Then Nebuchadnezzar spoke, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel…
First, the idolatry is costly. The chapter tells us of an high statue and idol of gold erected by the King of Babylon. Superstition and idolatry will be no niggard, it will spare no cost; but be expensive and sumptuous to maintain an invented and superstitious worship.
1. Nebuchadnezzar must have no petty diminutive god; six cubits in breadth, sixty cubits in height. What's this to the infinite immensity of our God, that fills Heaven and earth?
2. It must be of metal, too, lasting and durable. A mock imitation of the true God's eternity.
3. It must be rich and costly, all of beaten gold. "Their idols," saith David, "are silver and gold." It may shame us Christians, that are so basely penurious in maintaining and beautifying the worship of our God. Secondly, the erecting of this idol is done with the greatest authority. Thirdly, it is done with great pomp and solemnity. Fourthly, it is done with great content and universality. All the governors and princes of the provinces are gathered together, all engaged in this idolatrous worship. This sin of idolatry, it hath been an over-spreading evil. Fifthly, it is imposed with all strictness and severity; nay, it is pressed upon the people with cruelty and tyranny. Blood and fire and persecution, they are the great promoters of idolatry. Cruelty, 'tis the brand of the malignant church. Such are the enforcements of idolatry; far from the temper of true Christianity. Sixthly, notwithstanding all this violence in pressing, and this great generality of submitting to this idolatrous injunction, yet, here a few, three men, that deny their conformity, and refuse to engage themselves in this public impiety. In the greatest universality and prevailing of impiety, yet God hath some that withstand superstition and give testimony to His truth. St. Paul speaks it to another purpose, but it is true in this case also, God leaves not Himself without witness. Seventhly, upon these the penalty of the law is inflicted in all extremity.
1. Though but three.
2. They, men of great place and employment, set by the king over the affairs of the province of Babylon, useful to the State.
3. Peaceable, no raisers of sedition and tumult.
4. No blasphemers of this new-made god, but only bare refusers, and that for conscience sake.Here is the rage of idolatry. Well, what is the success? that is extraordinary and miraculous. God gives way to these men of blood, lets them do their utmost; He saves not these three holy men by rescue, or prevention; He keeps them not from the fire, but preserves them in it. They are, like Moses his bush, burning, but not consumed, The voice of the Lord divides the flames of fire. And this deliverance, it is not secret, but conspicuous in the eye and observation of Nebuchadnezzar. So, then, this passage of Scripture reports to us a solemn testimony given by Nebuchadnezzar to this miraculous deliverance of these three holy men. And this, his testimony, will appear in three evidences and .manifestations of it. First, it appears in a thankful benediction of Almighty God for this gracious deliverance (v. 28), "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego." Secondly, it appears in a strict injunction and provision for His glory, prohibiting all men, upon severe penalty, to blaspheme or say anything amiss against the God of these holy men (v. 29). Thirdly, it appears in an honourable promotion and advancement of these three worthies to places of dignity and authority in the province of Babylon (v. 30). And here we have: First, The action of blessing,. together with the agent, Nebuchadnezzar. Secondly, the Object or Person to whom he ascribes this blessedness, that is, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, Thirdly, the benefit for which he blesses Him, that is, the sending of His angel to work this deliverance. And, fourthly, The motives acknowledged for which God delivered them, They are four:
I. Quia servi. They were His servants.
II. Quia confidentes. Because they trusted in Him.
III. Quia constantes. They were resolute and constant in holy profession. They changed the king's word.
IV. Quia martyres. They chose to suffer death for their God and their religion; they would rather die than dishonour Him. They yielded their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own God. They loved not their lives to death that they might be true to Him. Come we to the First, Nebuchadnezzar's act of benediction and blessing, the thankful acknowledgment he makes of this great deliverance. It is much to hear praises and benedictions of God out of such a man's mouth. Well, this blessing of Nebuchadnezzar hath some sparks of humanity in it. To be glad and well pleased for the saving of men's lives, for the sparing of bloodshed, such thanksgivings are comely. To take a more particular notice of this benediction and blessing of Nebuchadnezzar's, let us consider it in a double notion.
I. Let us see what was good and commendable in it.
(1) That is one thing commendable. He goes not on obstinately, nor renews his persecution; a miracle stops him, and forthwith he desisteth. He is not, as some other persecuting tyrants have been, the more enraged at this strange deliverance. That was Pharaoh's impiety.
(2) He blesses God for this deliverance; he quarrels not at the miracle, as wrought by some false deity or by means of delusion. We know Pharaoh and his servants, Jannes and Jambres, withstood the miracles that Moses did work; they counted them but juggling tricks and enchantments, and would not yield to them as Divine operations. Thus did the Pharisees with our Saviour's miracles; He casts out devils by Beelzebub the prince of devil. It is the usual practice of infidels to question and vilify the wonderful works of God. But this king here is more ingenuous; he speaks rightly and reverently of them.
