In our last study we saw that Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, along with the other noble men of Judah have been captured and taken away to Babylon . In Babylon they were trained in the literature and culture of the Chaldeans. The Lord made Daniel and his friends ten times wiser than the other magician and enchanters in the land of Babylon . Thus, when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon , has a dream, none of the enchanters can tell what the dream was, nor its meaning. However, through the power of God, Daniel is able to tell the king his dream and its meaning. The dream was of a great statue consisting of various metals. These metals represented kingdoms that would rise and fall. We also saw a stone cut out of a mountain that smashed the statue into pieces. This was to show that the world powers would rise and fall until they would not rise again. Further, in the days of the fourth kingdom, the Roman empire , God’s kingdom would be set up that would endure forever and never be destroyed. With this background as a reminder, we will begin Daniel 3.
Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image
Perhaps inspired by the vision he had seen, Nebuchadnezzar decides to build an image of gold. Verse 1 tells us that it was sixty cubits high and six cubits in width. In our terms of measurement, this would be an image that was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. Thus, this is a very large image of gold that was erected by the king. Nebuchadnezzar gathers all of his governors and rulers to the dedication of this golden image. In verses 4-6 the command is given that at the sound of the music, all the people are to fall down and worship the gold image that has been set up. Further, anyone who does not worship will be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Some of the Chaldeans go before the king and tell him that there are certain Jews who are over the provinces of Babylon that are not worshipping the gold image. In particular, it is the three friends of Daniel: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The Chaldeans make the charge personal to the king by saying that they "have not paid due regard to you." At hearing these words, the king is filled with fury and rage and calls for the three men to stand before him. Once the men are before the king, Nebuchadnezzar offers them a second chance. He is going to have the music played, and if they will worship, then everything will be fine. However, if they do not worship, they will be cast into the burning fiery furnace. The response of the three men is very impressive in verses 16-18. In verse 17 we see that the three men had faith that God would deliver them from this incident. But verse 18 is even more impressive. The men state that even if God does not deliver them, they still will not worship the image that has been set up.
God delivers the three men
This response of the men angers the king even more, so much that he orders the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual. Archaeology tells us that these furnaces which were used to make building stones, would easily have been able to been heated up in the range of 1000 degrees. Thus, the king had the ability to make these furnaces very hot. The king then commands the three friends of Daniel to be bound and cast into the fiery furnace. To see how hot the furnace was, we notice verse 22 that those who had bound the three friends and cast them into the furnace were killed by the fire because the furnaces were so hot. Once the three men are thrown in, Nebuchadnezzar looks and sees four people loosed and walking around in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar is confused because he had thrown only three men into the furnace. Further, how is it that they are able to walk around in the furnace? That furnace is killing those who approach it because of its great heat, yet these men are surviving. Further, verse 25 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar saw someone like the Son of God with the three men. Nebuchadnezzar wants to find out what is going on so he orders the three men to come out of the furnace.
When the men come out, verse 27 tells us, "they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had not power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them." We certainly see the true miracle of deliverance from God taking place. If you have ever been to a smoky restaurant or where there was a fire, you know that the smell of smoke clings to your clothing. Yet it did not to these men. The fire was so strong that it killed the servants who threw them into the furnace, but their hair was not even singed. Because of these men’s faith in God and their strength to not worship the golden image, God delivered them from the fiery furnace. Because of this miracle, Nebuchadnezzar decrees that no one should speak against these men and that no one should make them serve any god other than their own. Further, the men are promoted in the province of Babylon . Chapter 3 is a great lesson about what faith in the Lord can do and a call for all to be willing to give their lives for the Lord.
Chapter 4 is very unusual because it seems that Nebuchadnezzar now takes the pen and writes down the events that took place in the first person. The king of Babylon is going to describe for us the things that personally took place to him. In verse 4 the story begins that Nebuchadnezzar has another terrifying dream. Once again, none of the magicians and enchanters could make known the interpretation of the dream. In his dream, he sees a large tree that is visible to the end of the earth. All the birds of heaven lived in the branches, all the beasts of the field sat under it for shade, and all men were fed from it. Then a watcher from heaven comes down from heaven and shouts that the tree must be chopped down and the branches cut off. All that is left are the stump and its roots in the earth. Further it is decreed in verse 15, "let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of an animal, and let seven times pass over him." This is the dream and the king asks Daniel for the interpretation.
