“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.” — Daniel 3:17
Our text today sets the stage for an amazing rescue from a fiery furnace. However, Alice Lewis could testify that deliverance takes many forms.
Alice found herself in need of deliverance one frigid Minnesota day. The forecast had said the temperature would drop to twenty degrees below zero. The dilemma was that her furnace had just run out of oil. Her husband normally bought fuel for their furnace every Friday when he was paid, but financial needs during the past week had meant he could only buy half his usual amount. Now, it was Tuesday morning and the furnace had just sputtered and shut off. Their tank was empty. Alice started a fire in their wood burning stove, but she noticed there were only a few pieces of wood left. How could she keep her children warm? She began to pray for deliverance, telling God, “We are entirely at Your mercy. Our help is in You.”
As Alice continued to pray earnestly, her spirit began to fill with faith and the assurance that God saw their situation and would provide. All day long, she sang praises to God. When evening came, she put her children to bed in their snowsuits and piled on the blankets. When her husband came home from his second job, she turned on their little electric heater, and then they went to sleep.
Around 2:00 a.m., Alice awoke and heard the furnace running. She got up to turn it off, not wanting the fan to blow cold air into the house. She turned the thermostat all the way down, but to her surprise, the furnace did not shut off. She went to the kitchen and placed her hand on the heating vent. To her amazement, warm air was coming out! With tears streaming down her face, she went to the basement to check the gauge on their oil tank. It read “Empty.” She tapped the tank, and it sounded hollow. There was no oil in the tank, but deliverance had come! She turned the thermostat up to sixty-five degrees, and the furnace kept running, so with rejoicing in her heart, she went back to bed. In the morning, she set the heat up to seventy-two. The furnace continued to run without fuel until the following Friday when her husband was able to buy their weekly amount.1
In the circumstances related in today’s text, no doubt Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego prayed for God’s help. Their situation was dire — they needed deliverance! In our focus verse, they expressed their willingness to die rather than bow down to the golden idol King Nebuchadnezzar had made. However, they also expressed their faith that God would deliver them. Neither Alice nor the three Hebrews knew how God would deliver them, but they believed that whatever happened, God would be with them and take care of them.
Through prayer and faith, deliverance comes. Whether we face seemingly impossible circumstances or just everyday challenges, we can follow the example we find in today’s text, and count on God for help. He will not fail us!
This portion of chapter 3 covers the construction of King Nebuchadnezzar’s self-glorifying image and the edict for all to bow down (verses 1-7), and the refusal of the three Hebrews to do homage to the image (verses 8-18).
Historians indicate that at the end of the year 595 B.C., prior to the events of chapter 3, a coup attempt against Nebuchadnezzar occurred. This may have been why all the provincial rulers and officials of the realm were called to the plain of Dura to demonstrate their loyalty to the king. The precise location of this plain is unknown, though apparently it was near Babylon. Daniel’s absence from this required assembly is not explained; he may have been away from Babylon on assignment for the realm.
Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image was over ninety feet tall (about the height of a ten-story building) and nine feet wide, and was probably made of wood overlaid with gold. The size of the image obviously was intended to impress observers. Its location on a plain would have made the brightly gleaming structure visible for miles around.
The instruments mentioned in verse 5 were common in that day. The cornet was a wind instrument similar to a French horn. The flute was a pipe with a mouthpiece at the end. The sackbut was a triangular stringed instrument with short strings that made a high, sharp sound. The psaltery was a kind of triangular or wing-shaped harp played by plucking strings of horsehair that were stretched across a flat soundboard. The dulcimer was a bagpipe consisting of two pipes thrust through a leather bag that emitted a sweet sound when played.
Throwing those people who disobeyed the king or were involved in criminal activities into a burning furnace was a common form of punishment in Babylon. The fiery furnace for such executions was a huge, industrial-size incinerator or kiln that could have been used for smelting metal or firing bricks.
The wording in verses 8 and 12 implies that the “certain Chaldeans” who brought the charges against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were resentful of the position of these conscripts from a conquered nation who were above them in positions of authority. In verse 12, the Chaldeans made three charges against the Hebrews: that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had no regard for the king, that they did not serve the king’s gods, and that they refused to worship the image Nebuchadnezzar had set up. All three accusations struck a blow at Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and authority. They were clearly designed to arouse the king’s anger, which according to verse 13, was exactly his response.
Nebuchadnezzar controlled himself when he first heard the accusation, and offered the three another chance. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego needed no time to deliberate their answer. They would not bow. Nebuchadnezzar’s question in verse 15, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” shows his consummate arrogance, especially notable since God’s omnipotent power had already been revealed to him through the interpretation of his dream in chapter 2.
According to verses 17-18, the three Hebrews trusted in the living God in spite of the danger to their lives, and by faith chose to suffer rather than to sin.
II. The prophetic history of the Gentiles
B. The dedication of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (the persecution and preservation of Israel under Gentile dominion)
1. The construction of the image (3:1)
2. The dedication of the image (3:2-7)
3. The charges against the Jews (3:8-12)
4. The interrogation of the Jews (3:13-18)
God is always present and able to deliver. May we all strive to have the kind of faith that brought victory to the three Hebrew children and Alice!
1 Alice E. Lewis, “The Miracle of Fire in My Furnace,” SermonIndex.net, accessed August 18, 2021, http://www.sermonindex.net.