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Lowell Brueckner

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The God Who Overrules


The Book of the Prophet Daniel

“… some stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire!” Hebrews 11:33, 34

Chapter 3:13-30                               The God Who Overrules

13.  Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 
14.  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 
15.  Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?" 
16.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 
17.  If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 
18.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." 
19.  Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 
20.  And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 
21.  Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 
22.  Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 
23.  And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. 

Nebuchadnezzar has constructed a costly and impressive idol and, from his high position over the population, he expects immediate and total consecration to it. This is not just an imaginative invention construed in the mind of the emperor; its construction was inspired by a religious experience that shook him to the core of his being. He is serious about this.

Religious fanaticism is often accompanied by intolerant anger against those, who do not hold to the same convictions. I suppose it is common that despots should possess a surly disposition and we see here, as well as in chapter 2, that Nebuchadnezzar is no exception. It would seem uncommon that such an authoritarian, with unequaled international dictatorship, should receive two insulting challenges to his demands. (He must be questioning, “What is this world coming to, if a murderous tyrant can’t expect fear from his subjects?”)   

His own Chaldean spiritual advisors accused him of unjust demands, when he insisted that they come up with the same dream that he had dreamed the night before. “No great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean” (2:10). (Be careful, fellows, you are almost sure to lose your head over that kind of impertinence.) Now, three Jewish slaves stand firmly against his demands.

It is surprising that he should give Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego an audience. He must have remembered them as companions of his faithful servant, Daniel. He gives them a chance to defend themselves and, after their admission of guilt, he even offers a second opportunity. He reminds them of his sentence of death and his arrogance is evident, as he defies the ability of any divine power to overrule his sentence.

Men exalt themselves and try to leave their Creator out of the picture. I think of Jesus’ exchange with Pilate in his judgment hall. Pilate said: “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus responded: “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (Jn.19:10,11). Jesus called the temple ‘His Father’s house’, while the Sadducees and Pharisees claimed authority over it. They question the Lord, as to His authority. He finally gave it over to them and 37 years later, it was totally destroyed.  

Whether he knows it or not, the emperor has been raised up by the God that he is defying. However, the Lord has a sure way in store for his future humiliation. He is already exposed to Jehovah of Israel and Israel’s God will fulfill His plan to perfection in dealing with this mighty king.

Of course, we must ponder the amazing answer of the three Hebrews at this point. They have given the Lord His proper place in their lives and although they are in the presence of a very angry monarch, they reply, “We have no need to answer you in this matter.” They mean that they had no defense to offer, but also, that there was no change in their commitment. They were intentionally guilty of disobedience to the king’s command and his second opportunity would not be taken.

In the face of the sentence that the king has just reiterated, they assure him that their God, indeed, is able to save them, contradicting Nebuchadnezzar’s statement that no god could deliver them from his hand. They know a God, with whom the emperor is just beginning to get acquainted. They believe that He will come to their defense. However, there is a clause in their faith, which must make room for the Lord’s sovereignty. That cannot be questioned or changed. Their God will do only that, which is in line with His purposes. Every one of His servants must recognize that fact. The god, who will always cater to the believer’s wishes, is not the God of the Bible.

The three men fully understand the position that they have taken and, if it is outside of God’s will to free them from the fire, then they will burn in it. One thing, for sure, they will not do… they will not bow before any false god. We must also consider that there is no way to justify or rationalize any vacillation, in the light of that kind of commitment.

We see too much human cleverness before much smaller threats these days, instead of putting the consequences into God’s hands. “Christians” find ways to manipulate their circumstances and reasons to conform to them. I offer the following: “Well, God knows that in my heart, I am not an idolater, and He certainly will understand my position. After all, it’s not my physical posture that counts, but what is in my heart.” Do you see that I mean? In these days, people rationalize the fact that they do not get down on their knees or on their faces before Almighty God, but they could find an excuse to prostrate before an idol, if they are threatened.

Whatever consideration the king gave to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came to an abrupt end. I don’t know what kind of anger can top furious rage, but apparently Nebuchadnezzar vented it at this point. It increased and so did the heat of the furnace; he raised the thermostat seven times higher, called on his strongest soldiers to tie them and to throw them into the furnace fully clothed. Their over-clothes and hats were still on them. There was no time given for hesitation or method in carrying out the order. Those, who threw them into the fire, were killed in the act by the overheated furnace.  Normally, the last line of this story would be, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.”

