter rain. If you want the latter rain to be poured out on you, you must learn how to eat and drink simply. Just read about John the Baptist. God used him mightily because of his simple habits. A vegetarian diet will bring the best results in keeping the mind clear for the Holy Spirit to use you in a powerful way. Perhaps, if you are faithful in this, the Lord will give you prophetic insights and provide you with the promised wisdom and understanding in all visions and dreams as the prophet Joel predicts. But it is more than merely what we eat. Everything we listen to or watch affects our ability to hear the Holy Spirit and respond to his voice. Even the way we worship matters to God. Did you know that God’s messenger for the last days actually says that “many of the popular churches appear more like a theater than like a place for the worship of God?” That’s found in Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, page 85.
Be careful that you don’t grieve the Holy Spirit by listening to worldly music even if it has gospel words. Be careful of the programs or DVDs you watch because by beholding we become changed. So many of movies, these days, promote spiritualistic themes and supernatural elements, not to mention the killing, immoral lifestyles and other sinful behaviors that are inherent in them. Be careful not to watch sports which bring artificial excitement and other evil or unchristlike thoughts. Be careful not to entertain yourself with video games or computer games that glorify pride and self. To be like Jesus is our purpose in the last days. If you want His power and wisdom, you cannot do any of these things.
There were many more Hebrews on the plain of Dura than the three heroes. Why don’t we hear about them, or know their names? I suggest that the reason is because there was nothing remarkable about them for the Holy Spirit to tell us. They had learned to compromise from the minute they arrived in Babylon and they had continued to compromise all along. They ate the king’s meat. They drank the king’s wine. They learned the lessons in the king’s schools. They were entertained by the sensual sights and sounds of the best that Babylonian entertainment could provide. They were rewarded with similar privileges and advantages that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had. To all appearances, these compromising Hebrews were the same as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It may have seemed to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that it wasn’t really an advantage to be so strict in their diet and in their lifestyle. They were probably even mocked by their fellow Hebrews over the fact that they were so “rigid” and “narrow minded.”
Yet Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego continued their fidelity to God in spite of appearances. They continue to eat what others would have considered to be monotonous and boring food. They continue to keep the holy Sabbath, and they continued to live their principles of faith in every way. But God was going to finally and dramatically reveal who really were His servants and show the tremendous advantage of obedience to God in the most amazing way.
Now here they were; all of them standing before the image. The only one that we know was missing was Daniel himself. It is apparent that Daniel was away from the province on some official business and could not get to the dedication of the image. My guess is that if Daniel had been there, he would have been thrown into the fiery furnace too. But Nebuchadnezzar knew the Daniel had interpreted the dream and given him God’s message and he may have felt that by sending Daniel away, he would avoid having to send Daniel to the flames.
Everyone knew that the death penalty would be the punishment for disobedience. You can image the thinking going on in the minds of the Hebrews. On one side, the compromising Hebrews would have found a way to justify bowing down before the image. You can hear them whispering to each other. They might have said, “Look, what can we lose by obeying? After all, if we are thrown into the fiery furnace, what witness can we be if we are dead? If we bow down, we remain in our positions, we can influence the government for God and the truth, and who knows, maybe we’ll get promoted.” Then another may have said, “I have an idea. Let’s get on the side of the image which will make it possible for us to bow toward Jerusalem when we kneel down. Then we can symbolically worship the God of Israel, and we won’t get the wrath of the king and we won’t end up in the fiery furnace burned to a crisp.” “Yea,” said another perhaps, “no one will ever know the difference. We can worship God in our hearts. After all, isn’t true faith a matter of the heart? God knows our hearts doesn’t He?”
Can you see how easy it is to rationalize disobedience in very pious terms? The purpose of this trial was in fact to point out the peculiarity of those that serve God only. Why should we hide our colors? Why should we try to disguise our faith as if it is something to hide? God wants to reveal Himself in us, and He orchestrates difficulties so that we will have the opportunity to witness to His love and power to save.
Many of the Hebrews found a way to rationalize disobedience. The scripture says in verse 7 that when the music was played, “all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” It must have been quite a spectacle. Here are thousands of worshippers bowing before this enormous image, doing obeisance to Nebuchadnezzar’s god and to Nebuchadnezzar himself. Even the Hebrews in attendance bowed before the image signifying their own disobedience to the God of heaven and their allegiance to the king of Babylon. Do you think that at the end of time, when spiritual Babylon rules again, there will be those among God’s people that will bow in obeisance to the king of modern Babylon, the pope, and his false system of worship? We are told that this will in fact happen.
