Daniel.3. Nebuchadnezzar Created the Image of Gold.
Dilemma of the Three Hebrew Children.

Key Notes: Defying God. To worship or not to worship. What is worth dying for? God was with them in the fire.

Evidently Nebuchadnezzar was thrilled by Daniel's description of his position in God's world. He was the head of gold. He now proceeded to make the idea explicit and impose it on his kingdom.

The text uses repetition. For example, "set up" {RSV} is used nine time. The complete list of six instruments is given three times. The list of all the officers is given twice. It gives the story an undertone of satire. Written in Aramaic, the message would not be missed by the Babylonians.

3:1 The image Nebuchadnezzar made was grotesque, if it was entirely a human figure. The proportions (height to width) were 10:1; normal human figures are 4:1. He may have copied a colossal figure of one of the Pharaohs he saw in the conquest of Egypt. It may have been an obelisk with a human figure at the top, or a seated figure. It was covered with gold leaf. In any case it represented the genius of the Babylonian Empire.

3:2–7 Nebuchadnezzar assembled all his politicians before the image. The wise men were not included. The officers are listed in descending rank.

Satraps were his personal advisors.
Prefects were military commanders; (Daniel at the same rank was over the wise men .2:48).
Governors presided over provinces.
Counsellors were lawyer-judges.
Treasurers took care of taxes and disbursements.
Justices were law-makers.
Magistrates decided civil cases.

The herald announced that all would fall down and worship at the sound of the orchestra, on pain of death. Nebuchnezzar wanted a public show of submission to his leadership. ("Are we all on board?")

3:8–12 Some Chaldeans complained that Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego refused to fall down and worship, and they added that they also did not take heed to Nebuchadnezzar, or worship his gods. Daniel was evidenttly not present.

3:13–15 Although furious, Nebuchadnezzar talked to the three Hebrew youths and gave them another chance. He ordered them to bow at the sound of the orchestra. No god could save them out of his hand.

Whenever God is challenged directly, we can predict the outcome.
•The Rabshekeh of Assyria defied Hezekiah's God and the siege collapsed. Isa.36:20.
•Pharaoh of Egypt said to Moses "Who is the Lord that I should heed his voice and let Israel go?" (Ex.5:2)
•"God Himself could not sink this ship".--declared a deckhand on The Titanic. (A Night to Remember. W.Lord; H.Holt and Co. NY,’55; p.50).

On the other hand, to the king, these three boys were dogmatic, uncivil, and stubborn. They were disobedient to elders, and a great King at that. Nebuchadnezzar was not persecuting the Jews. He did not try to suppress their religion. Polytheists tolerate all gods and incorporate them freely. It was their refusal of him as god, not their assent to their God that enraged him.

Modern kings make their case better and with less threat than Nebuchadnezzar.
"If we act as true Germans, we act according to the laws of God. Whoever serves Adolf Hitler, the Fuhrer, serves Germany, and whoever serves Germany serves God." (B.von Schirach, Director of German Youth; London Times. July 29,1936.)

There are many thoughts that we might entertain (and they may have) if put under such overwhelming pressure.

•It's not a god. It's just an image. It's not worship. It's just an act of patriotism, swearing allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar.
•He is our King. We owe him everything.
•It's who we are on the inside that counts. Bowing down for one minute won't change anything.
•Let's ask God for amnesty. That is what Naaman did, as a new believer. He said that he would have to bow before the god Rimmon when he went back to Syria and asked forgiveness in advance. Elijah gave his blessing. IIK.5:18
•The Chaldeans are jealous. If they don't get us this time, they will find something else to accuse us of. We may as well die now as later.
•If we let ourselves be killed, it is suicide.
• I am too young to die. I think God wants us to take care of our lives. We have work to do for Him.
•God does protect people sometimes. He got Moses out of Egypt in one piece. Elijah fought 400 priests of Baal and won.

The Law, however, is quite plain. "You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything ...you shall not bow down to them or serve them." (Ex.20:4)

3:16–18 They refused without hesitation. "Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O King. But if not...we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."

3:19–26 They were bound in their clothes and thrown down the chimney into a furnace probably forced by bellows and fed with pitch / tar. The stalwarts who threw them in were killed by the intensity of the fire. They were seen to walk unbound in the fire accompanied by a fourth, whom Nebuchadnezzar recognized as a young-appearing divine being, like a son of the gods, an "angel".

3:27–30 They came out on the King's order. He and many official witnesses found them miraculously untouched by fire. Nebuchadnezzar blessed their God in whom they trusted and yielded up their bodies rather than worship any other god. No one could speak ill of such a God on pain of terrible death.

The miracle is unexplained and incomprehensible. It is also unique. Many thousands of believers have died as martyrs, not expecting or experiencing physical rescue. The Apostle John may be one who did. "But if not" is almost the universal experience.
     The Spiritual sings "Didn't my Lord deliver Daniel?"
      Paul said, "I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (IITim.4;6–7).
 He did not expect to be rescued from Nero's sword.

The miracle at Dunkirk is a story of a fateful event of WWII in which thousands of Allied troops were stranded in France on the shores of Normandy. They had retreated from the Germans, and were hoping to be rescued by the Allies in Britain. The last telegram from Dunkirk read "But if not". That is, our God is able to save us, but if we are not rescued, we will not give up and surrender to the Nazis. That night was calm and a dense fog covered the English Channel. Under cover of night and fog, hundreds of little boats ran back and forth across the Channel, bringing the more than 200,000 troops over to safety.

The exciting feature of Daniels' story is the presence of the fourth figure. God put His boys through the fire, but His presence was with them and they lived to tell the story.