Daniel Chapter 3 - The Fiery Furnace

1. In Verse 2:47, after Daniel explained his dream, Nebuchadnezzar seemed to honor God, saying to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of Kings...” Why then would he build a huge gold statue of himself and order that it be worshiped?

First of all, note that the statue in his dream had a head of gold, chest of silver, torso of bronze, and legs and feet of iron and clay. The gold head represented Nebuchadnezzar, but it was destroyed by the silver part (representing Persia) which in turn was destroyed by the bronze part (representing Greece), then by the iron and clay part (representing the Roman empire), and finally by a huge rock representing the God in heaven. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar thought that if made the entire statue gold, his empire would prevail over the later conquerors. With it, he was audaciously saying that his kingdom would last forever. It certainly showed that his devotion to Daniel’s God was short-lived. He neither feared or obeyed the God who was behind his dream.

2. Can you think of any recent or current rulers or idols that demand that people bow down and worship them?

Clearly, rulers like Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Idi Amin (Uganda), Mengistu Haile Mariam (Ethiopia), and Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) fall into this category. But aren’t there things even closer to home that demand your allegiance; that become your idol? How about drugs and alcohol? How about money? Noted artist Salvador Dali said, “Liking money like I like it, is nothing less than mysticism. Money is a glory.” Back in 450 BC, Sophocles said, “for money you would sell your soul.”

3. Nebuchadnezzar threatened death by being thrown in a fiery furnace for those who did not obey. How is this kind of fear used today?

Fear of not obeying today takes the form of torture, disappearance, forced labor, psychiatric ward, prison, detention without charge, and death. For example, between 1968 and 1979, Francisco Macias Nguema of Equatorial Guinea murdered one sixth of the population and drove one half of the survivors into exile. Schools, libraries, books, and newspapers were abolished in 1974 and children learned slogans such as, “There is no God other than Macias.”

4. Do you think that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the only Jews who did not bow down to the Nebuchadnezzar statue? What about the other thousands of Jews in exile? What about Daniel?

Clearly Daniel would not have worshiped the statue, but from this story, we don’t know about the other Jews in exile.

5. Why didn’t the three men just bow to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar and tell God that they didn’t mean it? (Exodus 20:3, Hosea 13:4) Are you ready to take a stand for God no matter what?

God does not accept worshiping an idol under any circumstances. Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other Gods before me.” In 715 BC, very shortly before the events in Daniel take place, the prophet Hosea (13:4) says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no savior except me.”

6. The three men are given a second chance to bow to the statue. Why not use one of these excuses? (1) We will bow down but not actually worship the idol. (2) We will worship it just once and then ask God for forgiveness. (3) The king has absolute power and we must obey him. God will understand. (4) This is a foreign land, so God will forgive us for following its customs. (5) Our ancestors set up idols in God’s temple; this isn’t half as bad! (6)If we’re killed, pagan will take our high positions and won’t help the Jews in exile.

These excuses may sound sensible at first, but they are dangerous rationalizations. To worship the idol, even just once, would violate God’s first commandment (Exodus 20:3). It would also erase their testimony for God forever. You can be sure that other people would see them worship the statue. How could they then talk about the power of their God above all other gods?

7. When they say their God could save them from death in the fiery furnace, do you think they are hedging their bets a bit with their “if not” words in Verse 18? (See Hebrews 7:25)

No. This is not the “if not” of doubt; it is the “if not” of supreme faith in a God who is able to save all who draw near to him. This promise is reiterated in the NT in Hebrews 7:25, “He is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” The statement illustrates a trust in God not for what you get in return, but for its own sake. It recognizes that God can deliver them from the fiery furnace but that his faithful people may not, in fact, be spared and may die in the flames. But even if this is the case, there is no doubt of God’s power and love. Indeed, if God always rescued people who believed in him, Christians would not need faith. Their religion would be a great insurance policy and there would be lines of selfish people waiting to sign up. We must be faithful to God whether he intervenes on our behalf or not. Our eternal reward is worth any suffering we may have to endure first.

8. The soldiers who threw the three Jews into the furnace were killed, but the three emerged untouched. God’s deliverance of them was a great victory for the Jews in exile. If we have true faith in God, can we count on him to save us from horrible ordeals? (Isaiah 43:2, Hebrews 11:1)

Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” However, no matter how strong your faith, it does not mean that you will never be subjected to a harsh ruler or boss, or that you will never be unjustly punished, or that you will not suffer a great loss. The most devout Jews and Christians have suffered greatly throughout history. Jews suffered horrendously in the concentration camps in WWII. Christians who refused to worship the Roman emperor in the first century were dipped in tar and set alight to brighten the imperial gardens. As we saw earlier, faith is not an insurance policy against disaster.

Hebrews chapter 11 is the great Biblical chapter on faith. It starts, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” The chapter gives many examples of great faith, but then closes with the thought in Verse 39 and 40, “All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. 40For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race.”

There are eternal reasons for our horrible earthly ordeals that we can’t understand. All we can and must do is continue in our faith and be thankful that our destiny is in God’s hands, not human hands. We read in Isaiah 58:8-9, The Lord says: “My thoughts and my ways are not like yours. 9Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, my thoughts and my ways are higher than yours.

9. What do you think of Nebuchadnezzar’s commitment to the Lord (verses 28-29)?

Nebuchadnezzar was not making a commitment to the Lord God alone. Instead, he was acknowledging that God was powerful and he commanded his people not to speak against God. But he did not tell the people to worship the Lord God alone or to get rid of their other gods. This is one of the major problems that missionaries have in Asian and oriental countries: people are willing to add the Lord God to their list of gods, but not to worship only the Lord God.

10. What’s the bottom line message of this chapter?

FAITH! Faith under all circumstances. Being true to God no matter how difficult the pressure, threats, or punishment. Knowing that God can deliver us from anything, but that we must be faithful whether he does so or not. Always remember that your destiny is in God’s hands. Be thankful that it is. Put your complete and total trust in God.

Bible study courtesy of www.SwapMeetDave.com

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