As they worshipped, the other Hebrews must have wondered whether anyone would disobey orders. When they looked around, they were stunned to see three men standing before the image in defiance of Nebuchadnezzar’s demand. When they recognized the three men as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego they must have reeled in alarm. They may have even thought evil of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego for standing, when everyone else was kneeling and worshiping the image. “Look at Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They are still standing. Those fanatics are going to get us all in trouble. We’ll all be accused of treason, and maybe all of us will end up in the fiery furnace.
Often when one or two or a few people stand firm in their loyalty to God and will not compromise their faith, they are ridiculed by their fellow believers. Often they find themselves isolated because they won’t go along with some liberal compromise. They are accused of being straight laced, narrow minded, or even bigoted. If they go to places or read material that is not on the church approved list, they are treated as if they are offshoots.
One clear recent case comes to my mind. A personal friend of mine recently served an 18 month prison sentence in a South Korean prison for refusing to carry arms or work on the Sabbath in the South Korean military. He is a conscientious objector. South Korea requires all young people to join the military in full capacity. There is no alternative service provided. Other youth in his church go to the military and bear arms and break God’s holy Sabbath day by doing what they are told by their superiors. Many fellow believers pled with him to compromise his faith and obey military orders. Much pressure was brought on him before his military trial to compromise his faith. Dire warnings were given him about his future if he has a government black mark on his record.
My friend’s church is not taking a stand against bearing arms and working on the Sabbath. They recommend that the youth obey the laws of the land, suggesting that they should be as faithful as possible, and then after they are finished with military service they can be re-baptized. Many of the young people of military age don’t think that obedience to the law of God is all that important. They are taught that they must obey the laws of the land even if they conflict with the law of God. Imagine what kind of precedent that is setting in their minds. When the Sunday law comes to them, will they continue with that kind of mentality? Imagine the peer pressure there is on the young people to compromise their faith, just like on the plain of Dura.
My friend was faithful even in prison to keep God’s law. He would write and tell us that he is very lonely, but is determined to be faithful. His prison influence was profound among the guards. He had many opportunities to answer questions about his faith and to provide literature to fellow inmates and guards. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be souls in the kingdom because of his prison time. There is no doubt in my mind that God sent him there to find lost souls. He missed his personal freedom, but he was free in his heart. He has not compromised and his conscience doesn’t torture him when he lies down to sleep at night.
You see my friends, it is not your friend’s opinion that matters. It isn’t what your fellow church members think that matters. What really matters in this life and in the life to come is what God thinks and what God says. Our obedience to God is more important than anything else. If we are faithful to Him, He will see us through the furnace of affliction and sustain us when we have no recourse or any resources. You are the one that has to face the test. You will feel like you are alone, or nearly so. Yet God will reveal Himself through your trial.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego must have felt quite alone on the plain of Dura when they remained standing while everyone else was bowing down. No doubt they had feelings of foreboding and knew that sooner or later they would be taken before the king.
Sure enough, there were some who were ready to accuse. The Chaldeans turned out to be the accusers. They were perhaps jealous of the Hebrews and their preferential treatment by the king and thought that this was a good opportunity to rid themselves of a nuisance. Keep in mind that those who are righteous are the ones that get accused falsely before kings and judges of this world. Daniel was accused before the king. John the Baptist was accused and beheaded. Jesus Himself was accused of being wicked by the very ones who should have acknowledged His messiahship. Church history repeated this pattern in the time of Wycliff, Hus, Luther and others who gave themselves unreservedly to God and remained faithful to His principles. The righteous have always been the object of accusation and misrepresentation. There are reasons for this. The wicked don’t like their wickedness to stand out in contrast to the righteous. When the wicked see their influence being diminished by the righteous, they become jealous and self-justifying. These and other reasons motivate the wrongdoers to ridicule, demean and misrepresent the righteous. Sometimes it even happens among church members.
The Chaldeans were the prosecuting lawyers. Notice what they did. They came to king Nebuchadnezzar and “accused the Jews” the scripture says. God’s people inevitably end up in conflict with the state and the world because of their faith. But this is the time that God shows His power, love and mercy to them and makes them a spectacle to the world.
