Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Reflecting Christ in the Church and the World

Introduction
“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8)

Romans 12:9-11

Context
-The apostle Paul wrote this letter to Roman Christians from the city of Corinth during his third missionary journey, located 745 miles away by the most direct route by land and sea. Corinth was one of the leading cities of Achaea, and Paul had already written letters to the Corinthian church. He had visited many churches in his years of missionary activity already, but he had not yet visited the church in Rome. Paul had never managed to visit the Roman church thus far, even though the church had already been founded by people unknown (Romans 1:8-14). Therefore, Paul writes them his longest letter before he meets them for the first time.
-Paul begins the letter to the Christians in Rome with an 11-chapter argument. He begins by speaking of God’s wrath revealed on unbelievers because of their rejection of God (Romans 1:18-32), and he particularly applies this to any of his readers who may be smug in self-righteousness (Romans 2). This leads Paul to state that no one is righteous in any way before the holy God (Romans 3:1-20), but that people can be made righteous through justification by faith alone (Romans 3:21-30) because of Christ’s death and resurrection. He demonstrates this historically from Israel’s history (Romans 4), and states that we now can have peace with God (Romans 5:1-11) and life in Christ (Romans 5:12-21) because we are dead to sin and alive in God (Romans 6:1-14) and have become slaves to Jesus Christ and His righteousness (Romans 6:15-23). Even though we struggle against indwelling sin (Romans 7) there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Nothing can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8).
-However, Paul must deal with an objection: if the Gospel is true and rooted in Israel’s history, why have they rejected it so strongly? They have done so because their hearts are judicially hardened so that the Gentiles can come to faith in Christ (Romans 9). Paul earnestly and eagerly desired the nation of Israel to be saved (Romans 10), and stated that in God’s redemptive plan, the nation of Israel will become saved in the last days after the full measure of the Gentiles has been brought in. (Romans 11) This leads Paul to conclude with a magnificent doxology of praise to God (Romans 11:33=36).
-The remainder of Romans (Romans 12-16) is Paul’s application of the theology he has presented in Romans 1-11. Romans 12 is centered on living holy and pleasing to God (Romans 12:1-2), and Paul outlines the different gifts of grace God has given us to do so (Romans 12:3-8). Therefore, Paul lists many short, practical commands and applications in Romans 12:9-21.

Verse 9
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
1. Have a Genuine Love

-Paul begins his series of applications in Romans 12 with the header of them all: “Let love be genuine” ( ἀγάπη ἀνυπόκριτος). Indeed, all the remaining statements in Romans 12:9-11 are expansions of this command: “Let love be genuine.”
-But what is “love” that Paul talks about here? In the Roman world, the Via Romana (Roman Way) was the de facto standard of character and conduct for Roman citizens. Of all the fifteen private virtues in the Roman Way, none of them are love. Some virtues approach what Paul means by love, but none of them truly describes it. Indeed, in our world today, the idea of “love” sometimes approach’s Scripture’s definition of love and sometimes is very far from it.
-In our world today, “love” is defined as a feeling based on how someone makes me feel, often with an erotic undertone. In Paul’s 75 references to agape love in his letters, this is precisely not how love is defined in Scripture. The world has been asking the question “what is love?” for thousands of years and has been searching for answers in many, many places throughout history.
-The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, says that “love” is firstly not found or defined in us, for it is an attribute of God. (Romans 13:14).
-In the book of Romans, Paul declares that “love” is found in God and in the message of the Gospel: that God sent His Son to save us from our sins (Romans 5:8). In demonstration of Trinitarian theology, Paul describes agape love as an attribute of God the Father (Romans 5:5), the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:35), and the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). “Love” is therefore an attribute of the triune God and an action of God as demonstrated through the Gospel message.
-Since our triune God saved us by His love, we also have a growing capacity to love as God loves us (1 John 4:19-21).
-A full definition of “love” is not provided here, but one definition is provided by Paul here. He says it is to be “genuine” (ἀνυπόκριτος). The NASB and KJV translate
ἀνυπόκριτος literally: “without hypocrisy” or “without dissimulation”. The ESV and NRSV translate it as “genuine”, and the NIV translates it as “sincere”.
-To be “sincere” means to be without hypocrisy (1 John 4:20) or deceit (Colossians 3:9), as it means rather to be honest (1 Corinthians 13:6) and to be self-sacrificial for others. (1 Peter 4:10)
-Paul elsewhere exhorts Christians to have a genuine (or sincere) love (2 Corinthians 6:6).
2. Have a Pure Heart
-Paul then warns us not to love that which we should not love. He says “Abhor what is evil”
(
ἀποστυγοῦντες τὸ πονηρόν). This participle, along with the ten that follow it, are present active participles that indicate that the life of a Christian is to be a constant, daily effort by God’s grace to reflect Christ to everyone around us.
-“Abhor”
(ἀποστυγοῦντες) is a strong word for Paul to use, and it means more than a passive feeling but an active resistance. This is the only time ἀποστυγέω (apostugeo) appears in the Bible.
-“The only simple verb for hate in the New Testament is
μισέω. Στυγέω, quite frequent in the classics, does not occur except in this compound, which is found only here. The kindred adjective στυγητός hateful, is found 1 Tim. 3:3. The original distinction between μισέω and στυγέω is that the former denotes concealed and cherished hatred, and the latter hatred expressed. The preposition ἀπό away from, may either denote separation or be merely intensive. An intense sentiment is meant: loathing.[1]
-We loathe that which we deem repulsive and worthless and dangerous and destructive. However, what we love and what we loathe will be dependent on the state of our hearts. Formerly, we loved evil things (John 3:19) that God hates (Psalm 11:5), but now we are to love the things of God (Luke 10:27) and hate the things that oppose God’s holiness (1 John 2:15)
-“Evil” (πονηρός) is that which is wicked, but more specifically it refers to wicked acts by unbelievers against others (Matthew 12:35).
-As Christians, we are called to hate the things God hates and purge them from our lives (1 Corinthians 5:13).
-This type of abhorrence is not an irrational, destructive anger that the world has for Christ and Christians (Matthew 10:22). Rather, as John Calvin states, “As to the participle,
ἀποστυγούντες, I have followed neither Erasmus nor the old translators, who have rendered it “hating,” (odio habentes) for in my judgment Paul intended to express something more; and the meaning of the term “turning away,” corresponds better with the opposite clause; for he not only bids us to exercise kindness, but even to cleave to it.[2]
-
Many today would define “love” as something that must include not only an approval of that which is evil in God’s eyes, but also an active rebellion against God. However, this is nothing new. John Chrysostom addressed this 1,500 years ago in the 4th century A.D. when he preached on this text. “Then since there is a love even for ill things, such as is that of the intemperate, that of those who are of one mind for money, and for plunder’s sake, and for revels and drinking clubs, he clears it of all these, by saying, “Abhor (ἀποστυγοῦντες) that which is evil.” And he does not speak of refraining from it, but of hating it, and not merely hating it, but hating it exceedingly. For this word ἀπὸ is often of intensive force with him, as where he speaks of “earnest expectation, looking out for,”3 (complete) “redemption.” For since many who do not evil things still have a desire after them, therefore he says, “Abhor.” For what he wants is to purify the thought, and that we should have a mighty enmity, hatred and war against vice. For do not fancy, he means, because I said, “Love one another,” that I mean you to go so far as to coöperate even in bad actions with one another; for the law that I am laying down is just the reverse. Since it would have you an alien not from the action only, but even from the inclination towards vice; and not merely an alien from this same inclination, but to have an excessive aversion and hatred of it too.[3]
3. Have a Strong Faith

