Day 2      Daniel 3:1-29 ... Well-timed Rescue

Stories from Daniel have become famous, and in fact any of the first six chapters would make a script for a thriller. This chapter begins with an egocentric decree by a Babylonian ruler so puffed-up that he commissions a skyscraper-size statue of himself. It ends with a rescue so sensational it nearly persuades that ruler to convert to Judaism.

Daniel does not appear in this story (possibly he was away on a diplomatic mission); clearly, if he had been around he would have chosen the same course as his three friends. They saw Nebuchadnezzar's decree as a bottom-line issue of spiritual integrity that brought their dual loyalists into irreconcilable conflict. In this instance, they could not serve both the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Babylon. There could be no compromise.

Idolatry was, in fact, the stubborn sin of Judah that had brought on the Babylonian punishment in the first place. The Jews could never expect God's blessing if they chose to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar and his gold image. The uncompromising response of Daniel's friends shows that the Babylonian captivity was having a "refiner's fire" effect on a whole generation of Jewish exiles.

The book of Daniel makes for exciting reading because, at this most precarious time in Israelite history, God let loose with a burst of miraculous activity: supernatural dreams, handwriting on the wall, rescues from a fiery furnace and a lions' den. Not since Elisha's day had the Israelites seen such signs and wonders.

The story of the fiery furnace has a happy ending, far beyond anything the three courageous Jews might have hoped for. Not only did they survive; the event ensured that Nebuchadnezzar would treat the Jewish religion with tolerance throughout his reign.

The Israelites were still thinking of God in terms of their own small community, their capital city and the temple there. But God had never intended for his blessings to stop with the Jews. He had the world in mind. When he had first revealed the covenant to Abraham, he had promised that Abraham's offspring would bless the whole earth (Genesis 12:3). Over the years, the Jews had found it difficult enough to keep their own faith, let alone spread it to other nations. Iron-ically, at a time of deep humiliation, while living as unwilling captives in Babylon, the Jews began to convince others that their God deserved honor. The proclamations by Nebuchad-nezzar and later Darius (6:26-27) honored God more than anything a king of Judah had done in years.

Point to Ponder: What do you learn about faith from the reply of Daniel's friends (vv 15-18)?