Fourth Sunday after Easter Morning Prayer (2 May 2021) Daniel 3:16-28
Updated: May 2
Today’s meditation is based on the prophetic book of Daniel, chapter 3, verses 16–28. This is another familiar passage to all of us. When the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel, he took vessels and the treasures of the LORD God from the temple and the best people as captives to his country. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were among those who were taken to Babylon as captives. Their names were changed in the land of captivity. They were given the royal food and taught the Babylonian language. The Babylonian king wanted to use the knowledge and wisdom from the LORD Jehovah to the benefit of his kingdom. When none of the magicians, astrologers and sorcerers could interpret the king’s dream, Daniel could interpret the dream. The Lord Jehovah lifted Daniel’s head. The king gave him many great gifts and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon. Daniel requested of the king and set Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. These four young men were true to the Lord Jehovah.
The king Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and set up the image in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. When the princes, governors, captains, judges, treasures, counsellors, sheriffs and rulers gathered for the dedication of the image, an herald cried aloud a commandment. When the people heard the sound of the music, all the people had to fall down and worship the golden image that the king had set up. Anyone who did not fall down and worship would be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not bow or worship the golden image. They stood firm in their decision even when the king gave them another chance to worship the image. When they refused, the king ordered for the furnace to be heated seven times more than it was to be heated. He ordered his most mighty men to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The flames consumed those who took them and threw them into the furnace. But these three men walked loose in the midst of the fire. There was a fourth person with them who resembled the Son of God.
The king was astonished at this and asked them to come out of the furnace. Fire had no power on their bodies. Not even a hair on their head was burned. There was no smell of fire on them. Then the king passed a decree saying, “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”. Moreover, the king promoted them in the province of Babylon. After this incident, the king had another dream and Daniel interpreted it as well. Daniel prospered not only in Nebuchadnezzar’s time but also during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. We are all familiar with Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den and the Lord keeping Daniel safe from the lions. This happened during the reign of king Darius.
I would like to meditate on two questions today:
1) Why were Daniel and his friends exalted? and
2) What do we learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s life?
1) Why were Daniel and his friends exalted?
They did not defile themselves with the food and drink offered to idols: The Babylonian king and the Babylonians did not worship the LORD Jehovah. They offered their food to their gods before eating. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank. Therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Daniel did not want to consume the food offered to idols, so he asked for pulse to eat and water to drink. When they stood before the king, the king found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers. They kept the LORD Almighty in the prime position in their lives.
They worshipped only the LORD God: When the king commanded the entire nation to worship the golden image, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to do so. Let us imagine the scenario: all the people who have gathered for the dedication fall down before the image but these three did not. In their response, we can see the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had on the Lord Jehovah. They said, “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. 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.” They trusted the Lord to save them and were willing to die for their belief. When the Lord kept them safe in the fiery furnace, even the Babylonian king and the entire nation witnessed that “there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.”. The young men obeyed the law given in Leviticus 19:4: “Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God”.
Daniel did not change his Jewish practice: Daniel faces a similar situation later in his life during the reign of king Darius. The officials in Babylon could not find any fault on Daniel. They knew about Daniel praying thrice a day. So, they spoke to the king and made a royal statute saying “whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days … shall be cast into the den of lions.” Although Daniel knew about the decree, “he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime”. When Daniel was put in the lion’s den, the LORD God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouth. We read in Daniel 6:26–28 that king Darius made a decree that in his kingdom everyone should “tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions”.
They magnified the LORD God’s name: God gave His heavenly knowledge and wisdom to Daniel and the other three friends. But God gave an additional gift to Daniel about revealing the dreams. We read that Daniel interpreted dreams for kings. When he revealed the dream and interpretation to king Nebuchadnezzar or explained the words to king Belshazzar, he did not promote himself. He gave glory to the LORD Jehovah and magnified His name. When the king gave them a second chance, Daniel’s friends exalted the Lord God. They boldly declared the Lord Jehovah was more powerful than the king. When Daniel was promoted, he remembered his friends also who were true to the Lord Jehovah.
2) What do we learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s life?