-Paul says to “hold fast to what is good” (
κολλώμενοι τῷ ἀγαθῷ).
-“Hold fast” (κολλάω) comes from the verb kollao, which means “to glue” or “to cement”. Paul is telling them to become glued to that which is good.
-As Christians, we are joined to the Lord in an inseparable bond of redemption (1 Corinthians 6:17).
-In times of trouble (and in all seasons of life), we are called to cling to God in this fashion (Deuteronomy 10:20; Psalm 63:8).
-We are called to hold fast to God’s Word (Psalm 119:31).
-If we try to hold fast to God on our own strength, we can’t. We are like the little child that tried to hold his father’s hand, but his little hand could not grip his father’s hand well. Only until his father took hold of his little hand could the little boy maintain a hold on his father’s hand. (Isaiah 41:13).
-“Good” (ἀγαθός) is the direct opposite of evil mentioned in the previous participle.
-We can discern what is good by training ourselves to discern the will of God (Romans 12:2).
-That which is good are works that are pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 9:8).
-That which is good are works of kindness done to others, especially to other Christians (Galatians 6:10)
-Good will always ultimately triumph over evil (Romans 12:21).
-We were saved not by our good works, but in order to do good works as fruits of our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Verse 10
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

4. Have a Brotherly Love

-Paul then tells them to have a brotherly love for one another. He exhorts them, “Love one another with brotherly affection” (τῇ φιλαδελφίᾳ εἰς ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι).
-Paul now develops the idea of love from a concept to a direction: we are to “love one another” (ἀλλήλους φιλόστοργοι).
-
“Love” here can be understood as “loving dearly”.
-In the early church, the Thessalonian church was exemplary in brotherly love (1 Thessalonians 4:9).
-The apostle John in particular emphasizes our Lord’s command that we “love one another”. He states it three times in his gospel (John 13:34; John 15:12; John 15:17) and six times in two other letters (1 John 3:11; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:7; 1 John 4:11; 1 John 4:12; 2 John 1:5)
-“With brotherly affection” (φιλαδελφίᾳ) is the Greek word Philadelphia, of which there was both an ancient and modern city named—one in modern-day Turkey and one in modern-day Pennsylvania in the United States.
-The apostle Peter urges us to add brotherly affection to our godly character (2 Peter 1:5-8).
-The “golden-mouthed preacher” 1,500 years ago said:
For not only must one’s “love be without dissimulation,” but intense also, and warm, and glowing. Because, to what purpose would you love without fraud, and not love with warmth? Whence he says, “kindly affectioned one towards another, that is, be friends, and warm ones too.[4]
-Scripture exhorts us to love one another as brothers and sisters in Christ (Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22)
5. Have a Selfless Heart
-Paul then says, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (τῇ τιμῇ ἀλλήλους προηγούμενοι). This would be very familiar to Roman culture, where honor and shame were so important in that day. However, Paul adds a twist that they would not have been expecting.
-In the Roman worldview, religion dealt with man’s relationship with the gods, while philosophy dealt with man’s relationship with one another. Most of Rome’s philosophy was not original, but was imported from the Greek empire, which they replaced. Virtues such as nobility and public honor were very important to the Romans. However, Paul here says that they are indeed to pursue honor—but not for themselves, but for one another.
-He tells them to “outdo one another” (προηγούμενοι), which here means more than “compete against one another” but means “esteem one another highly”.
-We can esteem one another first for who our brothers and sisters are in Christ. They are the adopted sons and daughters of God Himself (John 1:12).
-Our brothers and sisters are those who overcome the world through their faith in Jesus Christ (1 John 5:4).
-Our brothers and sisters are those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit of God (1 Peter 1:23).
-Our brothers and sisters are those who will reign with our Lord (2 Timothy 2:12a)
-Our brothers and sisters are those who will endure to the end no matter what the forces of the world and hell may throw against them (Matthew 24:13).
-We can esteem one another highly by showing each other “honor” (τιμή). Paul mentions “honor” more than any other New Testament writer.
-“Honor” is treating someone because you value them highly. To honor something means to attach a great price to an object.


Verse 11

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

6. Have a Zealous Heart

-Paul urges, “Do not be slothful in zeal” (τῇ σπουδῇ μὴ ὀκνηροί).
-“Slothful” (ὀκνηροί) means “lazy”.
-Proverbs warns repeatedly against the dangers of sloth (Proverbs 6:6; Proverbs 6:9; Proverbs 20:4).
-“Zeal” (σπουδῇ) is that passion which translates itself into action. If we do not act, we do not have passion.
-What can make us lazy and apathetic in our passion for the Lord? Persecution, suffering, disappointment, despair, hurt, pain, loss, hardship, the advancement of age, the world, the flesh, and the devil. All of these things happen in our lives, particularly if we are faithful to our Lord (Acts 20:19).
-Paul saw those around him who became slothful in zeal and walked away from Christian ministry (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10).
-Elsewhere in his ministry, Paul urged the churches not to put out the Spirit’s fire (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
-In Matthew 25, we see an example of what happens to those servants who become slothful in zeal (Matthew 25:26-30).
-Many characters in the Bible grew slothful in zeal: Solomon (1 Kings 11:4), Asa (2 Chronicles 16:12), Joash (2 Chronicles 24:20-22), and many others.

7. Have a Fervent Spirit
-By contrast, Paul teaches, “be fervent in spirit”
(τῷ πνεύματι ζέοντες).
-
The apostle Paul was saved on the road to Damascus in Acts 9, and his passion against Christ instantly turned to passion for Christ (Acts 9:20-22).
-Paul as a young Christian faced a death threat from those who opposed him (Acts 9:23).
-Paul faced public opposition and slander repeatedly throughout his ministry (Acts 14:4-6), to where he ended up in multiple prisons over four years because of the false accusations of those who opposed Paul and Paul’s Lord (Acts 21:27-28).
-Paul faced the loss of treasured friendships (Acts 15:36-40).
-Paul faced severe physical persecutions (2 Corinthians 11:24-28), even at one point extremely close to death (Acts 14:19).
-Paul faced the daily concern for those he could not fellowship with in person (2 Corinthians 11:28-29).
-Paul eventually faced death, traditionally thought to be a death sentence imposed on him by Emperor Nero, who had him killed by decapitation. Yet for 32 years, Paul’s spirit never broke and his zeal never waned. Paul faced more hardship, more pain, more suffering, more persecution, more loss, more slander, more hatred, and more opposition than most Christians in history ever will, and yet Paul remained passionate about the Lord Jesus Christ and proclaiming the Word of God to all men throughout his life (2 Timothy 4:7-8). 2,000 years later, we study the words this man wrote because God gave him a burning passion that never died.
-Paul was fervent in spirit throughout his life because he knew that no matter what he faced in this life, the rewards were eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17) and the victory certain (Romans 8:37; 1 Corinthians 15:57). His joy overcame all the suffering (Philippians 4:4), and this belittled, slandered, persecuted, imprisoned, hated, and martyred man has now become rightly known as the greatest Christian who ever lived.

