A. SUMMARY OF PREVIOUS BIBLE STUDY.
In the previous teaching we spoke about Daniel, a young man of Israel. When his nation was overcome in war by the heathen king, Nebuchadnezzar, he was one of the captives. He and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego were very bright young men. They also stood firm in serving God in the heathen kingdom where the Lord allowed them to be brought to. There He used them mightily to reveal himself to the heathen. Once He revealed to Daniel the details of a dream the King had had, as well as its interpretation. The King was tremendously impressed and exalted both Daniel and his three friends to high positions in his kingdom.
B. NEBUCHADNEZZAR CONSTRUCTS A GOLDEN IMAGE
But all did not always go well for Daniel and his friends. They sometimes went through terrible trials because they served the one and only living God. Once king Nebuchadnezzar made a huge image of gold and commaded his leaders from all over his domain to attend a meeting which he convened. There He showed them the image and instructed them to bow down and worship it as soon as the music was playing.
Everybody waited and then the band struck up and the sound of the music reverberated all over the plain. All of Nebuchadnezzar’s leaders obediently fell onto their knees and worshipped the idol. Where Daniel was at that time, we do not know, but his three friends attended the meeting. They knew that the Lord commanded them not to make idols neither to bow down and worship such. So they did not bow down but remained standing.
A number of officials immediately approached the king and reported their disobedience to them. They also reminded him that he had said that the person that does not bow down, would be cast into a fiery oven. The king was furious and had the three men brought before him. He enquired whether it was on purpose that they had not bowed down before the image, then said he would give them a second chance. If they again disobeyed him, he would cast them into the fiery oven and who was the god that would deliver them from his hand?
C. SHADRACH, MESHACH AND ABEDNEGO IN A DILEMMA.
Now, let us see what happened then. We read from the book of Daniel chapter 3;16-30:
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 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 your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20 And he ordered certain mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their mantles, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were cast into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king’s order was strict and the furnace very hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
D. THE FOUR FIREPROOF MEN.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He said to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered, “But I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come forth, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors 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 mantles were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
E. NEBUCHADNEZZAR ON HIS KNEES AND MAKES A NEW LAW
28 Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set at naught the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything 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.”
Once more we see the Lord demonstrating his mighty power. He had, some time before, revealed Himself to king Nebuchadnezzar through Daniel. That was when Daniel told him what he had dreamt and also explained to him what the dream meant. He then confessed that there was only one god, the God of Daniel. But he had forgotten about his confession, made this terrible idol and commanded that it be worshipped. The idol, of course, was an image of himself. God again used the occasion and his faithful servants to open the King’s eyes and indeed the eyes of all of the his servants as to the truth that there is one God only.
One can just imagine how, as they returned to their own provinces and homes all over the country, the story of the three men in the fiery oven and how their God had protected them, spread worldwide. Many heathen people probably came to believe in the God of Israel when they heard this testimony. The faith of the people of Israel, held captive by Nebuchadnezzar would of course also have been greatly strenghtened.
But what a trial it was for Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. They had to risk their lives, they had to risk being burnt to death which is probably one of the most painful deaths a person can die. Yet they would rather die than deny the One and only God and bow before an image.
F. WHAT ABOUT US?
Php 1:29 Because it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer on his behalf, …
To be a real Christian is not always easy. The devil hates every one of us because Jesus lives within us and he will do all he can to make us suffer. But here is the good news: our Lord, Jesus the Son of God can not only walk on the warer but also in the fire. When the three men were cast into the roaring furnace, He strode alongside of them. He does not leave us alone when we go through a period of suffering, but walks beside us.
Isa 43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and flame will not scorch you.
G. DANIEL AND THE LIONS
Now let us look at one more incident recorded in the book of Daniel. It again concerns Daniel himself and happened after the rule of king Nebuchadnezzar, during the reign of king Darius. Dan. 6:1-28:
“It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; 2 and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.
- Wicked people plot against Daniel.
4 Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom; but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God.” 6 Then these presidents and satraps came by agreement to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live for ever! 7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the counselors and the governors are agreed that the king should establish an ordinance and enforce an interdict, that whoever makes petition to any god or man for thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the interdict and sign the document, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and the Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document and interdict.
- Daniel openly defies the King’s decreet.
10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem; and he got down upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the interdict, “O king! Did you not sign an interdict, that any man who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no heed to you, O king, or the interdict you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
- Daniel is cast into the lion’s den.
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed, and set his mind to deliver Daniel; and he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no interdict or ordinance which the king establishes can be changed.” 16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid upon the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.
- Daniel delivered.
18 Then the king went to his palace, and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him. 19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions 20 When he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish and said to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”
21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live for ever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no wrong.” 23 Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of hurt was found upon him, because he had trusted in his God.
- The plotters themselves suffer the death they had planned for Daniel.
24 And the king commanded, and those men who had accused Daniel were brought and cast into the den of lions—they, their children, and their wives; and before they reached the bottom of the den the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces.
- The Lord God is greatly glorified.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring for ever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.”
28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
H. THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE PERSECUTION AGAINST DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS.
Jealousy is a terrible evil within the hearts of human beings and causes them to hurt and even kill other people without any feeling of guilt. It was jealousy that caused these rulers to concieve this wicked plan against Daniel.
But who was it that suggested the plan to them? None other than the devil himself for he continully plans to destroy us. It was he that had formerly caused the three friends of Daniel to be cast into the fiery oven. Now it was he who caused Daniel to be cast into the lion’s den. He desperately wanted to get rid of these four men because they were coninually revealing his works to the king and his rulers. It was through them that the whole country every now and then heard of this great God of Israel and of the mighty things He had done.
I think, even the people of Israel whose temple had been destroyed and who had been taken captive and removed from their country, were greatly encouraged by these testimonies. They realized that they had fallen into the hands of this heathen king, not because their God had been too weak to protect them, but because of their own sin. God had allowed this to happen to them so that they would stop worshipping idols. They saw that their God was still the one and only God. Hope flared up within them that He would one day take them back to their country and help them to rebuild their temple and their city as the prophets He had sent to them, said it would be.
I. THE CHALLENGE.
These stories of the brave deeds of four of God’s servants are indeed a challenge to every generation of Christians. Do the unbelievers see the faith of which we speak, displayed in our deeds? Do they stand still and say “Truly, this God is the one and only God.” Are they moved to put their trust in Jesus? Are other Christians encouraged by our lives?
To live a life that causes the world around us to change, has a price attached to it; it does not come cheap. But it is worthwhile. When you come to the end of your life and look back, you will not be sorry. In that day you will rejoice that your life had not been wasted, but had been used for the glory of God. And when you get to heaven, you will see the fruit of your testimony. In that day you will see the souls of those people that got saved through your example and testimony. Jesus said that he who wants to save his life will lose it, but he who loses it for God’s sake and for the sake of his kingdom, will find it. So let us follow the example of Daniel and his friends and follow the Lord wherever He leads us. He will see to it that our lives will bear much fruit for His Name.
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