Dominion: Outcomes or the Person? • Daniel Chapter 3
- Are you struggling to control outcomes in your life or resting in the power and dominion of Jesus Christ?
Today we continue to chapter three of Daniel. If you are joining us, or have been out for a while, we are going through the book of Daniel at the pace of a chapter a week. We have created a 12-week study of one of the most talked-about books in the Old Testament, and one may even say one of the most talked-about books in all of the Bible.
From the inspiring narratives to the apocalyptic prophecies, it’s one of the books that motivates all kinds of people to open their Bibles and read it, especially those who love to talk about prophecy.
As a reminder again; Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego are among those who King Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, placed in captivity after he conquered Judah. The King took all those with skills and influence and brought them to Babylon to serve him.
In the first two chapters we have seen God place His hand of favor on Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego and as such we have seen them rapidly rise up through the ranks. However, no matter how good life gets for them, they are aliens and strangers in the land they live in! They believe there is one God and that His name is Yahweh.
They believe they have been called out by God to be His people. They believe there are no other gods and as such, The God, their God, is worthy of all their worship, honor, praise, and love. The most fundamental core value and command of God they cling to is,
“4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
Now, the culture they live in has no concept of monotheism, therefore they don’t understand anything about the Jewish people they captured. Nothing about them makes sense, especially the core element and command of their faith!
So, with that background, let me walk you through Daniel 3. Specifically,
King Nebuchadnezzar demanded everyone be consumed with him. (3:1-7)
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
In Daniel chapter 2 we learned that Nebuchadnezzar had been horrified by a reoccurring dream of a massive human figure made out of different types of metals that ended up getting crushed by a huge stone. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he (Nebuchadnezzar) was the head of gold in the human-like image. We don’t know if that dream was the inspiration for this image or not, but you can’t help but believe it had something to do with it.
Many also believe that because it was likely based on Nebuchadnezzar’s dream then it must have been made to look like him, to be an actual statue of him. Others believe it was made to look like Nebuchadnezzar’s primary god. Personally, I think it was just a giant obelisk (i.e. the Washington Monument) that represented Babylon, and as such Nebuchadnezzar’s power and dominion.
A little more on all that in just a minute, but, the passage itself makes it clear to me. The image’s “height was sixty cubits” (90 feet) “and its breadth six cubits” (9 feet), making the ratio of the image 10:1 – a perfect way of describing an obelisk. FYI, for those who think the image is of Nebuchadnezzar, a person with a 10:1 ratio would be a very odd person to see! For instance, imagine a person that is 10 feet tall but only one foot wide!
Quick side note, just so the Babylonians know whose boss, the Washington Monument is a 555 feet tall obelisk!
The image was also likely overlayed in gold as opposed to made of gold. The original language certainly allows for that interpretation. Every scholar I read noted you can’t build something of that size out of nothing but gold, because gold would be too soft to withstand its own weight.
However, in all the debates about what the image looked like, there is very little debate over where it was located because most believe Julius Oppert found it in the 19th century. Note,
“The image was set up … on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Dura was a common name in Mesopotamia for any place that was enclosed by mountains or a wall. “The province of Babylon” (cf. 2:48) seems to require a location close to the city of Babylon itself from which Nebuchadnezzar ruled his kingdom. Archeologists have uncovered a large square made of brick some six miles southeast of Babylon, which may have been the base for this image. Since this base is in the center of a wide plain, the image’s height would have been impressive. Also its proximity to Babylon would have served as a suitable rallying point for the king’s officials.[note]Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, pp. 1337–1338). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.[/note]
This takes us right to the next six verses,
2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Make sure you understand who was invited to the party. Nebuchadnezzar has brought together representatives of the entire ruling structure in every part of his empire. He didn’t invite the general populace, just the people he has placed in charge!
Babylon had not only conquered the Jewish people but all kinds of other people groups and nations. There were all kinds of cultures, languages, and religions in the Babylonian Empire and Nebuchadnezzar had appointed people into his government from each of them. Now they were all represented as they stood before this huge obelisk.
4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, "You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace." (Likely the one used to smelt the raw materials needed to construct the image) 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
The key here is that they were to “fall down” and worship the image. “The Aramaic word used here indicates an act of homage and total subservience. Those present were to fall down before the statue in worship.”[note]Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 3:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.[/note]
Throughout human history, it has been very usual for an empire or nation to have an official religion that everyone must accept. In most cases, one could keep worshiping their gods as long as the official god of the state, and thus the state itself came first.
