Last week we stopped in Daniel chapter 3 with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego telling Nebuchadnezzar that they were not going to bow down the the golden statue of himself no matter the consequences because they trusted God to protect them and even if He doesn’t they weren’t going to bow. These guys just declared they weren’t going to bow down even if it meant they had to die.
They knew that God was great and able, that God was holy and good, that God was in control and able to save them, but they clearly stated that even if He didn’t rescue them, they still wouldn’t bow down to the circumstances that were pressing against them.
Daniel 3:16-18 (NLT2)16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you.17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
This made Nerbuchadnezzer so angry that he didn’t wait to see if they would obey because he knew they weren’t going to bow. So he wanted to prove that he would punish anybody who disobeyed and because of their insolence he had the furnace heated up super hot.
Daniel 3:19-23 (NLT2)19 Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual.20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments.22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in.23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.
I don't want us to miss this. These three guys had made the right decision. They had done the right thing. So often we think that if we say all the right things or did the right things, my life would get easier.
Isn’t that what religion teaches? As long as we do everything just right, nothing bad will ever happen to us!
But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had done all the right things—they had stood their ground and believed that God was greater than what they were going through—and now they were on their way to a furnace that was seven times hotter than it was before.
Some of us may have to walk into a furnace that is seven times hotter than we expected before we come out of our trial. For those of us that work it may get seven times hotter at work tomorrow. It may get seven times hotter in your relationship with your parents or your children.
They’d done everything right, and God still allowed them to go into the furnace.
- What about God being holy?
- What about God being good?
- What about God being with them?
- What about God being in control?
Just because we follow Jesus, it doesn’t mean we escape stressful and anxiety-filled circumstances.
John 16:31-33 NLT Jesus asked, “Do you finally believe? But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when you will be scattered, each one going his own way, leaving me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
In the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God showed up. When God shows up He changes everything, including our perceptions.
Daniel 3:24-25 NLT But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god !”
Nebuchadnezzar was ready to gloat. Nebuchadnezzar thought he had won. Nebuchadnezzar was most likely sitting there expecting to hear screams of torment and men begging for mercy. But all of a sudden he leaped to his feet in amazement. It’s important to understand that in that culture, men of importance didn’t leap to their feet for anything. The very fact that the king did so meant something unbelievable was taking place.
The king saw the men he’d thrown into the fire walking around unbound and unharmed. And if that wasn’t enough to freak him out, he was shocked to see a fourth guy in the fire.
Nebuchadnezzar was prepared to see destruction. He wasn’t prepared to see God move!
Most Bible experts agree that the fourth man in the fire was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t see Jesus until they got into the fire. Here's the point. If you’re in the middle of circumstances that are creating intense amounts of stress and anxiety in you—circumstances that seem seven times hotter than anything you’ve ever gone through—then it may be time to stop praying, “God, get me out of this” and begin praying, “Jesus, let me see You.”
When we see Jesus clearly, we will follow Him closely. However, we often won’t see Him clearly until we’ve been thrown into the middle of a fire that is seven times hotter than anything we’ve ever experienced.
Jesus gets our attention in the fire in ways we never would have noticed if things were always good in our lives. That’s what He did with these three guys in the story—and that’s what He has done over and over again in my own life. Every time I’ve walked through the fire, He has allowed me to do so in order for me to see Him more clearly and follow Him more closely.
How would we know He’s a healer if we didn’t experience times when we needed to be healed? How would we know He’s a Savior if we didn’t experience things we needed to be saved from? How would we know He’s a provider if we didn’t experience times when we thought we weren’t going to make it?
Let’s take a look at King Nebuchadnezzar’s change of heart.
Daniel 3:26 NLT Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire.
Nebuchadnezzar went from saying, “What god will be able to rescue you?”
Daniel 3:15 NLT I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
To referring to the Lord as “the Most High God.”
Daniel 3:27 NLT Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!
Not a hair on their heads was singed. If you’ve ever been around someone who used a curling iron or a flat iron, you know this is a miracle. They had just walked through fire and their hair was still in place when it was over! The most amazing thing was that “there was no smell of fire on them.”
The Bible clearly states that the men went into the furnace tied up, but they came out of the furnace unbound. The only thing that was burned off of them in the furnace is what the enemy used to tie them down.
The same is true for us. God wants to use The enemy tries to bind us up and put us in a place of destruction. But like these men in the furnace, we can come out of the fire unbound!
We will not be burned in the fire because He is in the fire Himself. He will walk with us through whatever flames we have to journey through.
Here's the result of all this.
Daniel 3:28-30 NLT Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
So often we believe (sometimes as a result of really bad Bible teaching) that we go through the fire because God is punishing us. But we see in this story that the purpose of the fire is not punishment but promotion.
I don’t understand how God can use bad things for good. I don’t understand a lot of things about God. But when we can fully explain God, He ceases to be God.