Notice the legal principles involved here. This tells us how God’s people will be hauled in before judges of the earth to be tried for their faith when Babylon rules again. Beside the usual courtly formalities, they remind the king and judge of the law. Verse 9, “They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live forever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp sackbut, psaltry, 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 has 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.”
Notice the arguments they use against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The Chaldeans accuse them of treason against the government of Babylon. At the end of time, God’s people will also be accused of treason. They strengthened their case by arguing that they have been set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, the capital province, which makes them more culpable because of their poor example as leaders of the realm. It may be that Nebuchadnezzar had set them over the most important province in the whole kingdom because he wanted to train them carefully and watch their development personally. But it is probably more likely that since they showed such superior talent, insight and wisdom, that he placed them close to him for the sake of the success of his projects and the affairs of the nation.
The Chaldeans reminded the king of his decree as if they thought that he might try to circumvent his own law when he discovered who was breaking it. But the idea that some foreigners, assigned to high positions in his government would defy his civil and religious authority was plenty motivation to make him angry.
Verse: 13. “Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.” Imagine the thoughts going through the minds of the other Hebrews on the plain that day. “Oh look, there goes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They are in trouble now. They are a disgrace. They bring suspicion on all of us Hebrews. I hope we don’t get in any trouble. Perhaps they deserve what punishment they will get. We’ll have to publically distance ourselves from these fanatics.” Do you think that at the end of time there will be those that will do the same thing, and distance themselves from the faithful ones?
Verse 14: “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? He didn’t wait for their answer. He already knew that they had not bowed down before the image. But he wanted to appear compassionate. After all, they might not have understood the decree. They might not understand the seriousness of it and the penalty for disobedience. They might not have recognized that he was really serious. Whatever the case, Nebuchadnezzar was willing to offer them another opportunity to bow down and worship the golden image.
Verse 15; “Now if ye be ready,” he said, “that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltry, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well…” Things will go on as before. You will not be stripped of your positions. You will not be punished in anyway. You will continue to assist me in guiding the affairs of the nation. Most of all, you won’t lose your lives. “but if ye worship not,” he continued, “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?
Nebuchadnezzar knew that these men were servants of the God of heaven. He knew about it from the time when Daniel interpreted the dream. That’s why in his arrogance, he defied the God of heaven. Note that the papal Babylon at the end of time is also arrogant and blasphemes God and defies His authority over the Sabbath. It’s found in Revelation 17:3-6. “So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: and upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the earth.” And in the verse six we see the same principle of persecution that motivated Nebuchadnezzar. “And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus…” and in chapter 18 we read in vs. 7 “for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.” We see the exact same principles played out in the end of time as were manifested in the time of Daniel. This is the way that papal Rome is acting even today.
“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.” That’s verses 16 and 17.
Most important to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was the glory of God. More than anything else, no matter what happened, they must answer the charge against the God of heaven and earth. They must declare His power and glory to the heathen king whose blindness and rage was growing by the minute. These men were not arrogant, but they also defended their faithfulness to Him. “Our God whom we serve” they said, “is able to deliver us out of all danger. And it is because we love and serve Him that He will deliver us if he chooses to.
The three Hebrews continued: “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.”
They were, in essence saying that no matter what Nebuchadnezzar did to them, they would not stop obeying their God and living for Him. They were being arraigned before Nebuchadnezzar because they refused to disobey their God. The whole issue was about worship, and God’s law is at the center of it. They were to have no other God’s before Him. They were not to worship even by pretense any God other than the God of heaven. The same is true during the struggle at the end of time over the fourth commandment. It is the sign of loyalty to God. Satan will set up a law that requires God’s faithful people to disobey the fourth commandment and worship on the false Sabbath or Sunday. Then the test will come and it will be very clear who is serving God and who is compromising.
Listen to this statement by God’s messenger to His church in the last days. It is from Manuscript 24, 1891 “By many, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is made void, being treated as a thing of naught; while the spurious sabbath, the child of the papacy, is exalted. In the place of God’s laws, are elevated the laws of the man of sin,—laws that are to be received and regarded as the wonderful golden image of Nebuchadnezzar was by the Babylonians.”
The three Hebrews were probably viewed by Nebuchadnezzar as defiant, but they were really just humbly obedient to the Lord. At the end of time the exact same issue will be in force. Those who remain faithful to Christ will be viewed as defiant, but in reality they are humbly obedient to Jesus Christ. There will be laws made that will be used to force those who are loyal to God to worship on the false Sabbath, and will pressure them, even to the point of the death penalty, to break His law. They will be falsely accused of treason and many other things and will be subject to the worst penalty. But those who have the honor and glory of God as their utmost motivation will not think to save themselves, but only that they might glorify the God of heaven, who said “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day : wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” They recognize that the conflict and controversy is God’s way of placing them in the notice of all. They realize that His purpose is to exalt them by the very act of humbling them and persecuting them.