This is likely what’s taking place here and it's why he called together representatives from every government structure in every province of his empire. He is creating a state religion that will unify people regardless of their cultural differences, that is, no matter what differences the people under his rule have, they will at minimum have this in common.
But let me drive down a little deeper on this. The image likely represents Babylon and the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, and therefore bowing down and worshiping it was a way of publicly stating their supreme priority in life, as well as their supreme authority on all matters, was Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar (the state).
Bowing down and worshiping this image was not simply acknowledging the state in your life as you would another friend, nor was it submitting to the state as you would your boss at work; rather, it was committing to honor and obey Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon with the honor, allegiance and consuming passion that you would give a god!
Nebuchadnezzar is saying you will bow down and worship whatever I tell you because I am what will consume your allegiance. Nebuchadnezzar was so insistent that they be consumed with him and his Kingdom that to not do so received an equal punishment – be consumed with fire! If you won’t be consumed with me then you will be consumed by my furnace!
This is likely why he is making representatives of every province in his empire bow before it and worship it, as well as calling on all the peoples of the earth to do so.
Now understand, for the pagans who believed in the existence of numerous gods, this wasn’t a big reach. If they had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, then it was because their gods must be weaker than the Babylonian gods, and thus bowing down before Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon only made sense. Clearly, their gods failed. But that is not true of those who believe there is only the One God – Yahweh!
King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to be consumed by fire for not being consumed with him. (3:8-22)
Here’s how this all went down. It started with some jealous work associates!
8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
First, I need you to remember a little from last week. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prayed for God to tell them Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its meaning. God revealed it to Daniel, so Daniel and his three friends went to Nebuchadnezzar and told him. As a result, Daniel was placed in charge of Babylon and all the wise men (including the Chaldeans).
In addition, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given positions of authority. This would have made everybody jealous, but especially the Chaldean priests who got bumped out the way by these recently enslaved Jews. These guys were just in school learning to be a spiritual advisors to the King (Daniel 1), some of these Chaldeans may have even taught some of their classes, and now these young Jews are in charge! That had to create some seriously deep jealousy!
On that, where is Daniel? Daniel was over the entire “province of Babylon” (2:38) and as such he served as a direct report to the King, meaning he didn’t have to request an audience with the King because the King put him in a permanent position of answering directly to him (which is why Daniel remained in the Kings court in 2:39).
But it also means that in the Kings absence Daniel would have been entrusted by the King to speak for him because he essentially did that on a daily basis as he oversaw the province of Babylon (the capital province of the Babylonian Empire!).
So, the text doesn’t tell us why Daniel wasn’t with everybody else in front of the image, but I believe the best guess is that he is in the capital running the government with a skeleton crew that stayed behind with him. Nebuchadnezzar is a wise leader who wouldn’t have left his empire with no one leading it.
With that said, let’s get to the more important element of this passage. Did you notice the focus of the appeal to Nebuchadnezzar by the Chaldeans on just how awful these three men are? They said to these three Hebrews, “pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." (3:12)
“pay no attention to you” – they don’t think you are important enough to consider! Despite the fact you are King of the mightiest empire in the world, they don’t believe you matter enough to pay attention to what you have ordered.
That is they can decide if they want to obey you are not! These three have failed to realize that you are so important and so magnificent that there is no choice in doing what you require.
“They do not serve your gods” – it’s not just the fact they don’t serve the gods; it’s that they don’t serve your gods! If they were consumed with you as they should be, then they would also serve what you serve! Finally, in their trifecta of accusations,
worship the golden image that you have set up." – The emphasis being on the golden image you set up. This is about their rejection of you! This is also why I don’t believe the image was of a god. If it was, they would have stated that as a part of the previous accusation.
But it's separate. They don’t serve the gods nor do they worship the image Nebuchadnezzar set up that represents his dominion! Dominion means power and authority, and clearly, Nebuchadnezzar wanted the power and authority he wielded over Babylon to be what consumed all of those who worked in his government.
He wanted them to worship it as a god over them! He expected their allegiance to be so strong that they found their sense of value and identity in their submission to him! He wanted them to be consumed with him!
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?"
Nebuchadnezzar knows these guys. He has interacted with them and he likes them as we saw in both chapter 1 and chapter 2. So, he gives them a second chance in verse 15, but he does so with a statement of arrogance to try and convince them of how ridiculous it is for them to not do it. He says, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?"
