Between Two Kingdoms—Daniel 3:1-27

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Levi Durfey

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Every Christian lives, in a sense, between two kingdoms. We are born into this world’s kingdom. In many ways, it has power over us. It may be a government that we live under. It may be temptations to sin. It could be the fear of leaving this world’s kingdom.

 

On the other hand, when we are born again, we become citizens of another kingdom. We are born into God’s kingdom. We are given a new destiny—being coheirs with Christ for eternity.

 

But now—now it’s difficult. We are between two kingdoms. The world’s kingdom is visible to us. It has a powerful influence in our lives and how we make decisions. God’s kingdom is infinitely more powerful, but it’s not visible. We have to live by faith.

 

Therein lies the rub: we see the world every moment of our lives. It’s power over us is constant and it’s visible. But as Christians, we know that we are live as citizens of God’s kingdom. Yet it’s not visible. Often, we pray for something, and nothing happens or the opposite happens.

 

We struggle with…

 

THE VISIBLE POWER OF THE WORLD’S KINGDOM

 

1. The Display Of Power

 

In the 6th century BC, the power of the world’s kingdom was at the forefront of the mind of every Jew. They had been conquered by Babylon. The Temple of the Lord had been demolished. Jerusalem, God’s city, lay in ruins. They themselves were captives in a foreign land, far away from the home that God had promised them forever. To add insult to injury, the Babylonian king had decided that he deserved their worship.

 

Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, 

whose height was threescore cubits, 

and the breadth thereof six cubits: 

he set it up in the plain of Dura, 

in the province of Babylon.  (Daniel 3:1)

 

The height of this statue was “threescore [sixty] cubits,” which translates to 90 feet high. It was “six cubits” or 9 feet wide. That’s a 10 to 1 height to width ratio, the same as the Washington Monument (which is five times higher).

 

Numbers in the Bible often have a symbolic meaning. The number six is associated with mankind. Man was created on the sixth day. He works six days a week. The number of the Antichrist is 666. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue is a display of man’s power.

 

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together 

the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, 

the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, 

and all the rulers of the provinces, 

to come to the dedication of the image 

which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.  (Daniel 3:2)

Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, 

the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, 

and all the rulers of the provinces, 

were gathered together unto the dedication of the image 

that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up

and they stood before the image 

that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  (Daniel 3:3)

Then an herald cried aloud, 

To you it is commanded, 

O people, nations, and languages,  (Daniel 3:4)

That at what time ye hear the sound 

of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, 

and all kinds of musick, 

ye fall down and worship the golden image 

that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:  (Daniel 3:5)

And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth 

shall the same hour be cast 

into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.  (Daniel 3:6)

 

What do we see here? First, notice the repetition of the phrase that Nebuchadnezzar had “set up” this statue. Of course, his workers did the work, but the idea is that his personal power is great. 

 

Second, notice the power of the government on display here. All the kinds of officials are present: princes and governors, all the way down to sheriffs. Throughout this chapter, the list is repeated over and over. What this said to the people is that Nebuchadnezzar had the support of the entire government (almost, as we’ll see), so they had better comply.

 

Notably absent is Daniel, who was an important official in the government. The Bible doesn’t say where he was, we can only assume that he was away on business.

 

Third, note the use of music: “the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick.” As with the list of government officials, this list of musical instruments is repeated over and over in this chapter. Why? Why is the music so important?

 

My guess is this: music moves the emotions—it can encourage people to do things that they ordinarily wouldn’t do. Have you noticed how the music in a movie can encourage you to cry or cheer? Music can have power over a person. Beware of emotional appeals to abandon the worship of God and his ways.

 

Finally, there’s the threat: if you don’t worship, you will experience the power of the flames: an immediate and painful death by fire.

 

Nebuchadnezzar pulled out all the stops to get the people to worship his statue. And it worked.

 

Therefore at that time, 

when all the people heard the sound of 

the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, 

fell down and worshipped the golden image 

that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.  (Daniel 3:7)

 

The world’s kingdom is visibly very powerful. It often forces us to choose between the two kingdoms to which we belong. The world’s way or God’s way? It may be a small thing, such as telling a lie to cover ourselves. 

 

Or it may be a big thing, such as worshiping an idol. Or perhaps betraying a biblical principle as Christian bakers, florists, and photographers have faced with the homosexual crowd. 

