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David's Commentaries

Daniel 3:17 ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’

This Week’s Focus Passage: Daniel 3:17

‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’

    Sermons, books, and Sunday School lessons have resounded over the years with the exhortation, in one form or another, in some words or other, that the hearers, readers, or students, should, ‘Dare to be a Daniel!!’ The great, marvelous faith of Daniel, rightly extolled in the account of his demonstration of that faith even when it meant being thrown into the den of lions, is no exaggeration. Yet it may nonetheless, be the case, that it has, in the estimation of some, unfairly eclipsed the beautifully expressed faith of those three friends of Daniel; namely, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, whose names were changed by the prince of the eunuchs into the much more familiar names of Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego, even as he had given to Daniel the new name of, Belteshazzaar. There is a classic country song [ditty?] made popular through the likes of the singer/comedian Phil Harris and others of that community, entitled, “The Preacher and the Bear,” in which the chorus being repeated by the hapless preacher who had been treed by a bear in the woods, cries over and over again to heaven, ‘Lord, you delivered Daniel from the lion’s den, you delivered Jonah from the belly of the whale, and then, three Hebrew ‘chillun’ from the fiery furnace, and good Lord, I do declare, if you can’t help me, for goodness sake, don’t help that bear.’ This is mentioned simply as an example. of the priority given to Daniel over the ‘three Hebrew chillum,’ even in such a ditty. Daniel is equally given apparent priority in the New Testament, if we take Hebrews 11:33-34 to refer to Daniel and his friends, where in the rehearsal of the champions of faith recorded for us in that ‘famous’ faith chapter, we are told in these verses, of those, ‘who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire. Of course, it is God Himself who actually stopped the mouths of lions and quenched the power of fire, but even as Christ often told the lepers, the blind, the deaf, the lame, after He had healed them of their affliction, ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole,’ so here in Hebrews 11, the possessors of the gift of faith are credited with stopping the mouths of lions and quenching the power of fire. Their activity of faith had, in fact, enabled them to passively, ‘obtain the promises.’ Having said this much, let us consider the faith of those three friends of Daniel as they faced the horror of a fiery death. It is a remarkable story upon which it would be well, for ourselves, to reflect. What was it that brought them to the point of this potential death?

    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were among those Hebrews carried into captivity by the king of Babylon. They were indeed among those, ‘certain of the children of Israel, even of the seed royal and of the nobles; youths in whom was no blemish, but well-favored, and skillful in all wisdom, and endued with knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability to stand in the king’s palace.’ We, in point of fact, learn that they were called to stand before the king, ‘and in every matter of wisdom and understanding, concerning which the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his realm.’ These four; Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, were in no uncertain terms, the cream of the crop. Yet it came to pass that this same king determined, for whatever reason—likely related to pride—to have an image of gold made, and to demand that it be proclaimed in the hearing of all; by an appointed herald to cry aloud, ‘To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up, and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.’

    Not surprisingly, these three Hebrews did not fall down and worship the golden image. This disobedience was reported to the king by ‘certain Chaldeans,’ happy to accuse those who had been placed above them and ‘over the affairs of the province of Babylon.’ Here, witness the prideful rage of the king. Though he had high regard for the wisdom of these three, yet he would set at nought their godly understanding rather than tolerate any failure to obey a mandate of the highest; thinking himself to be that highest. For their ‘treason’ they would indeed suffer the fate of the burning fiery furnace. But he would give them one final chance. He had them brought before him and issued the command personally, again with the threat of the furnace, even challenging their faith, ‘who is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands?’ Their response was unequivocal, ‘Behold, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery burning furnace, and He will deliver us out of thy hand, O king.’ '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.’ They refused compliance, trusting God to preserve them, one way or another. Did they ‘obtain the promise’ of God’s faithfulness to keep His people? Yes, they were cast into the furnace after it had been heated seven times hotter than usual. The temperature was so high that the guards casting them into the furnace were slain by that heat. Moreover, the king was astonished, looking into the flames, to see ‘four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’

    The culmination of the event was that the king acknowledged that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, had delivered His servants who had trusted Him, and because they had trusted Him. Amazingly, the king saw ‘that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed—He numbers the hairs of our heads—and was so moved that he declared that none should ever speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego at the forfeit of their lives. The three would worship only the Lord their God and in no other way but by His appointment. Affected they were not, by the ‘sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music,’ but solely by the sound of the voice of their God in His Word. Do we need to wait for the sound of the cornet, etc, before we lift up our hearts and tongues to God? When we worship God according to His appointment, may we not trust Him to be with us in any fiery furnace of affliction, no matter how hot? Can our faith not reach to the point of echoing the language of the three Hebrew children; Shadrach, Meshach, Abed-nego? Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church    

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