8. Have a Servant Focus

-Paul ends verse 11 with the command to “serve the Lord” (τῷ κυρίῳ δουλεύοντες).
-“Serve” (δουλεύοντες) means “to serve as a slave”.
-In the Roman empire, slavery was the backbone of the economic system. Slaves primarily were those from conquered nations or those working off debts and was not a racial matter such as Spanish slavery in South America or American slavery in the southern United States. For slavery to not exist was not even an option in Paul’s day, and he describes that slavery is indeed the metaphor for our relationship of service to our Master.
-Unlike an uncaring and unkind master, our Lord loves us more than anyone else ever cans. As a matter of fact, our Master died for us so that we might be saved (Ephesians 5:2)
-Our eternal and indestructible joy is that we will be with our Lord Jesus Christ forever and ever in glory when our service for Him on earth is finished (Romans 6:8).


Conclusion
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” 1 Peter 2:22-23 ESV)

Recording
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Handout
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[1] Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 3, p. 158). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
[2] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (p. 464). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[3] John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. In P. Schaff (Ed.), J. B. Morris, W. H. Simcox, & G. B. Stevens (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 11, p. 503). New York: Christian Literature Company.
[4] John Chrysostom. (1889). Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans. In P. Schaff (Ed.), J. B. Morris, W. H. Simcox, & G. B. Stevens (Trans.), Saint Chrysostom: Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistle to the Romans (Vol. 11, p. 503). New York: Christian Literature Company.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Faith in the Midst of the Fire

Introduction
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13)

Daniel 3:19-30

Context

-In Daniel 3, leaders from every rank of Babylonian government had assembled 16 mouths south of Babylon to the plains of Dura. King Nebuchadnezzar, having made a golden image that twisted the truth of the image in Daniel 2, commanded that every politician gathered there that day fall down and worship the golden image. The image itself, while not deifying Nebuchadnezzar personally, did exist to direct worship to Babylonian gods and Babylonian pride, imperialism, and paganism.
-Certain Chaldeans, who had failed to interpret the king’s dream in Daniel 2, now sought an opportune moment for revenge against Daniel and his three friends. While Daniel was still in the city running the administration (Daniel 2:49), his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were still there. Therefore, the Chaldeans sought to destroy these hated Jews, and after their accusations, Nebuchadnezzar demanded that they be brought before him. He personally repeated the orders his herald had issued earlier, and asked each of them personally by name if they did not worship his gods or bow down to the golden image.
-The response of the three Jews is one of profound courage, conviction, and faithfulness in the midst of a death threat. They declare that their God who delivered them over three years ago into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand is the same God who can deliver them out of His hand. They declare that God is powerful enough to deliver them from the fiery furnace. But, knowing that God may not have determined they live through this but rather die so they may be with the Lord, they tell the king that they will not serve his gods and will not bow down to his golden image.
-“When our danger for the truth’s sake is imminent, we should learn to place our life in God’s hand, and then bravely and fearlessly devote ourselves to death.[1]
-Therefore, the question coming into the last scene in Daniel 3 is this: would God stop them from being cast into the fiery furnace, or would they be cast into the fiery furnace and die?

The Furnace
(v. 19-22)
19Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.

Verse 19

-The narrative ended in verse 18, where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said, “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

-At this moment, a pin could have dropped and people would have heard it. This is a very clear, very bold, very faithful response on the part of the three Jews, and there is no misunderstanding or mistaken thoughts about their response. They clearly and publicly say, “We will not bow”. Nebuchadnezzar, already showing a pattern of anger when disagreed with (Daniel 2:11-12), does not take these words well. “Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury.”
(
בֵּאדַיִן נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר הִתְמְלִי חֱמָא וּצְלֵם). To be filled with fury means he became even more enraged that he was before (Daniel 3:13). Now, he has reached the boiling point.
-Moreover, “and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (
וּצְלֵם אַנְפּוֹהִי אֶשְׁתַּנּוּ עַל־שַׁדְרַךְ מֵישַׁךְ וַעֲבֵד נְגוֹ). Many people may facially demonstrate their anger through a set jaw and dilated eyes, but this refers to someone who is so angry and enraged that their entire face becomes contorted in rage.
-Nebuchadnezzar’s anger in Daniel 2 caused him to order execution of all the wise men in Babylon (Daniel 2:12), and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s lives were threatened (Daniel 2:13). Their faithfulness here does not make them avoid another encounter with an angry king who will kill them. Now, “he ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.” (
וְאָמַר לְמֵזֵא לְאַתּוּנָא חַד־שִׁבְעָה עַל דִּי חֲזֵה לְמֵזְיֵהּ׃).
-At this moment in human history, furnaces were not used to heat homes. Home furnaces were not invented until the time of the Roman Empire, which would be two empires beyond the time of Babylonian. The furnace Nebuchadnezzar built here would most likely have been a brick kiln, in which fuel and precious metals could be inserted from the side. Temperatures could range from 1,832-2,372 F (1,000-1,300 C), as the melting point of gold is 1,948 F (1,064 C). Human bodies, made of 70% water, will start to internally boil at 212 F (100 C), and human skin itself will start to burn at 212 F (100 C). Therefore, this brick furnace would have been over 1,500 degrees F (over 900 degrees C) hot enough to burn them in very short order.
-There would have been no temperature gauge, so the measurement “seven times” is metaphorical instead of literal.

