Daniel 3 is a story about resurrection. It’s about being thrown into a fiery furnace by one who would kill those who do not bow down to the kings of this world. And it’s about having that “fourth” person standing with us in the flames. And it’s about emerging from the furnace without so much as the smell of smoke on our clothes.
Again, we see how narrowly we escape death – how close we come as sinners to extermination. And we see how Jesus enters into our suffering and stands alongside us as we suffer. And how he delivers us to safety.
And we see once more the way of this world. Like with King Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther, pride is the way of the world. And with pride comes rage. And we see both pride and rage in King Nebuchadnezzar.
And we see to what great lengths human beings will go to be recognized in their pride – to make the world be about them. Notice how many times Nebuchadnezzar’s statue is described in terms of how it came to be – “the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” As humans we are a scraping and grasping kind of people, working hard to build our own lives in our own image until it’s something worth our worship – until we realize that image is inherently unstable – as unstable as a nine foot wide and NINETY foot tall statue.
Nebuchadnezzar must have gotten this idea from his dream – the one Daniel interpreted back in chapter 2. His dream revealed a statue showing a succession of kingdoms, but it was smashed by a stone not cut by human hands. God was in control. But Nebuchadnezzar, like so many of us, ignored that little fact and built himself a statue anyway, determined to make the world bow down to him.
And the uniqueness of the Israelites was in their refusal to worship any but the One True God. And Jews and Christians through the centuries have met their earthly ends by refusing the world’s demands to worship something else. And the world constantly is tempting those of us who are still around to water down our worship of the One True God and to find other ways to spend our time, energy, and devotion. Football is on Sunday after all.
So there’s a lot in this chapter that we know so well.
In Isaiah, God promised to be with his chosen people Israel. “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (Isaiah 43:1-2).
God was with his people as they passed through the Red Sea, through the Jordan River, and, now, through the fiery furnace. The ultimate era of “God with us” is now, as the Holy Spirit resides in those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. You have God with you even now – even in this era of uncertainty – even in this exile of disease, economic anxiety, and cultural tension. Riots and coronavirus are faced by Christians with the God who walks with them.