King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
The unexpected had happened. For more than a century, the fearful development was unprecedented. But sometime during the night, fanned by blustery winds and fed by desiccated timber, the conflagration had leapt across the continental divide. Now it was incinerating its way downhill threatening the towns along the Colorado front range. The Big Thompson forest fire was out of control.
We had received the mandatory immediate evacuation order from the Sherriff's office, but then sat motionless on Main Street. The traffic stretched for miles in front of us. The fire was three miles behind and moving toward us faster than we were moving ahead. We were trapped, with the very real possibility that we would soon be burned to death in our automobile.
Of all the horrible memories from that horrifying day, one of the most poignant is the pungency of the acrid air that permeated everything. We reached safety, but quickly realized that the smell of smoke clung to us. Not until many days later and multiple washings did we remove the olfactory reminder of our escape.
The book of Daniel makes specific note that when God delivered three faithful young men from the flames of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, not even the smell of fire had come upon them. There is much to learn in this familiar miracle of God's rescue of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
First, God rescues His people completely. There was no "almost" or "not quite" for the young men. The one true God was able to rescue, and He willed to rescue in the moment of the fire. God acted, the men didn't help Him, and as the flames surrounded them, the Israelites knew that God was with them in the furnace. So it is with us. Our God is a mighty God, who never leaves us nor forsakes us, and He will bring to completion what He has begun in us.
Secondly, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were rescued visibly. They were transformed from men sentenced to death into living breathing testimonies of God's power, mercy and grace. And that transformation produced observable change. They should have died, but were delivered victorious over death. By God's grace alone, in Christ we are to "let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:17) The believer in Jesus Christ makes God's Word and God's rescue visible to the astounded, watching world.
Finally, God rescued those three men so that He alone would be glorified, He alone would be worshipped. Nebuchadnezzar had audaciously declared himself to be a god, with the power over life and death. He had demanded worship and required obsequious praise. But the God of creation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God the Father is a jealous God, who will not brook pretenders. The triune God alone is to receive worship, and even pagan Nebuchadnezzar came to recognize his own ridiculous pretense. "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."
Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15) And everyone who is saved from the flames through the finished work of Christ is rescued completely, and visibly, and to the glory of God alone.