(3) He takes notice of the miracle; doth not labour to conceal it; gives no commandment that no man should speak of it; but is forward to give an honourable testimony of it. Malice loves and labours to darken and obscure such evidences of God's power when they make against them. Of such a spirit were the obstinate Jews. How did they set themselves to smother the glory of Christ's resurrection? Say, "He was stolen away while we slept, His disciples removed His body out of the grave; it was no such matter as a resurrection,"We have seen what is commendable in this benediction; but yet it hath its defects; something is wanting here in Nebuchadnezzar, more would have been expected from him.
(1) He is well pleased with their deliverance; but yet here is no sign of sorrow or remorse for his cruelty towards them, no confession of his fault. Miraculous evidences of God's power should beget other effects in us besides wonder and admiration; they should make us reflect upon ourselves and our sins. As it was with St. Peter when Christ wrought a miracle in his ship at the great draught of fishes; what said Peter? "Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man" (Luke 5:8).
(2) He blesses God and applauds the miracle, and there he stops; but is not drawn by it to a religious conversion, to believe in that God which had wrought such great things for the deliverance of His servants. A man may be much affected with the glory of God's works, and praise and magnify them; but if it have no other work upon us it is lost and spilt. Christ charges this defect upon the Jews. He upbraided the cities, wherein most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not. They wrought admiration, but not conversion.
(3) He blesses God in the behalf of these men, but not in his own behalf; He blesses not God that had miraculously prevented his wicked design in destroying these holy men. It is a great mercy of God to keep us from suffering evil, but it is a greater mercy of God to keep us from doing evil, that our wicked intendments do not take place. St. Paul makes his acknowledgment of both these mercies, both in delivering him from suffering evil and in preserving him from doing evil (2 Timothy 4:17). We have done with the benediction. Come we now, secondly, to the Person to whom it is ascribed, the Author of this deliverance; that is, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. See here, he ascribes this great work to the right Author, to the true God; doth not impute it to any false deity. It is He that sends deliverance to His people. It is He that works salvation in the midst of the earth. But yet, why doth he make this acknowledgment of God under this expression, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? This speech Of Nebuchadnezzar's:
I. Implies three errors in him.
II. Implies three truths in itself.
(1) Conceive it as the speech of an ignorant man, of one that had no knowledge of the true God but upon this present evidence and manifestation of Him. God had other more ancient titles by which He was known. He was the God of Heaven, the Lord of the whole earth, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob; that was His name for ever, this is His memorial unto all generations (Exodus 3:15).
(2) This speech, proceeding from this king, it is the language of idolatry. Nebuchadnezzar hath his gods, old and new, and he supposes these men have another God by themselves, and he likes well of it.
(3) This speech, it is the language of one persisting still in his infidelity. He calls this great wonder-working God the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; he doth not call him his god, for all this great evidence of His Divine majesty. He doth not abandon and cast off his former false gods. These are the errors in this speech of Nebuchadnezzar's.But look upon this speech in itself, and so it carries with it an intimation of three truths.
(1) It shows us the near relation which religion gives us to our God, it appropriates God unto His servants, makes Him to be their God in a special manner. Piety makes God to be our God, and us to be His people.
(2) This name and appellation that He is called the God of these three men; it is the honour and dignity of this their noble confession, in sticking to His service, though they die for it. They had honoured His name, and now God honours their names, puts them amongst His titles of honour. They that honour Him shall be honoured by Him. Whereas flinchers and renegades shall be forgotten, their name cast out as vile. Such worthies as these, their names shall not be blotted out of the Book of Life. He will confess their names before His father and His holy angels.
(3) This title, the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, implies a new claim that God lays to these three men for working their deliverance; they are become His servants, He is become their God, by right of rescue and deliverance. New deliverances multiply and strengthen God's title to us, as David confesses (Psalm 116:16), "Lord, truly I am thy servant, I am thy servant, and the son of thine hand-maiden, thou hast loosed my bonds." Come we, thirdly, to the next particular, the working of this deliverance by sending of an angel.
I. What is the mercy? — deliverance.
II. What is the minister and instrument? how is it wrought 7 — by the dispatch of an angel.
I. The great work here is deliverance, and riddance of these men from a mischief and destruction. Indeed, deliverance is the work that God delights in, by which He will make Himself known to be the true God. Samuel makes it the proof of a false god, "That they cannot profit or deliver" (1 Samuel 12:21). And the prophet upbraids Amaziah for choosing those gods that could not deliver their own people out of his hands (2 Chronicles 25:15). And this deliverance, it is the more admirable(1) because from a present destruction. It is not by way of prevention; He keeps them not from the danger, but rescues them cut of it.
(2) Because it was a deliverance from a dreadful destruction, from a most cruel tormenting death, from the burning furnace. As is the danger, such is the deliverance.
(3) Because it was a total deliverance; not the least hurt done, not an hair of their heads perished.
