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R/Dean Daniel Lesson 16

Faith-Rest; Humility vs. Arrogance - – Daniel 3:24-30

 

We continue our study of Daniel and I want to go back and look at Daniel 3 and wrap up a few things.  Last week we tried to take a large bite out of Scripture and cover the whole episode of the three men and the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, and the episode with the fiery furnace.  Last time what we saw in our study of Daniel 3 is that Nebuchadnezzar, following the vision that he had had, or the dream that he had had in Daniel 2, the great image where Daniel had identified him as the head of gold, Nebuchadnezzar took that to heart.  He, in typical Ancient Near East practice identified himself with God.  He isn't to the point where he's understanding the God of Daniel to be the one and only God in the universe, he's still operating within his polytheistic framework of the many Babylonian gods, but he's being confronted again and again in each chapter with this reality of the God of the Jews.  And so he identifies himself with this God and thinks that God's will is his will, his will is therefore God's will so he is impressed with himself and who he is and what he's accomplished. 

 

Some time goes by between Daniel 2 and Daniel 3.  We don't know for sure how much time has transpired between these two chapters; the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation the Jews made of the Old Testament, has a phrase in here indicating that approximately 18 years had gone by.  Now that's significant and we'll look at why that's significant in a little bit.  But the significance primarily has to do with the fact that if 18 years had gone by from the time of the dream in Daniel 2 then this would put the events of Daniel 3 just after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, which is about the time that Nebuchadnezzar finally consolidated all of his empire, he would have just brought a large contingent of Jews out of Judea and into his kingdom and so he would do something like this in order to insure their loyalty, insure their obedience to his authority as the emperor.  And it's also an indication that he is identifying himself with God and in typical

Ancient Near Eastern fashion he is beginning to take on the trappings of deity. 

 

So he sets up this idol and commands everybody to worship it at the sound of the orchestra.  And when the orchestra played everyone bowed down except the three men.  And these three men are these three young boys we first looked at in chapter 1 who were deported from Jerusalem in 605 BC, in the first deportation, their names in Hebrew were Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, and each of their names as we studied in the first chapter had to do with something about God, the worship, the honor and glory of God as Yahweh, the Jewish God.  They were then given new names and their new names, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, all had something to do with one or more of the gods in the Babylonian pantheon.  That was all part of the reeducation of the Jews and trying to get them to think like Babylonians, to quit thinking like Jews, to quit thinking according to divine viewpoint, the one viewpoint that the Bible represents, and to get them to think according to the pagan thoughts and idea of Babylon.

 

They refused to bow down.  Now we were told in verse 10 that some of the Chaldeans, these were the upper echelon of the advisors to Nebuchadnezzar, these Chaldeans were among the priestly cast, they were the elite among those who ran the nation, and they are loaded with jealousy.  Let's remember a couple of things about these Chaldeans.  They were the ones who were put on the spot some 12 or 15 years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar himself when he had the dream, he called in all of his advisors and said, okay, I'm not sure I trust you guys, I want you to tell me not only what the dream means but first off you have to tell me the dream.  If you really are who you claim to be and if you're really as wise as you claim to be then you can tell me the dream without me telling you.  Well, they couldn't do that and so the penalty was that he was going to destroy their homes, destroy their families and he would make a public toilet out of their homes, a dunghill, and then everyone would pass by, use the public latrine as a demonstration of what Nebuchadnezzar thought of them and their abilities to identify and interpret the dream.

 

So they were shown up at that time because Daniel came forward and Daniel's God gave him the dream and gave him the interpretation of the dream.  As a result of that Daniel was promoted to be the prince, the leader over all of the Chaldeans and all the astrologers and everyone in the State Department, and his three friends, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael are all promoted to high positions in what would be equivalent to their State Department at that time.  So this is over all of these natural born Chaldeans who had a right by birth to these positions, so they're extremely jealous.  So when they come forward they raise their complaint and they tell Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3:10, "You yourself, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the orchestra should fall down and worship the golden image.  [11] But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire."  And then in verse 12 they says, "There are certain Jews," now they don't name them, they identify them as Jews which indicates the rise of anti-Semitism at this point and that is blaming Jews for the problems and of course they're blaming these Jews, these foreigners for taking away their jobs and destroying their prestige and having an impact on their religion. 

