Sabbath, March 26, 2011
“Then … answered and said, we ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29.
The Babylonian king’s image and decree
1. What did King Nebuchadnezzar do at the pinnacle of his power? What motivated him to make this command?
Daniel 3:1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
“In time he ceased to honor God, and resumed his idol worship with increased zeal and bigotry….
“The wise men of the realm, taking advantage of this and of his return to idolatry, proposed that he make an image similar to the one seen in his dream, and set it up where all might behold the head of gold, which had been interpreted as representing his kingdom….
“Instead of reproducing the image as he had seen it, he would excel the original. His image should not deteriorate in value from the head to the feet, but should be entirely of gold–symbolic throughout of Babylon as an eternal, indestructible, all-powerful kingdom, which should break in pieces all other kingdoms and stand forever.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 504.
2. Who were called to the dedication of the image? When all were assembled, what command did the king’s herald issue?
Daniel 3:2-6 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
“And it is not surprising that in a land where idol worship was of universal prevalence, the beautiful and priceless image in the plain of Dura, representing the glory of Babylon and its magnificence and power, should be consecrated as an object of worship. This was accordingly provided for, and a decree went forth that on the day of the dedication all should show their supreme loyalty to the Babylonian power by bowing before the image.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 505, 506.
Three young men stand for God
3. What did the representatives of the conquered nations do under this incredible pressure? But who could not worship this image?
Daniel 3:7-12 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
“To Nebuchadnezzar, flushed with triumph, was brought the word that among his subjects there were some who dared disobey his mandate. Certain of the wise men, jealous of the honors that had been bestowed upon the faithful companions of Daniel, now reported to the king their flagrant violation of his wishes.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 506, 507.
“The appointed day has come, and the vast company is assembled, when word is brought to the king that the three Hebrews whom he had set over the province of Babylon, had refused to worship the image. These are Daniel’s three companions, who had been called by the king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Full of rage, the monarch calls them before him, and pointing to the angry furnace, tells them the punishment that will be theirs if they refuse obedience to his will.” –The Review and Herald, February 1, 1881.
4. What further opportunity did the king offer the young men?
Daniel 3:13-15, first part Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well:…
“He would give them another trial. If only they would signify their willingness to unite with the multitude in worshiping the image, all would be well with them;…” –Prophets and Kings, p. 507.
“The forbearance of the king is shown in his granting Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego another trial after their first failure to comply with his requirements. Doubtless the matter was thoroughly understood. They could not plead ignorance. They knew what the king wanted, and their failure to fulfill his command was an intentional and deliberate refusal to obey him. With most kings this would have been enough to seal their fate. But no, said Nebuchadnezzar, I will overlook this offense if upon a second trial they comply with the law. But they informed the king that he need not trouble himself to repeat the test.” –The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, p. 73.
5. What threat did the king say he would carry out if they refused his command?
Daniel 3:15, second part … But if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
“If only they would signify their willingness to unite with the multitude in worshiping the image, all would be well with them; ‘but if ye worship not,’ he added, ‘ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.’ Then with his hand stretched upward in defiance, he demanded, ‘Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?’ ” –Prophets and Kings, p. 507.
Holy adherence to principle
6. In whom did the three young men trust?
Daniel 3:16, 17 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
“We have marked illustrations of the sustaining power of firm, religious principle. Even the fear of death could not make the fainting David drink of the water of Bethlehem, to obtain which, valiant men had risked their lives. The gaping lions’ den could not keep Daniel from his daily prayers, nor could the fiery furnace induce Shadrach and his companions to fall down before the idol which Nebuchadnezzar set up. Young men who have firm principles will eschew pleasure, defy pain, and brave even the lions’ den and the heated fiery furnace rather than be found untrue to God. Mark the character of Joseph. Virtue was severely tested, but its triumph was complete. At every point the noble youth endured the test. The same lofty, unbending principle appeared at every trial. The Lord was with him, and His word was law. Such firmness and untarnished principle shines brightest in contrast with the feebleness and inefficiency of the youth of this age.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 43.
7. What possibility did they nevertheless have to consider? What decisive stand did they take despite the terrible threat?
Daniel 3:18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
“From the history of their fathers they had learned that disobedience to God results in dishonor, disaster, and death;…” –Prophets and Kings, p. 508.
“Their answer was both honest and decisive. ‘We are not careful,’ said they, ‘to answer thee in this matter.’ That is, you need not grant us the favor of another trial; our minds are made up. We can answer as well now as at any future time; and our answer is, We will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Our God can deliver if He so desires; but if not, we shall not complain. We know His will, and we shall render Him unconditional obedience.” –The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation, p. 73.
For personal study
• Messages to Young People, pp. 27, 28.
“In the history of Joseph, Daniel, and his fellows we see how the golden chain of truth may bind the youth to the throne of God. They could not be tempted to turn aside from their course of integrity. They valued the favor of God far above the favor and praise of princes, and God loved them, and spread His shield over them. Because of their faithful integrity, because of their determination to honor God above every human power, the Lord signally honored them before men. They were honored by the Lord God of hosts, whose power is over all the works of His hand in heaven above and the earth beneath. These youth were not ashamed to display their true colors. Even in the court of the king, in their words, their habits, their practices, they confessed their faith in the Lord God of heaven. They refused to bow to any earthly mandate that detracted from the honor of God. They had strength from heaven to confess their allegiance to God.” –My Life Today, p. 120.