If and when you read chapter four of Daniel you will notice that Daniel is only mentioned once in this chapter. In fact Daniel wasn’t mentioned in chapter 3 either. While the first three chapters talk about something that happened to Daniel Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego this chapter tells us a story that affected the king personally. In this chapter Nebuchadnezzar is telling the story.
Daniel 4:2-3 NLT “I want you all to know about the miraculous signs and wonders the Most High God has performed for me. How great are his signs, how powerful his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, his rule through all generations.
King Nebuchadnezzar was plagued by a dream in Daniel 2, and now a couple of chapters later, we read about another dream that absolutely freaked him out. Unlike last time he told his advisers the dream but they still couldn't help him by interpreting it. So he had to rely on Daniel again.
Daniel 4:4-8 NLT “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living in my palace in comfort and prosperity. But one night I had a dream that frightened me; I saw visions that terrified me as I lay in my bed. So I issued an order calling in all the wise men of Babylon, so they could tell me what my dream meant. When all the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and fortune-tellers came in, I told them the dream, but they could not tell me what it meant. At last Daniel came in before me, and I told him the dream. (He was named Belteshazzar after my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)
Here's the dream:
Daniel 4:10-18 NLT “‘While I was lying in my bed, this is what I dreamed. I saw a large tree in the middle of the earth. The tree grew very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. It had fresh green leaves, and it was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. All the world was fed from this tree. “‘Then as I lay there dreaming, I saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. The messenger shouted, “Cut down the tree and lop off its branches! Shake off its leaves and scatter its fruit! Chase the wild animals from its shade and the birds from its branches. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Now let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the wild animals among the plants of the field. For seven periods of time, let him have the mind of a wild animal instead of the mind of a human. For this has been decreed by the messengers ; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” “‘Belteshazzar, that was the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now tell me what it means, for none of the wise men of my kingdom can do so. But you can tell me because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.’
Daniel 4:18 NLT “‘Belteshazzar, that was the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now tell me what it means, for none of the wise men of my kingdom can do so. But you can tell me because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.’
The meaning of the dream actually scares Daniel because God had revealed something to him that he really didn't want to tell the king.
Daniel 4:19 NLT “Upon hearing this, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) was overcome for a time, frightened by the meaning of the dream. Then the king said to him, ‘Belteshazzar, don’t be alarmed by the dream and what it means.’ “Belteshazzar replied, ‘I wish the events foreshadowed in this dream would happen to your enemies, my Lord, and not to you!
Nebuchadnezzar kept pressing him, wanting to know about the dream and specifically about the tree that got cut down. So Daniel finally gave him the 411, saying, “Well, King Neb, you have become proud of your strength and power, and there’s some pretty bad stuff going on in your life right now. God has had enough. The tree is you.
Daniel 4:23-26 NLT “‘Then you saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, “Cut down the tree and destroy it. But leave the stump and the roots in the ground, bound with a band of iron and bronze and surrounded by tender grass. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven. Let him live with the animals of the field for seven periods of time.” “‘This is what the dream means, Your Majesty, and what the Most High has declared will happen to my Lord the king. You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses. But the stump and roots of the tree were left in the ground. This means that you will receive your kingdom back again when you have learned that heaven rules.
That was definitely not what Nebuchadnezzar wanted to hear. But then Daniel offered him this encouragement:
Daniel 4:27 NLT “‘King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.’
One of the greatest gifts God can give us is the revelation of our own sinfulness.
Romans 3:10-12 NLT As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous— not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
He does so not to condemn us but rather to correct us.
Romans 8:1-2 NLT So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.
God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that he was prideful and arrogant, and Daniel begged the king to change his mind, to stop being obsessed with his own greatness. Unfortunately for the king, he didn’t choose the path of repentance. Sooooooo
Daniel 4:28-33 NLT “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’ “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’ “That same hour the judgment was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws.
The Lord brought Nebuchadnezzar down, just like the tree he’d seen in the dream. It would be really sad if the story ended here, but it doesn’t. If you aren’t dead, then God is not done with you yet. And as long as there is air in your lungs, you still have an opportunity to turn away from sin and turn back to the Lord.
Most people, including Nebuchadnezzar himself, must have thought that his time was over, that God had given up on him. After all, he went from ruling as a king in a palace to eating grass like an animal that wasn’t house trained and had to live outside. But then we see that it’s not “game over” for Nebuchadnezzar.
Daniel 4:34-35 NLT “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’
It’s when he repented that his life was restored:
Daniel 4:36-37 NLT “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.”
Here’s the lie we believe: If I repent of my sin—if I make my sin known and talk about it—God will push me down. But the consequences of concealment are far greater than the consequences of confession.
Had Nebuchadnezzar repented of his sin and asked for help when he first received the dream from God, he could have avoided seven years of incredibly difficult times. But he didn’t, and he faced the consequences.
God brought Nebuchadnezzar to a better place in life because he repented. The end of the chapter records that he praised and glorified God, acknowledging that everything He does is right. Nebuchadnezzar boldly proclaimed, “All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud” (Daniel 4:37). God had changed Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, which put him in a place where he could be refreshed and revived.