"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. Then Nebuchadnezzar, the king, sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, . . . unto the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up." [Daniel 3:1-3] "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." [Daniel 3:4-5]
"At that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live forever. . . . There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee; they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." [Daniel 3:8-12]
These men who thus accused the Hebrews had been saved from death by Daniel's appeal to the king in their behalf, but they were envious of the three Hebrews, and were desirous of hurting their influence; they therefore carried the complaint to the king that these men had dared to disobey his commands.
The thought that his slightest wish should not be respected at the dedication of the image, filled the king with rage, and he commanded that the men be brought before him. "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?" [Daniel 3:14] How short-lived is the exaltation bestowed by men! How little dependence can be placed in them! These three men, once honored, and intrusted with great responsibilities, are now the objects of the wrath of a king whose will is law. Truly we can not trust in princes.
As the three Hebrews stood before the king in their moral dignity, innocence, and purity, he was convinced that they were superior to the men in his kingdom. They had always been faithful in the performance of their duties, and he decided that he would be gracious, and give them a second trial. "If ye be ready," [Daniel 3:15] he said, "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; but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." [Daniel 3:15] And then, with hand stretched upward in defiance, he asked, "And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" [Daniel 3:15]
His senses were perverted by the prospect of his own greatness, and he seemed to lose all knowledge of a monarch above all earthly kings. When his dream was shown him by Daniel, he had acknowledged, "Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings;" [Daniel 2:47] but he now took all this back, and sought to demonstrate before the representatives of the different nations, who had assembled at the dedication of this image, that he, the king of Babylon, was the greatest king in the universe, and that all must bow low to his supremacy, and submit as slaves to his will. And all went well in the carrying out of this arrangement till the disobedience of the Hebrew captives.
With the furnace in sight, the captives answered the king's horrible threat, saying: "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." [Daniel 3:16-17] Their faith rose with the knowledge that God would be glorified in this transaction, and with a firm, triumphant ring of implicit trust and confidence in their voices, they said, "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." [Daniel 3:18]
When the king saw that his will was not received as the will of God, he was "full of fury," [Daniel 3:19] and the form of his visage was changed against these men. Satanic attributes made his countenance appear as the countenance of a demon; and with all the force he could command, he ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than its wont, and commanded the most mighty men to bind the youth, and cast them into the furnace. He felt that it required more than ordinary power to deal with these noble men. His mind was strongly impressed that something unusual would interpose in their behalf, and his strongest men were ordered to deal with them.
The king's command was urgent. He was anxious to punish the men who had dared to exercise their will in opposition to his will; and without delay, with all their clothing upon them, they were cast into the fire. "Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego." [Daniel 3:22]
Surrounded by the officers of his government, by the Chaldeans, and by distinguished and great men from many countries, the king, filled with Satanic fury, looked on the scene, waiting to see how soon the men who had defied him would be utterly consumed. But his triumph suddenly came to an end. He saw something that he thought must be an illusion. He turned pale, and, shading his eyes with his hand, he directed his gaze to the furnace, watching it with intense interest. All did not discern as quickly as did the king the result of his cruel project. With alarm he asked his great men, "Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?" "True, O king," [Daniel 3:24] was the reply. With a voice trembling with excitement, he cried, "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." [Daniel 3:25]
How did this heathen king know what the Son of God was like? Through their steadfast adherence to right principles, the Hebrew captives had been called to fill positions of trust in the courts of Babylon. They were tempted by others to be untrue, in order to gain advantages; but they were faithful in all their business transactions. In life and character they represented the truth; and when they were asked a reason for their course of action, they gave it without hesitation. Plainly and in simplicity they presented the living principles of the truth, and thus those around them were made acquainted with the Source of their strength. In this way the king of Babylon became acquainted with the form of the Son of God.
With feelings of deep humiliation and remorse, the king stood as near the blazing furnace as he dared, and in a clear, loud voice called out, "Ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither." [Daniel 3:26] They obeyed the voice of the king, and came forth unhurt, without even the smell of fire upon them.
The fact that these youth came forth from the fire having received no harm, save only that their fetters had been burned away, was beyond the comprehension of the wise men, and made a decided change in the sentiments of the people. The tidings of this wonderful deliverance were carried to many countries by the representatives of the different nations. Thus God was glorified by the faithfulness of his children.
History will be repeated. False religion will be exalted. The first day of the week, a common working day, possessing no sanctity whatever, will be set up as was the image at Babylon. All nations and tongues and peoples will be commanded to worship this spurious sabbath. This is Satan's plan to make of no account the day instituted by God, and given to the world as a memorial of creation.
The decree enforcing the worship of this day is to go forth to all the world. In a limited degree, it has already gone forth. In several places the civil power is speaking with the voice of a dragon, just as the heathen king spoke to the Hebrew captives.
Trial and persecution will come to all who, in obedience to the Word of God, refuse to worship this false sabbath. 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. The Papacy has exercised her power to compel men to obey her, and she will continue to do so. We need the same spirit that was manifested by God's servants in the conflict with paganism. Giving an account of the treatment of the Christians by the emperor of Rome, Tertullian says, "We are thrown to the wild beasts to make us recant; we are burned in the flames; we are condemned to prisons and to mines; we are banished to islands,--such as Patmos,--and all have failed." So it was in the case of the three Hebrew worthies; their eye was single to the glory of God; their souls were steadfast; the power of the truth held them firmly to their allegiance to God. It is in the power of God alone that we shall be enabled to be loyal to him.
"If ye love me," [John 14:15] said Christ, "keep my commandments." "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." [John 14:15; John 14:21] And has not Christ manifested himself to his faithful children? Did he not walk in the furnace with the captives who refused to yield to the golden image one tittle of the reverence which belonged to God? Did he not manifest himself to John, banished to the Isle of Patmos for his faithfulness? Have not those who have been persecuted for righteousness' sake, who, tho they have been compelled to suffer, have refused to worship the institution of the Papacy, realized the presence of the divine Comforter in their lonely prisons?
The commandments of finite, sinful men are to sink into insignificance beside the Word of the eternal God. Truth is to be obeyed at any cost, even tho gaping prisons, chain-gangs, and banishment stare us in the face. If you are loyal and true, that God who walked with the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace, who protected Daniel in the lions' den, who manifested himself to John on the lonely island, will go with you wherever you go. His abiding presence will comfort and sustain you; and you will realize the fulfilment of the promise, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." [John 14:23]