 

So Nebuchadnezzar calls forth Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and challenges them and says well, I hear that you boys haven't bowed down, now why don't you bow down.  So he gives them one opportunity.  But they don't even take advantage of the opportunity, in Daniel 3:16 they are going to give their reply, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, 'O Nebuchad­nezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  [17] If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king."  And then verse 18, "But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up." 

 

These guys are going through testing, they're going through system testing and they are going through people testing.  Sometimes when we go through system testing it's very impersonal, we have to deal with government forces, we have to deal with legislation, we have to deal with bureaucracies where nobody seems to be concerned about us as an individual and so it's very easy to react and to get angry, and they don't.  They are calm and I want you to notice how calm they are in their answer.  And they are trusting God.  Now they're statement that "even if our God does not" doesn't mean that they doubt God.  They just don't know what God's plan and purpose is, they don't know how God's going to deliver them physically or if God's going to deliver them physically but they do know that God has the power to and therefore they are going to relax in the situation. 

 

And the reason they are able to relax is because these three men have so much doctrine in their souls that they have advanced to spiritual maturity so that they have mastered the details of life.  Now what do I mean by that.  Here's a chart of the details of life.  These are the things that we look to for meaning, for value, for significance in life.  We look to love, money, friends, possessions, home life, the possession of a home, a career, fame or respect in what we do, education, many people think that if they just have a certain kind of education with certain degrees after their name then that will give them meaning and significance in life; health, various status symbols, the kind of car you drive, the neighborhood you live in, the things that you do.  Now those status symbols can be the status symbols of the wealthy or the can be the status symbols of the poor.  Don't kid yourselves, the poor have status symbols just like the wealthy do; they dress a certain way, they drive certain kinds of vehicles, everybody has certain things that they think if I just have these then I will have it made and people will respect me and there will be meaning and value in life.  And of course many people think that sex, if they just had a good sex life then they would be happy and everything would be wonderful.

 

These are the details of life.  Now Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are about to lose all the details of life; in fact, they're about to lose life itself.  And the reason that they can have a relaxed mental attitude is because they realize that life and happiness and meaning in life does not derive from any of the details of life; it derives from a relationship with God.  And in terms of the Church Age, post-Christian doctrine, that is based on a relationship with Jesus Christ by expressing our faith alone in Christ alone, that Jesus Christ died on the cross as a substitute for our sins and therefore by putting our faith alone in Christ alone we can have eternal life.

 

Now they have that and so for them life itself is simply a means to serve God.  So if God has determined in His plan when they are to die and they are to die in this fiery furnace today, then that's fine because they are going to be immediately absent from the body and face to face with the Lord where there's no more sorrow, no more tears, no more pain, the old things have passed away, and they will be promoted to a far superior life.  So as far as they are concerned, whatever torture, whatever torment, whatever death or execution that Nebuchadnezzar has in mind is nothing compared to the glory that they are going to have at the instant that they are separated from the body and face to face with the Lord.  That's what we mean when we talk about a personal sense of our eternal destiny. 

 

When we are able to handle and face life's problems today because we understand what our destiny is as sons of God, from the New Testament every believer at the instant of salvation is adopted into the royal family of God; as a member of God's royal family we have an eternal destiny, we are heirs of God and we are, based on our spiritual advance, to be joint heirs with Jesus Christ.  And on that basis we have an eternal destiny.  That's what our focus should be on and by having our focus on that eternal destiny, that enables us to handle, to endure, to surmount any heartache, any problem, any difficult that we face in life today. 

