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Chapter Three The Deliverance Of The Faithful
In Daniel 3:0 we see how little Nebuchadnezzar had learned from the revelation God had made to him. We have already noticed that when Daniel explained the meaning of the dream, Nebuchadnezzar fell down before the prophet and worshiped him. He had many nice things to say to him, and he gave him great rewards; but he was not brought to repentance or humbled in self-judgment before the God who had shown His omniscient power. The king could appreciate the wisdom of Daniel, but he had no heart for the God who had inspired His servant.
Nebuchadnezzar is not alone in that attitude. There are many who have a certain admiration for the ministry and the Word of God, yet remain strangers to the God of these ministers. This was Nebuchadnezzar’s condition exactly at this time. For we see that he was not humbled by the revelation made. Instead it led him to exalt himself as one especially favored of Heaven; it magnified his thoughts of the human mind and his own greatness.
This reminds me of a man in the New Testament who was favored with a remarkable revelation. I refer to the apostle Paul, who was caught up to the third Heaven. And Paul, though a child of God and a most devoted servant of Christ in every way, had the same kind of a heart that Nebuchadnezzar had. So in order that he might not be lifted up because of the abundance of the revelations, he was given a thorn in the flesh to remind him of his human weakness (2 Corinthians 12:1-7). Thus we are reminded that even divine truth, if not held in fellowship with God, may actually be used to puff one up. Mere knowledge, apart from divine love, puffs up. This is not the case with spiritual discernment, because the very first requisite for spirituality is humility. Spiritual discernment comes from God, and that will not exalt any one. But even scriptural knowledge, if divorced from godliness, will have a deadly effect upon the mind and heart. That was the way it was with Nebuchadnezzar. But in Daniel 4:0 we read how he too received a thorn in the flesh and its blessed result.
What is emphasized here is that Nebuchadnezzar was lifted up with pride. He determined to make a great image (probably a replica of the one he had seen in his dream) and call on all men to bow to it. The image was to acclaim the power and glory of man, for it pictured Gentile dominion in independence of God. It was stamped with the same number that distinguished the beast in Revelation 13:0-the number of a man, 666. We also read in Daniel 3:0 that the image was sixty cubits high and six cubits broad. Seven is the number that speaks of spiritual completeness. Six seems to tell us of man’s greatest efforts to attain to perfection.
The image was made accordingly and set up in the plain of Dura. A command then went forth that at the sounding of a great orchestra, all the peoples, nations, and languages, gathered together from all the various provinces of the empire, should fall down and worship it. If any refused, they were to be cast into a furnace of fire.
The instruments were to play and the people were to be stirred up by the music. Then they were all to prostrate themselves before the great image that set forth the glory of man.
But there were three in that great company who paid no heed to the king’s commandment. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow and malicious spies soon carried the news to the haughty monarch. They said, “There are certain Jews…O king, [who] have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (12). In a rage the king sent for the three devoted men. He offered to give them another opportunity to carry out his bidding, otherwise they must suffer the fate reserved for any who would not worship the image. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not like the time-servers of these degenerate days. They knew God had said, “Thou shalt not make thee any graven image…Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them” (Deuteronomy 5:8-9, italics added). So these three Hebrews boldly faced the great king and said:
O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 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. 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 3:16-18).
Thus they witnessed a good confession; in their God-given strength they boldly stood before the king and all the people as the witnesses of Jehovah’s power and glory.
In fury Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter and that his instructions be carried out to the letter. So great was the furnace’s heat that it consumed the men who threw them into the flames. Then we read that Nebuchadnezzar rose, came to the furnace, and cried out in amazement: “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?…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” (or son of the gods) (24-25). We know well who that fourth one was; so the rendering that we have in the King James version is correct as to the person, whether it is actually what Nebuchadnezzar meant or not. The blessed Son of God was there with His dear servants in their hour of trial. He had said long before, “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2). And every word of God will be fulfilled, for “he is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23).
We are not told that anyone but Nebuchadnezzar saw the form of this fourth One. He cried out at once, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.” They came out, not having the smell of fire on them; the flame had simply burned away their bonds and left them free men. The result was that Nebuchadnezzar was filled with admiration for the power of the great God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He made a royal decree, declaring that anyone who would speak anything amiss against their God would be put to death. Yet, as when his dream was interpreted, he did not bow in repentance at the feet of the Lord and acknowledge Him as his God. He simply spoke of Him as their God and while he admired His greatness and power, he did not worship and serve the Lord Jehovah.
How many people there are in the world just like that! They would not say anything against God our Father nor His Son the Lord Jesus Christ; they have a certain reverence in their hearts for God; they think of Him as their mother’s God perhaps, or the God of their fathers. They cannot cry, “My Lord and my God,” as Thomas did after he saw the print of the nails (John 20:28, italics added). So again we are reminded that it is one thing to give assent to the truth of Scripture as to the glory of the triune God; but it is quite another to bow our hearts in His presence, admit to being lost and guilty sinners and trust God’s blessed Son as our own deliverer. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God’s power, but he did not admit to God’s claims on him. He had to pass through a humiliating experience before he would come to that.
