2018-01-10 / Religion

Carry through life a bold faith

Sunday School Lesson
Rev. James Temples

Daniel 3

Commitment can be costly. The declaration of the moment will not always be tested immediately. However, the time will come, when our vocal declarations must face the test of our sincerity. Heroic action is applauded. Yet the one who has carried out the act does not always have assurance of the final outcome. Declarations made in safety of the present can cause one to tremble at our bold statements, when tested away from the place of safety.

The Jewish captives were expected to become integrated into the Babylonian society. Some of them were trained for service in the government of their captors. Daniel 1:4. As part of the governmental elite, loyalty to the king was expected. This assumption might have been part of the royal expectations, but the “Three Hebrew Children” had joined with Daniel in their personal commitment to God, Jehovah.

The ego of the king, as one might expect, was inflated by the interpretation of the dream that Daniel gave. See Daniel 2:31-35. Some years later, Nebuchadnezzar decided to construct a statue of this kingly vision. Since these people worshipped many gods, one more god would not be of any consequence. This statue was seen as a great honor to this pagan king.

All pagan gods were to be worshipped. The royal decree was given, regarding this activity. Daniel 3:2-5. The consequences of anyone defying this royal order was included in the edict — “And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” Daniel 3:6.

The record tells us of almost complete compliance to the royal decree — “Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound [of the instruments], fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” Daniel 3:7.

Some of the members of the governing elite was observing the actions of those who were gathered for this momentous occasion. “Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.” Daniel 3:8. On this occasion, the accusers were accurate — “There are certain Jews whom that hast set over the affairs of the providence 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.” Daniel 3:12.

Kings did not tolerate defiance of their orders. The record tells us, “Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.” Daniel 3:13. They were brought before the monarch to face their charges, and to receive their sentence. “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?” Daniel 3:14. We note that the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21) repeated the names of these men, assuring the readers that the same people were involved.

It would seem that the king had a slight change of heart, as he gave these men a “second chance” — “Now if ye be ready 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?” Daniel 3:15.

The answer was immediate — “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful (do not think it necessary) 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.” Daniel 3:16-18.

Obviously, the king did not appreciate this answer. “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage (face) was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego…” Daniel 3:19a. A positive testimony of personal commitment won no applause for these men — “therefore he [the king] spake and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more that it was wont (more than ever) to be heated.” Daniel 3:19b.

The Babylonians had a “god of fire.” Thus these men were about to be sacrificed to this pagan god. “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.” Daniel 3:20. The record describes the haste of the action — “Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other gar- ments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” Daniel 3:21. The obedient soldiers paid with their lives for their actions — “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.” Daniel 3:22.

When the king looked into the furnace, “he was astonied (terrified), and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered 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.” Daniel 3:24, 25. There is no indication that the counselors saw “The Fourth Man.” It is interesting that the king, who commanded these men to be thrown into the fire reversed his command. Now he issued another request for them to “come forth, and come hither..” Daniel 3:26d.

Yes, many faithful ones have died in flames, as they stood for their testimony. Since God — Jehovah — is sovereign, his purposes will be performed. Each of us must commit our lives to God.

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