Daniel 3:1 "Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon."
The King had acknowledged the power of God, saying to Daniel, "Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, . . . and a revealer of secrets". For a time afterward, Nebuchadnezzar was influenced by the fear of God; but his heart was not yet cleansed from worldly ambition and a desire for self-exaltation. The prosperity attending his reign filled him with pride. In time he ceased to honor God, and resumed his idol worship with increased zeal and bigotry. The words, "Thou art this head of gold", had made a deep impression upon the ruler’s mind.
Instead of reproducing the image as he had seen it, he would excel the original. His image should not deteriorate in value from the head to the feet, but should be entirely of gold—symbolic throughout of Babylon as an eternal, indestructible, all powerful kingdom, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever. The King gave the orders and soon work began on an immense golden image that would tower 90 feet high on the plain of Dura. And he told all his people all over the world to come on a certain day and worship this huge image. The fact that the image was sixty cubits high and six cubits wide is of great significance, for the number six and multiples thereof was common in ancient Babylonia. Their great gods had numbers.
The number of Anu, their highest god, was sixty, and that likewise was the number of Marduk or Bel, when he replaced Anu as head of the Babylonian pantheon. The number six and multiples thereof was common in occult circles. Often it had evil or sexual connotations. Hexis the Greek word for six, and sex is the Latin word for six. In Rev. 13:18 the number of the beast is given as 666. There are indications that six is the number chosen by the evil one as a symbol of himself.
Daniel 3:2-3 "2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up."
Then decrees were sent worldwide telling the important people all over the world to come on a certain day and worship this huge image. Daniel was most likely somewhere else at this time but Daniel’s three friends, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego were commanded to attend. They must have been watching the construction of this great image and had probably been praying for courage to do what they must do.
Daniel 3:4-7 "4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: 6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up."
The day came, the King and all his important men gathered to see the people worship the golden image on the plain of Dura. “When you hear the music play”, he told the people, “Then you must bow down and worship my image or you will be thrown into the burning fiery furnace!” Satan has always used seductive and fascinating music to further his ends and attract people to his false religions. Music can create a trance state in the mind that opens the doors to satanic control. Force is the last resort of every false religion. At first it tries attraction, as the King of Babylon tried the power of music and outward show. If these attractions, invented by men inspired by Satan, failed to make men worship the image, the hungry flames of the furnace were ready to consume them. The music played — everybody bowed down except Daniel’s three friends, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego. They would not worship any other god than the true God. There they stood as tall as they could. They didn’t even bend down to 'tie their shoes!'.
Daniel 3:8-12 "8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: 11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
On that eventful day the powers of darkness seemed to be gaining a signal triumph; the worship of the golden image bade fair to become connected permanently with the established forms of idolatry recognized as the state religion of the land. Satan hoped thereby to defeat God’s purpose of making the presence of captive Israel in Babylon a means of blessing to all the nations of heathendom. But God decreed otherwise. Not all had bowed the knee to the idolatrous symbol of human power. In the midst of the worshipping multitude there were three men who were firmly resolved not thus to dishonor the God of heaven. Their God was King of Kings and Lord of lords; they would bow to none other.
To Nebuchadnezzar, flushed with triumph, was brought the word that among his subjects there were some who dared disobey his mandate. Certain of the wise men, jealous of the honors that had been bestowed upon the faithful companions of Daniel, now reported to the King their flagrant violation of his wishes.
Daniel 3:13-15 "13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"
The King commanded that the men be brought before him. "Is it true", he inquired, "do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?" He endeavoured by threats to induce them to unite with the multitude. Pointing to the fiery furnace, he reminded them of the punishment awaiting them if they should persist in their refusal to obey his will. But firmly the Hebrews testified to their allegiance to the God of heaven, and their faith in His power to deliver.
The act of bowing to the image was understood by all to be an act of worship. Such homage they could render to God alone. As the three Hebrews stood before the King, he was convinced that they possessed something the other wise men of his kingdom did not have. They had been faithful in the performance of every duty. He would give them another chance, if only they would signify their willingness to unite with the multitude in worshiping the image, all would be well with them; "but if ye worship not", he added, "ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace". Then with his hand stretched upward in defiance, he demanded, "Who is this God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"
Daniel 3:16-18 "16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee 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 thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
The three Hebrews told the King that they would not worship the image, whether he put them in the furnace or not— and that their God would take care of them. Their faith strengthened as they declared that God would be glorified by delivering them, and with triumphant assurance born of implicit trust in God, they added, "But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up."
Daniel 3:19-20 "19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace."
"Make the furnace seven times hotter and throw them in!" screamed the angry King. He commanded the mighty men of his army to bind the worshipers of Israel’s God, and execute them.
Daniel 3:21-23 "21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flames of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace."
When the King saw that his will was not received as the will of God, he was “full of fury,” and the form of his visage was changed against these men. Satanic attributes made his countenance appear as the countenance of a demon; and with all the force he could command, he ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than it was, and commanded the most mighty men to bind the youth, and cast them into the furnace. It was so hot that the soldiers who threw the men into the furnace were killed by the fierce heat.
Daniel 3:24-25 "24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
But the Lord did not forget His own. As His witnesses were cast into the furnace, the Saviour revealed Himself to them in person, and together they walked in the midst of the fire. In the presence of the Lord of heat and cold, the flames lost their power to consume. Then the King turned pale and exclaimed; "Didn’t we throw three men, bound into the furnace? Look! I see four men, loose and walking in the furnace, and the fourth is like the Son of God". How did Nebuchadnezzar know about Jesus? Through the faithful witness of Daniel and his three friends.
Daniel 3:26-27 "26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 27And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them."
And now, his own greatness and dignity forgotten, Nebuchadnezzar descended from his throne and, going to the mouth of the furnace, cried out, "Ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither". They did, and they were not hurt — not even the smell of the fire was on them. Forgotten was the great golden image, set up with such pomp. In the presence of the living God, men feared and trembled. Then the King sent a letter to the entire world, saying that all people should reverence the God of the Hebrews — the God who saved His children from the burning fiery furnace.
Daniel 3:28-30 "28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon."
It was right for the King to make public confession, and to seek to exalt the God of heaven above all other gods; but in endeavoring to force his subjects to make a similar confession of faith and to show similar reverence, Nebuchadnezzar was exceeding his right as a temporal sovereign. He had no more right, either civil or moral, to threaten men with death for not worshiping God, than he had to make the decree consigning to the flames all who refused to worship the golden image. God never compels the obedience of man. He leaves all free to choose whom they will serve.
The tidings of their wonderful deliverance were carried to many countries by the representatives of the different nations that had been invited by Nebuchadnezzar to the dedication. Through the faithfulness of His children, God was glorified in all the earth. This is more than just an interesting story. We have come to the time when we may soon stand where the three Hebrew Children stood. You can read about it in Revelation 13. There we are told that the Powers of the Earth will unite to try and force all to bow down to an Image. This is a symbolic image, however, it means they will seek to force a religious observance on all, but that observance will break God’s Law.
Those who refuse to ‘bow down’ to the decree to keep holy a day that God has never sanctioned—will certainly be thrown into a Fiery Furnace of affliction. May we pray and prepare earnestly now so that when that time comes when the rage of earthly Kings combines to destroy God’s people, we will, in the strength of our Redeemer stand tall, as did the Three Hebrews on the Plain of Dura.
Jesus promises that we will not stand alone. We are not to fear. The same mighty God who walked with those Hebrews in that fiery furnace then will be with us too. The form of the Fourth will be with us, and soon man’s cruel and proud tyranny over his fellow men will be at an end for good.