The human being is surely the worst when it comes to ingenuity with reference to killing people. What I am about to say will include countries from 1900, like China, Soviet Union, Armenia, Japan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Rwanda, not to forget to a lesser degree, Uganda under Idi Amin, Rhodesia (both sides) and South Africa under Apartheid rule.
Yet Nazi Germany was guilty of genocide and mass murder in the vilest manner. I recall as a young teenager reading a book on the Second World War. It gave me sleepless nights, not because of what was done but because of the graphic pictures to backup what was being written.
Today I revisited that horrific story. I looked at pictures of dead bodies heaped on trucks, stuffed in ovens, strewn over farms and forests as well as dumped in mass graves. Just looking at it is chilling. Could we shout out “praise the Lord we escaped such horror?” These stories are not written by sadistic maniac authors. They are real. This is what humans are capable of.
Why would I revisit such horror? Because of another human leader who was equally as sadistic as the Nazis. The one I refer to is king Nebuchadnezzar, supreme ruler of the kingdom of Babylon. Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego show their unwavering faith when they stand against the king’s demands. They have a place in the eternal wall of remembrance for those who have flexed their faith muscles irrespective what the outcome would be … simply because their God, the God of creation was their ruler. He was Lord. What a marvelous witness for you and me.
1) The king’s response to these three men’s refusal to serve his gods and bow down in worship to the image he created was nothing short of wrath … boiling anger … so furious that it affected the king’s mind. He could not think properly. He had great regard for these men … yet now he changed his mind.
Da 3:19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed.
Is it not amazing how one’s mindset and attitude can change when things don’t go your way? How many people have been fired, lost friendships, divorced their spouse, been excommunicated from a church … simply because someone could not get their way?
2) The king is so furious that he orders the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal. You might wonder where the furnace comes from all of a sudden. It was used by the Assyrian Empire and improved by the Babylonian Empire. Some think it to be a hole in the ground but even though those casting the three men into the furnace were killed by the heat, we can’t say it was a hole in the ground. We do know it was used to bake bricks to build walls to protect cities, bake slabs to construct canals for water transportation, to temper steel for weapons, agricultural and building tools, to shape precious metals once melted for statues … much like the way the “image” the king build was made … and … as an instrument of torture and death for anyone disobeying the king. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual … How would anyone know how to heat the furnace seven times hotter than normal? It seems as though Daniel is using apocalyptic language to impress upon us that the furnace was heated hotter than ever before.
3) The king commanded these three to be tied and cast into the furnace.
Da 3:20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace.
The strongest soldiers were used to tie up these men so there was no means of escape. Their clothing was intended to be fuel for the fire to set the bodies on fire. You are able to see that the rage of the king was such that he was blinded with murderous intent.
4) The king’s soldiers, set apart for the task of murder, experienced such heat that they were killed by the heat.
Da 3:22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
I used to work at a Fish Factory where they had a fish meal plant. To process fish meal they needed to run furnaces. The men who operated these machines were fitted out with protected clothing, suitable to work in such hot conditions. These huge soldiers, rugged and battle worthy were no match for the furnace’s heat. Maybe here we see a message saying, even if you are not the king, don’t take instructions that will harm the people of God. Danger and likely death might come your way.
5) The king notices something strange in the furnace. The three men have been thrown in … tied hand and foot, fully dressed. The mucho soldiers were killed by the heat casting the men into the furnace … but … the maniac king, sitting in his special chair as the chief spectator of this vile act notices something.
Da 3:24 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.” 25 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.”
He flew to his feet for better observation, asking his council, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” We saw the soldiers die as they threw three men into the furnace … we saw that … right?
His council agreed with the king responding … “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Four men walking around in the furnace. They are no longer bound up and surprisingly, in that extreme heat, they were “unharmed” … but more … there was a fourth man walking with them. It seems as though the king saw them walking first and he seems to be the only one seeing the fourth person.
The king says the fourth one looks like a son of the gods … meaning son of deity and in verse 28 this one is called an angel. That was the king’s perception … but we know that this fourth one is supernatural … so much so as to be the Second Person of the Triune God … the pre-incarnate Christ!
We will return here tomorrow but consider this:
Isa 43:2 When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
It might be that our flesh and bones could be harmed but not our soul.
Praise You, Lord, for my continual protection. Amen.