There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men…
Have you not seen in your time men seriously impressed? But after a while they forgot it all, and became at length the most bitter opponents of the truth before which they seemed once to bow. We know, then, what to expect; that some who seem like fish almost landed, will, nevertheless, slip back into the stream. This great king of Babylon was an absolute monarch. His will was law; no man ever dared to dispute with him. Who would differ from a gentleman who could back up his arguments with a fiery, furnace, or with a threat to cut you in pieces, and to make your house a dunghill?
I. First of all, as we think of these three brave Jews, let us consider THE EXCUSES THEY MIGHT HAVE MADE. They were accused by the Chaldeans, who had so recently been saved from death by Daniel and his three friends. The surest way to be hated by some people is to place them under an obligation. But in this case the wrath of man was to praise God. They might have said to themselves, "It is perfectly useless to resist. We cannot contend against this man. If we submit, we do it unwillingly; and surely, being coerced into it, we shall be but little blamed." It is a bad excuse, but it is one that I have often heard made. "Oh," says a man, "we must live, you know; we must live." I really do not see any necessity for it. Again, they might have said, "We are in a strange land, and is it not written by one of our wise men, 'When you are in Babylon, you must do as Babylon does'? Of course, if we were at home, in Judaea, we would not think of such a thing." Is God the God of this island, and not the God of the Continent? Has He ever given us permission to do abroad we may not do at home? It is a vile excuse, but commonly enough made. They might also have said, "We are in office"; and seeing they were set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, they might have found some difficulty in detaching their private religion from their public duty. A man gets elected to a parish vestry, or a council, or a board, and when he once gets to sit on that board, he seems to have left his honesty at home. I say not that it is so always, but I am sorry to say that it has often been so. The official has no sooner put on his robes of office than his conscience has vanished. But, then, they were prosperous men. They were getting on in the world, and I believe that God sent this trial to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, because they were prospering. They might have said, "We must not throw away our chances." Among the dangers to Christian men, the greatest, perhaps, is accumulating wealth — the danger of prosperity. May God grant that we may never turn His mercies into an excuse for sinning against Him! You who are rich have no more liberty to sin than if you were poor. Again, further, they might have excused themselves thus. The putting up of this image was not altogether a religious act. It was symbolical. The image was intended to represent the power of Nebuchadnezzar, and bowing before it was, therefore, doing political homage to the great king. Might they not safely do this? They might have said, "We are pollitically bound." Oh, how often we hear this brought up! You are told to regard the difference between right and wrong everywhere, except when you get into politics; then stick to your party through thick and thin. Right and wrong vanish at once. Loyalty to your leader — that is the point. A very soothing salve for their conscience might have been found in the absence of any command to renounce their own religion. They might have encouraged each other to submit, by saying, "We are not called upon to abjure our God." They need not believe the idol to be Divine, nor confess the least faith in it; in their hearts they might make a mental reservation as they bowed, and they might have whispered to one another, and said that it was a devil, and no God. They might have excused themselves to their own conscience by saying that they prostrated themselves to the music, and not to the idol, or that they made obeisance to the king rather than to his image. Anything, in fact, will serve for an excuse, when the heart is 'bent on compromise; and, especially in these half-hearted days, it is very easy to find a specious reason for a false action, if some temporal benefit is attached to it. Modern charity manufactures a multitude of excuses to cover sins withal. A stronger argument, however, might have been secured from the fact of the universal submission to the decree. "Everybody else is doing it," they might have said. Though millions bowed, what had that to do with them? I ask you to cultivate a brave personality. In the service of God, things cannot go by the counting of heads. They might have said, "It is only for once, and not for long. Ten minutes or so, once in a lifetime, to please the king; such a trivial act cannot make any difference; at any rate, it is not enough to brave the fiery furnace for. Let us treat the whole thing as a huge jest. It would be ridiculous to throw away our lives for such a trifle." Not even for a few minutes in a lifetime would these three brave men deny their God. May their stubborn faith be ours! Another excuse that they might have made was, "We can do more good by living than we can by being cast into than furnace. It is true, if we are burnt alive, we bear a rapid testimony to the faith of God; but if we live, how much more we might accomplish! You see we three are Jews, and we are put in high office, and there are many poor Jews who are captives. We can help them. We have always seen justice done to God's people, our fellow-country-men, and we feel that we are raised to our high office on purpose to do good. Now, you see, if you make us bigots, and wilt not let us yield, you cut short our opportunities of usefulness." If an act of sin would increase my usefulness tenfold, I have no right to do it; and if an act of righteousness would appear likely to destroy my my apparent usefulness, I am yet to do it. But they might also have said, "Real!y, this is more than can be expected of us." Remember what Jesus said to the multitudes who went with him, "If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,. and brethren; and sister, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."
