8 April 2014

Daniel 3:1-25

“If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us.” (v. 17)


Worshipping an idol was something the Jewish people were forbidden from doing, as was made clear in the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God (Exodus 20:1-17). It didn't take long before that commandment was broken, with Aaron helping the Israelites to make a golden calf for them to worship (Exodus 32:1-6). However it did not end there;the kings of Judah and Israeli were judged repeatedly by their inability to prevent their people from following idol worship. It was one of the reasons why the Jews believed Jerusalem fell and many were taken in to exile, and why Daniel now found himself in Babylon as a chief advisor to King Nebuchadnezzar.

It seems an odd decision of the king to make the golden image, as just a few verses earlier we hear him declare to Daniel, "Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings" (Daniel 2:47). It appears though to be less about worshipping a new god and more a case of the king demonstrating his power over his people. He expects utmost allegiance with dire consequences for anyone who disobeys him (verse 6).

Nebuchadnezzar does not appear to have given any thought about the impact his decree would have on the Jews, as it was only after his advisors, probably jealous about the power Daniel and his friends have acquired, tell him that his command is not being followed. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego demonstrate that they have learnt the lessons of Jewish history and are now committed to follow God's commandments, whatever the cost. The king cannot lose face and so has no option but to throw them in to the fire.

The description of the furnace being seven times hotter and the need for the strongest guards to bind the men (verse 19-20) shows the king of Babylon at his most powerful, yet the protection the three men receive from the flames shows that it is the God of Israel who has ultimate power over all things.

To Ponder

  • Consider those times when you have found it difficult to change your mind despite the consequences of your decision. What lessons can you learn to avoid doing this again?
  • Give thanks for those times when you have felt God stood alongside you during stressful or difficult periods.

Bible notes author

Dr Richard Vautrey

Richard Vautrey is a local preacher and church steward in Leeds, and a former vice-president of the Methodist Conference. He works as a GP, is an elected member of both the BMA council and Royal College of GPs council as well as being the deputy chair of the BMA's GP committee.