The Image of Gold
Nebuchadnezzar seemingly took to heart the representation of his kingdom as the head of gold in the vision recounted in Daniel 2. He made an image of gold, likely a man on a pedestal. The whole image was gold, not just the head. It may have been made of wood and covered with gold. If so, it would be like the image described in Isaiah 40:19. The text does not tell us what the image represented. Given the connection to the vision of chapter 2, we assume it to be an image of Nebuchadnezzar. But some think it was an image of the chief god of Babylonia, Marduk.
Nebuchadnezzar was rebelling against God’s will for history that included then end of his kingdom Since the statue is all gold, he seems to use it to say there will not be another kingdom to supplant his, despite what God said.
The location of the statue is also interesting. This plain is thought to be the same as the plain in Shiner described in Genesis 11:2, where the Tower of Babel was built. This tower was built in rebellion against God, to prevent scattering over the face of the earth as God decreed. It was also to make a name for themselves, for their glory. Nebuchadnezzar is doing the same, glorifying himself and his kingdom, and uniting the people. Unity was represented by universal worship of the statue. It was important enough that the king enforced it with the death penalty. And people came from all over, and they were people of many languages. (4) It was as if Nebuchadnezzar was trying to reverse the failure of the Tower of Babel.
The same thing is happening in America now, just without the statue. There may be a statue before it is all over, but right now it is a ideal. The ideal is that you may worship your god, but you must subordinate your beliefs to the liberal, humanistic ideal that celebrates every human rebellion against God. If you do not go along with this, you must be silenced by ridicule or government action.
The Dedication Ceremony
The king summoned all of his officials of different levels from all over the territory he ruled. That is why Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego were there. They were commanded to fall on their faces and worship the image. (6)
Failure to do so would mean death in a fiery furnace. (7) These were probably furnaces for firing bricks.
Everybody obeyed and worshipped the image. There was even a praise band there. (7) For one seemingly glorious moment, all of the world again united in Shiner in worship to an image set up against the God of Heaven.
Chaldeans Accused the Jews
Chaldeans accused Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego of not worshipping the image. They were the same astrologers who could not interpret the king’s dream. They may have been jealous because Daniel had showed them up with the dream interpretation. Or they may have resented their promotions.
They were accused of refusing to bow down to the image and of disrespecting Nebuchadnezzar himself. (12)
As you would expect, the king flew into a rage and summoned the 3 young men. He instructed them to worship the image or be cast into the furnace. Then, he made a challenge. He said, if I throw you into the furnace, who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands? He said, in effect, I am god over your lives and no other god can deliver you from me. He said this knowing that these young men, and Daniel, worshipped Yahweh. It is similar to the taunt of the Assyrian king to Hezekiah. (1 Kings 18:33)
The Boys Stand Up To The King
The boys did not cow before the king. They refused to defend themselves from the accusation. Instead, they said that their God was able to deliver them from the furnace, but even if God did not choose to deliver them, they still would not serve other gods or worship the golden image.
Despite some current claims to the contrary, God does not always rescue the believer from danger. He has allowed some to serve him in suffering and death. These young men recognized that and were happy to serve God faithfully however he decided to use them.
The King’s Wrath
Any favor the boys had with the king was lost. He was furious. He even had the furnace heated up 7 times hotter to ensure they would not be rescued. It was so hot, the men who carried them to the furnace were killed by the heat. He had the bound also, which is a little odd, since the fire would burn the bindings. But he was trying to make sure they were not rescued by their God.
The king stood up to watch the men burn, but saw something shocking. The young men were waling around in the fire unhurt. Even more shocking, a fourth man was walking with them. This man appeared like “a son of the gods”. (25) That is, he appeared to be divine.
The text does not explain to us what this forth man actually looked like. Nor does it explain who he was. It could have been an angel. It could have been the pre-incarnate Christ. Either way it makes a point. Not only did God deliver, he sent his emissary to be in the fire with them. I prefer to think it was Christ, for he was called Emmanuel, or “God with us”.
No Harm Done
The king called to the boys to come out of the furnace. (26) He called them servants of the Mot High God. it was an acknowledgement that the Most High God is the one who could deliver his people out of the king’s hand. All of the officials also saw that the fire, and therefore, the king, had no power over God’s people. And, in fact, the boys came out without being burned at all and not even smelling of smoke!
In addition to saving the boys, God also fulfilled his word recorded in Isaiah 43:2: when you walk through fire you shall not be burned and the flame shall not consume you. In the New Testament we learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God, not powers or anything in all creation. (Romans 8:38-39)
Nebuchadnezzar against blessed God and praised the boys for refusing to dishonor God. He made a decree that no would could speak badly of them. (29) He promoted them to even higher positions of authority.
Jesus walked with the boys through the fire to save him. Later, he took on the fire of God’s wrath, not with us, but for us. The Father took the fiery judgment of our sins and placed it on Jesus, who willingly accepted it.
It is Jesus who succeeds where the Tower of Babel and the Golden Image failed. Jesus saved, and is saving, men and women from every tribe, nation and language and bound them together in the church. We all stand before the throne of Christ and gladly and willingly bow down before him in worship and praise.
And the symbol of this unity is not a golden image, but an old rugged, wooden cross.