This pride was to be Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall. Because of his arrogance he began to believe that he was more powerful than God. At the end of chapter 2 he had admitted to Daniel, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” He had received the interpretation of his dream about the great image that represented the Kingdoms of the world but apparently he could not get past the head of this image.
The head, remember, was gold. And Daniel said that it represented Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. But then there were other parts of the image that were made of inferior metals (silver, bronze, and iron) but each inferior kingdom (in glory) would be stronger (in military might) than the one it followed. But if the head was the most glorious, and if the head was gold, and if the head was Nebuchadnezzar – if God had made him and his kingdom so great, then why did it have to end?
So Nebuchadnezzar defied God and built an image entirely out of gold. It was a ninety foot tall by nine foot wide idol overlaid with gold. And by it Nebuchadnezzar was saying that his kingdom was the grandest and would last forever, no matter what the God of Daniel had proclaimed.
After this great God defying image was finished Nebuchadnezzar called together all of the important people in his kingdom. All of the officials from throughout the kingdom were to come to a dedication ceremony for this tribute to the king by the king for the king. Once gathered, the King’s symphony would play and when the crowd heard the music they were to immediately bow down and worship the image. In truth, the image represented Nebuchadnezzar and he wanted all his subjects to worship him. Like I said, he was proud.
He was so proud that there were to be no exceptions. If anyone, no matter who they were, failed to bow and worship when the music played then they would be taken and cast alive into a furnace of fire. Of course this was a death sentence. They would become a sacrifice to the image, burned up because of their rebellion.
Among those present at the dedication were Daniel’s friends, the newly promoted officials named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Some officials who were envious of “these Jews” that had been promoted and were ruling over provinces came and let the King know that they would not bow worship the image, or any of the King’s gods. Nebuchadnezzar was infuriated. He had these three men brought before him and he gave them one last chance to bow before the idol. Their reply is a model of faith, courage, and dependence upon God:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
When self righteous pride is confronted with faith like this there is likely only one outcome – anger and rage. These three boys would not worship the false gods of Nebuchadnezzar, nor would they bow to this image that defied God’s revelation from the dream. They would not bow to idols or forsake the revealed will of God.
As a result they were thrown into the furnace. Of course in this familiar story we know that they were not alone in the fiery furnace. Jesus was there with them! They were not harmed by the flame and when they came out of the fire they did not even smell like smoke. God once again reminds us, as He here reminded Nebuchadnezzar, that He is in control of history and His will is going to be done no matter the futile attempts of men to prevent it.
At the end of the day, Nebuchadnezzar admitted again the truth about the greatness of God, and even was moved to worship Him! Of course there are a great many other lessons to be learned from this Bible story that so often is thought of as a fairy tale or a children’s bed time story.
To learn more, join us this Sunday at 10:30 as we continue in our study through the Book of Daniel in a series of messages titled “Living for God in Ungodly Times.” This week the message will be taken from Daniel chapter 3, “Delivered from Death.”