Friday, October 16, 2015

Fiery Furnace (Daniel 3)

So, Fall Break is a thing. And, as per my usual irresponsibility I forgot today was Friday because it feels like a Saturday. I apologize to all of you faithful few, and would like to take the time to look at some things here today in reading this.

So today, we are obviously going to look at background because you know, it went from background to exposition to background to exposition. So obviously, the next in the pattern is obviously background.

But as you can tell from the title, that pattern thankfully is broken. We get to continue to look at the Aramaic portion of the book of Daniel and what the Lord chose to reveal to all people at the time of the captivity to show that He let the Israelites get captured as a punishment and is not weaker than the gods of the Babylonians.

So Daniel 3 enters in. We all know the story, and we all know of the admirable faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago. And indeed, we should all emulate it. But what can we learn about God through this chapter?

The chapter starts out rather simply in the first 2 verses, 
"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."

Obviously, Nebuchadnezzar's changed heart at the end of the last chapter has changed, and he has moved onward to challenge the worship of God. Setting up an idol and commanding essentially that all political officials come and worship this idol.

So what happens? Well, you all know the story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago refuse to bow down to the idol and there is a tattle-tale, so the king brings them in for questioning.

And we immediately have the set-up of the scene of God's greatness to be seen. In verse 15, we read,
"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?"

Who indeed? Certainly there isn't a god who is actually stronger than Nebuchadnezzar and his gods and the fiery furnace. Oh yeah, there is a God in heaven. He actually isn't he? Well, I guess we'll find out.

As an even further set-up, Shadrach Meshach, and Abednago express the truth statement and theme of the chapter. Verses 17-18 explains,
"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."

Oh, yeah, Hebrew God can do things. And of course, Nebuchadnezzar is like, eh no, and he commands the furnace to be set to 7 times the heat it is normally supposed to be set. Just so that there is no chance that they could possibly survive.

To further show that there is no chance of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago surviving without the assistance of some supernatural force, the men commanded to throw them into the furnace explode into flame and perish. They are so much goners.

Except...they aren't. They manage to live, without a hint of burning damage within them. And Nebuchadnezzar tends to notice that. You know, it seems that there are people alive. And for some reason four of them. He says simply,
"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."

So the fourth looks a little majestic. And of course, there is speculation about whether this is an example of the pre-incarnate Christ  appearing to people. There is no proof of this, but it is certainly possible, but probably more relevant is this: there was clearly a supernatural being and force that delivered the faithful Israelites from the fiery furnace that was certain to kill them. And it doth seem based on the prelude into this big test that that supernatural force is a personal being that the Israelites worship as God.

And Nebuchadnezzar, a source that the Babylonians themselves would accept, acknowledges this to be true. In the climax of the event (just as in chapter 2), Nebuchadnezzar declares,
"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 nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing 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." 

There is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Indeed. Feel like I heard this at some other point in the book of Daniel that God was the only one who could do things. Hmm....

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