 

And that's exactly what we see here; Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have been given a number of blessings in life; they have in the king's service for about 15 years and they are at the top of the food chain, as it were, in Babylon.  They have perhaps almost anything that money can buy in that society.  They have been loaded with all the details of life, they probably have wives, by this time they have families, and yet they do not punch the panic button, they do not react in anger, they do not challenge the king with the fact that he has an unjust law, this is a case of the state or the government trying to impose religion on people in violation of divine institution number one which is personal responsibility.  They don't react that way, they are very relaxed and very calm, everything they have is on the line and they just relax and say we're going to trust God.  That's the faith rest drill, they have promises, they have principles, they have procedures from the Word of God and they just relax and put everything in the Lord's hands.  1 Peter 5:7 says, "Casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you."  So they are relaxed.

 

Now notice the contrast with verse 19, they're calm and relaxed, everything is at stake, Nebuchad­nezzar who is the most powerful, probably the wealthiest man in all the world at this time, he is the king over the Babylonian Empire which is one of the greatest empires of all of human history, because of his own military genius he had defeated the armies of the Assyrians, defeated the armies of the Egyptians and had conquered all of the territory of what we know as the Middle East.  And he had accumulated all of this wealth to himself, he is now at a stage in life when things are going to be very calm and peaceful, he has conquered all of his enemies, his borders are about to be secure because we know that if this took place about 586-585 BC that was the end of his wars, so he should be at a point where he can relax because he has all the details of life and he's in charge.  But they are relaxed, ready to lose all the details of life because they're irrelevant. 

 

He's filled with wrath, Daniel 3:19, he just goes berserk.  "Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath," so much so his facial expression is altered, he just absolutely loses control.  And when he loses control he loses objectivity, he loses the ability to think clearly and rationally and when he does that he's going to end up sacrificing some of his best warriors, his best soldiers and he is going to start making foolish decisions.  But the reason is, and this is where we have to keep our focus, the reason is that Nebuchadnezzar is still operating on arrogance; he has been confronted with the existence of God.  On two occasions he has seen a demonstration of the importance of doctrine, in Daniel 1 we saw that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego as well as Daniel stood firm for the truth of God's Word and so they challenged the dietary restrictions of the Babylonians, they were able to stay with their Jewish dietary restrictions and so they passed at the head of the class.  Then in Daniel 2 the episode with the dream, that Daniel revealed the dream, no one else could reveal the dream or its interpretation. 

 

So Nebuchadnezzar has been confronted on two occasions with the reality and the existence of this God and yet he hasn't submitted to the existence of that God.  He has acknowledge his existence as one of many gods but he is still in rebellion, he is still following after cosmic thinking which asserts both arrogance and antagonism to God and we see that in Nebuchadnezzar's life.  We saw last time by looking at Romans 1:18-20 that the dynamic that occurs at negative volition is when a person rejects God something must fill that vacuum, and we worship something instead of God, and so he's worshipping his own religious conception here and he just goes berserk when he doesn't get his way.  And as a man filled with arrogance, as a man who is the most powerful man in the world, he can get his way through sheer intimidation.  And that is exactly what he's practicing here; you're not going to worship, do what I want you to do, then I'll make you do it and we're going to just heat that furnace up seven times more.

 

Now we saw last time that the problem with that is that the hotter you get the furnace the people would just vaporize, there's no torture involved there; he should have cooled it down a good bit if he wanted them to suffer and be tortured, so he's not thinking clearly.  And it's so hot that the warriors who take them up on top of this huge conical furnace, and it was a cone shaped furnace which would develop the greatest heat, and they had a ladder on the outside and they would take them up and it was so hot that it killed the soldiers.  These were some of the strongest warriors in the army, and as they took them to the top, they managed to get them to the top before they died, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego fell in.  So we see that in verse 20, "And he commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. [21] Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps, and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire."