Inevitably false worship leads to a disregard of the commandments of God, His holy law. The only worship law in the 10 commandments is the fourth commandment to keep the seventh day Sabbath holy. This is more than just going to church. It is referring to God’s holy day as the day of rest from all secular pursuits or engagements. The commandment requires rest and worship on the seventh day, not the first day, or any other day, but the seventh day. This worship command will become the center of the conflict between God’s people and the rest of the world.
I like those three little words, “but if not.” They are powerful. In other words, these Hebrews realized that it is possible that they would become martyrs if that is God’s will. They realized and acknowledged that they might indeed lose their lives. Yet they could not disobey their God. Do you have a loyalty like that? What if you were faced with death? Would you firmly remain loyal, or would you compromise to avoid the fire? You may well face that in the near future my friends. Think about it. We are coming up to the most trying time in our lives if we are faithful to Jesus Christ and live by His holy law. We don’t keep His law because we are legalists; in order to gain entrance into heaven. We keep it because we love Jesus and want to serve Him faithfully no matter what the consequences.
The scripture says in verse 19: “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was won’t to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.”
This is the hottest that a furnace had ever been heated before. I like the number seven. It implies perfection. The heat was at its maximum. It could not get any hotter. Those living at the end of time will face similar circumstances. Satan will be permitted to turn up the heat on them to its maximum. Because their characters will reveal the most mature faith in Christ, the most mature experience with God’s law, and the most mature revelation of the character of Christ in His people, God will permit them to be tested to the fullest extent of satanic fury. Yet he will stand by them and sustain them just as he did the three Hebrew worthies.
Also, it is important to understand that demons controlled Nebuchadnezzar. Listen to this statement from the pen of inspiration. It is from the Signs of the Times, May 6, 1897. “When the king saw that his will was not received as the will of God, he was ‘full of fury,’ and the form of his visage was changed against these men. Satanic attributes made his countenance appear as the countenance of a demon; and with all the force he could command, he ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than its wont, and commanded the most mighty men to bind the youth, and cast them into the furnace. He felt that it required more than ordinary power to deal with these noble men. His mind was strongly impressed that something unusual would interpose in their behalf, and his strongest men were ordered to deal with them.”
Verse 21 & 22: “Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.”
Notice that they fell down in the midst of the fiery furnace. They fell into the hottest place of all. In the process the mightiest soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar’s army had perished by the heat.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to fall down bound in the furnace only to find themselves unhurt by it. As they stood up, their bindings being fried and gone, they began to move freely around the furnace. But now they could see what was hidden from them before. They could now see that they were in the presence of Jesus Christ who came to join them in their trial.
Jesus always joins us in trial if we love Him and obey Him. How is it that we so often forget that? He says, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee,” Hebrews 13:5. “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” Matthew 28:20. Most trials are meant to strengthen our relationship with Him. They help us see Him more clearly. Don’t think that trials aren’t for your good. They are the best thing we could ever have if we want to become more spiritual.
But the trial during the final crisis is designed to solely reveal the character of Christ in His people in the fullest maturity. The test is most important. It will remove what remaining affection we have for the world and it will lock our hold on Christ like eternally. This is essential if we are ever going to desire to be in the presence of Jesus more than anything else. But we will never have this experience if we don’t learn to trust in Jesus and His power to deliver us from sin right now. Obedience to His commandments cannot be accomplished if we don’t have faith in His power.
Verse 24; “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, [that means astonished in old English] and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did net we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answer and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Jesus must have enjoyed being with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego face to face in the furnace, just as much as they were awed to be with Him for those few minutes. What a thrill to see Him and talk to Him under those circumstances. I wonder what they spoke about there in that furnace. Perhaps they chuckled a little about the foolishness of Nebuchadnezzar. But probably they spent those few important minutes speaking about the future and their role in the purpose of God in revealing the character of God to the Babylonians. What an encouragement and empowerment to live a holy life! If only we could, by faith, see Jesus when in trial, to know that He is walking with us. This is what we do when we study the word of God. It guides us and reveals our role in revealing Christ to the world and gives us counsel concerning how best to accomplish it and how to face the difficulties and tests of our faith.
