Sabbath, June 4, 2016

“Jesus knows the circumstances of every soul….

“He does not desire us to be overcome and perish. He who curbed the lions in their den, and walked with His faithful witnesses amid the fiery flames, is just as ready to work in our behalf to subdue every evil in our nature. Today He is standing at the altar of mercy, presenting before God the prayers of those who desire His help. He turns no weeping, contrite one away.” –The Ministry of Healing, pp. 89, 90.

Openly confessing their faith

1. Although we are not told about prior examples of religious intolerance in the Babylonian Empire, what law was enacted at the time of the Jewish captivity? What did the representatives of every nation, language, and religion in the empire do when the music began?

Daniel 3:4-7 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: 6And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 7Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

“Forming this great image, Nebuchadnezzar commanded that it should receive universal homage from all, both great and small, high and low, rich and poor.” –(MS 24, 1891) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 1169.

“History will be repeated. False religion will be exalted…. Force is the last resort of every false religion. At first it tries attraction, as the king of Babylon tried the power of music and outward show. If these attractions, invented by men inspired by Satan, failed to make men worship the image, the hungry flames of the furnace were ready to consume them. So it will be now…. We need the same spirit that was manifested by God’s servants in the conflict with paganism.” –(Signs of the Times, May 6, 1897) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 976.

“The laws and traditions of men are exalted above the law of God, and those who are true to God’s commandments suffer reproach and persecution.” –Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 170.

2. Who had the courage and power to resist the idolatrous command and worship? Did this situation cause these young men to waver in their faith? How did they firmly and decisively confess their conviction and faith in the true God?

Daniel 3:12, 16-18 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…. 16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17If 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. 18But 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.

“But God decreed otherwise. Not all had bowed the knee to the idolatrous symbol of human power. In the midst of the worshipping multitude there were three men who were firmly resolved not thus to dishonor the God of heaven. Their God was King of kings and Lord of lords; they would bow to none other….

“As the three Hebrews stood before the king, he was convinced that they possessed something the other wise men of his kingdom did not have. They had been faithful in the performance of every duty. 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, pp. 506, 507.

Free and walking in the fire

3. Is there any indication that they complained or expressed grief to God at having to face such a terrible test? Did they resist being bound and thrown into the furnace? How can we explain such steadfastness, regardless of the consequences?

Daniel 3:19-21 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

Psalms 9:10; 37:28 The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble…. 37:28For the Lord loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

“We have marked illustrations of the sustaining power of firm, religious principle…. 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. With but few exceptions, they are vacillating, varying with every change of circumstance and surroundings, one thing today and another tomorrow.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 43.

4. What effect did the raging heat of the fire have on the young men and their clothing? What was the effect of their faith and commitment? What astonished the king?

Daniel 3:23-25, first part And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt;…

“Thus it has been in the past history of God’s people. For refusing to worship the great golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the three Hebrews were cast into the fiery furnace. But God preserved His servants in the midst of the flames, and the attempt to enforce idolatry resulted in bringing the knowledge of the true God before the assembled princes and great men of the vast kingdom of Babylon.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 453.

Only the fetters consumed

5. What alone was consumed by the fire, setting the young men free? Considering the spiritual fetters of sin, what hope can we have of being completely set free from them? With whom should we constantly be in communion?

Daniel 3:20, 21, 25 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace…. 25He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 

John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

“The Hebrew captives filling positions of trust in Babylon had in life and character represented before him the truth. When asked for a reason of their faith, they had given it without hesitation. Plainly and simply they had presented the principles of righteousness, thus teaching those around them of the God whom they worshiped. They had told of Christ, the Redeemer to come; and in the form of the fourth in the midst of the fire the king recognized the Son of God.

“And now, his own greatness and dignity forgotten, Nebuchadnezzar descended from his throne and, going to the mouth of the furnace, cried out, ‘Ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.’

“Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came forth before the vast multitude, showing themselves unhurt. The presence of their Saviour had guarded them from harm, and only their fetters had been burned.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 509.

With God’s Son

6. Do you think that the fourth “Brother” in the fire was with them only in that critical circumstance, or that His constant presence with them was the secret of their wonderful unity and success? How may we be similarly united as brothers and make such experiences together?

Daniel 3:25, last part … And the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

Psalms 37:5; 32:10, second part Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass…. 32:10He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.

“What a lesson is here given to the fainthearted, the vacillating, the cowardly in the cause of God! What encouragement to those who will not be turned aside from duty by threats or peril! These faithful, steadfast characters exemplify sanctification, while they have no thought of claiming the high honor. The amount of good which may be accomplished by comparatively obscure but devoted Christians cannot be estimated until the life records shall be made known, when the judgment shall sit and the books be opened.

“Christ identifies His interest with this class; He is not ashamed to call them brethren. There should be hundreds where there is now one among us, so closely allied to God, their lives in such close conformity to His will, that they would be bright and shining lights, sanctified wholly, in soul, body, and spirit.” –The Sanctified Life, pp. 40, 41.

7. What praise to God did the king express after seeing that not even a hair of these faithful men had been singed? Centuries later, who else chose to obey God’s command and were greatly blessed? What are we privileged to do so that people may be influenced to praise the Lord in heaven?

Daniel 3:26-28 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 27And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellers, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. 28Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

Acts 5:27-29 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

“The three Hebrews declared to the whole nation of Babylon their faith in Him whom they worshiped. They relied on God. In the hour of their trial they remembered the promise, ‘When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.’ Isaiah 43:2. And in a marvelous manner their faith in the living Word had been honored in the sight of all. The tidings of their wonderful deliverance were carried to many countries by the representatives of the different nations that had been invited by Nebuchadnezzar to the dedication. Through the faithfulness of His children, God was glorified in all the earth.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 511.

For further study

Deuteronomy 8:16

Romans 5:3

1 Peter 1:7; 4:12, 13

For reflection

If we are not truly united with God, what will happen in our very first test?

While thermometers may measure temperature, what events measure the level of our faith?

What lesson of steadfastness and harmony may we learn from the three Hebrews’ amazing experience?

Are you determined to serve the Lord of heaven and none else?

As their testimony moved the king to come to God, how does our witness influence others?

Value of a loving word

Russian author Leo Tolstoy was walking down a street when a beggar stopped him to ask for alms. Tolstoy answered, “I’m sorry, brother, but I have no money on me, or I would gladly give it to you.”

The beggar’s face lit up, and he said, “That’s OK, sir. You have given me more than I asked, for you called me ‘brother.’ ”

Recognizing another person as a brother is an enormous first step in carrying out the love contained in the gospel; actually treating him as a brother is the second. May the Lord help us to do both, because in this way we bless not only a person but the Lord Himself! –Adapted from S. Vila, Enciclopedia de anecdotes, p. 347.