Verse 20
-In order to assure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could not escape,
he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego”
(וּלְגֻבְרִין גִּבָּרֵי־חַיִל דִּי בְחַיְלֵהּ אֲמַר לְכַפָּתָה לְשַׁדְרַךְ מֵישַׁךְ וַעֲבֵד נְגוֹ).
-The “mighty men” (
גִּבָּרֵי־חַיִל) were used by kings as bodyguards and as special operatives for dangerous assignments. This is not the first time God’s people were guarded by high-profile warriors; Paul was guarded by the Praetorian guard in Philippi (Philippians 1:12-13) King David’s mighty men are repeatedly mentioned in Scripture (2 Samuel 23:8-39; 1 Chronicles 12).
-These mighty men would have ensured that these three Jews could not have escaped, and that no one could have come to their aid to rescue them.
-Also, these mighty men would be their executioners by casting them into the side of the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar ordered them to be the ones
to cast them into the burning fiery furnace” (לְמִרְמֵא לְאַתּוּן נוּרָא יָקִדְתָּא׃). There is now no human means of escape for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Verse 21
-Daniel writes about his three friends that “
Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments”
(בֵּאדַיִן גֻּבְרַיָּא אִלֵּךְ כְּפִתוּ בְּסַרְבָּלֵיהוֹן פַּטִּישֵׁיהוֹן וְכַרְבְּלָתְהוֹן וּלְבֻשֵׁיהוֹן).
-In most executions, there would have been some effort to strip the victims of their valuable clothes, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not peasants. However, the suddenness of the king’s command necessitated their restraint immediately, even though they were dressed in their Babylonian garments.
-Identifying exactly what garments Daniel mentions in the original Aramaic is partly impossible, as historians know the least about Babylonian clothing and fashion than they know of other ancient Mesopotamian empires before and after Babylon. Therefore, the English words used by translators are approximations of what may have been the garments Daniel mentions here.
-The moment of tragedy now smashes all hope that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego can be saved from the fiery furnace:
and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace”
(וּרְמִיו לְגוֹא־אַתּוּן נוּרָא יָקִדְתָּא׃).
-There are many moments in Scripture when all human hope seems lost: when Abraham raised the knife to slay his son Isaac (Genesis 22:9-10), when the Israelites stood between the advancing Egyptian army and the shore of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:8-12), when the Assyrians surrounded Jerusalem to kill the city (2 Chronicles 32), when Lazarus died during the ministry of Jesus (John 11:5-17), and when Jesus died on the cross, seemingly ending all hope for Messianic kingdom and salvation (Mark 15:37).
Verse 22
-Daniel adds that the suddenness and the immediacy of the king’s command of execution ended up harming his own mighty men. “
Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”
-Just like Nebuchadnezzar’s anger that overheated, the furnace also overheated, and “the flame of the fire killed those men who took up” the three Jews. The furnace would have had an opening in the top to vent the heat and steam and smoke, and the side entrance would have been used to throw fuel and insert precious metals. Therefore, when walking Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace, the intense flames and heat (over 2,400 degrees F / 1,300 C) killed those who restrained them.
Verse 23
-Daniel restates the latter half of verse 21 for emphasis, as Daniel’s writing style does repeat pivotal details for emphasis. He draws it out for emphasis, in order that the reader may know the seeming finality of this moment. “And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.”
-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were accused by name before the king (v. 11). Nebuchadnezzar asked each of them individually if they would recant (v. 14). Then each of them—not one in disagreement—answered the king and refused to recant (v. 16-18). Now, Daniel writes that all three of them “fell bound into the burning fiery furnace”
(
נְפַלוּ לְגוֹא־אַתּוּן־נוּרָא יָקִדְתָּא מְכַפְּתִין׃).
-The recurring combination of the verb-noun combination of “burning” (
יקד) and “fiery” (נוּר) indicates this furnace was in a constant state of being filled with roaring, leaping flames. This is a blazing fire inside this large brick kiln furnace. 
-Faithfulness to Christ often brings about death. In a research paper published by David B. Barrett and Todd M. Johnson at Gordon-Conwell in 2001, their research led them to conclude that there had been approximately 70 million martyrs killed for the testimony of Jesus Christ in the last 2,000 years. They estimated that 55,871,000 martyrs had been killed by pagan governments from the death of Jesus to the year 2000—80% of all martyrs throughout history. In the 20th century, 45,400,000 martyrs died. Since 1950, there were approximately 13,300,000 martyrs killed for Jesus Christ. Therefore, in the last 2,000 years of Christianity, 65% of all Christian martyrs died in the 20th century, and 20% of all Christian martyrs died in the last 60 years. More information can be found in their paper here:
http://www.gordonconwell.edu/resources/documents/wct_martyrs_extract.pdf.
-Jesus calls us to be faithful even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).

The Fire

(v. 24-25)

24Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Verse 24

-After Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the burning fiery furnace due to King Nebuchadnezzar’s extreme rage, his rage was replaced by a radically different (and rather rare) emotion: astonishment. “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste” (
אֱדַיִן נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר מַלְכָּא תְּוַהּ וְקָם בְּהִתְבְּהָלָה).
-Astonishment is a rare emotion both in Scripture and in human experience. Individuals may be surprised, but they are not generally astonished or amazed.
-In the Bible, people can be astonished at the complete destruction they witness (1 Kings 9:8; 2 Chronicles 7:21)
-In the Bible, people can be astonished at the results of the wrath of God (2 Chronicles 29:8).
-In the Bible, people can be astonished at the power of God’s Word being taught (Matthew 22:33).
-In the Bible, people can be astonished at the apostolic anointing of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45).
-In the Bible, people can be astonished at the implications of startling truth (Matthew 19:25).
-In the Bible, people can be astonished at the miraculous deliverance of one condemned to die (Acts 12:16). This is the reason why Nebuchadnezzar is so astonished here.
-His astonishment leads him to ask a question that doesn’t appear to need asking. “He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’”
-The “counselors” (
הַדָּבַר) were state advisers and royal officials. They would have been surrounding Nebuchadnezzar at this scene.
-The question is entirely incredulous (and would appear ridiculous), because everyone on the plains of Dura had just seen Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego cast into the burning fiery furnace.
-Their only answer is a simple yes. They have nothing else they can say to a question such as this. “
They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
Verse 25
-Nebuchadnezzar’s statement is entirely unexpected and astonishing. At this moment, the temperature of the furnace at this moment is hot enough to melt 17 different types of metal.
-He beings. “But I see four men unbound” (
הָא־אֲנָה חָזֵה גֻּבְרִין אַרְבְּעָה שְׁרַיִן).
-This number is nothing but astounding, because all the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fire died due to the intense heat. Also, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all bound and cast into the burning fiery furnace. Daniel repeats twice that they were bound, giving no doubt that they were restrained. Yet there is another man, and together all four of them are unbound.
-These four unbound men are “walking around in the midst of the fire”
(
מַהְלְכִין בְּגוֹא־נוּרָא).
-No one before or since in the Bible ever walks around in the midst of a fire. This is a miracle that was never done before or since in the entire biblical narrative of Genesis to Revelation.
-The most amazing thing in this entire passage is Nebuchadnezzar’s statement “and they are not hurt” (
וַחֲבָל לָא־אִיתַי בְּהוֹן).
-In 1984, the show Mysteries of the Bible ran for 14 years, and its express purpose was to attack the Bible and destroy any confidence people had in it. Regarding this statement by Nebuchadnezzar, the show postulated that they stood in a cool part of the furnace. This type of explanation is nothing but a sheer desperate attempt to refuse to recognize what this “mystery” really is: a miracle from God.
-But who is the fourth man? Everyone on the plain of Dura knows Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were just cast into the fire, but Nebuchadnezzar now tries to explain what the fourth man looks like. He says, “and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
(
וְרֵוֵהּ דִּי רְבִיעָיָא דָּמֵה לְבַר־אֱלָהִין׃).
-The phrase “son of the gods” is correctly translated in our modern English translations, and correctly understood by older interpreters such as Calvin. Nebuchadnezzar did not say “the Son of God”, nor would the concept of Jesus (who would not yet appear for 600 years) being the Son of God have ever entered Nebuchadnezzar’s mind. Indeed, the phrase “Son of God” and the phrase “Son of Man” had not yet been used as Messianic titles at this point in human history. Nebuchadnezzar also had no knowledge of the Christian trinity, either. Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar did not mean to identify this fourth man as Jesus.
-However, when Nebuchadnezzar uses the phrase “son of the gods”, he does mean that a godlike being appeared. Therefore, it is possible that this fourth man was indeed Jesus. The text simply does not tell us any other clues to knew if it was an angel or Jesus Himself.
-The hope of the Christian is that we can know with no ambiguity that Jesus Christ is with us through His Holy Spirit, for we are in Christ Jesus. (Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20) Nothing can separate us from Jesus Christ (Romans 8:38-39).
-The hope of the Christian is that we can know that God will always be with us (Romans 15:33; 2 Thessalonians 3:16).

