11th November 2011, mgh
1) The Fiery Furnace
The account of the fate of Daniel's three friends and their experience when they were cast into the fiery furnace, presents an example of not only faith but of conviction. In every generation and for us today also, there would have been a need for conviction of the power and might of the Creator. The experience of Daniel's three friends gives us an insight into the elements that constitute the basis for faith and conviction. We are unlikely to face similar circumstances, to those which these men faced, in our lives but there are principles that give guidance to us all.
It would have been a far easier solution for the three men to have submitted to the decree of Nebuchadnezzar to bow before his golden image than to face the threat of a fiery death.
However, they had complete faith in Yahweh, the God of Israel. They knew that idolatry was a sin and disobedience to the commands of Yahweh. The nation of Israel was at that time being punished through the captivity that it was experiencing in Babylon. for its unfaithfulness.
Their conviction and trust in Yahweh had foundation. Daniel's three friends had had several faith building experiences. The prophets had long prophesied that the nation of Israel would go into captivity, many people would be destroyed, but a remnant would be saved. They had experienced being saved by being taken from their homeland and they would have recognised the fulfilment of the prophecies.
Daniel had access to the writings of Jeremiah and Daniel and his three friends would have had an understanding that the captivity of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar had been prophesied by the prophets. Daniel was to come to an understanding of Yahweh's purpose with Israel. Daniel 9 comments on the depth of understanding that Daniel had by the beginning of Darius' reign. He knew that there would be an end to the captivity.
In the first year of his (Darius') reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. (Daniel 9:2)
In Babylon the lives of Daniel and his three friends had been again threatened by the decree of Nebuchadnezzar to kill those of his wise men who could not tell him his dream. They had been saved when Daniel had prayed to Yahweh and been given the description and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. In Daniel 2, Daniel confides in his three friends and asks their help in desiring and seeking the “mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret;”
Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: (Daniel 2:16-20)
As a result of the revelation given to Daniel, Daniel became powerful in Nebuchadnezzar's court and ruler over the whole province of Babylon. Daniel also made a request for his three friends and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego were given positions over the affairs of provinces in the land as revealed in Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar was humbled at that time and also acknowledged the power of Israel's God.
Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing you could reveal this secret.
Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king. (Daniel 2:46-49)
However Nebuchadnezzar soon forgot the mighty God of Israel and set up an image of gold to be worshipped by all the rulers of the provinces. Again the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego were threatened.
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. (Daniel 3:1-2)
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 you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up:
And whoso falls not down and worships shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. (Daniel 3:3-6)
Certain Chaldeans, who probably resented and were envious of the honours that had been given to these Jews from Israel, brought an accusation to king Nebuchadnezzar.
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 music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falls not down and worships, 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 Abed–nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:10-12)
The king was greatly angered by these messages and ordered that these men be cast into the fiery furnace that was to be heated even more than normal. These three men gave their reasons for their refusal to worship his image. They expressed their confidence in Yahweh's power and declared that they would not worship his gods or the image he had set up.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, 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 .(Daniel 3:16-18)
Nebuchadnezzar was so angry that he ordered that these three men be cast immediately into the fiery furnace. But there was an amazing outcome.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spoke, 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. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar spoke, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, who has 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 Abed–nego, 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. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego, in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:24-30)
We have here an acknowledgement by Nebuchadnezzar of the power of Daniel's and his three fiends' God. He also commands that nothing was to be spoken against their God.
This is an event recorded in the pages of the scriptures that many children very early in life learn about. It is an event that adults can gain a great deal of encouragement from and a guide to what elements can create a faith in the power of Yahweh.
Faith and conviction do not come from just feelings. There are several things that must contribute to the development of faith. Daniel's three friends had been exposed to a number of experiences that helped their trust and faith to grow.
They had access to the writings of Moses, the Psalms and the Prophets. The written word was available and was a source of instruction.
They had seen the idolatry of their nation and their rebellion against Yahweh's laws and the subsequent results of the nation of Israel's disobedience and rejection of their God.
They would have witnessed and heard the warnings of the contemporary prophets.
They experienced the captivity of their nation which had fulfilled the words of the prophets.
They were involved in Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Together with Daniel they had sought in prayer the help of Yahweh. They had witnessed the revelation of the meaning of the dream, which was given to Daniel in a night vision.
Following this experience they had been granted privileges in Babylon despite being captives of the King of Babylon.