II. In the second place, let us assure our own hearts by admiring THE CONFIDENCE WHICH THEY POSSESSED. They expressed it very emphatically and clearly. They had a definite, solid, foursquare faith.
1. First, they said, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter." The word "careful" there, does not give you the meaning. Read it, "We are not full of care as to how to answer thee." They did answer very carefully; but they were not anxious about the answer. They did not deliberate. They did not hesitate. They said, "Nebuchadnezzar, we can answer you at once on that point."
2. In the second place, they did not judge it theirs to answer at all. I find that it may read, as in the Revised Version, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter," meaning, "We will not answer you. It is not for us to answer you. You have brought another Person into the quarrel" Then notice what they say. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace."
3. They avowed their faith in the Omnipotent God, knowing that, if He chose, no mighty man of Babylon could ever throw them into that furnace. What is more, they add, "And He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king." Whether they burned in the fire or not, they were sure they would be delivered. If any of you are in great difficulty and trouble, tempted, to do wrong, nay, pressed to do it, and if you do what is right, it looks as if you will be great losers and great sufferers; believe this: God can deliver you. He can prevent your having to suffer what you suppose you may; and if He does not prevent that, He can help you to bear it, and, in a short time, He can turn all your losses into gains, all your sufferings into happiness. The Lord has helped us in the past, He is helping us in the present, and we believe that He will help us all the way through.
III. But here is the point that I want to make most prominent — the third one — THE DETERMINATION AT WHICH THEY HAD ARRIVED. "I not," if God does not deliver us at all, "be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Grand language! Noble resolve!
1. They did not pivot their loyalty to God upon their deliverance. They did not say, as some do, "I will serve God if it pays me to do so. I will serve God if He helps me at such and such a time." No, they would serve Him for nothing; theirs was not cupboard love.
2. They resolved that they would obey God at all costs. Let us walk in this heroic path. But some will say, "It is too hard. You cannot expect men to love God well enough to die for Him." No, but there was One who loved us well enough to die for us, and to die a thousand deaths in one, that He might save us. If Christ so loved us, we ought so to love Him. "Well," says one, "I think it is impossible. I could not bear pain." It is possible, for many have endured it. You may never be called to such a trial as that; but still, if you cannot bear the small trials, how would you bear the great ones? To enable us to get the spirit of these three holy men, we must get, first, a clear sense of the Divine presence. It a man feels that God is seeing him, he will not bow his knee to an idol; neither will he do evil; for God's eye is upon him. We must, next, have a deep sense of the Divine law. I have already reminded you of the law. "Thou shalt have no other gods before me," etc. Above all, to keep us right, we must have a mighty sense of the Divine love. We shall never obey God till by His grace we have new hearts, and those hearts are full of love to Him through Jesus Christ. "But what did these three men do?" says one; "they simply did not bow their heads, and they were cast into the fiery furnace. What did they do?" They influenced their age, their people, and all time. These three men influenced the city of Babylon, and the whole Babylonian empire, They certainly influenced King Nebuchadnezzar. These three men command the admiration of Heaven and earth. A fool would have pointed at them and said, "There go three fools — gentlemen high in office, with large incomes, and wives and families. They have only to take their cap off, and they may live in their wealth; but if they do not do it, they are to be burnt alive; and they will not do it. They will be burnt alive. They are fools." Yes, but the Son of God did not think so. When He in Heaven heard them speak thus to King Nebuchadnezzar, He said, "Brave, brave men! I will leave the throne of God in Heaven to go and stand by their side"; and invisibly He descended, till where the fires were glowing like one vast ruby, where the fierce flame had slain the men that threw the three confessors into the burning fiery furnace, He came and stood.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
WEB: There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not respected you. They don't serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.