But what has all this to do with prophecy? Why did God cause this particular bit of history to be recorded in the book of the prophet Daniel? This would have been something very suitable in a historical or devotional book, but why do we have it here in a prophetic book? For a very good reason indeed. This event, though actual history, is a typical scene picturing the trial and deliverance of a faithful remnant of Daniel’s people that is to take place in the time of the end. There will come a day when (like the great image set up by Nebuchadnezzar) what the Lord Jesus calls “the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet,” is going to be set up in Jerusalem by the antichrist of the future. See Matthew 24:15.
After the church has been caught away to Heaven at the close of this dispensation, the Jews will be deceived into accepting the claims of a blasphemous impostor claiming to be the Messiah. It is he who is going to place the abomination that causes desolation. He will demand that all men worship the image that he sets up; thus the scene of the plain of Dura will be reenacted. In that day, as in the past, a remnant among the Jews will refuse to believe his claims or to obey his voice. This will be the signal for the breaking out of the great tribulation, “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). But many of the faithful shall be saved out of it, just as these three Hebrew young men were preserved by God in the midst of, and eventually delivered from, the furnace of fire.
Scripture has not clearly revealed what the abomination of desolation is. It seems to be identified with the image of the beast set up by the false prophet who will cause all men to worship it-all who have not the seal of God (Revelation 13:0). This image of the beast may not be a literal idol; it may be that it refers to some great popular movement. But it seems to be intimately connected with that of which our Lord warned His disciples. At any rate it speaks of a time when men will be called on to acknowledge the power and the authority of that which is Satanic instead of divine, and practically all the world will be brought to own the antichrist as the Messiah.
It is a mistake to suppose that the antichrist is the papacy. We will see in the latter part of Daniel 11:0 that he will be a distinct personality; he will be a Jew by birth who will bear rule in the land of Palestine and be accepted by the Jews as their Messiah. He will deny the Father and the Son and be energized and controlled by the devil. In that day apostate Christendom will join with apostate Judaism in declaring allegiance to this monster of iniquity. Even in that day when iniquity will come in like a flood, God will fulfill His promise and lift up a standard against it. He will have His faithful little flock who will dare to stand-like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego-for the truth that He will have revealed to them. Because of this stand they will become the victims of Satan’s rage and man’s hatred, yet they will be delivered out of it all to the glory of the God whom they will serve. No weapon that is formed against them will prosper, for the Most High will be their shield and buckler.
Already we see preparations being made for these momentous events. While they are not to take place as long as the church remains on earth, yet even now the land of Palestine is being prepared by God to become once more the home of His earthly people, and the people are being prepared for their land. Think of the changes that have been taking place in the East in the last fifty years! A half century ago a Jew was not allowed to dwell inside the walls of the city of Jerusalem, and there were less than fifty thousand Jews in all Palestine. Now there are more than that number living in Jerusalem itself, and it is estimated that there are nearly three times that number dwelling in the land. The latter rains that God had withdrawn in judgment for many centuries are returning to the land once more. While they have not come every year, yet there has been sufficient rain to encourage agriculturists to such an extent that thousands of acres have been planted as olive groves, vineyards, and fruit farms, and most of these are owned and worked by Jews. Of course all these things are very different from the fulfillment of the prophecies regarding the regathering of the Jews by omnipotent power. But these events show us that things are shaping themselves for the carrying out of the predictions as to the great tribulation, and the events that are to follow in rapid succession.
In the hour of antichrist’s dreadful reign it will mean much to be faithful to God and not assent to the abomination of desolation; but grace will be given to the feeble remnant, and they will glorify God in the fires. If such is to be the triumph of saints in a future day, what devotion and faithfulness should characterize us who are so much more highly favored in this present dispensation of the grace of God! Yet how many there are who fail to stand the test when it comes to maintaining that which God has committed to them! How little most of us know of that spirit of devotion to Christ which led Athanasius of old to reply to the emperor’s taunt, “All the world is against you,” by the never-to-be-forgotten words, “Then I am against all the world.”
It was this spirit that enabled Paul to triumph when he stood before Nero, even though he had to say, “At my first answer no man stood with me.” Left alone, he nevertheless bore a faithful witness and “was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:16-17).
What a rebuke these devoted servants of God are to many of us today! How little we know of standing for Christ and His truth, even if we have to stand alone. But how contemptible will our weakness and cowardice appear in that coming day of glory! Rest assured, there will not be a saint then who will regret having suffered for Christ or borne reproach for His name’s sake. But there will be thousands who would give worlds, were they theirs to give, if they had been more faithful and devoted while in their place of testing. The time is short. Our day of testimony for an absent Lord will soon be over. Oh, let us not forget that we have
Only one life-’twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Daniel 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/