- Lesson 4 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Faith Under Fire” focuses on Daniel 3:1-30.
In chapter 2, Daniel played a prominent role while his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) were quiet prayer partners in the background (2:17-18). In chapter 3, however, the friends take center stage, and Daniel is absent from the narrative.
Most likely, our writer set up this transition by stating at the end of chapter 2 (v. 48-49) that the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court. This transitional information explains why the three friends are together while Daniel is alone in a different location. With all the other officials attending the king’s “big event” on the plain of Dura, Daniel is unable to leave Babylon, as his presence is needed to oversee the palace affairs.
While Nebuchadnezzar’s narrative initially called for the Jews to bow, he himself was, in the end, forced to leap to his feet! Nebuchadnezzar was slow to learn, for Daniel already had declared, “There is a God in heaven…” (2:28). Nebuchadnezzar said, “What God?” The deliverance declares, “Our God, Yahweh!”
The Fourth Man
Not only did Nebuchadnezzar witness Yahweh’s faithful followers walking around unharmed in his seven-fold fiery furnace, he also discovered a mysterious fourth man who appeared “like a son of the gods.” The word for “gods,” ʼĕlāhîn, is actually plural and is sometimes translated “gods.” On the other hand, it has the same force of the Hebrew ʼĕlōhîim, which can be translated as either plural, “gods,” or as a singular, “God.” When denoting the true God, the plural is engaged to express the divine fullness and majesty of God. Therefore, depending upon which translation is used, we have either “the son of the gods” or “the son of God.”
While many readers find an illusion to Christ in the expression, we must remember these words are spoken by Nebuchadnezzar, a polytheistic king who had no concept of either the Christian trinity or the Christ. Most likely, the pagan king only meant that the fourth figure in the fire was divine. Later, he simply refers to the fourth being as an angel (v. 28).
Emphasizing divine deliverance, the story declares that the faithful Judeans did not even so much as suffer a singed hair. Moreover, they did not even smell like smoke!
At some juncture of our faith journey, the story of Daniel’s faithful Jewish friends becomes our story. Eventually, someone will strike the first note of temptation and demand that we, too, fall at the feet of an idol. Will we stand tall to glorify God? Or will we bow down to blend in with the misguided masses? Our God will deliver us; but if not… .
Based on commentary written by Howard Batson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, as condensed by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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