 

Now the reason the text makes a point about their clothing, this was their uniform, the "trousers" really refers to an under garment, the "coat" refers to the outer garment that they wore, their outer robe, their "caps" refers to their turbans, and normally in an execution system like this people were stripped down to just bare underclothes, but all their clothes were left on.  It's going to make a point because when they come out their clothes are not going to be burned, singed, or even have the smell of fire on them.

 

So they heat up the fire, in verse 22 the men that take them up there are slain, but verse 23, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego fall into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up."  They just fall in; you would think that the fall would hurt them.  But when Nebuchadnezzar looks in, he "was astounded and he stood up in haste, and said to his high officials, 'Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire," the verb tenses here, the participles that are used instead of your regular finite verbs indicate that he is very active, he is just bouncing around, he is just absolutely beside himself, he can look inside and see that there are no longer three men but there are four man. 

 

Daniel 3:25, "Look!  I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!"  Now the Aramaic here is quite interesting, it can be translated technically "a son of the gods," but the phraseology here is very similar to the Hebrew; the Hebrew would be bena Elohim, here it's bar, that's the Aramaic for son, it's bar Elohim, and it's the same phrase that you would find to say "the son of God," because Elohim in the Aramaic or Elohim in the Hebrew refers to God, even though it's a plural ending, it's called a plural majesty indicating the Trinity.  So here you have the use of Elohim here and should be translated, as the King James Version does, with a singular "God," because the person that is there is further identified in verse 28 and 29 that he is an angel and the angel of God, the angel of Yahweh is the second person of the Trinity, the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

So here we see a wonderful example of the contrast between believers who are willing to put everything on the line, believers who have a relaxed mental attitude and that relaxed mental attitude can only come because they've mastered the details of life.  Now why are they able to master the details of life?  Because they've understood grace.  Nebuchadnezzar has had all this special revelation, the dream, the interpretation by Daniel, he is seeing the Lord Jesus Christ in His preincarnate state in the furnace, and yet he is rejecting grace.  He has had tremendous revelation from God and yet he rejects that.  But Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were grace oriented and it's only by understanding that everything that we have is from God, it's because of who we are, no matter how talented you might be, no matter how intelligent, no matter how industrious, no matter how hard you've worked, you don't have a single thing in your possession that wasn't given you by the grace of God.  You did not earn or deserve any of it and if you don't believe me, God can take it all away from you tomorrow and you may not do anything different.

I've seen this happen time and time again with people, one day they are working hard, they are diligent, they are doing everything just as they've always done it and the next day because of something that happens that's not their fault, maybe it has to do with the movements in the economy as a whole, or maybe it has to do with nothing that's related to their personal life at all, all of a sudden they are out of a job.  One day everything is going great, they're making $150,000 a year or $200,000 and nothing happens, they don't change the way they do business, their reputation isn't affected, all of a sudden the next day there's no more clients, it dries up overnight, I've seen that happen several times in people's lives.  And that just shows that nothing that we have is from our own effort; everything we have is from the grace of God and that's why we need to be so grateful and give thanks for everything that we have.

 

As I said last time, we needed to conclude with six points of conclusion.  First of all, it takes years for God to work on a person.  We're going to see this again in the next chapter; in the next chapter Nebuchadnezzar is finally going to come to know Jesus Christ, in least in an Old Testament revelation sense, as his Savior.  The Old Testament people were saved because they trusted God as their Savior; they anticipated the provision of a Savior.  And too often today, as we're going to see, too often today we think of evangelism as sort of a one-shot thing; we sit down, we give somebody a tract or get a few minutes to talk to them and we explain the gospel, that they're a sinner, that we're all sinner, that "all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23.  And then we explain the need for salvation and we might get some questions, they may not be ready to listen, they may have grown up in some religious background where they have all manner of questions about this ritual or that situation or this historical thing they heard or what about this interpretation of the Bible, and we just get frustrated, but we need to realize we're part of a process, that there may be 20 different people in the course of that person's life that are going to be used by the Holy Spirit to witness to them, and we're just one in that whole chain.  And it may take 15, 10, 25 years before that person comes to know the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

