Daniel 3:29, “There I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”
This morning, children of God have varying circumstances, some of which are their own doing, while others are outside of their control. Living in America all my life, I have been blessed by many things that I had no control over bringing to pass nor maintaining. Truly, those of us living in this land have been blessed to live with freedom and liberty that are unknown to countless multitudes of God’s children in other places and at other times. Not the least of these is religious liberty and freedom. There has never been an occasion during the scope of my life that I have worried about being killed or jailed for going to church, preaching, reading my Bible, etc. This great blessing is – unfortunately – underrated by many in this land due to the fact that we have never known anything else. Without any kind of comparison or contrast in our personal lives, we live many days just assuming that this circumstance will continue upon us. There is no promise in Scripture that it is guaranteed. We do not have to worry over our eternal home when this life is over as that has been promised to us unconditionally. (I Thessalonians 5:9-10) However, blessings like religious liberty are contingent upon our steadfastness like many other promises are. (Isaiah 1:19-20)
Sometimes when I read the Bible, I will come across something that reaches out and slaps me and makes me think, “Where was that all those times I have been through here before?” In point of fact, it has been there all the time, but I just saw it. The verse before us is one such example. Though I have studied the contents of Daniel 3 numerous times, this particular thought had escaped me. The context of this lesson is that Daniel’s 3 friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were faithful to the Lord by not bowing down to the image that king Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Due to their obedience, the king had them thrown into a burning fiery furnace for their disobedience to him. The Lord delivered them from the fire, and upon their emergence, the king was dumbfounded about the series of events. He knew they threw 3 in, but he saw a 4th in the person of Jesus Christ. When they came out, they not only were not harmed but did not even have the smell of smoke on them or have a single hair singed. God’s providential deliverance was so manifest that the king makes the decree in our study verse.
Granted, the king was still lacking in his knowledge of God like he was at the end of chapter 2, but he still says something in this verse that is grand to consider. Though Daniel and his 3 friends were promoted to great honour in the land of Babylon, they were still members of a subservient people at this time. The nation of Judah had been delivered into Babylonian captivity for 70 years due to their prolonged disobedience. Some of the captives – like Ezekiel – were regulated to the labour camps, while others – like Jeremiah – were left in the ruins of Judah to keep and dress the land for the king. Daniel’s story tells of life for some of the more well favored captives that were taken into the palace to be counselors to the king amongst his other wise men. This position allowed them the opportunity to serve in faithfulness in a more manifest way leading to more manifest blessings that not only affected themselves but their entire race and nation.
Nebuchadnezzar’s decree did not give the glory to God that his declaration would at the end of chapter 4, but he still uses his authority in a very unusual way. He not only promotes these youths, but he decrees that their God can be worshipped without recrimination. No one that served the Lord God of Israel would have to fear for their wellbeing in worshipping Him. Anyone who gave them grief over their religion stood in jeopardy from the king himself. Their lives would be in danger as well as their whole house being made a ruin. Consider the situation. This nation is captive. They are bound to the law of the Babylonians that ruled over them. Any Jew that tried to live in accord to the heritage of their Jewish worship could be in jeopardy for doing so. Yet, due to the faithfulness of 3 Jewish youths in not participating in idolatry, the roles were reversed. Babylonians would be in danger and peril for speaking against those that they ruled over. Surely this circumstance is rare in the annals of human history. Human history is full of stories of the rulers making the rules for the ones they rule over. This story has one of the rulers setting the rules in favor of those ruled over.
When this lesson reached out and slapped me, it caused me to reflect in great consideration about things to come. Doubtless we in this country see our freedoms and liberties eroding away daily, and without Divine Intervention we will surely see changes in my lifetime that could not be imagined 30-50 years ago. The time may come when my life is in jeopardy for preaching my convictions. It could become a crime against the state to preach “Thus saith the Lord…” However, in my previous considerations, I had always thought that if that day came we would end up being more like John the Baptist than this situation. John the Baptist preached his convictions and lost his head over it. Such could still end up being the case. However, this lesson shows that it does not have to be that way.
This lesson teaches us that if God’s faithful few will remain steadfast in their convictions great things can happen not only for us but others that we know and love. Thousands of Jews were blessed by the efforts of 3. Their efforts granted freedom and liberty that the slaves that Ezekiel ministered unto could probably not imagine would ever come. If I was chained to a rock working from sunup to sundown, I would not expect my masters to give me liberty and freedom for religion or anything else. But, to hear a decree that put my masters’ lives in jeopardy from preventing me from calling upon God would be great mercy in my difficult circumstance. No, I do not know the future, but this lesson shows what could be our case even in the midst of hard times. If we find ourselves in a type of bondage, faithfulness should still remain and abide with us. It blessed Daniel a couple of chapters later in a den of lions. It blessed these three in a burning fiery furnace. However, it blessed so many others as well.
When hard times come, we may be delivered out of them into our abiding home in heaven, or we may be delivered through them as these 3 were. The good news is that deliverance comes either way. They said as much to the king in verses 16-18. They did not know whether they would be delivered from the fire. But they knew 2 things: 1. God was able and 2. They would be delivered – one way or another. If the fire took their lives, they went to heaven where the king could not touch them. If they were taken out of the fire, they were delivered from the king in that his word could not harm them. We should look at the uncertain future the same way. I do not know if I will be delivered from the evils that are coming, but I know that God is able and that I will be delivered one way or another. By remaining steadfast through this knowledge, we may end up blessing ourselves and others with liberty and freedom unimaginable in those difficult circumstances. However, for the time now present, let us spend time in fervent thanksgiving to God that we still have this liberty. He has been so good to us to bless us with it all these years. May His mercy abide with us so that our lives and those of our children and others following after us would have these things and be faithful in them.