Growing up in Arizona, we would see many of the flash floods that are common in New Mexico. During monsoon season, it was pretty common to see a stranded motorist sitting on top of their car waiting to be rescued before they and their car were washed away (This was so common that Arizona came up with a “stupid motorist law.” Yes, that is its actual name). In that moment, it’s clear that they need a deliverer or rescuer. If no one chooses to intervene, they will be lost.
Daniel 3 has a similar feel to it. Three young Jewish men are put into a difficult situation. Worship a false god, or be thrown into a fiery furnace. While we tend to look at this story in a moralistic sense; the story is pointing us toward a far greater and more glorious gospel reality: God delivers us from the wrath that we deserve. As the story unfolds, it reveals a few significant truths for us.
- We Avoid the Allure to Think I’m like God: v.1-7
In these early verses, we see Nebuchadnezzar setting up this statue that will be worshiped by the people. What is interesting is the repeated use of the phrase ‘set up.’ This same phrase is used back in chapter 2, speaking of God and how He, “removes kings and sets up kings.” It would seem the author has a play on words of what Nebuchadnezzar is trying to do. He is believing a lie about God and himself; that he can be like God. This is the same lie that Satan sold to Eve in the Garden, and it’s the same lie we believe today. When we begin to think that I’m in control or that I’m enough, we believe the lie that has been told since the beginning of humanity. Loved one, it’s crucial that we see ourselves for who we truly are. We are not like God, but we thank God that He has chosen to love us in spite of our inadequacies.
- We Embrace the Challenge to Honor God: v.8-18
The command to worship a statue quickly becomes an issue. Babylonian officials that have some issue with these Jewish men go to Nebuchadnezzar and inform them of their rebellion. In this, he confronts them. Here we see a few things that are important to keep in mind. One, if we’re going to honor God, we will experience tension with others. Not everyone will be excited about what is happening in your life spiritually. Two, we will have temptation to compromise. How will you respond when temptation comes? Third, we must embrace a posture of submission. Here we see these men giving allegiance to God, confidence in God’s power, but also a surrender to God’s plan. While they’re confident that God could save them, they know that it’s not guaranteed that He will save them; and yet they’re still surrendered to Him. They choose to honor God in their conduct.
- We Celebrate the Deliverance that Comes from God: v.19-30
The story concludes with a shocking climax. As they are thrown into the fire, not only are they not consumed by the flames, but they are joined by another! God has come and joined them in this trial! We see a few principles that are helpful to keep in mind in light of our own lives. One, obedience may produce danger. God never promises, easy or designer lives. His Word is full of warnings about the cost of following Jesus. Two, we see that God is with us in the fire. This is where we tend to talk about how God is with us in difficult situations, and that’s certainly true. But I think the story is intended to point us forward to the Gospel and Jesus’ deliverance of us, not simply God’s presence in trial. It’s here that we see Jesus doing what no one can: perfect faithfulness. Further, we see the story pointing us toward the fact that Jesus bears our wrath. He finds Himself in the place of punishment that was deserved for another, and yet they come out unscathed. The picture is synonymous with Christ on the cross and our sin! In this, we would do well to let this story help us celebrate the deliverance that comes from God!
Let us be people who are quick to celebrate our good God and the deliverance that brings to us this week!