The Faith

(v. 26-30)

26Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. 28Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
Verse 26

-Nebuchadnezzar now walks to the door of the burning fiery furnace and calls out, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!”.
-He know identifies these men as “servants of the Most High God” (
עַבְדוֹהִי דִּי־אֱלָהָא עִלָּיָא).
-Paul and Silas and Timothy and Luke are identified as “servants of the Most High God” in Acts 16:17.
-The title “Most High God” is infrequent in Scripture, but it is used to express the supreme glory and the power of almighty God.
-In Scripture, Jesus is exclusively the “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7). Even the demons acknowledge Jesus’ position and power (Luke 8:28).
-We are saved by the Son of the Most High God so that we can be the servants of the Most High God (Psalm 113:1; Nehemiah 1:10).
-Our final destiny as servants of the Most High God is to reign forever and ever in a perfect new heavens and new earth in the very presence of our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:3-5).
-At the sound of Nebuchadnezzar’s voice,
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.” This is reminiscent of when Lazarus walked out of the tomb at the sound of Jesus’ voice (John 11:43-44).
-The “fourth man” did not come out, because if this was preincarnate Jesus, it was not yet His time to appear before men in the world. If it was an angel (the more likely scenario), the angel had accomplished his purpose of protecting the Jews and now could return to heaven.
Verse 27
-Those closest to the scene hurriedly assemble around them to inspect them. “The satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together”.
-They all “saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men”.
-God has power over everything and everyone, and to stop fire from harming people is nothing to Him (Jeremiah 10:12).
-Nothing has power over us except God Almighty, and nothing can ultimately destroy us because God Almighty has set His seal of salvation upon us (John 10:28).
-We know that we can (and will) walk through death itself and God’s power will deliver us from it (1 Corinthians 6:14).
-Most amazingly, “the hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.” Not only did their bodies not get burned, not even their hair or their clothes get burned, let alone become infused with the smell of fire.
-When God rescues His servants, God rescues His servants completely. God never delivers someone half-way. God always delivers completely and fully.
Verse 28

-Nebuchadnezzar now honors the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He says, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”
(
בְּרִיךְ אֱלָהֲהוֹן דִּי־שַׁדְרַךְ מֵישַׁךְ וַעֲבֵד נְגוֹ).
-Even the pagans in Scripture can see the glory of God demonstrated in His mighty acts through His servants (1 Peter 2:12)
-The final aim of God’s redemption and God’s deliverance and God’s salvation is God’s glory (Romans 11:33-36; Philippians 4:20; 1 Timothy 1:17)
-In all of eternity, we will be praising God for His glory (Jude 1:25).
-God is acknowledged as the One “who has sent his angel” (
דִּי־שְׁלַח מַלְאֲכֵהּ).
-In Scripture, God often sent angels to deliver people (Numbers 20:16; 2 Chronicles 32:21).
-God “delivered his servants” (
וְשֵׁיזִב לְעַבְדוֹהִי), because they “trusted in him”
(
דִּי הִתְרְחִצוּ עֲלוֹהִי).
-We can trust God that He can deliver us from everything that seeks to destroy us in the physical and spiritual realm and bring us safely into His eternal kingdom (2 Timothy 4:18).
-We can trust God because God never breaks His Word (Psalm 145:13).
-Trust in God results in faithfulness towards God which translates to demonstrable action for God. They “set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
-In the Bible, those who are the true conquerors in this world are those who conquer the world by their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 12:11).
-Our faith is not in the intensity of our belief or faith itself, but rather our faith is in the Lord Jesus Christ who has overcome the world (John 16:33), and so we will overcome the world (1 John 5:4) because we believe that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5).
Verse 29
-Nebuchadnezzar now reverses the decree about the golden image and makes a new decree about the God of Israel. “Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins”.
-Every country has “blasphemy” laws based on what they worship or what they consider right and wrong. In Canada, people cannot speak out against homosexuality on the radio airwaves because Canada as a government worships the idolatry of sexual immorality. And so the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission can revoke radio licenses if radio stations speak against the LGBT movement.
-This verdict is the same verdict he threatened his pagan wise men in Daniel 2 if they could not interpret his dream successfully (Daniel 2:5).
-Such a command emanating from the lips of a heathen king is astounding, but one must consider the circumstances—Nebuchadnezzar had just witnessed a miracle. This decree may also have been an attempt to appease the God of Israel, for the king had mistreated Yahweh’s followers and actually challenged his power. Nebuchadnezzar may have feared that he was in danger of divine retaliation.[2]
-Nebuchadnezzar’s decree is imperfect (as no one is converted by government death penalties and he is not yet a believer), yet it reflects his recognition that God worked an amazing miracle that day. He issues this new decree because he recognizes that “there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” (
דִּי לָא אִיתַי אֱלָהּ אָחֳרָן דִּי־יִכֻּל לְהַצָּלָה כִּדְנָה׃).
-No one is like the Lord our God (Exodus 8:10; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 7:22).
Verse 30

-Finally, this chapter ends with these words “Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.”
(
בֵּאדַיִן מַלְכָּא הַצְלַח לְשַׁדְרַךְ מֵישַׁךְ וַעֲבֵד נְגוֹ בִּמְדִינַת בָּבֶל׃)
-The purpose for which the Chaldeans attempted to destroy the Jews was thwarted, because God (again) is protecting and promoting His servants in the pagan empire of Babylon.
-
If we attentively consider the import of this narrative in its bearing on the history of the kingdom of God, we learn how the true worshippers of the Lord under the dominion of the world-power could and would come into difficulties, imperilling life, between the demands of the lords of this world and the duties they owe to God. But we also learn, that if in these circumstances they remain faithful to their God, they will in a wonderful manner be protected by Him; while He will reveal His omnipotence so gloriously, that even the heathen world-rulers will be constrained to recognise their God and to give Him glory.[3]
-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who have been present from Daniel 1 until this verse, never appear again in the book of Daniel. We know not whether they lived long lives or not. It is likely that Daniel outlived them all, because Daniel appears by himself after the time of King Nebuchadnezzar. We know not how the rest of their lives went. But we do know that they were willing to lay down their lives rather than deny their Lord, and as a result, God delivered them miraculously from the flames of the burning fiery furnace. For us today, God has promised that he will deliver us from death itself when we love not our lives even unto death and do not bow the knee and do not deny our Lord. We need not be afraid of what man may do to us. We can always trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. We are servants of the Most High God, and God will completely and assuredly save us from every evil deed and bring us safe into His everlasting kingdom. God’s purposes of redemption will not be thwarted and God’s power will not be overcome. This is the faith in the midst of the fire.