And that's exactly what happens with Nebuchadnezzar.  The first time he's confronted with any witness about the God of the Jews is in 605 BC.  We know that heard the gospel from Jeremiah; we know when he went in in 586 BC, just before this event in Daniel 3, when he went in in 586 BC and destroyed Jerusalem, he discovered that Jeremiah was in prison.  Now Jeremiah's ministry was basically to warn the Jews that they were about to go out under the fifth cycle of discipline, God had warned the Jews in Leviticus 26 that there would be five stages, five different degrees of discipline on the nation for their disobedience.  The most extreme was the fifth cycle, the fifth level of discipline at which time they would be removed from the land for a period of time and they are under the fifth cycle of discipline today and have been since 70 AD.  The first time they went out under the fifth cycle of discipline was in 586 BC and so Jeremiah had warned the nation, don't fight, don't resist Nebuchadnezzar, if you fight you're going to lose, people will be killed, you'll suffer, it'll be miserable, just give up, just surrender because God's hand is in this and God is taking you out under the fifth cycle of discipline.  He was viewed as a traitor and they threw him in prison.  Well, Nebuchadnezzar had heard what he had done so Nebuchadnezzar let him out of prison, so Jeremiah witnessed to him. 

 

Of course, before that time he had been witnessed to by Daniel and by these three men, and he is witnessed to again.  And then the events of chapter 4 come about 10-15 years later, we don't know exactly when those events occurred, but we do know that it was late in his reign, he ends his reign about 562-562, somewhere in there is the end of his reign and so he has to have time for the seven years of insanity and a couple years after that to proclaim the gospel.  So he's got about another 12 years before he is saved, so it take years for God to work on a person and sometimes they may seem negative, they may seem hardened, they may be very resistant but we never know; we're to continue to pray for them and continue to give them the gospel

 

The second point, when there is an issue demanding separation, as they are to separate from the world, these three men are to separate from the world and not bow down, then make sure that the issue is the character of God and the integrity of Scripture, and by that I mean the specific mandate of Scripture.  Don't just say well, I don't think I ought to do that because the Biblical principle is…whatever.  I knew someone that I grew up with in high school and we all know that there are just taxations and unjust taxations, and he felt like it was erroneous, it wasn't Biblical to have an income tax so he never paid his income tax, and he tried to use this kind of thing that it's not Biblical.  Well, that's not a specific statement in Scripture, it may be an accurate inference but it is not a specific statement of Scripture.  When we are going to take a stand like this it needs to be on the basis of a specific mandate or prohibition of Scripture. 

 

The third point, the most powerful witness in those situations, these kinds of pressure situations, is the actions, the works and the words of the individual, not just the works alone but the words.  There needs to be interpretation; the unbeliever is not going to look at your life, and you live your life before the Lord and you apply doctrine and you want your life to be a witness, but if you don't ever explain what it's a witness to, how is the unbeliever going to know what the issue is.  So they're not going to be able to accurately interpret your spiritual life, your life's witness if you don't say something.

 

Point four, during times when God is silent, when the canon is closed, for example they had no prophet to tell them exactly what God's will was, all they could say was if God will deliver us He will, if He won't He wont, nevertheless we're going to trust Him, all we can do is relax, utilize the faith rest drill, that's believe what the promise of God say and rest, that is rest in His power and provision to take care of us.  See, these three men survived the pressure inside the furnace, not because they lived but because they didn't react with mental attitude sins.  That's how they survived; they have a system test to deal with as well as people testing; they are the victims of the malicious vengeful tactics of the Chaldeans.  The Chaldeans are out to get them even though the Chaldeans were correct in saying well look at those guys, they didn't bow down to the idol, even though that was a correct statement it was done out of vengeance.  They wanted to get back at these Jews.  Now in situations like that it's very easy for us to react in anger, for us to respond and get upset, to get angry, to say something, to call names, whatever it might be, it's very easy to respond that way.  Yet they didn't, they stayed relaxed and calm.  They knew that God was going to take care of them no matter what; even if they were burned alive God was going to take care of them.  And that's part of the grace provision of God. 