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t say who is the god who will deliver you from the furnace. He took it to another level by saying who will deliver you out of my hand?
Nebuchadnezzar knew they worship Yahweh and he knew Yahweh had given them his dream and its interpretation, but his conclusion was still that Yahweh was just the ruler of all the other gods because he was wiser than the other gods.
However, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t see Yahweh as a competitor with his own power or authority. Nebuchadnezzar would say, “your God’s dominion, however significant it may be, is meaningless to me because he is powerless against me! There is no god who can thwart my will!”
Verse 13 says Nebuchadnezzar said all of this in a “furious rage.” It gives us a picture of the extreme nature of his anger. He has completely lost it! Not only is he insulted that somebody in his own government wouldn’t obey him, but he also likely thought these men were loyal to him and owed him as such because he had personally given them huge promotions (2:49). No wonder Nebuchadnezzar is so angry, he is likely taking this very personally!
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this 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 that you have set up."
Their response is blunt and kind of reinforces the accusation that they pay no attention to Nebuchadnezzar. The fact of the matter is that they do humbly serve him and even care for him (more on that next week), but for them, life wasn’t about Nebuchadnezzar, it was about God!
They were saying, we are so consumed with Yahweh that we don’t feel the need to explain why we won’t worship this obelisk in the middle of nowhere, but because we do respect you, we will explain it this way,
We believe our God can easily rescue us from the fire in your furnace, but if he chooses to let us die in there we don’t care, because we are consumed with Him! We will never worship another God to betray our God, the only God, the one we know that loves us. We will never worship you or any other god because God is so worthy of our worship!
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with 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 usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the 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 cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.
“Some suggest that the furnace was upright in form (perhaps with a beehive shape) with a large opening at the top in which material would be placed. A small opening at the bottom would allow for material to be removed, through which one might also look inside. The temperature in such furnaces often reached 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit. … A hotter fire would be expected to kill them instantly. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to display publicly the cost of rebelling against his authority.”[note]Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1339). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.[/note]
The main point here is that the King was so filled with anger that he had the furnace heated to the hottest temperature they could get it. The purpose was to instantly incinerate Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego and show everybody in attendance that they better be completely consumed with Nebuchadnezzar, or they will be consumed by him!
Nebuchadnezzar witnessed God’s power and even acknowledged God’s love for His people, but he still didn’t surrender to Him! (3:22-30)
22 Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
How ironic! The King’s men who were being obedient to him, get consumed by fire as they throw men who are not being obedient to the King into the fire. In Nebuchadnezzar’s rage he ordered the fire to be so hot it killed his own loyal guys! But what about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 24Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished (has moved from fury to astonishment) and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." 25 He answered and said, "But I see four men unbound, 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."
“First, the description of the “fourth” person in the furnace as “a son of the gods” (v. 25 is a typical pagan way of describing a divine being. He is again referred to as the “angel” (cf. 6:22) of God (v. 28).”[note]Storms, S. (2016). Daniel (Da 3:24–27). Edmond, OK: Sam Storms.[/note]
Many believe this was the pre-incarnate Christ, as in an appearance of the eternal son of God before he took upon himself flesh and dwelt among us. Others believe it is the chief of all the angels who serve God.
But, no matter if you believe the person in the fire is the pre-incarnate Christ or an angel sent by God, either way, it’s a clear demonstration that a knowable God (not just Elohim (the all-powerful God) but also Yahweh (He has a name and can be known) cares for His people and is unashamed to be known with us.
Your friendships affect the perception of who people think you are. When you were in school, if you hung out with the cool kids, it was assumed you must be cool as well. But God is willing to be seen with us!
Weak, pathetic sinner’s incapable of doing anything He can do; He is not only willing to be identified with us but loves it that we are His! We are His children; as jacked up as we may be, we are His children. He is not ashamed of His people! He comes to His people! As we talked about last week, He is with us!
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
So, watch what happens next. Nebuchadnezzar must have been sitting down on some sort of royal throne that they put in front of the furnace, but he has jumped up out of his chair and run over to the furnace in total disbelief! It said in verse 24 that he rose up and haste,
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27And 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 cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
The fact they had to be ordered out of the fire is kind of funny. You would think they would have been trying to run out! They are either hanging out with an Angel or better yet, the eternal Son of God! They aren’t going anywhere until it's time!