II. For the instrument, it was the sending and dispatch of an angel.
(1) Admire and glorify our God's great Majesty, who hath His glorious angels always attending, speedily dispatching His will and commands. Nebuchadnezzar hath his princes and governors, and captains and counsellors, all in attendance on him with great pomp and magnificence. Alas, what is this to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego? He hath His legions of angels.
(2) See here the church's security. The holy angels are ready to rescue and deliver them.
(3) Let the church's persecutors see against whom they fight, against a people that can be rescued by force of angels. It should strike terror into the most potent persecutors. Fourthly, the fourth thing remarkable in this acknowledgment of Nebuchadnezzar's is the motives which he alleges why God wrought this deliverance for these three men. They are four:
I. See now he speaks honourably of these men, accounts them the servants of the Most High God. Before, he esteemed them factious, refractory, turbulent men, such as will be wiser, forsooth! And this consideration, that they are His servants; it is a well-alleged motive why they are delivered, His faithful service; it is a safe protection.
1. To His servants God promises protection.
2. His servants, upon this title, they plead for protection.
II. Because they trusted in Him, therefore He delivered them. And faith hath this prevailing power with God:(1) Because it ascribes to Him the glory of His notice and special care over us.
(2) Because it ascribes the glory of His porter to Him, that He is abundantly able to save us. These three men said confidently, "Our God is able to deliver us" (v. 17). Faith lays hold on God's strength; when all help fails, then faith rolls itself upon God. This trusting in God is thus prevalent(3) because it keeps us only to use such means for deliverance as God allows us. Infidelity will make us shift for ourselves in unlawful ways.
(4) Because it teaches us to rely on Him without limitation, neither prescribing time or way, how or when He should deliver us; but leaves all to Him in a holy submission. The third motive why God delivered them is:
III. Because they were constant in their religion. That is expressed in these words, "They have changed the king's word." They would not be overborne by the king's command and so sin against God. There is greater duty and greater safety to obey God rather than man. We come to the last motive that graciously inclined God to work this deliverance; that is:
IV. They yielded their bodies that they might not serve nor worship any other god but only their own God. And the goodness of this, their pious adhering to God, will appear in two things: First, in their absolute refusal of this idolatrous command. Secondly, in their ready yielding to the penalty of it upon their refusal. First, see the fulness of their refusal.
(1) They were not enjoined any denial or renouncing of their own God , a giving-over of their religion; but only there was required of them a joint acknowledgment of another god with Him.
(2) Their piety appears in that they would not perform so much as one act of unlawful and superstitious worship, not yield to the king in doing of one idolatrous action.
(3) They refuse to do any outward bodily adoration, to honour this idol with an outward gesture by bowing or bending to it.
(4) They are not moved with the general example and concurrence of all others, can be content to be accounted singular, and bear the scorn and reproach of a dissenting multitude. No; the torrent and stream of the common practice shall not carry them to idolatry.
(5) They will not yield, though to avoid and escape an imminent and a deadly danger. So, then, will not these men join the worship of an idol together with the worship of their own God, and that not in the least degree, nor yet to avoid the greatest torment? First, this truth was typified in the Levitical law (Leviticus 19), where all blending and mixture of divers religions are typically forbidden. Secondly, this was represented in that destruction that God brought upon Dagon, the idol of the Philistines.Thirdly, this mixture in religion, to serve the Lord, and yet, withal, to conform to the worship of any other god; it is contrary(1) to the unity of God.
(2) It is contrary to His sovereignty. He is the only Ruler, the only Potentate (1 Timothy 6:15).
(3) This worship of any other god but only of the true God, it is contrary to the all-sufficiency of God.
(4) This joining other gods with the true God, it is opposite and contrary to the nature of religion, that leads us to the worship of one only God. God commanded His people to use one altar in sign and testimony of one God to be worshipped.Hence it is that(1) religion puts a bond upon us, ties us strictly to the adhering to one God alone.
(2) Religion, it is a covenant, and indenting our service, our strength, our devotion only to our God. We cannot serve God and Mammon. We have seen the refusal of these men to worship any other god but only their own God; yet one thing remains, that is their ready yielding themselves to undergo the penalty and to suffer martyrdom. They yielded their bodies, would undergo death, rather than commit idolatry.And this, their yielding, hath four things observable in it:(1) It is passive; they yield themselves to be put to death; they did not rush upon death by their own procurement.
(2) Their yielding their bodies, it is submissive; they yielded themselves, did not stubbornly oppose and struggle against it.
(3) Their yielding was plenary, and full. They yielded their bodies; they were not content to undergo some less sufferings, the loss of their places, which were great in the province; but they engage their lives for the honour of their God.
(4) Their suffering, it is voluntary. Yielding betokens a willing parting with and resigning up their lives. They were passive in the incurring of death, but active in the acceptance.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
WEB: Nebuchadnezzar spoke 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 have changed the king's word, and have yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.