Jesus in the OT – Fiery Furnace

Know the Context

The book of Daniel was written by Daniel during the 70 years the Israelites were captive in Babylon during the sixth-century B.C while Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon. Daniel is not considered to be an OT prophet but his book is filled with dreams and visions written with richly symbolic, metaphorical and mythical language and fantasy imagery.

Ezekiel was the prophet during the captivity, Jeremiah predicted the captivity and lamented over it.

There is so much in the book of Daniel that we could spend months pulling out all the symbolism, types and shadows found within its pages. But for the purpose of this series we will focus on seeing Jesus and the Gospel.

Daniel 3:1-30

The Image of Gold

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king (The great king of Babylon who captured Jerusalem and carried Judah captive by the will of God.) made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. (Visible to everyone within the city.) 2 And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, (Everyone with power and authority) to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship (lay on your face) the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; (This was a loyalty pledge to the king of the newly established empire of Babylon.) 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” (There were swift and severe consequences for not pledging loyalty to the king.)

7 So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (They did this because Nebuchadnezzar had already burned people in the furnace before. Jer 29:22)

Daniel’s Friends Disobey the King

8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans (These were considered to be wise, noble, men of importance. These were the ones who tried to interpret Neb’s dream the chapter before.) came forward and accused the Jews. 9 They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. (They have not pledged loyalty to you.) They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”

The three men were willing to give up their high office, royal favour and even their lives for the sake of their loyalty to God.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! (Ready to pledge your loyalty.) But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. (I would love it if more Christians took this approach. We don’t need to explain everything or open our mouths about everything going on in our world. We’re not OF this world, remember?) 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (What an incredible attitude… God can, but if He doesn’t, our minds are set.)

Saved in Fiery Trial (Not from)

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. (The boys fell out of favour with the king when they made their stand. This proved who their loyalty belonged to.) He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind (Their decision was made, their fate was sealed.) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. (The boys were outmatched and outnumbered.) 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, (while wearing foriegn clothes) and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”

They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”

25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (This is known as a Christophany; a non-physical appearance of Jesus in the OT. At the appearance of Jesus the men were freed but remained in the fire with him.)

Nebuchadnezzar Praises God

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors (Everyone with authority) gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.

28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.

Further Thoughts and Comments

This story is not about Jesus showing up in your furnace. That’s inconsistent with the new covenant reality. Why?

1. Because Jesus is already with you.

Surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20

2. Jesus is already in you.

To them God has chosen to make known the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

3. You’re already united with Jesus.

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. Romans 6:3‭-‬5

This story is about Christ showing up, arriving, coming.

The Christophany is a shadow or allusion (indirect reference) of Jesus’ appearing, incarnation, advent; both his first and second.

What do we see in this Christophany? 

1. Here we see the non-physical, preincarnate Christ.

2. We see a shadow of the physical, incarnate Christ who came as baby born in Bethlehem 600 years later.

3. We look to the returning a glorified and conquering Christ who will come again to judge the living at the dead.

The similarity we share with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego is that after the appearing of Jesus, we remain in Babylon (v 30)… the world system.

And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. (Revelation 16:19)

At the return of the glorified Christ, Babylon will be destroyed and we, the body and bride of Christ, will not be delivered like the three men who were delivered in the fire, we will be delivered from the fire.

What good news, what a purifying hope. 

Conclusion

Until then, though we remain in Babylon, wearing foreign clothing, let us pledge our loyalty to Jesus and live as 1 John 2 tells us to…

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15‭-‬17

For more on Babylon, click here to watch the Revelation Study Series