WORDS OF WISDOM
FACING THE FIRE OF FURY
King Nebuchadnezzar made a golden statue whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent for the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to assemble and come to the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counsellors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. When they were standing before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.’ Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshipped the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Accordingly, at this time certain Chaldeans came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘O king, live for ever! You, O king, have made a decree, that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble, shall fall down and worship the golden statue, and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These pay no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your gods and they do not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’ Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought in; so they brought those men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, ‘Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good.* But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defence to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.’
Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So the men were bound, still wearing their tunics, their trousers,* their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. Because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace was so overheated, the raging flames killed the men who lifted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But the three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counsellors, ‘Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?’ They answered the king, ‘True, O king.’ He replied, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.’ Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’ So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counsellors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics* were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them. Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that utters blasphemy against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins; for there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. [Daniel 3: 1 - 30. NRSV]
Exquisitely painted in verse thirteen is a portrait of fury. What would make such a well known, mighty and powerful king, of a great nation , " furious with rage," ? Would you believe it? Three faithful Jewish worshippers of the One True God, have caused Nebuchadnezzar, the King of great Babylon, to lose his cool. For all the time they have lived in the province of Babylon, these three men have served their God without opposition from the King. They have been faithful witnesses, but today, they must suddenly face the fire of fury of the King, who has insisted that they bow down and worship his impressive gold statue. All their lives in that pagan province, their witnessing and worshipping did not demand their lives. That day it did.
Although every single person, men and women of every language, slave and lord, alien and stranger, at the designated time, all fell down and worshipped the image of gold, as the king instructed, he was not at all satisfied. Should not the King be pleased with the mass response of the people, all bowed down to him? Should this not stroke his ego and pride? It did not. The king was not pleased, in fact, he became enraged by those three dissidents who had been given duty in that province.
Although the King and all the Babylonians were idol worshippers, those True God worshippers were not in any way influenced by them.
Although those men of God worked for the pagan King, they never followed his example of idolatry.
Although the King summoned the three who worshipped the One True God, giving them one final chance to change their unrelenting stubborness, to their father's God, those men of God were not budging.
Although their second chance, salvation meeting with the king, did not soften their stubborn belief in the God whom they worshipped, it did make the king even more enraged. So utterly furious was he that he ordered the fire to be made seven times hotter.
No kind of death was a threat to those true worshippers.
Those three believers lived among pagan worshippers yet they were free to worship their God without threatening objection. But when the day came for them to die for their faith, they were free to die. When they were given the final opportunity to choose between their God and this human leader, they saw no choice really.
Have you ever stopped to ponder this truth? Years of worshipping God among a pagan people, never accomplished what was done on that one day. One day they faced the Fire of Fury of a King and it was on that day their God was seen as God Almighty. From the lips of the once enraged King Nebuchadnezzar, came these words.
"Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,who has sent his angel to rescue his servants!...............................for no other god can save in this way." ( Daniel 3: 28 - 29)
Are we not called to be faithful to God and not the commands of those who daily, by force, threat, or even bribery, will cause us to be unfaithful disciples of Jesus? We share the same freedom of the three Hebrews worshippers. Their God is our God too! Do we believe that the Fire of Fury of no human power, no matter how it is made seven times hotter, can hinder our God from saving us?
Check this picture! God will escort you out of the fire unharmed. There will not be a single burn on your body, not one single strand of hair on your head will be singed, your clothes will not be scorched, and get this one, not even the smell of smoke will be upon you.
Our faithfulness to God is due to His unfailing faithfulness to us.