But what a contrast! The Kingsmen, who had bowed down to his statue, and as such essentially worshiped the King, got burned up without even going in the fire. But the three Hebrews who refused to bow down and worship the image walked out of the fire and not only came out unburned; their clothes weren’t burned; the hairs weren’t singed, and their clothing wasn’t even burned.
And, as if God knew there would be people in the modern age who try to explain away the miracles in the Bible; to all those people who believe these three young Hebrew men had invented and consistently wore magical fire-retardant clothing that could resist heat at or above 1,800 degrees; to all of those, we read that they came out of this fire not even smelling like smoke!
The event is a literal fulfillment of Isaiah 43:1-2,
1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)
But, sadly, did you catch who he said these three men serve. “servants of the Most High God”
“Neb does not acknowledge that the Lord alone is God, but merely that the God of the Confessors is the highest of Gods. Even the performance of this mighty miracle does not convert him.”[note]Storms, S. (2016). Daniel (Da 3:24–27). Edmond, OK: Sam Storms.[/note]
It is certainly true that God is the Most High God because He is the only God, but we will see in a minute that what we mean by “Most High God” and what Nebuchadnezzar meant are two totally different things.
Chapter 3 then closes out with this,
28 Nebuchadnezzar answered and 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 aside 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 rescue in this way." 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t say Yahweh is the only God but because of what Yahweh has just done he fears God. He fears a god who can do that kind of miracle so much so that he issues a decree that anybody who even speaks against God is going to be killed, along with their entire household, in the same way, he had threatened all of his spiritual advisors in chapter 2!
But the bigger point is this. Did you notice the hint of the acknowledgment that Nebuchadnezzar gave God for the love and mercy he showed towards Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Pagans didn’t believe the gods loved them at all.
As I stated last week, they believed the gods viewed them at best as pawns to play with for their pleasure and at worst an annoyance to just be rid of whenever they feel like it! Pagans had no concept of a God who genuinely loved and cared for His people. But Nebuchadnezzar had just witnessed the Hebrew God not only do the miraculous but do so in a way that was deeply personal! He and/or one of His angels were with them!
Sadly, this still didn’t lead him to convert!
CHALLENGE: Is your faith in outcomes or God?
Last week we asked you if your faith is in Christianity or Christ? That is, is the passion of your life loving being loved by Jesus or is it doing things you think Jesus loves? Are you committed to the person of Christ or things about Christ? Do you find your spiritual energy in a personal relationship with Jesus or in the pride of learning things about Jesus? Is your value in your works of holiness or in the fact that you are holy because He adopted you as His? One is focused on Christ and the other on the “ianity”
This week the challenge essentially drills down on that deeper in something much more specific. Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego made it real clear they had no idea whether God was going to rescue them from the fire!
However, they were undeterred from their refusal to worship anyone or anything other than Yahweh! Despite their confidence in what God could do for them, their faith was not in being rescued from the fire, but rather in the person of God! They were consumed with God no matter what God wanted to do with them. They were with God in the way Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to be with him; totally consumed and surrendered, ready to do whatever glorified God!
Think about it this way; people with money, power, or influence (the ability to affect those with money and/or power) always wonder if people are genuinely interested in knowing them or just interested in how their money, power, and/or influence can benefit them.
Now understand, that God is not insecure nor is he gullible. God is not fooled by your attempts to convince Him that you love Him so that you can try and get Him to do what you want. The Bible says,
“9 And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)
So, if you are not seeking God to know Him, but rather to try and get something from Him you need to know God isn’t fooled and He isn’t hurt. He doesn’t go into a corner and cry because somebody doesn’t like Him.
He is love. He is where love comes from. He doesn’t love us because He needs our love. He loves us because He is love. He decided to love us, save us and as such adopt us as His own even when we were incapable and were totally unwilling to love Him!
“4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved-- 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7)
So, I’m not asking for this challenge as some protector of God’s heart and emotions, He needs no protection; I’m saying this because He is the all-knowing God who is not fooled by our words and religious deeds! He knows our hearts! He, as God, expects to be treated as such, because He is God!
He expects us to be consumed with Him because He, unlike Nebuchadnezzar or his 90-foot-tall obelisk, deserves it! He alone is worthy of our praise and total surrender! He alone is worthy of us living totally consumed with Him! Its why Paul wrote this,
“1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)