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Lesson 3: The Fiery Furnace *

Introduction: How does temptation come to you? Is it in the big issues or the small issues of life? Our study this week is about three young men who were faced with the issue of worshiping a false god or losing their life. You may be thinking, "I've never had anything like that, and I hope I never will!" Remember, however, that these three young men started out with the issue of their loyalty to God when it came to diet. Is it possible that we have not faced the big, dramatic choices because we fail in the small choices? Or, have we lost sight of the big picture - that all issues of loyalty to God, both large and small, are ultimately a question of life and death. Let's dive into our study and see what we can learn about being loyal to God under terrible pressure!

  1. The Image

    1. Read Daniel 3:1. The SDA Bible Commentary notes that this image is about the same height as the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor. (Not including the pedestal under the Statue of Liberty.) What do you think inspired King Nebuchadnezzar to commission this ten-story artwork? (Without doubt this is the result of the dream (Daniel 2) he had which Daniel interpreted.)

      1. Right away I see some artistic license being taken with the image in the dream. How does the actual image deviate from the image in the dream? (Daniel 2:37-38. In the dream, only the head was made of gold. The head was the only part that represented Nebuchadnezzar.)

        1. If you were Nebuchadnezzar, why would you want to make the entire image gold? Fidelity to the dream could save you a lot of money! (Who wants to be reminded that they (and their kingdom) are mortal and have limited days? Of course, there is also the matter of that pesky stone (Daniel 2:34-35) that is best forgotten.)

        2. Whose face do you think was on this image?

    2. Read Daniel 3:2-3. If you did not know any of the rest of this story, would you want to be invited? (Everyone who was anyone in government was invited. This was the place to be if you were important or wanted to be considered important. Plus, people had no doubt heard of this amazing statue. They wanted to see it and be part of the dedication ceremony so that they could brag to their friends and relatives.)

  2. The Test

    1. Read Daniel 3:4-5. What do you think, did the people know in advance that this was not an ordinary dedication ceremony - that this was primarily a religious event?

      1. Read Daniel 2:46-47. How could King Nebuchadnezzar get so badly off track?

      2. Read Daniel 2:49. Do you think Daniel had advance knowledge of what the King had in mind for the dedication ceremony? (It was Daniel who interpreted the dream. It was Daniel who served right in the royal court. Of course he knew this huge statue was being built on the Dura plain. However, Nebuchadnezzar might have thought, given the actual dream, that it was best not to tell Daniel what he had in mind and send Daniel off on a business trip. It would seem out of character for Daniel to have advance knowledge of the worship requirement, arrange his own out-of-town trip, and not warn his three friends.)

    2. Read Daniel 3:6. What is the reason for the fiery furnace part of this command? Was there a loyalty issue in the kingdom? (Maybe Daniel and his three friends were winning converts to the true God.)

      1. How do you think the "native wise men" viewed Daniel and his three friends? (Captured slaves promoted over you? The idea was scandalous! I am confident these guys soon forgot that their lives were saved by Daniel and that there was plenty of jealousy among the "native wise men" over the power and authority of these Jewish captives. Perhaps the natives suggested this penalty to the King.)

    3. From time to time in these stories we look at the struggle between God and Satan. Between the City of God and the City of Satan. Between God's servants and Satan's servants. Last week God triumphed through the interpretation of the dream and the elevation of Daniel and his three friends. What was the point of the dream that Daniel interpreted? (That God was in charge - He was the Master of the Universe and of events on earth.)

      1. What is the point of the image Nebuchadnezzar made based on the dream and the worship order? (That Nebuchadnezzar is in charge.)

      2. What caused things to get so badly turned around? (Pride, arrogance, perhaps the passage of time.)

        1. Can this happen in your life? (We do not know the time frame between the dream and the building of the image. With time, we can forget God's lessons in our life and return to trusting ourselves.)

    4. Read Daniel 3:7. Any problem with any of the visiting governmental officials complying with the royal command?

      1. Any "peer-pressure" operating here?

      2. Where there any other Judean captives other than Daniel and his three friends? (Certainly.)

        1. What are they doing? How does that affect Daniel's three friends?

    5. Read Daniel 3:8-12. Who denounces Daniel's three friends? (A contingent of the wise men - those whose boss is now Daniel.)

      1. How do they identify the three friends? (They use their names, but they also call them "Jews" and mention their authority.)

      2. Is the complaint limited to their failure to worship the golden image? (No. These wise men see that the real issue is loyalty to God.)

      3. Given the aspects of the complaint that we have just discussed, what do you think is behind the complaint? (This is evidence of what we discussed earlier: these wise men do not like being under the authority of foreigners who worship another God. This is an opportunity to get rid of these Hebrew pretenders and weaken Daniel without directly attacking him.)

    6. Read Daniel 3:13. Would you say that King Nebuchadnezzar has an anger management problem?

    7. Read Daniel 3:14-15. Nebuchadnezzar does not just take the word of the astrologers. He calls the three friends in to make sure of the facts and give them a second chance. Why does this angry king take the time with them?

      1. What does Nebuchadnezzar believe is the real issue here? (The last phrase of verse 15 reveals the true issue: your God cannot save you from me. It is, as always, a question of loyal to the Great God of Heaven.)

    8. Read Daniel 3:16. Why not? If this were me I would review the entire history of the dream, the saving of the wise men, the interpretation of the dream, the confession that Nebuchadnezzar made about the true God ( Daniel 2:47) and then dramatically end with the statement, "If it were not for our God, the one you acknowledged, you would not even have this great image and we would not be here!" Were Daniel's three friends just a little deficient in their lawyering skills? Had the blazing fire put them off their game? (No. Their point is simple, without being insulting: "King, you know better. You know about us and our loyalty to only one God, the great I AM.")

    9. Read Daniel 3:17-18. Let's follow this argument. Our God can save us, our God will save us, but in case He doesn't, we will still be loyal." Why say that your God will save you and then say, "Well, maybe not?" (Part of the loyalty of the three friends, part of your loyalty to God, is to recognize that God does His own thinking. He is in charge, not you. It is about Him, not about you. You know what He can do. You know what you would like Him to do. But, your loyalty is required whatever He actually decides to do.)

    10. Read Daniel 3:19. Nebuchadnezzar's attitude towards them changed. What does this say about his knowledge of their God? (This shows that Nebuchadnezzar truly knew about them. If they were just three wise men that he did not really know, he would not have had any "attitude" towards them. His favorable attitude turns to new heights of fury.)

      1. Why did Nebuchadnezzar become furious? (People do not like to be reminded about their sins.)

  3. The Rescue

    1. Read Daniel 3:20-23. What they feared happened. They were actually thrown into the fiery furnace. How do you feel now, if you are one of the three friends?

    2. Read Daniel 3:24-27. Why does God wait until disaster strikes to act?

      1. We wish that God did not wait to intervene until disaster strikes, but what lesson is there in the fact that there were four men in the furnace, and one looked "like a son of the gods?" (God demonstrates that He is with those who are faithful even in the most terrifying of tests. God did not prevent them from being thrown into the fire, but He was with them in the fire and He prevented them from being harmed by the fire.)

    3. Read Daniel 3:28-30. "No other god can save in this way." In the global battle between God and Satan, who now has the obvious upper hand?

      1. How does it turn out professionally for the three friends?

    4. Friend, you and I need this kind of trust and loyalty. Even if God did not save them, Daniel's three friends determined to be loyal. God did save them, in a dramatic way, and both the Great God of Heaven and the three friends were exalted because of it. Will you determine to be loyal to God, even in small matters?

  4. Next week: Nebuchadnezzar's Judgment.
* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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