 

Most people will submit themselves to the world’s power, but there are a few who put up…

 

2. A Resistance To The World’s Power

 

Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, 

and accused the Jews.  (Daniel 3:8)

They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, 

O king, live for ever.  (Daniel 3:9)

Thou, O king, hast made a decree, 

that every man that shall hear the sound 

of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, 

and all kinds of musick, 

shall fall down and worship the golden image:  (Daniel 3:10)

And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, 

that he should be cast 

into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.  (Daniel 3:11)

There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of

the province of Babylon, 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; 

these men, O king, have not regarded thee: 

they serve not thy gods, 

nor worship the golden image 

which thou hast set up.  (Daniel 3:12)

 

Isn’t it funny how it’s always a minority who don’t want believers to live in peace? These “certain Chaldeans” were part of the group of wise men that, in Daniel 2, were unable to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Daniel was able to interpret the dream. 

 

These men were likely jealous of Daniel and his people, the Jews. You can see in verses 8 and 12 that they were upset with the “Jews” and not just “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.” A combination of ethnic dislike and political jealousy drove them to attempt indirect murder.

 

Likewise, we need to be careful to keep the sins of jealousy and racism from welling up inside us. You only have to look at history, perhaps even your own personal history, to see the damage that they can cause.

 

Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded 

to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. 

Then they brought these men before the king.  (Daniel 3:13)

 

For his day, Nebuchadnezzar was a tolerant and enlightened king. He had taken the defeated Jews and, instead of making them slaves, allowed at least some of them to have positions in his government. 

 

But the most tolerant person will be enraged when their own prestige and honor is involved. Christians who are usually nice and friendly can turn suddenly angry when you step on a personal conviction, whether that conviction is right or wrong.

 

Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, 

Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, 

do not ye serve my gods, 

nor worship the golden image 

which I have set up?  (Daniel 3:14)

 

Nebuchadnezzar likes these guys, he knows that they have been good for the government. He asks them, “Is it true”? Perhaps he thinks they misunderstood. So he gives them a second chance to worship his statue:

 

Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound 

of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, 

and all kinds of musick, 

ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, 

ye shall be cast the same hour 

into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; 

and who is that God 

that shall deliver you out of my hands?  (Daniel 3:15)

 

Nebuchadnezzar asks, “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” That is the challenge of the world’s kingdom to Christians. “If God is real,” they say, “then why doesn’t he fix this or stop that?” 

 

More than one non-believer has defied God to strike him dead on the spot—and God doesn’t do it. 

 

When someone is cured of a disease, Christians will praise God and the power of prayer. Non-believers will scoff and say that it was the medical know-how that humans have developed.

 

The world’s power is visible—it seems more real to us. But in reality, where does all the world’s power come from? Where does the power of kings like Nebuchadnezzar come from? Where does the wisdom of people like doctors come from?

 

20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: For wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings: He giveth wisdom unto the wise, And knowledge to them that know understanding: (Daniel 2:20–21)

 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego know all this about God. They know…

 

THE ABSOLUTE POWER OF GOD’S KINGDOM

 

The world’s power was staring them in the face: worship the statue or die. The choice between the two kingdoms was stark. 

 

Do they choose the kingdom that was plainly visible to their eyes? Could they see the burning furnace from where they stood? Could it be any more plainer than that?

 

Or would they choose the kingdom whose power was absolute, but visible only with the eyes of faith? The next verses are some of the most awesome about faith in the entire Bible.

 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, 

we are not careful [not full of care, not anxious] 

to answer thee in this matter.  (Daniel 3:16)

If it be so, 

our God whom we serve is able 

to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, 

and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  (Daniel 3:17)

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, 

that we will not serve thy gods, 

nor worship the golden image 

which thou hast set up.  (Daniel 3:18)

 

We could take an entire book to examine these verses, but here are two lessons we learn from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego:

 

1. They Refused Rationalizations

 

When the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world come into conflict, we are prone to rationalizations. We say things like, “God will forgive me if I do this.” 

 

Imagine what kind of rationalizations that could have ran through their minds. Maybe they thought, “We have a great amount of influence in the government, if we die now, all the good we could do won’t get done.” 

 

Or maybe they thought, “Nebuchadnezzar gave us a second chance, obviously he doesn’t really want to do this. Maybe if we just bend our head a little towards the statue, he would accept that. He would realize how difficult it was for us to do. Maybe he would pleased that we respected him enough to at least make an attempt.”

 

But they did not allow rationalizations to rule their minds. If any did come to their minds, they pushed them away immediately. They knew where they stood. They stood on the side of the God of the universe.

 

2. They Understood God’s Power

 

Unbelievers (and some Christians) misunderstand God’s power. They ask, “Why doesn’t God heal that child? If I were God, I would.” They might think God is powerful, but they don’t trust the way he uses his power.

 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, on the other hand, knew what God was capable of doing—“our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” But they also allow God to be powerful in his own way, “But if not.”

