Do you know the meaning of being "holy"? Do you consider yourself holy?
"Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them:"
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
AUDIO FILES (free download)
If you have compared with the original version in Aramaic then you have seen that NIV is a good translation. But about the musical instruments have we presented some variants in Daniel 3:4-7 ("lyre and harp" are better translated as "harp and psaltery", and the "pipes" are some kind of panflute or even aulos)
In previous messages have we spoken about idolatry (demanded from king Nebuchadnezzar from all peoples in the "dedication" of the statue; the "worship" of the statue we could certainly say) Now we see a king Nebuchadnezzar very angry who ordains in his wrath to bring the Jews before him, and he gives them an ultimatum: you worship the image of gold or you'll be casted to the blazing furnace. Observe that he doesn't ask them why they do not worship images. The king has been transformed from "judge" to "tyrant" in this verses.
This tyrannical character - the "villain" - have we seen probably in many superhero films (as Superman, Batman and other well-known ones) There's always there a villain, a tyrannical and powerful one who has some sinister planes, and the superhero, a strong, courageous and smart fellow, uses his resources - sometimes supernatural ones - to confront the villain, frustrate his plan and defeat him.
Do not think that king Nebuchadnezzar is the only villain in the Scriptures. In Daniel chapter five can we read about king Belshazzar who is desecrating the holy vessels of the temple of Jerusalem, and in other passages can we read about the wicked Haman, who wanted to exterminate the Hebrews in the book of Esther, the High Priest who condemned our Lord Jesus Christ, Absalom the son of king David who rebelled against his father and deposed him from the throne, king Saul, persecuting David to death... And as those villains rise upp in the power of Satan, God has risen also biblical "superheroes" to frustrate their evil plans.
But there is a big difference to be noted. The biblical superheroes, even if they are strong, or brave or smart ones, they don't defeat the villains in their strenght, their courage or cleverness. Daniel's friends overcame in this chapter by choosing the blazing furnace and trusting God. Queen Esther came before the king of Persia with her petition - with risk of death - and Our Lord defeated Satan being crucified - a punishment reserved to the worst of criminals. The power in which they all defeated the evil ones is not a human resource, but a divine one, a supernatural resource which is available for every person without regarding their talent or human abilities. This resource is called "FAITH". Faith caused Daniel's friends to hold their ground, even with a death menace upon their heads.
What do you think you would do in that situation? With the exception of the Jews, all "nations and peoples of every language" prostrated before the image and worshipped. Would you have some answer to the terrible question of the king, "what god will be able to rescue you from my hand"? Terrible, because their lives were in Nebuchadnezzar's power, and he threatened them with a horrible death in a blazing furnace.
We have to remember that Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were Jews, and they knew the Scriptures well. For the Jewish people God is no "legend" or "myth", as the pagan deities are. He who the God who called Moses, punished Egypt with ten plagues and obliged Pharaoh to let the Hebrews go (when they were his slaves) After Israel's departure, Pharaoh pursued them with the Egyptian army, and God disturbed them and opened the Read Sea so that his people should go through it, and closed it behind them, causing the Egyptians to drown. Observe God's promise to the people of Israel, after taken them away from Egypt, with miracles which neutralized the Egyptian army that pursued them:
"Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said:"
“This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
Daniel's friends knew they were "God's treasured possession" on the whole earth. And they knew also that thay should be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation". There are some strange common notions about the meaning of "being holy". For instance, many believe that you are "holy" if the Roman church canonize you (but it would be very hard to the team which declare people "saints" to find all names, adresses, phone numbers and e-mails of "God's holy people" in Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, etc. - all Christians - to which the Scripture calls "holy" disregarding if they are apostles as Saint Peter or Saint Paul, or do nothing, as the criminal who was crucified beside the Lord) Other idea of "holy people" is associated with "good works"; many call "saints" to persons like Teresa of Calcutta, Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, etc. But the Scripture doesn't demand from you to do great things to be "holy". That "holiness" which we read about in the Scripture and which those OT Jews knew about was simply to know and serve the real God, keeping themselves away from the idols (holiness means SEPARATION - from evil - and CONSECRATION - to God) It was quite clear to Daniel's friends.
That holiness they knew they were called to included to be separated from idolatry. Observe the promise of God to Israel when they were about to conquer the promised land (the promise is linked to a commandment of no mix with idolatry) in Exodus 23:30-33:
"Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land. I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you”
It was forbidden to the Jews to make a covenant with the idolaters or with their deities. To serve other gods was a mortal sin before the God of Israel. The dilemma of king Nebuchadnezzar for them was:
1) To worship the image and serve the Babylonian deities (then they would escape the burning furnace, but they would sin against the Lord, with the result that they should no longer keep the covenant which made them "God's holy people", then they wouldn't be)
2) To disobey the kings order and refuse idolatry (then they should obey their God's commandment, but they would die in a burning furnace)
What do you think you would choose? Or, which one is the right choice? Read next message!
May the Lord bless you
In the love of Christ, your brother
PS. Jesus comes quickly!