But Nebuchadnezzar was astonished. His rage was turned to fear. The very supernatural intervention that he feared was right there before him. Amazed, he exclaimed the truth that the fourth was like the son of God. My friends, how did he know who the son of God was? It was the Hebrew captives that had brought him the knowledge of Jesus Christ. You remember that God had blessed them with all manner of understanding in wisdom, in dreams and in visions. They had given the glory to the son of God. They had not taken the glory to themselves. Nebuchadnezzar, the other Babylonians, and even the other Hebrew captives may not have understood the importance of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego giving God the glory for their superior wisdom to God. They may have brushed it off as humility, or deference. But now it is powerfully recognized how important it was. Living for Jesus gives glory to God and it is vital that we do so if we are one day going to be a spectacle to men and to angels. The strong relationship we have with Christ and His character in us is revealed in a crisis. Most people, under normal circumstances, don’t think much of it when we identify God as the source of our wisdom or talent, but the time will come when it will become very real indeed, because those that have claimed to be His followers, but who have not developed His character and who have selfishly lived for themselves, will have no power in the time of trouble. They will collapse under the pressure and reveal that they are really not His followers after all.
Verse 26: “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.”
Please note, that it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar’s intention to glorify the God of heaven, but he does it out of his astonishment and fear. In the end Satan and the pope will have to do the same thing when finally, they are forced to recognize the all powerful and loving God of the universe. Note also, that Nebuchadnezzar did not send some lower level official to call them out of the fiery furnace. He goes there himself. Perhaps he wants to get a closer look at the son of God. Maybe he is so astonished that his arrogance has been humbled in the dust that he is compelled to acknowledge Christ.
I like verse 27 the best of all. “And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counselors, being gathered together, saw these men. Upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither the smell of fire had passed on them.”
Those three little words, “saw these men,” are very revealing. When the servants of God are persecuted for righteousness sake, their plight and their sufferings, as well as their response to the trial, are watched by others. God never wastes a good trial. And He always expands its lessons beyond the one persecuted or in trial to those who are standing by observing. This impresses them with the power of God. They often desire that power. They wish they could have the same kind of experience with Christ. It draws them to the Savior. That is one of the main purposes of trial. It is used by the Holy Spirit to draw others to Jesus, so that they can be saved in the process. Persecution always leads to more conversions.
The onlookers were amazed that these men did not even have the smell of fire on them. What is the reason why there was not even the smell of fire on them? Have you ever thought about why the Bible says that? I have. There is no fire when there is nothing to burn. If you are protected by God’s power, you will not burn either. Symbolically, this speaks to me of the completeness of God’s deliverance. If there had been sin in their lives, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have died in the fire. They would have been fuel for the burning. It is burning fuel that gives off an odor. These men’s lives were pure. There was nothing that could be consumed by the fire. Hence there was no smell of fire passed upon them.
Nebuchadnezzar blesses the God of heaven. He is not yet changed in character. That comes later in chapter four. But he is impressed with the power of God, and that He is a living God that watches over his servants. Verse 28: “Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve or worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”
Nebuchadnezzar turns to his usual tactic of force to insist that all people recognize the power of God, and never say anything bad about Him. God is not like that. He is loving and full of compassion and does not force the obedience or worship of His creatures. He will never do that. He will never sanction the use of civil force to get religious obedience. Those that will try to force all nations, people and languages at the end of time to worship the false Sabbath will do what God has forbidden, and will try to use the arm of flesh, the civil government to enforce that worship upon all. This is never God’s way. Obedience comes only from the heart. It can never be pressured, coerced, or forced into place. It must be offered willingly. That obedience and that love that comes from force or coercion is not true love or true obedience. It is merely compliance from fear. God’s love casts out all fear, so God cannot force obedience.
At the end of time, the whole world will be involved in the conflict over worship just like the whole realm was represented at the image on the plain of Dura. The crisis on the plain of Dura is a type of the world-wide crisis at the end of time for God’s remnant people.
When the trial was over, notice what happened to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Verse 30 tells us that; “Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.” When the final crisis is over, the faithful servants of God will certainly get a promotion. They will be taken to heaven and will be given responsibilities to reign with Christ.
My friends, you are called to be like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Your role is to glorify God no matter what the consequences. May God’s Spirit rest on your heart and mind and strengthen you to be faithful.