Nebuchadnezzar's bad dream
Nebuchadnezzar, the ancient king of Babylon, need not have
feared a recurrence of his bad dreams if he had only accepted the inevitability
of the Kingdom of God on earth.
If Nebuchadnezzar had only learned the lesson of his first bad
dream -- of the terrible image that was finally destroyed by the stone cut from
the mountain, but not by human hands (Dan 2) -- he would have had no reason to
worry. But the more he thought about the God of heaven setting up a kingdom that
would never be destroyed and grinding all human kingdoms to powder, the more he
thought about the integrity and stability of his own kingdom. Perhaps he also
pondered the make-up of the terrible image, a head of gold and feet of part iron
If his kingdom was to last, it must have cohesion. It must be
united, purged of all opposing ideas and forces -- it must be of pure gold, not
fragmented bits of different metals, as the image in his vision. Then it would
be indestructible. This was the lesson which Nebuchadnezzar wrongly learned from
So, in keeping with the character of all tyrants, he reacted
in rebellion to the God of heaven instead of submission. As if to challenge the
intent of the Divine message, he now built his own image [notice the connection
with Rev 13:14,15], an image of pure gold. The dimensions of the image are given
in the Babylonian numbering system of six: six cubits wide and 60 cubits high.
(Or, quite literally, a multiple of six's high. It could almost be said that the
number of the Babylonian image was "666"! [Rev 13:18]) In any case, it was an
image associated with the number six.
This image was to be the focus of the empire. A great
Babylonian music festival was instituted with new music composed for an array of
instruments, at the sound of which all peoples were to bow down before the
image. There were, incidentally, six instruments in all. And bowing down to the
image was not an option.
"Then the herald loudly proclaimed, 'This is what you are commanded to do, O
peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the
horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall
down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever
does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing
furnace' " (Dan 3:4-6).
All seemed well until it was discovered that certain people in
the empire refused to bow down. Some of the king's counselors came forward with
this important statement...
"But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of
Babylon -- Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego -- who pay no attention to you, O
king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set
up" (v 12).
Thank God for the Jews! The Eternal Jew, he is God's witness
[Isa 43:10; 44:8; Rev 11:3?] that He is God! This is the reality that has stood
in the way of all world rulers: "there are some Jews!" They were and are the one
nation that will remain separate from all the others. All human plans will,
sooner or later, be interrupted by God or His eternal purpose through His
The reaction of Nebuchadnezzar to their refusal was
predictable. He was filled with rage and heated the great furnace [was this the
same furnace used in the forging of the great image?] seven times hotter than
before. There had been extreme reactions before against God's people when they
stood apart, from Pharaoh king of Egypt, and there would be again with a whole
host of oppressors of God's people, including Adolph Hitler and Saddam Hussein.
The reply of the three Jews is a classic study in
"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us
from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not,
we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the
image of gold you have set up" (Dan
These three courageous men had a song in their hearts. It was
a hymn that had been written down years before by the prophet Isaiah:
"...Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through
the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you
will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze... All the nations gather
together and the peoples assemble. Which of them foretold this and proclaimed to
us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they are right,
so that others may hear and say, 'It is true.' 'You are my witnesses,' declares
the Lord, 'and my servant whom I have chosen...You are my witnesses... that I am
God' " (Isa 43).
Indeed, they did not need to defend their position before some
pagan king who was only ruling because the God of Israel allowed it, or to plead
their cause before some gold image. They served the Living God who could rescue
and deliver. They were His witnesses. Someone had to stand for truth and this
was their moment.
They were prepared to stand whatever the outcome. "Even if he
does not..." indicates their acceptance of the sovereign will of God in this
matter. It is not for us to decide just how God will respond; He has His own
reasons. It is for us to accept the outcome, whatever it be, to His
"We will not serve or worship..." was their calm and confident
reply. They would stand on the commandment that said, "You shall have no other
gods before me" (Exo 20:3). They served a living God who had the power to save,
who rules in the kingdoms of men giving them to whomsoever He wills. Why then
bow down to an image made by man's hands?
Well, by this time Nebuchadnezzar was backed into a corner.
Furious, he commanded that the three Jews be thrown into the furnace. The flames
were so hot, the soldiers who threw them in perished from the heat. Then the
king was in for the shock of his life.
"These three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Then King
Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, 'Weren't
there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?' They replied,
'Certainly, O king.' He said, 'Look! I see four men walking around in the fire,
unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods' " (Dan
The king commanded the Jews to come forth from the fire as he
and his advisors crowded around inspecting them.
"They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their
heads singed; their robes were not scorched... there was no smell of fire on
them. Then Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and
Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him
and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather
than serve or worship any god except their own God' " (vv
As always, there are some important lessons to be learned from
The statement made to the ancient king of Babylon, "there are
some Jews...", is as arresting and insightful today as it was then. We have a
few million Jews surrounded by at least one hundred million hostile Arabs or
Moslems today. There is the miraculous return of hundreds of thousands of Jews
from the north and south in literal fulfillment of prophecies made over 2,500
years ago. The "Jewish Problem" is not going to go away. They continue to be the
living witness to an eternal divine plan.
How far are we away from the time when some power in the
Middle East [perhaps another "Nebuchadnezzar" of "Babylon"?] will seize control
and institute some international focus as the means of consolidating his rule?
Religion could well be the focus, or some personality cult. There could well be
a new "image" to bow down to; a worldwide boycott for those who are different
[Revelation 13:16,17?]; and a new "furnace" awaiting those who refuse.
And some will refuse. The Bible continues to assure us, even
in 1991, that those who refuse to bow down have nothing to fear. We can still
serve this same Living God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He has the same
power to save and rescue. His plan is alive, His invitation is current. If
forces close around our personal liberties to serve Him, He has promised to be
near each one of us through the presence of His Son, Jesus Christ -- who is
available to be "our man in the furnace" today!
Our individual challenge is to take a stand with all of God's
people, including the Jews. We must be prepared to give up our life if it is
God's will, knowing that He is able to save us eternally through the promised
resurrection from the dead, and to make us part of His eternal kingdom that will
soon be established on the ruins of the kingdoms of men.