 

It reminds me of an episode that occurred in the English Reformation; Thomas Cramner was the Archbishop under Henry VIII and then under his son, Edward and then under Bloody Mary, and Bloody Mary was the second offspring of Henry VIII to take the throne of England, and she had been raised a Roman Catholic, her brother who had been the first descendant of Henry to take the throne was raised a Protestant and during his brief time on the throne of England, this was in the mid 1500s, mid 16th century, during his brief time he legitimatized the Protestant Church.  Well, as soon as she came in she made it illegitimate and Thomas Cramner was a Protestant Archbishop and so he had to recant and they threw him in prison and they began to torture him.  And they put him on the rack and they stretched him out and finally they told him that if he would recant that they would not burn him at the stake.  So finally under all the torture he recanted of his Protestant beliefs and then his torturers said well, it took you too long, we're going to burn you at the stake anyway, we don't believe your recantation. 

 

So they took him out and they were going to burn him at the stake and at that point, as they tied him up on the stake he recanted of his recantation, and proclaimed the gospel to all who would hear.  And so they came up and they knew how to torture people, they weren't going to make it so hot they would vaporize, they were going to burn them very slowly and it was a very painful death.  And Bloody Mary was called Bloody Mary because she martyred so many Protestants on the fields of Smithfield at that time that it's said that the grass grew from the blood of the martyrs.  So Cramner stood on what was his funeral pier as he was lashed to the stake and they lit the fire and as the flames began to rise and began to burn at his feet and his ankles, he held out his hand, the hand that had signed the recantation and he said this hand blasphemed the name of God and I'm going to let it burn off first because of what it did.  And so he held his hand in the flames and while it burned he sang hymns to the glory of God. 

 

Now that's somebody who has a relaxed mental attitude in the midst of incredible suffering and pressure, and that's the same mental attitude, that's the same kind of relaxed tranquility and stability in the midst of pressure that is available to every one of us if we learn doctrine, store it in our souls and use it in times of pressure.  So during times when God is silent we handle the situation through the faith rest drill and using wisdom principles from Bible doctrine in our souls.

 

The fifth point, some of our most difficult testing will come when there is no other believer around.  See, they didn't have Daniel there as the leader to help them out, so this is designed to teach us to stand on our own spiritual two feet.  And then finally, you're not promoted unless God promotes you.

 

At the end Nebuchadnezzar calls them forth from the fiery furnace and if we look at Daniel 2:26-27 we see the results of this.  Verse 27, "And the satraps, the prefects, the governors," that's the entire bureaucratic framework for the Babylonian Empire, "and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men," they're all gathering up and peering into that fiery furnace, and they see all three men, and the fourth man, the son of God.  Then they "saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them."  So these men all witnessed the grace of God in delivering these men, they all witnessed their faith, they all witnessed this miracle and they were going to go back to their various regions and towns and cities where they came from, and many of them were witnesses for God after this. 

 

Now Daniel 3:28, "Nebuchadnezzar responded" and he's going to praise God and release the servants, he says, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, [violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.]" so he recognizes the principle of trust, so it's good for them but not for himself.  So he rejects the grace of God, and notice, he's going to swing from arrogance in one direction, intimidating everybody in the nation to bow down to the idol to arrogance in the other direction, now he's going to force everybody to respect the God of the Jews.