The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar came to know about the LORD Jehovah when Daniel revealed his dream for the first time. The king proclaimed and magnified LORD Jehovah. But after knowing about the LORD Jehovah, the king made a golden image and asked everyone to worship it. When he saw the fourth man in the furnace and there was no smell of fire on the young men, he again declared that the LORD Jehovah was the true God.
In Daniel 4, we read that the king had another dream and Daniel interpreted the dream. The king was cautioned about his future. We know that Babylon was a beautiful city and its hanging gardens was one of the seven wonders of the world. When the king was proud about his kingdom and leadership, he heard a voice from heaven saying that his kingdom had departed from him. He was driven from men and ate grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. When he lifted his eyes unto heaven, his understanding returned to him. He then blessed, praised and honoured the LORD God. Almighty. He said “I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”
We read many verses in the Bible about the result of being proud and hardening our hearts. Proverb 29:1 says, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy”. The king witnessed the works of the living Lord. But he gave honour to an image he had created. Psalm 97:7 says, “Confounded be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols”. The king was cautioned through dreams. When he was proud about himself, he was thrown out of his throne and ate grass like oxen. James 4:6 says, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble”. We also read about God helping when we repent and turn to Him. Psalm 34:18 says, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit”. When the king called upon the Lord, his understanding returned to him. Psalm 145:18 says, “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth”. When he gave honour to the Lord, his honour and brightness returned to him.
We have heard about people with two different and opposite attitudes:
- Even when they were taken to Babylon as captives, Daniel and his friends wanted to follow the commandments given through Moses. They gave importance to the commandment not to eat food sacrificed to idols. There was no one to question them even if they ate the food that was originally given to them. But they chose to give the LORD Almighty the prime position in their lives.
- The king knew and confessed that the Lord Jehovah was God. But he created an image and asked everyone to worship the image. He had a change of heart only when he saw the fourth man walking in the furnace.
- The three young men trusted the Almighty God to save them from the hand of the king in a land where they were captives. They confessed their Lord had more authority than the king. Even if they were not saved, they refused to bow to the image. They were willing to die for their faith on the Lord. When they took a stand for God, He came down for them.
- Daniel continued to pray even after he knew about the king’s decree. When he was put in the lion’s den, Darius said “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.” The next morning, when the king came to him, Daniel did not accuse those who were the reason for him being in the lion’s den. The king saw a difference in Daniel’s life and had faith that the God whom Daniel worshipped would save him.
- Daniel and his friends gave all honour and glory to the Lord God. They exalted the Lord Jehovah in all that they did. The Lord exalted them among the entire nation of Babylon.
- The king was warned about his pride in a dream, but he still exalted himself. When he did that, he ate grass like oxen. It was then that he realised that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.”
- King Darius must have heard about Daniel and his interpretations during the time of king Nebuchadnezzar and king Belshazzar. We read that he was displeased with himself for signing the decree. He fasted and spent a sleepless night when Daniel was in the lion’s den. He lamented when he came to the den the next day and was exceedingly glad when Daniel was safe.
Let is self-reflect about ourselves. We should be able to identify with at least one of the people in these incidents: Daniel, his three friends, king Nebuchadnezzar, king Belshazzar, King Darius or those who sought counsel against Daniel.
Daniel and his friends were in the land of Babylon where they kept themselves pure. As said in Psalm 119:9, they cleansed his ways by taking heed thereto according to the Word of God. Do we keep ourselves pure in our everyday lives? I cannot imagine their courage when they said “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. 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”. Like them, if we are strong in our faith on our Lord, He will save us from the fiery furnace and the mouths of lions. King Nebuchadnezzar knew the Lord Jehovah but made an image and commanded idol worship. He was proud about his achievements. Do we have pride in our hearts? If yes, God resists us. If we are humble, He gives us grace. King Darius heard about Daniel and his God and trusted the Lord based on Daniel’s life. Can someone say the same by just observing us and looking at our activities? Those who sought counsel against Daniel did so because they were envious of him. They and their families were destroyed. If we are finding fault with what others are doing because we are envious of them, we are on the path to destruction.
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Amen!