Youth Messenger Online Edition

Should I Get Baptized?

The Adventures of Daniel
The Adventures of Daniel
Part 3
Tobias L. Stockler
Courageous or Foolhardy?

In the previous issue of the Youth Messenger, young Daniel, under the guidance of God, was miraculously able to help King Nebuchadnezzar remember what he had dreamed and even tell him what the dream meant.

Daniel’s explanation satisfied Nebuchadnezzar’s curiosity and cooled his anger. That was his dream! Each body part and metal was exactly as he had seen it. This captive and his God did know something. And he, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was the head of gold! This impressed the monarch. He wouldn’t destroy all his counselors. Instead, he would worship this new God of gods and Lord of kings who could reveal secrets.

Hasty promises are rarely kept, and Nebuchadnezzar’s promise was no exception. Soon he was back to his idol worship even more zealously than before. But his wise men had a suggestion: Why not set up a statue similar to the one in his dream? Then everyone could worship this head of gold!

Before long, Nebuchadnezzar and his counselors decided that Babylon was the nation that had broken in pieces and destroyed all other nations and would last forever. Why not show this by making the whole image of gold rather than just its head? Then everyone could see how the dream revealed that their nation of Babylon would be eternal! This statue would be the symbol of glorious Babylon forever!

Goldsmiths were hired, the ground was prepared, everything was done rapidly. Soon ninety feet into the air towered tons of gold. (If the statue was made of solid 24 karat gold, it would weigh approximately 2,500 tons. That amount of gold alone costs close to 25 billion U.S. dollars. Then there is the cost of labor, equipment, and so on. More likely the image was hollow and made of an alloy of gold. In any case this was not a cheap project.)

Now that the nation’s largest and most majestic idol was complete, it should be properly dedicated. Since this is the symbol of Babylon, it should be used for the worship of this “immortal” nation. Appropriately, all the officers of the kingdom were invited to be present at the opening ceremonies. Band music was provided for the signal of when to start. At that signal the worship of the nation of Babylon as represented in the golden statue would officially commence.

The music began. A tremendous crowd of the whole army, and of governors, judges, sheriffs, and sundry other governmental employees, awestruck at the grandeur of the new idol, fell to the ground in worshipful adoration. Their attention was engrossed in the statue, the music, the experience. They applauded Nebuchadnezzar for having the wisdom and power of a god. This was a grand event, the moment of a lifetime.

But absorbing as all of this was, it was not exciting enough to divert jealousy. Deep within the hearts of some of the country’s most trusted advisors was resentment so strong it distracted their attention. Among the crowds were three young men, top governmental leaders from the local province. They had been promoted in the wake of the king’s strange dream and might have replaced some of the very men bowing before this statue. In any case, they were in that position because God through, their friend, Daniel had revealed a dream these other men could not tell. And it was easier to forget that these men had selflessly spared the lives of these jealous men, than it was to forgive captives for explaining a dream that the king’s advisors could not.

And so the men looked around. Ahh, there were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew very well the original dream. God carefully explained through its symbols that, although Babylon is important, there is a higher kingdom which will eventually replace all other nations. To worship Babylon now as the immortal nation would be to rebel against the higher King. And this higher King is the only one who knew Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the only one who saved all of the king’s advisors. Could they be so careless and untrustworthy as to forget the God that repeatedly saved their lives, gave them their current positions, and in fact made them the very men they were? Would they be so irresponsible as to declare destruction and hatred to His kingdom just to fit into this little kingdom and the celebration of its power, accomplishments, and immortality? No! Death is better than betrayal. We would rather die than betray our God and His kingdom. We can attend, but we cannot bow down. And therefore we will not bow down!

"This act of bowing the knees to the great image was understood to be an act of worship. But such an act was homage to be rendered to God alone--the Sovereign of the world, the Ruler of the universe; and these three Hebrews refused to give such honor to any idol even though composed of pure gold."— Manuscript Releases, Vol. 21, p. 59.

Now jealous distraction turns into tattletaling. The Chaldeans came to accuse the Jews before the king, saying, “O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:9–12).

Angry, Nebuchadnezzar orders these rebels to be escorted to him. Pointing in the direction of the big oven, he threatens them with death in the smelting furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reply that they worship the true God only. Nebuchadnezzar realizes these men have something to them that other men do not have. He softens. “Now, if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” Then, stretching his hand upward in defiance, he demandingly added, “and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15).

“In vain were the king’s threats. He could not turn these noble men from their allegiance to the great Ruler of nations. From the history of their fathers, they had learned that disobedience to God results in dishonor, disaster, and death; that the fear of the Lord is not only the beginning of wisdom, but the foundation of all true prosperity. They knew that they owed to God every faculty they possessed; and while their hearts were full of generous sympathy toward all men, they had a lofty aspiration to prove themselves loyal to God.