Conclusion
“But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.’” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

Recording
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Handout
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[1] Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel (Vol. 1, p. 223). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[2] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 125). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[3] Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 9, p. 576). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Accusation, Anger, and A Refusal to Bow the Knee

Introduction
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:13-20)

Daniel 3:8-18

Context

-In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar twists the truth of God’s dream in Daniel 2:31-45 into a lie in Daniel 3:1, where he makes an entire image of fine gold and erects it on the plains of Dura 16 miles south of the city of Babylon. Being the most powerful man in the world at that time, he summons the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, justices, magistrates, and the officials of all the provinces to the site on that plain in order to assemble for the dedication of the statue. Not only having the power to assemble the political ranks of his empire, he also believes himself to have the power to command their religious worship in Daniel 4-5. To disobey the king in this matter meant that the dissenters would die by being burned alive in a fiery furnace at the site.
-While Daniel is never present in Daniel 3, as he was back in the city working to administer the government (Daniel 2:49), his three friends Hananiah (known as Shadrach), Mishael (known as Meshach), and Azariah (known as Abednego) are summoned before this scene, as they are included in the political ranks summoned before the statue. But the crucial question is, how would they respond? For hundreds of years, the nation of Israel had struggled with idolatry, to the point where God exiled them from the Promised Land as judgment for their worship of idols and false gods.
-In our day, the media, government, and secular culture promote many, many idols. Particularly in the millennial generation of the opening decades of the 21st century, the idol of sexual autonomy and immorality is militantly promoted by secular government, with increasing threats towards individual Christians and Christian institutions
-Government is instituted by God, and no ruler exists except they have been put there by God’s will. Government is always to be a force for good and restraining (sometimes lethal) force against evil. But throughout history, government figures have promoted many pagan ideas, thus making it difficult for believers to live as faithful citizens and faithful Christians at the same time.

Accusation
(v. 8-12)
8Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Verse 8

-“Therefore at that time” (
כָּל־קֳבֵ֤ל דְּנָה֙ בֵּהּ־זִמְנָ֔א) refers to the moments directly after everyone falls down and worships the golden image in verse 7. Daniel writes that “certain Chaldeans came forward” (קְרִ֖בוּ גֻּבְרִ֣ין כַּשְׂדָּאִ֑ין). The “Chaldeans” (כַּשְׂדָּאִ֑ין), who acted as astrologers holding political office, may very well have been in the number of Chaldeans that questioned by Nebuchadnezzar regarding his dream (Daniel 2:1-11). They had failed, whereas the four Jewish exiles succeeded (Daniel 2:29-30) and were publicly promoted and honored above all the rest (Daniel 2:46-49).
-Nevertheless, whether they were of that number or not, they come forward for devious political purposes. They “maliciously accused the Jews” (
קַרְצֵיה֖וֹן דִּ֥י יְהוּדָיֵֽא׃). They do not accurately represent what has just occurred, because if they can slander Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they can have them killed and removed from political office. Hence, they “maliciously accused” (אֲכַ֥לוּ) them; אֲכַ֥לוּ means “to feed on”. They intend to metaphorically devour three of the “Jews” (יְהוּדָיֵֽא׃). Previously, the people of God had first been known as Hebrews and then known as Israelites. However, “Jew” was a term used during the time of the exile onwards to refer to anyone from the land of Judea (the southern kingdom).
-Jesus warns us that the world will slander us and falsely accuse us so as to hand us over to the militant enforcers of idolatry, because they hate us and they hate the Lord Jesus (Matthew 10:22; Luke 21:17).

Verse 9
-Bent on having the Jews killed, the Chaldeans come into King Nebuchadnezzar’s presence and give the standard greeting to the monarch. “O king, live forever!” (
מַלְכָּ֖א לְעָלְמִ֥ין חֱיִֽי׃).
-This greeting is frequently used for kings in this time period, and it appears elsewhere in Daniel (Daniel 2:4, 3:9, 5:10, 6:6, 6:21).
-However, while Nebuchadnezzar desires his empire to last forever, there is only one King who lives forever (Exodus 15:18; Psalm 29:10). This is just as true today as it was back in Daniel’s day (Revelation 1:5).

Verse 10
-In these next two verses, the Chaldean astrologers “remind” the king of his decree in the way that one would remind a monarch. One would not simply tell the king to remember; rather, they would tell him what he did or say to him, “Surely you know…”.
-They tell him, “You, O king, have made a decree” (
אַנְתָּה מַלְכָּא שָׂמְתָּ טְּעֵם). This “decree” (טְּעֵם֒) is no mere suggestion or regulation to be adopted at a later date. Rather, it is a command that has already been given by the king’s herald (Daniel 3:4). Now, they repeat almost verbatim the decree they heard the herald give moments earlier.
-The decree given earlier was that
every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image.” The “horn” (קֶ֫רֶן) would be a silver horn, the “pipe” (מַשְׁרוֹקִי) would be the flute, the “lyre” (קִיתָרוֹס) would be an ancient precursor to today’s guitar, the “trigon” (שַׂבְּכָא) would be a triangular instrument with four strings used for higher notes, the “harp” (שַׂבְּכָא) would be a stringed instrument played with a plectrum, the “bagpipe” (סוּמְפֹּנְיָה) would be a goat-skinned, two-reed bagpipe. When all the peoples heard “every kind of music” (זְמָרָא יִפֵּל וְיִסְגֻּד), they then had to “fall down”, not in reverence, but in “worship” (סגד).
-This decree from King Nebuchadnezzar was a direct contradiction of the decrees of the Lord—no ambiguity or confusion exists. (Exodus 20:4-5; Exodus 23:24; Leviticus 26:1).
-This “golden image” represents the pride, paganism, and idolatry of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, and Babylon’s gods. It is not a self-deifying statue of Nebuchadnezzar, but rather a statue erected in worship of Babylonian gods.

Verse 11
The consequences for disobeying the king are very grave. In fact, objectors to this command will be incinerated. “And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
-Throughout history, death by fire has been used as a means of killing insurgents, traitors, criminals, and heretics. Death by fire is nothing new to the Babylonian Empire, as the Hammurabi code stated that arsonists, those guilty of incest, and priestesses turned loose women could be burned by fire. In Egyptian law, adulterers could be burned to death by fire. The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus in the first century B.C. wrote that children who committed patricide had bits of their bodies cut off with sharp reeds, then placed atop thorns and burned alive. In Assyria, Ashurnasirpal II in the 9th century B.C. killed many enemies first by cutting off their hands, burning their bodies with fire, and then sacked a city by burning everyone (both man and women) by fire.
-In the history of the Christian church, many people faced the threat of being burned for the testimony of Jesus—and many did die to the flames. The apostle John’s disciple Polycarp of Smyrna died at the stake because he would not confess Caesar to be Lord, instead confessing Jesus Christ to be Lord. Scores of Christians in the time of Nero onwards were burned at the stake. During the time of the pre-Reformation, Jon Huss was burned in the 15th century because he followed the teachings of John Wycliffe, who himself was burned posthumously. William Tyndale was burned at the stake, as he was betrayed by a close friend. However, he was first strangled before being burned. Hugh Latimer was burned at the stake along with Nicholas Ridley by the Roman Catholic Queen Mary, where he said, “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” Thomas Cranmer, once the Archbishop of Canterbury, died as well, because he would not ultimately deny the faith once for all delivered to the saints.

