The story of Daniel's long and successful career in Babylon is important for us to study, for he modeled how to be faithful to the Lord in a hostile spiritual environment, something believers must learn to do in our world or risk retreating into a spiritual ghetto where it is safe but cut off from the people who desperately need to hear about and know the Lord. This week, let's move on to Daniel 3, which contains the famous story of Daniel's three men and their encounter with the fiery furnace. I suggest you read the story before you go on.
Even though he was only the head of gold in his dream, the king ordered a huge statue of gold be made of himself and further commanded all his subjects to worship his image. If there was one thing that was abhorrent to a Jew, it was idolatry, so it is not surprising that Daniel's friends refused to bow down before the statue, and let their refusal be known to all. Their rivals, seeing a chance to knock the Jews from their leadership roles, reported this to the king, who was filled with rage:
Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” (Daniel 3:13-15).
When the three men stood their ground, the king decided to "fire" them on the spot by throwing them into a blazing furnace. What was the purpose for this furnace? The Middle East is a hot place, yet there was a furnace that the king ordered to be heated seven times hotter than usual. I would assume this furnace was for sacrifice, and I would also assume the three men were not the first to be thrown into that fiery grave. This then became a confrontation between the God of the three men and the idols of Babylon, something akin to the meeting between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18.
SUBMISSION, NOT OBEDIENCE
The three men submitted to the king, which we are commanded to do as believers, but they did not obey the king--and there is a difference. Submission is an attitude and the three men were willing to submit to the consequences of their decision. They did not scream at the king or threaten him with divine retribution. They simply said, "You have the authority from God to do what you are going to do. We recognize your authority and will submit to it, but we cannot obey you."
When we taught these principles in a prison setting, we urged the men and women to maintain a respectful attitude and submit to the authorities without obeying them if they gave an order that was contrary to God's will. If they were ordered to lie or cheat, they could not obey but then had to submit to the consequences for their choices with a godly attitude--just as Jesus did when He was condemned to death. He submitted to Pilate and the authorities, all the while obeying the Father, who was a higher authority.
What happened to the three men? Even though they were "fired," they met the Lord in the midst of their flames. Not only that, but the things that had bound them were burned off and they were free to walk around in the fire. It is of note that when they got free, they did not run out of the furnace. They had to be called out by the king and when they came out, they did not even smell like smoke.
Are you serving in Babylon? Are you being asked to compromise what you know is righteous but are afraid to disobey because you may lose your job or reputation? Are you giving in to peer pressure to be like everyone else in your Babylon? Is the king's anger intimidating you and causing you to obscure your faithful witness? If you have asked the Lord to be closer to Him, is it possible that you must enter your own fiery furnace to meet Him there?
Babylon has many fiery furnaces and many kings with an anger problem. I urge you to focus on the King of kings and determine to be faithful to Him while the many other kings in Babylon vie for your heart and affection. If you remain faithful, you will be a worthy servant of the Most High even if you get "fired" for your righteousness. Have a blessed week!