 

We don’t understand why God does or doesn’t do many things. It’s not for us to understand. But we trust him to be powerful in his way and in his wisdom. Faith is trusting God to be powerful even when the world’s power is more visible.

 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego bravely stood for the Lord. But the three Jews did not stand alone.

 

3. They Had Christ With Them

 

Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, 

and the form of his visage was changed 

against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: 

therefore he spake, and commanded 

that they should heat the furnace one seven times more 

than it was wont to be heated.  (Daniel 3:19)

And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army

to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, 

and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.  (Daniel 3:20)

 

Why “the most mighty men”? Were “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego” strong and mighty? Were they dangerous criminals that needed man-handled? No, it’s what people do when they are enraged. They go overboard.

 

Then these men were bound 

in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast 

into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.  (Daniel 3:21)

Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, 

and the furnace exceeding hot, 

the flame of the fire slew those men 

that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.  (Daniel 3:22)

 

And, when angry people go overboard, it often turns around to bite them. Nebuchadnezzar lost some of his mighty men, and the fault was entirely his.

 

And these three men, 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, 

fell down bound 

into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.  (Daniel 3:23)

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, 

and rose up in haste, 

and spake, and said unto his counsellers, 

Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, 

True, O king.  (Daniel 3:24)

He answered and said, 

Lo, I see four men loose, 

walking in the midst of the fire, 

and they have no hurt; 

and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.  (Daniel 3:25)

Then Nebuchadnezzar came near 

to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, 

and spake, and said, 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, 

ye servants of the most high God, 

come forth, and come hither. 

Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, 

came forth of the midst of the fire.  (Daniel 3:26)

And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellers, being gathered together, 

saw these men, 

upon whose bodies the fire had no power, 

nor was an hair of their head singed, 

neither were their coats changed, 

nor the smell of fire had passed on them.  (Daniel 3:27)

 

Four men, not three, were in the furnace. This fourth man was Christ. Many people think that Christ is only in the New Testament. But the Son of God is eternal and has always existed. Since that’s true, he has to be in the Old Testament.

 

Throughout the Old Testament Christ makes special appearances. For example, whenever you read about “the angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament, it’s an appearance of Christ. We call such an appearance a Christophany, a Christ-appearance.

 

So here, with the three Jews, Christ appears with them. Christ is also with us in every trial that we face. He promised that he would be: “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).

 

We need to realize that, while the world’s kingdom has visible power, God’s kingdom has absolute power. We need to have faith that this is true. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). 

 

But there are times that God’s kingdom visibly breaks into the world’s kingdom. This is one of those times. God stepped into the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego and protected them.

 

Often when God does break in to the world’s kingdom, it’s not in a showy manner. Nebuchadnezzar had a massive statue, a mass of government officials, and a huge orchestra. It was the world’s glory on display. 

 

Christ simply stepped into the furnace with his people. With that simple act, Nebuchadnezzar and all his glory were pushed to the side. All he could do was stand there with his mouth open!

 

CONCLUSION

 

Can you think of another time God’s kingdom broke into the world’s kingdom? Several hundred years later, Christ again came to be with his people. Again, it wasn’t in a showy manner. He came as a baby in a manger. He died like a criminal on a cross. He rose from the dead, but not in a spectacular flash of glory seen around the world. Instead, he got up before dawn and left an empty tomb.

 

We are left with a faith choice: did Christ rise from the dead? The world’s kingdom says that it is impossible that he did so. Dead people don’t come back to life—ever. But in God’s kingdom, that’s not a problem. And when God’s kingdom breaks into this world, dead people do come back to life.

 

Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead? Perhaps God is stirring your heart to do so right now. If he is, I urge you to respond by praying something like this: 

 

Lord, I know that I’ve been a sinner—a sheep that has gone astray. Lord, I understand that the Bible says that my sin deserves an eternal punishment in Hell. But Lord, I also understand that you sent your Son Jesus to die for my sins on the cross. I believe that you broke into this world and raised him from the dead as proof that his death paid for my sins. Lord, I trust Jesus for my salvation. Amen.

 

If you are a Christian today, let me urge you on in your faith. The God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same God with you today. The God who was with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace is the same God with you today. 

 

Trust him to do what is right. He may break into this world with a display of the power of his kingdom. You may experience miracles. But if not. Trust him anyway. Whether it’s persecution or trial. The Bible says,

 

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35–39)

One thought on “Between Two Kingdoms—Daniel 3:1-27

  1. Such an faith building message for times such as these when the world’s kingdom seems so powerful. Our faith knows God’s kingdom will be the one standing when all is said and done. God’s kingdom will “break through”. Thank you for a strengthening message to ponder and remember this week.

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