 

So he says in Daniel 3:29, "Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego," notice he doesn't say the only God, he doesn't say the only true God, it's just another God, he's still a polytheist, he's still in his unbelief and he's just as arrogant as he ever was, and this is the foundation for the problem he's going to have in the 4th chapter.  Anyone who speaks anything offensive, anyone who speaks anything derogatory "against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." 

 

Now you get a hint of what Nebuchadnezzar's character must be like.  There doesn't seem to be any halfway measure with him.  Anytime anybody disobeys him they're going to destroy the family, everybody is going to be torn limb from limb and the house is going to be turned into a dung heap.  There's no middle ground with him, we're not going to put anybody in prison, we're not just going to hang them, we're going to go all the way, everybody in the family is going to be destroyed, they're all going to be torn limb from limb and the houses turned into a public latrine.  So you get the extremist there, he's just as intimidating as he ever was, just as arrogant as he ever was, and he once again rejects the grace of God, but in that he promotes Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  [tape turns]

 

…is the same word used of the decree he made back in verse 29 of the previous chapter, this is a national statement, but I want you to notice, he's not intimidating anybody any more, there's no intimidation here.  In chapter 4 we saw him forcing everybody to bow down and worship the idol; at the end he's telling everybody if you don't respect the God of the Jews, then you're going to be torn limb from limb and your house is turned into a public latrine.  But here he respects the volition of the individual and all he's doing is relating what he learned about God and how God taught him about grace and how he came to be saved, so he recognizes volition in that you can never force anybody to be a believer, there's no coercion that will ever change them from negative volition to positive volition.  So he's going to make this a public decree. 

 

Now think about this, here is the greatest individual, the greatest personality, the greatest power in the ancient world at this time and he, as a result of what took place, as a result of the witness of four men he comes to be saved.  And he is going to witness to everyone in the Babylonian Empire; there wasn't anybody in the Babylonian that could say I never heard the gospel.  They heard the gospel from Nebuchadnezzar; this was proclaimed in every town, in every village, in every hamlet and every rural setting throughout all of the Babylonian Empire, as a formal decree from the king it would have been read throughout the land and everyone would have heard it.  So it is an official government decree that shows that the world got the gospel many times in the ancient world.  We can think of other examples like this. 

 

For example, when Jonah went to Nineveh, Nineveh was going to be destroyed by God and yet God said if they repent, that is, if they change their mind toward Me and accept the gospel, then I will allow them to continue and I will not destroy their city.  They responded positively when Jonah preached the gospel to Nineveh, everyone got saved, the word went out throughout the entire Assyrian Empire, and there were hundreds of thousands of people in Assyria who trusted Christ as their Savior, and that was a witness in the ancient world.  It happened here under Nebuchadnezzar, it happened again under Cyrus.  When the Medes and the Persians come in and defeat the Babylonians, Cyrus is going to become a believer as a result of the witness of Daniel and he too is going to make public proclamation and during that generation there were many Persians who were saved. 

 

And again in the next kingdom following that, under Alexander the Great there will be a number of people who are saved, not to the same degree because Alexander never made that kind of a public proclamation.  But we know from historical records that when Alexander conquered the Middle East, the area around Judah and Syria, that the high priest in Jerusalem sent messengers to Alexander and said if you will come to the temple in Jerusalem we will show you in the Holy Books, and by that he meant Daniel, that God prophesied your coming, God prophesied your kingdom and everything about you, and so Alexander went out of his way to go to Jerusalem, he went into the temple and the priest explained to Alexander everything that Daniel said about the third kingdom of Greece.  And he bowed down, not to the high priest but to the God whom the high priest served.  We don't know if that means that Alexander was a believer but we do know that Alexander always honored the Jews, he was never anti-Semitic and he always promoted Jews to key positions in his empire because of their administrative skill. 

 

So this is not something that's unusual in the ancient world and Nebuchadnezzar is going to make public proclamation of the gospel.  So w are going to learn next time how Nebuchadnezzar witnessed to the Babylonian Empire and learn some principles about evangelism from that.