But if not…
I. Two Images Standing in Conflict – vv. 1-7
1) The Image of Man
- Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden Image
- Inspired by the dream of chapter 2
- An effort to resist God’s sovereignty
- An effort to elevate man to the position of God
- A direct violation of the 1st and 2nd Commandments – cf. Exodus 20:3-6
- Babel Reversed
- The tower of Babel was an effort to unify all people of the earth in their rebellion against God
- Nebuchadnezzar is now trying to re-unify the dispersed nations in that same rebellion – vv. 4, 7
2) The Image of God
- Human beings were created to represent God’s glory on earth – cf. Genesis 1:27
- The divine image in man was distorted by the Fall, but is restored in God’s redeemed people
- Fallen man actively seeks to exchange the divine image for counterfeit images – cf. Romans 1:23
– Human history is a conflict between two different images: The image of God which reflects His glory, and the image of man which seeks to usurp His glory. Which of these two images is being reflected in your life?
– Nebuchadnezzar attempted to unify the nations under the image of man. The Gospel unifies the nations under the perfect image bearer – Jesus Christ. The reversal of Babel was displayed on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13), and it will be completed when representatives from all nations will be gathered around God’s throne (Revelation 7:9-12). There are two re-unification projects at work in our world today – which one of them has your support?
II. Three Men Standing Alone – vv. 8-18
1) A Malicious Accusation
- The King’s Pagan advisors were envious of the Jewish foreigners – cf. 2:49
- They see an opportunity to get rid of them, and take it by pointing out their civil disobedience
2) A Menacing Threat
- The narcissistic King is instantly infuriated
- He offers them a second chance, and then threatens them with death by fire
3) A Marvelous Answer
- Respectful, but firm and resolute
- They are submissive to God’s Law, and willing to suffer the consequences of Civil Disobedience
- Their faith is in the sovereign God of heaven, not in the outcome they desire
– Standing on the truth is often lonely. Be prepared to stand alone while others compromise and justify their actions
– Christians are to respect the governing authorities, and to be law abiding citizens, but there are times when Civil Disobedience is the only valid option. When in conflict, God’s Law must always take priority over man’s law.
– Although we tend to identify with the three boys in this story, we are often much more like Nebuchadnezzar. What are some ‘idols’ that you have set up in your life?
III. Four Men Standing in the Flames – vv. 19-30
1) Nebuchadnezzar’s Brutality
- The furnace was heated to maximum capacity
- Nebuchadnezzar’s servants die from the intense heat; God’s servants emerge from the fire without the smell of smoke on their clothing!
2) God’s Mercy
- A fourth man “like a son of the gods”: either an angel or a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ
- Immanuel – God does not always spare us from suffering, but He is always with us in suffering
– It is far more important for the Christian believer to fear the Lord, than it is to fear man – cf. Matthew 10:28
– True faith isn’t in the outcome we want, it’s in the sovereign God who always ordains what is right. Our privilege and duty as believers is to glorify God whether in life or in death.
– On the cross Jesus endured the fiery furnace of God’s wrath so that we don’t have to. Bow down to King Jesus and you will never be condemned in the furnace of hell.