2) Strengthen Faith and be Convinced
In reality, although on a much lesser scale, we have very similar opportunities to strengthen our faith and to be convinced of the power and purpose of the Creator.
We have access to the Bible which reveals the role of the nation of Israel as the witness of Yahweh's plan with mankind and the earth. The continuing existence of Israel, despite all attempts to destroy the nation, is a most significant sign for us today. Like Daniel's three friends we have the written word which is available today to give a very detailed history of the nation of Israel. This is a faith building exercise to read of Israel's history and to see Israel's present dilemma. Like Daniel we have access to God in prayer.
In the Gospel of Luke there is a very significant verse that relates to modern Israel. For two thousand years the Jews survived in dispersion in many countries as was prophesied. In 1948 again as prophesied the Jewish state of Israel was established for refugees, following the Holocaust in WW2 and persecution as in Russia in the nineteenth century. But the most significant and visible sign for us today has been the return to Israel of the city of Jerusalem following the Six Day War when surrounding Arab nations again tried to destroy Israel. Palestine for centuries had been subject to invaders and the land had been left a desolation. The Jews after 1948 brought the land back to a fruitful land with hard work and dedication. Luke states:
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:24)
Following this verse there is a prophecy that should alert us to our present day world situation.
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (Luke 21: 25-26)
It cannot be denied that there are many problems facing mankind today that seem impossible to solve. We see it nightly on the news and hear it daily on the radio. Nations are restless and governments are in disarray, the financial institutions are facing crises, many countries are debt ridden and others are faced with disasters such as earthquake and Tsunamis, floods and fires.
And in the midst of this there is the Palestinian desire to destroy Israel and establish a Palestinian state. There is conflict over Jerusalem. Read what Zechariah prophesied about Jerusalem over two thousand years ago.
Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it. (Zechariah 12:2-3)
We are today witnessing almost all nations antagonistic towards Israel. Israel has few friends but ironically it is a peaceful democratic country, which has had Arabs and Jews within its borders living peacefully together for many years.
Like Daniel and his three fiends, we could say that we have written evidence and prophecy, and we have seen what can be regarded as the miraculous survival of the Jewish people referred to by Luke. We also have a world in turmoil.
In addition we have a world filled with violence and moral decline. The Apostle Paul writing to Timothy spoke of “the last days”, when there would be a Godless, pleasure loving and violent world.
This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; (II Timothy 3:1-4)
The Apostle John describes the worldly aspects that we see all around us today.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (I John 2:16)
Again the written word is strongly supported by the evidence we can see every day worldwide. This is a process of faith building. We can read, we can see and this helps belief, a belief that the Creator is in control. If we can build up faith then we can accept and be convinced that Yahweh does have a purpose with the earth and mankind. He will be acknowledged as the Holy One and Creator. This will be done through the nation of Israel. Ezekiel explains it this way.
And I will send a fire on Magog, and among them that dwell carelessly in the isles: and they shall know that I am the LORD. So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel. (Ezekiel 39:6-7)
Before this can be achieved there will be a judgement on the nations. There will be devastating earth movements that will shake this earth. This we have not yet seen, but we can read about it.
In Ezekiel 38 an invasion of the land of Israel is described. A large northern army will invade Israel and will be destroyed there. It will occur in the “latter days”. It is then that the nations will recognise Yahweh's power.
Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwells safely, shall thou not know it? And thou shall come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: And thou shall come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes...
Ezekiel continues and describes the “shaking” of the earth that occurs as a result of Yahweh's “wrath” with man's evil ways.
For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; So that the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. (Ezekiel 38:14-16, 19-20)
Zechariah states that at the time of this invasion of Israel, there will be an earthquake that will cause
“the mount of Olives (to) cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley”. It will be such an upheaval that the topography of the land will be changed.
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. (Zechariah 14:3-5)
The prophet Joel describes the shaking of the earth also.
Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. (Joel 3:13-16)
Isaiah tells us that there will be peace and justice to follow but there will be a shaking of the earth first.
And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD'S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more...
And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he arises to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; To go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty, when he arises to shake terribly the earth. Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of? (Isaiah 2:2-4, 17-22)
Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego displayed extraordinary faith based on strong foundations. The hope for the faithful is of a glorious future of peace and the earth returned to its original glory and beauty, free from the past ravages of man. There are guidelines if we read Yahweh's word and seek guidance through prayer, so that along the way we will see those things prophesied happening. This can strengthen our faith, so that we may be convinced that what has been written and promised will occur and Yahweh will be glorified in all the earth.
For more see To Seek His Face