24.  Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, "Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "True, O king." 
25.  He answered and said, "But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods." 
26.  Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 
27.  And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 
28.  Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 
29.  Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way." 
30.  Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. 

The difference between God’s stories and all the non-fiction that human authors ever write is that “nothing will be impossible with God” (Lk.1:37). Humans are limited, while God, simply, is not. It is the characteristic that we have come to expect and believe in the Bible. God’s story is not over at the mouth of a fiery furnace, which kills the strong soldiers, who are to hurl His servants into it. Hebrews 11:34 testifies of these “who through faith quenched the power of fire.” And what is faith, if it is not total commitment, reliance upon God and confidence in His person?

Beyond the physical miracles that might happen, the more important work that is done, takes place in a human heart. God specializes in bringing astonishment to the mighty. He can change the demeanor of a monarch in an instant, from extreme anger to extreme awe. Charles Finney wrote of meetings, in which strong men turned from anger to fear and from fear to peace and joy within an hour or two. The greatest privilege in the world is to be able to observe God at work in human lives.

The king called a quick meeting with his advisors, concerning the immediate crisis. He is questioning his own order and what his eyes are seeing. “Did we not cast three men bound? ... But I see four unbound, walking!” When Jesus worked, people wondered, “Is the man carrying his bed, the same one who lay lame in Bethesda? Is this the man born blind? Is the one sitting at the table with Jesus, the same Lazarus, who had been in the tomb for four days?” Women came upon a tomb, where the stone had been removed. “Is this not the tomb, where we saw Joseph and Nicodemus lay His body?” The angels asked them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you” (Lk.24:5,6).

 “The appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar, it is the only begotten Son of the living God that you see. He is the great deliverer, the mighty savior, who has done a perfect work. Three men came out of the fire and all the nobles of Babylon saw that the fire had no power over their bodies, their hair was not singed, their clothes were not burned at all, and they did not even retain an odor of smoke!

Native American friends of mine, Craig and LaDonna Smith, recorded a song, which asked a question, concerning the fourth Man. Only three came out of the fire… where is the fourth? The answer is in the title of the song, “He’s Still in the Fire.” He is there for any one of His beloved and loyal followers, who will come into similar circumstances or other impossible situations in the future.

Upon the king’s command, they humbly step out of the furnace. Their uncompromising obedience to God did not forfeit their obedience to a man, whom God had placed on the throne. “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God,” Paul declared (Ro.13:1). These three men have been sent by God to Babylon to be a witness to a king, who knew of nothing to worship, but idols. His whole government is gazing into truth and reality for the first time. It is not just words or acts of kindness that are witnessing to this world-class kingdom; it is the supernatural act of the mighty God, working on behalf and through his servants to His glory. Daniel is writing to them in their own Aramaic language.

Nebuchadnezzar commends these men, mentioning their willingness to disobey him, the king, in order to honor their God upon the altar of their own lives. He praised and blessed their God, who responded to their trust and loyalty, compassionately sending His Angel to rescue them from a horrible death. He proclaimed a curse upon those in the future, who would oppose their God and, I hope, would remember His own opposition and take care, not to fall under his own condemnation. He would take responsibility to carry out a sentence against any people, who would challenge a God, “who is able to rescue in this way.” Then, he promotes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Some are too quick to credit a person with salvation. It might have been enough for them to see Nebuchadnezzar prostrate, making this confession: “Truly your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries” (2:46,47). They would have even been more convinced, hearing him make the statement: “Blessed by the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God… there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Perhaps, they could explain and justify his continued idolatry as that of a new believer, still walking in the flesh.

However, true conversion requires repentance and repentance requires humility. This we do not yet see in the man. Mankind is totally degenerate and depraved, he cannot soften his own hard heart, and cannot, by himself, understand and take a positive step in God’s direction. This truth is particularly evident in an exalted position, such as that of a world-ruling emperor. God will have to break him and this will require a drastic process over a seven-year period. 


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