“When the king was troubled in regard to his dream, these men, with Daniel, had fasted and prayed, that they might understand the dream. The Lord had heard their cries, and He had given to Daniel wisdom to interpret the dream to the king. Thus their own lives and the lives of the astrologers and soothsayers had been saved. Now the very men who had escaped death through the mercy of God to His servants had been the prime movers in securing the decree in regard to the worship of the golden image. But the three Hebrews made no mention of these things; they knew that a controversy with the king would only increase his fury.

“Standing before the angry monarch, with the image in sight, and the sound of the entrancing music in their ears, these young men thought of the promise made to the prophet Isaiah more than one hundred years before: ‘Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.’

“The answer of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was respectful but decided. Looking with calmness upon the fiery furnace and the idolatrous throng, they said: ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. if it be so, our God whom we serve . . . will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.’ ”—The Youth’s Instructor, March 8, 1904.

Nebuchadnezzar’s anger turned to fury, distorting his face and his judgment. “Heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual,” he ordered. (The melting temperature of pure gold is 1,981°F. If this were one of the smelting furnaces used to make the image, then seven times hotter would be extremely hot! More than hot enough to melt any of the common metals.) Next he commanded some of the strongest men in his army to tie up these three “rebels” and throw them into the fire, clothes and all.

The fire was very hot. A flaming tongue of fire leapt out of the furnace, as though the big oven was licking its burning mouth in anticipation of certain destruction, much as a cat plays with and intimidates its prey before eating it. The furnace would teach all who watched what was the results of disobeying this king!

The orders were urgent and the military men were loyal. They grabbed up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in their strong arms and running forward lunged them into the furnace. But the heat was too intense, and the flaming tongue too long for safety. The soldiers were burned to death.

The king sat in triumph on his throne. There, the job was done. Now the people could see what it was like to disobey King Nebuchadnezzar’s orders. This was a good lesson in obedience for the whole nation. Or was it? Nebuchadnezzar was shocked by something that caught his eye, turning his triumphant glee into terror and alarm. His face turned pale and he stared into the roaring flames. “Didn’t we cast three men bound into the middle of the fire?”

“Certainly, your majesty,” was the reply.

“I see four men walking about in the fire free and unharmed; and the fourth person appears like the Son of God!” (See Daniel 3:24, 25.)

Strange that “when Christ manifests Himself to the children of men, an unseen power speaks to their souls. They realize that they are in the presence of the Infinite One. Before His majesty, kings and nobles tremble and acknowledge the living God as above every earthly power” (Ibid., April 26, 1904). Have you experienced this?

But, “how did that heathen king know what the Son of God was like? The Hebrew captives filling positions of trust in Babylon had in life and character represented before him the truth. When asked for a reason of their faith, they had given it without hesitation. Plainly and simply they had presented the principles of righteousness, thus teaching those around them of the God whom they worshiped. They had told of Christ, the Redeemer to come; and in the form of the fourth in the midst of the fire the king recognized the Son of God” (Prophets and Kings, p. 509). Now there is successful missionary work!

Forgetting his own greatness and dignity, Nebuchadnezzar stepped down from his throne and walked up close to the mouth of the furnace. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God. Come out. Come here.” And they did.

Forgetting all the impressive gold towering above them, princes, governors, captains, and the king’s counselors quickly gathered around to see these men whose bodies the fire could not harm, nor was one hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spoke, and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3:28, 29).

Were these young men brave or cowards? Are you and I truly brave, or not? Let us be honest with ourselves. Could you, the way you are right now, be that calm in front of someone you respect who was that angry? You will face very similar circumstances, as certainly as it is certain that you are alive. Soon every human will be ordered to bow down to an image: an image to the beast. This image will have grandeur, music, and the experience of a lifetime—connected with it just as Nebuchadnezzar’s image. Any human who refuses to worship will be threatened with death, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It will look like the best thing to do is bow down but refuse to worship in your heart. But God says that whether you worship this image in your heart or in practice, you would be a traitor and a rebel against Him and His kingdom. Are you ready for this? You can be. God wants to answer your prayers as much as He did for those Hebrews. Maybe you need a dream interpreted? Maybe you need the dreams of your future explained to you? God is waiting to interpret your dreams too. Maybe you need to be saved out of the fires of conflict and controversy or the fires of passion? God is there for you whatever the moment, whatever the need. He says: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.” “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [food, shelter, clothing, an education, a job, a family, good life] shall be added unto you.” But maybe you have already tried this and it didn’t seem to work. “Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Matthew 7:7; 6:33; Jeremiah 29:13).