Interpretation of the dream
In verse 19 Daniel is astonished at the dream he has heard and his thoughts are troubled. This dream of Nebuchadnezzar is not a good dream and Nebuchadnezzar can see that Daniel is upset by the dream. In verse 22 we are told that the tree which was visible to the ends of the earth was King Nebuchadnezzar. The tree symbolized his greatness and power in Babylon . The rest of the dream was rather literal. The interpretation of the rest of the dream is given in verses 24-27. Nebuchadnezzar was going to be chopped down from his greatness, he would dwell with the beasts of the field, and made to eat grass like an ox. The stump symbolized that there would be a kingdom remaining for Nebuchadnezzar when he returned to his normal state. This condition would remain until "you come to know that Heaven rules." Daniel then gives counsel to King Nebuchadnezzar in verse 27. Daniel says to "break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor." Daniel hopes that by doing these things there will be prolonged prosperity for Nebuchadnezzar.
In verse 29 we read that Nebuchadnezzar was walking around the royal palace in Babylon . Notice what Nebuchadnezzar says to himself in verse 30, "Is not this great Babylon , that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" While the king was saying these words, a voice comes from heaven saying that the kingdom has departed from him and he is being driven from men into the dwelling of beasts of the field. Verse 33 tells us that at that very hour the word of the Lord was fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar ate grass like an ox and became like the beasts of the field. What a powerful lesson God was giving Nebuchadnezzar to learn humility and that God was the all-powerful one alone. In verses 34-37 we read that Nebuchadnezzar is restored to his normal self once he "lifted his eyes toward heaven…and blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever." The story is so amazing that I believe this is the reason why Nebuchadnezzar himself records the event for us to believe. This was God’s way of teaching the king an important lesson.
Lessons from Daniel 3-4
Developing our faith
God can deliver us from any circumstance. We must develop our faith to know that it does not matter what may arise in life and what Satan may throw at us, God can deliver us from the circumstance. There is nothing too great or difficult that God cannot save us from.
God is not required to deliver us. But the three friends do not have a conditional relationship with God. They do not act like the deal with God is off if He does not deliver them from the fiery furnace. They understood that God did not have to save them. But even still, they were going to do what they knew God’s will to be: to not worship that golden image. We must develop our faith that we will obey the Lord at all costs. Too many times people lose their faith in God because it does not seem that God has delivered them from the tribulation they have been enduring. But we are called to continue to have faith in God. God is not a genie in the lamp that is required to do everything we say. These men knew even if they were not delivered, they would be with the Lord.
Pride will pay a price
Speaking of cost, we learn some important lessons from Nebuchadnezzar. Pride is not going to stand before the Lord. The selfish statement of Nebuchadnezzar is the trigger for the prophecy to come to pass. Nebuchadnezzar says in verse 30, "Is not this great Babylon , which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty." It reminds me of the selfishness of the rich fool who said he would build bigger barns because he had done so well.
We must remember that all that we have is not ours. While the Lord has told us to enjoy the fruit of our labors, we must always remember that these things are not ours. Every good and perfect blessing comes from our father above. Many times the Lord has told us that the proud will be brought low. While the Lord is not going to make us like a wild beast and eat grass, we must learn the lesson that when we are proud, we will be brought to our knees in an unpleasant way. When we are proud of our families, when we are proud of our jobs, when we are proud of our possessions and wealth, when we are proud of our circumstance in life and we neglect to thank the Lord for all of these things, we have erred and have exalted ourselves. Only when Nebuchadnezzar lifted his eyes toward heaven and blessed and praised the Lord did his reason return to him.
The Lord disciplines whom he loves
Which leads us to our final point: true greatness can only from God. God can give all of these to us, and how quickly he can take these things away from us. It would have been foolish for Nebuchadnezzar not to realize that the tragedy that struck was because God was trying to teach him a lesson. In the book of Job, this was a point that Elihu was trying to make with Job. God uses the things of this world to try to make us learn to turn back to God and save our souls from death. Read Job 33:12-30. In verse 29 Elihu says that these tribulations may happen two or three times in one’s life to save a soul and put one back in the right direction. This principle is found in the New Testament as well. Hebrews 12:5-6 tells us "for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." We must use the trials that come in life to improve ourselves. We do not always know what is going on in the trial or the purpose of our difficulty. But it can always be used to strengthen ourselves in the Lord and make corrections in our service to God.