Verse 12
-Had these certain Chaldean astrologers, bent on political power-mongering, not stepped forward, this public confrontation likely would never have happened. They first identify Daniel’s three friends personally by their Babylonian names. “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.”
-Back when they were first exiled from Judea to Babylon, Ashpenaz the chief of the eunuchs had renamed Hananiah (“Yahweh has been gracious”) to Shadrach (“the command of Aku”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) to Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”) and Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”) to Abednego (“Servant of Nabu”). Aku was the Babylonian moon god.
-They remind King Nebuchadnezzar that he had at Daniel’s request personally appointed these three Jews “over the affairs of the province of Babylon
(עַל־עֲבִידַת מְדִינַת בָּבֶל).
-For prisoners of war to be elevated to high-ranking government officials over those who had already been in Babylonian government was bad enough. Outsiders were promoted above internal officials. But even worse in the Babylonian mind, the lowly Jews from the nation of Judah had been promoted instead of Babylonian natives.
-Israel throughout history has faced the hatred of the nations. In the Old Testament, the Jews faced the hatred of the Egyptians, the Philistines, the Syrians, the Assyrians, and now the Babylonians. Then in the time of the intertestamental period, they faced the animosity of the Greeks. Whereas the Romans did not particularly hate the Jews as much as the Jews hated Rome, relationships between Judea and Rome were not well grounded. Ever since the rise of Islam in the 7th century A.D., certain sects of Muslims have always hated the Jews. Most recently in the 20th century, the Jews faced the Holocaust and the hatred of the Nazi regime. Even today, anti-Semitism is common in society.
-“Once more the astrologers emphasized that these disrespectful and treasonous men were “Jews.” Since there appears to have been no reason to point out their nationality, the designation seems to reflect a resentment toward the Jewish people and toward their religious practices that caused them to act so very differently from the rest of the world. Such anti-Semitism is ultimately satanic in origin, as Whitcomb explains: “Satan knew that through this divinely chosen people would come the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of all mankind (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 9:4–5).”[1]
-However, far more than the difference in ethnicity is the difference in faith. The world hates the faith of Christianity (John 15:18-19). This is also why these Chaldeans hate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Proverbs 29:27).
-In maliciously accusing these three Jewish men, the Chaldeans say that “These men, O king, pay no attention to you”. To “pay attention” meant to be obedient and to acknowledge the king’s station and position and authority—which Shadrach, Abednego, and Meshach had done throughout their stay in Babylon. Despite Nebuchadnezzar’s paganism, they did respect him.
-However, the Chaldeans add two further charges that are true. Second, they say that “they do not serve your gods” (
לֵאלָהַיִךְ ק̇ לָא פָלְחִין).
-Christians are to never serve any other gods except the Lord God and confess no one to be Lord except the Lord Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10).
-
Thirdly, the Chaldeans correctly state that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not “worship the golden image that you have set up” (וּלְצֶלֶם דַּהֲבָא דִּי הֲקֵימְתָּ לָא סָגְדִין׃).
-Christians are never to bow down in worship to any other god or acknowledgment of any other lord except our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:13-14).

Anger

(v. 13-15)
13Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

Verse 13

-
King Nebuchadnezzar does not respond well. Scripture states that he became filled with “furious rage” (בִּרְגַז וַחֲמָה). This is a form of extreme anger, for regaz hamah refer not to mere ordinary frustration or annoyance, but a burning, raging anger.
-Pride is very angered when it is directly confronted as wrong (1 Samuel 17:28; Proverbs 21:24).
-Whenever a king becomes angry in the Bible, God’s faithful people usually suffer (2 Chronicles 16:10
-God always judges rage (2 Kings 19:27-28).
-This type of furious rage almost cost Daniel’s three friends their lives previously. King Nebuchadnezzar became enraged that his astrologers could not interpret his dream (Daniel 2:5) and ordered all the wise men killed (Daniel 2:12), including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 2:13). God spared their lives through a supernatural intervention (Daniel 2:19-23).
-Nebuchadnezzar “commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought”
(
אֲמַר לְהַיְתָיָה לְשַׁדְרַךְ מֵישַׁךְ וַעֲבֵד נְגוֹ). Whereas he “commanded” that all men bow down to his statue, now he commands, that these three Jews “be brought” before him.
-The certain Chaldeans who sought to incite the king against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego succeed here in their aim. Therefore, at the king’s command, “they brought these men before the king” (
בֵּאדַיִן גֻּבְרַיָּא אִלֵּךְ הֵיתָיוּ קֳדָם מַלְכָּא׃).
-This is the second documented time that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stand before the king. The first time, they stood before the king along with the other Jewish exiles after their three years of education, where Nebuchadnezzar was highly impressed with them (Daniel 1:18-19) and now for the second time as he has them seized and brought before him for trial.
-Political favor can change very rapidly, for worldview allegiances make trust in political figures unreliable (Psalm 146:3).

Verse 14
-King Nebuchadnezzar now questions them again. Whereas the first time he had questioned them about their education (Daniel 1:18), now he questions them about their faith. “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods”?
-In the ancient world, the people living in the king’s country worshipped the king’s gods. Today, the central figure or highest public figure of a country does not typically have the power to enforce religious worship of his own faith, but in this time period in history, whoever ruled established the worship of the country.
-At some point, direct worldview clashes will force us to declare very clearly and publicly whom we serve (Joshua 24:14-15). And for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, their answer will mean the difference between life and death.
-Jesus promised that some Christians will in their own lifetimes be called upon to testify for their faith (Matthew 10:17-18).
-The apostle Paul ultimately testified before Caesar Nero because Jesus decreed Him to do so (Acts 23:11), and it cost the apostle Paul his life (2 Timothy 4:6).
-Nebuchadnezzar also angrily asks them if it is true that they do not “worship the golden image I have set up?” (
וּלְצֶלֶם דַּהֲבָא דִּי הֲקֵימֶת לָא סָגְדִין׃).
-The Chaldeans claimed that these three Jews did not bow down to worship the golden image, and now King Nebuchadnezzar demands that they personally tell him if they do not worship the golden image that he has set up.

