Dr. Mark Scott wrote this treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson. Scott teaches preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. This lesson treatment is published in issue no. 1–4 (January 7-28, 2018) of The Lookout magazine, and is also available online at www.lookoutmag.com.
By Mark Scott
The prophet Daniel himself took center stage in last week’s lesson. In this week’s lesson his three friends are at the center of the controversy. We move from food to fire. Another person who actually occupies a large portion of the first chapters of the book of Daniel is Nebuchadnezzar. It seems odd that he would go from affirming the service of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1:20; 2:46-49) to wanting to throw the last three into the fiery furnace. But we do not know how much time has elapsed between chapters 1 and 3, and after all this is Nebuchadnezzar, who is about as mentally stable as Herod the Great (Matthew 2:1-23).
Daniel 3 begins with Nebuchadnezzar making a golden image (of himself?) and placing it in the plain of Dura. When the music played, all the people were to bow down to worship the image. The Jews obviously could not comply with that command, in light of Exodus 20:3-6. The Chaldeans ratted on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:8-12), and Nebuchadnezzar blew a gasket (vv. 13-15). One of the boldest examples of faith in the entire Bible precedes our printed text. Daniel’s three friends refused the king’s edict by saying that their God was able to deliver them from the fire, but even if he chose not to do that, they still would not bow down (vv. 16-18). They did not bend, or bow, or burn.
A Bold Faith Faces Danger | Daniel 3:19-23
Nebuchadnezzar did not take lightly to being treated with contempt. He got about as hot as the furnace that he heated for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king gave orders to heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual. The number seven could be symbolic, just meaning “very hot.” But the extent of the intense heat is still evident in the verses that follow. This was probably some kind of open brick kiln used in that part of the world at the time.
Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers bound the three Hebrews (a detail mentioned twice in the paragraph) and threw them into the fire. Two other details are mentioned about this event: (1) The clothing of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—no time was taken to strip the men down. They were thrown in clothes and all. (2) The deaths of the soldiers who followed the king’s command—evidence of the furnace’s intense heat.
Bold Faith Is Rewarded | Daniel 3:26, 27
God chooses when to deliver or when not to deliver (cf. Acts 12:1-17). Therefore, it might not always seem to the watching world that bold faith is actually rewarded. In this case though, it happened. Nebuchadnezzar could hardly believe that the three Hebrews survived the fire, but his counselors confirmed it was true. In addition to this, the king saw yet a fourth person who seemed to be walking in the fire with the men (Daniel 3:24, 25). Was this Jesus or an angel? From the “pagan perspective,” it was evidently the latter.
How Nebuchadnezzar could see into the kiln is not known. How the three Hebrews could walk out of the kiln having been tied up is not known. But the reaction of the onlookers seems to validate that something miraculous happened. So complete was this miraculous reward that four aspects of it are mentioned: their bodies showed no signs of harm, their hair was not singed, their clothing was not scorched, and there was no smell of smoke on them. This may well be what Hebrews 11:34 means when it says through faith “they quenched the power of fire.”
Bold Faith Generates Witness | Daniel 3:28
Nebuchadnezzar and his whole cabinet were amazed. As Nebuchadnezzar did in other places (Daniel 2:47; 4:34, 35), he gave praise (blessing) toward the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king admitted that the men were divinely rescued. The king realized that their deliverance was due to their trust in their God. He confirmed that the men had defied (set aside) his own command. The king was impressed that the men were willing to give up their lives rather than compromise their faith. What is interesting about this nuance of bold faith is that it generated a witness for God from a pagan king.
There are three famous words in the non-printed part of our text. They are, “But if not . . .” (Daniel 3:18, King James Version). These famous words were actually spoken by the British naval commander in World War II. The movie Dunkirk was partly about that kind of courage. Bold faith says, “But if not . . .”
Lesson study ©2018, Christian Standard Media. Print and digital subscribers are permitted to make one print copy per week of lesson material for personal use. Lesson based on International Sunday School Lesson, ©2013, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|January 8: Acts 4:13-22|
|January 9: Acts 5:27-32|
|January 10: Esther 4:5-17|
|January 11: Daniel 3:1-12|
|January 12: Daniel 3:13-18|
|January 13: Daniel 3:24, 25|
|January 14: Daniel 3:19-23, 26-28|