But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.
This scene is one of the most sublime and majestic which the human mind can conceive. On the one side is represented human power in its grandest and most overwhelming form. On the other side we have three men who stand apart and refuse to join in the act for which all the rest are met. Here is the contrast between spiritual greatness and human greatness. Each complete and the highest of its kind.
1. We ask ourselves what it was which gave these three men the power to withstand the will of this great monarch, and stand firm though they were alone in the midst of an assembled world? And the answer is obvious. It was simply that they felt the importance of the truth for which they witnessed. They knew that they were upholding the true religion against the false.
2. Here, then, is the lesson which the scene teaches us; that we have laid upon us the duty of witnessing to the truth; and that in order to be able to witness to the truth, we must have an inward perception of the value of the truth to be witnessed to. We are told particularly in Scripture that this is one of our great duties as servants of God. The whole Jewish nation entrusted with the oracles of God. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego bore witness, as they did in this striking manner, to the truth of the unity and spiritual nature of God, and against the worship of idols, they fulfilled their special duties as Jews, and did what God had sent the Jewish people into the world to do. And we Christians, too, are told in Scripture that we are to be witnesses to the truth, as the Jews were to be, though to a higher truth than the Jews had. Our Lord Himself had this as one of His great offices (John 18:37). And the Apostles (1 John 1:1-3). And all Christians are invested in a measure with office of witnessing to the truth of the Christian revelation (Matthew 5:16).
3. And as Christians have the office imposed upon them, so they are placed in a world which tries that office severely, and opposes great temptations to, and brings an overwhelming influence to bear against, the performance of that duty. The scene described in the Book of Daniel is indeed a symbolical one. The great Babylon which arrayed itself in majesty on that occasion, and set up its golden idol, has fallen, but there is another Babylon which still goes on, and always will go on till Christ comes again to judgment. As imposing, and as carnally majestic, great and sublime as ever. Go where we will it follows us. And what a powerful influence does it exert upon our minds — very same influence as that which tried the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego on plain of Dura. Doubtless they felt the commanding force of that great spectacle, and had feelings and natural weaknesses of men. It was influence of the visible world which they resisted.
4. Such being the office, then, which Christians have, and such the temptations under which they have to exercise it, what is, as a matter of fact, the way in which this duty is performed? Do we find Christians showing by their lives, and by the objects they pursue here, their belief in eternity, witnessing to the great truth of the Gospel dispensation, that our Lord by His resurrection from the dead brought life and immortality to light? or do we not find that the great rule of all action adopted by them is to do as other people do, to think as other people think, and to aim at getting what all other people strive to get? That is to say, do not the great mass of people do exactly the same thing that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would have done, if at the proclamation of the herald, and at the sound of the music, they had fallen down and worshipped the golden image?
5. The office of witness, however, to Divine truth, rejected as it is by the generality, as if it were something more than could be expected of men, is a privilege as well as a duty, and brings, if it is faithfully executed, great rewards to those who execute it. We cannot conceive anything more sublime than the triumph of the three great witnesses in this chapter. It is one of the great triumphs of faith, one of those great anticipations of the final triumph of good over evil, which Scripture has recorded for our encouragement. (Moses, Elijah, etc.) The men were bound, the furnace was heated, etc. (Describe result.) The strength of the whole earth was gone in a moment, in the presence of One who was walking in the midst of the fire, and whose form was like the Son of God.
6. Here was, indeed, a triumph of that faith which bears witness to the truth; and, as I have said, this scene is symbolical. It is the figure of a deep truth which holds now, and which we may apply to ourselves. Men know the truth, but they will not witness to it. Yet, we may venture to say, and with certainty, that never, on any occasion, by any one of the humblest servants of God, was this office of witness to the truth executed without a reward. In the adversity a companion; in the fire walking with him the Son of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.