Verse 15
-King Nebuchadnezzar now personally repeats his commands to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so that they have no excuse or confusion about what he is commanding them to do. “Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.”
-For a king to repeat his command does not mean good things for those who listen, such as when Nebuchadnezzar repeated three times the command to interpret the dream in Daniel 2.
-He says that if they “fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good”. The alternative if they bow down is life. Nothing shall be done to them, all shall be “well and good”.
-The king’s pride and idolatry demonstrates itself in his believe that he himself can create something worthy of worship (“Fall down and worship the image that I have made”). Even God’s own creation is not worthy to be worshipped; rather, it points us to worship the Creator.
-Nebuchadnezzar now repeats the alternative: a death sentence by incineration. “But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
-The death sentence is inevitable and it is immediate if they do not fall down and worship. “You shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace”
(
בַּהּ־שַׁעֲתָה תִתְרְמוֹן לְגוֹא־אַתּוּן נוּרָא יָקִדְתָּא)
-Ultimately, the refusal to submit to a godless regime and worship idols may mean laying down one’s life for the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:25).
-Nebuchadnezzar now asks a question that is nothing short of blasphemous.
And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” In his rage, Nebuchadnezzar blasphemes every god in the Babylonian religion that he wants these three to worship; he does not simply blaspheme the Lord God of Israel.
-
“This narrative clearly assures us, how kings consult only their own grandeur by a show of piety, when they claim the place of their deities. For it seems very wonderful for King Nebuchadnezzar to insult all the gods, as if there was no power in heaven unless what he approved of. What god, says he, can pluck you out of my hand? Why then did he worship any deity? Simply to retain the people by a curb, and thus to strengthen his own power, without the slightest affection of piety abiding within his mind.[2]
-During the confrontations between Moses and Pharaoh, king of Egypt, Pharaoh asked a similar question (Exodus 5:2).
-When Sennacherib king of Assyria threatened Jerusalem over 100 years earlier, he asked the same question (Isaiah 36:18-20).
-God’s response to Pharaoh was given to Moses, where He declares Himself to be Yahweh who will deliver His people out of Egypt (Exodus 6:1-8).
-God’s response to the king of Assyria was that He is the holy one of Israel (Isaiah 37:23).

A Refusal to Bow the Knee
(v. 16-18)
16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Verse 16

-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego now spoke the only words ever recorded by Daniel that they said throughout the entire book. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.” (
נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר לָא־חַשְׁחִין אֲנַחְנָה עַל־דְּנָה פִּתְגָם לַהֲתָבוּתָךְ׃)
-At first, it appears that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have answered in the same fashion in which the question was asked: with the same anger that characterized Nebuchadnezzar.
-Scripture commands that we are not to answer a fool in the same fashion that he responds to us (Proverbs 26:4).
-However, the idea of an ”answer” (
תוב) does not here mean to simply talk to someone; they are not saying “We don’t need to speak to you, for you are unworthy of our time and attention.”
-In reality, however, the three friends do not reply out of disrespect, but out of minds of believing conviction. They also do not engage Nebuchadnezzar in a debate, for he has shown himself (particularly with the last question) to be a fool (Proverbs 23:9). Rather, they are saying “We do not need to present a legal defense of our actions”.
-
The young men responded that they did not need to present a defense (lit., “return [an answer]”) to the king concerning this decision (v. 16). No apology was to be given for their stand. This was not a “proud reply” as Lacocque thinks; it was a “firm” reply. Their minds were made up.[3]
-These three Jewish men essentially say the same thing expressed in the song Guilty by Newsboys. “Even if it gets me convicted / I'll be on my knees with my hands lifted /If serving you's against the law of man / If living out my faith in you is banned / Then I'll stand right before the jury / If saying I believe is out of line / If I'm judged cause I'm gonna give my life / To show the world the love that fills me /Then I want to be Guilty”
Verse 17
-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego directly answer their death sentence, that “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.”
-The faith of the believer that enables him or her to stand resolutely in the face of death is faith that Jesus is powerful enough to deliver from death all who call on His name (Psalm 68:20)
-Throughout the Bible, God is presented as more powerful than any human being. He and He alone can deliver from death (Psalm 56:13; Hebrews 5:7).
-Jesus Christ defeated death, and as a result, we need no longer have any fear of it (1 Corinthians 15:54-57), and as a result, we stand steadfast for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the testimony of the word of God (1 Corinthians 15:58).
-If we suffer as Christians, we should suffer for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the testimony of the Word of God (Revelation 1:9).
-Throughout the history of Israel, God had delivered them scores of times from certain death. He delivered them from the Egyptians during the Red Sea crossing (Exodus 14:10-18; 26-29) He delivered them from the Assyrians when they surrounded Jerusalem during the time of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:32-36). The most hopeless situation in all of human history was when it appeared that the promised Messiah had Himself died, but God brought about our eternal deliverance by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24; 1 Peter 1:21).
-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego believe that God can indeed deliver them from the personal crisis right before them, for they say “He will deliver us out of your hand, O king”
(
וּמִן־יְדָךְ מַלְכָּא יְשֵׁיזִב׃). It is no mere abstract faith; rather, it is a faith that believes God can deliver even out of the most hopeless situations. It is indeed this very point Jesus makes to Martha when Lazarus has died (John 11:23-27).
-The same God who delivered them into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar over three years ago (Daniel 1:1-7) is the same God who can deliver them now out of the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Verse 18

-However, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fully admit they do not know how God will act, but they know He is powerful enough to act, for they say “But if not” (
וְהֵן לָא). They have no doubt about God’s ability, but they do not presume God will act merely as they wish Him to act.
-True faith is belief that God is powerful enough to save us from the power of those who seek to destroy us for our faith and allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ (Psalm 91:14), but submission that whatever God plans is right (Job 1:21).
-Regardless of whether God would save them from the burning fiery furnace of not, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego declare “that
we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
(דִּי לֵאלָהָיךְ לָא־אִיתַיְנָא ק̇ פָלְחִין וּלְצֶלֶם דַּהֲבָא דִּי הֲקֵימְתָּ לָא נִסְגֻּד׃).
-Our calling and our duty and our joy as Christians is to declare that we serve the Lord Jesus Christ and that we only bow our knees in worship to Him and to Him alone.
-Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the world’s perspective are throwing away their entire political careers, their gifts, their advancements in society, their advantages over their peers, and ultimately their lives. From the biblical worldview, they are counting all things as loss for the sake of the Lord God of Israel—and this is infinite eternal gain (Philippians 3:7-8).

-The apostle Paul declared that it was his eager hope and prayer that he would be faithful, whether he lived or died in his first Roman imprisonment, for he did not then know whether God would deliver him from the first death in that life situation (Philippians 1:20-21).
-God always will ultimately deliver us from the second death, which was the reason why faithful men and women of God continued to be faithful even in the face of death (Revelation 2:10).
-In fact, the Christian worldview states that those who die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ are the true victors, because they were faithful even in the face of death itself (Revelation 12:11).
-As Christians, we know that even if we are killed for the testimony of Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ will win and Jesus Christ will be King (Revelation 17:14).
-We know that our eternal reward for standing firm until the end will be reigning with Christ forever and ever (Revelation 2:26-28; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 22:3-5)

Conclusion
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

Recording
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Handout
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[1] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 117). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[2] Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel (Vol. 1, p. 217). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[3] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 119). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.