Homiletical Commentary on Daniel 3

3:1-7 {The Image}

            Exegesis: As it will be shown in this chapter, there is an incredible amount of opposition towards those who believe in God, the One known as YHWH in the Scriptures. And the pressure put on the three main “heroes” in this story is immense, but by God’s grace, these men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) provide a powerful example of standing firm in holiness despite the cultural and social difficulties. The first person to consider is Nebuchadnezzar (vs. 1[1]). King Nebuchadnezzar had already dealt with Jews in verses prior, and now he has purposed to have an image of gold constructed. The news had gone out to many in the surrounding areas (vs. 2-3). The image itself was not necessarily in human proportions and while it could have consisted of completely solid gold, it was more likely to have been wood overlaid with gold.[2] This image was not merely to be admired by a voluntary audience but instead it was compulsory for everyone to worship. Otherwise, the dissenter would face death by fire (vs. 4-6). What was the indicator for each and every person to give of himself or herself for worship of this image? Music – that was the cue (vs. 7).

Application: [Illustrate after verse 3] D.A. Carson’s The Intolerance of Tolerance. Carson, who is one of my favorite authors, speaks in his book about how in the last few years there has been a change in what the word “tolerance” means. It used to mean that I could not agree with something, but would not prohibit another to take part in ­­­_______ . However, now “tolerance” does not imply the state of allowing something, but it really means (at least in secular thought) that I must agree with that thing! For example, www.cbssports.com recently posted an article on gay football players and the issue of tolerance.[3] In the words of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, “I don’t think it [homosexuality] will just be tolerated, I think it will be accepted. These are individuals who play in our league. We’re all different in some fashion, and we’re accepting of our differences. That’s what this is all about.” And so in our culture today as believers, there are many social pressures to conform to, one being the “acceptance” of homosexuality. Will you hold to what is right and true, not because of what you think is right and true, but because of what God says is right and true? You may feel like it is compulsory to cave in on biblical convictions, but the challenge for us in the book of Daniel is to take a stand.

3:8-23 {The Risk}

            Exegesis: This was the opportune moment for the Chaldeans to get the Jews in serious trouble. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “The accusers were evidently motivated by jealousy for they referred to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar had set some Jews … over the affairs of the province of Babylon (3:12; cf. 2:49).[4] Over verses 8-12, these Chaldeans clarify the king’s orders concerning his image, thereby placing him in the position of judging these scandalous Jews for their acts of treason. Of course, being a ruler of second-chances and in order to confirm these suspicions, Nebuchadnezzar gives Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego another opportunity to follow orders (vs. 13-15). Additionally, it is intriguing to consider the fact that Nebuchadnezzar is not quite sold on this YHWH that these Jewish young men worship, even though in chapter two the king’s dream was perfectly interpreted.[5] In the following few verses (vs. 16-18), the three “convicts” wholeheartedly stake their lives on the line for the sake of exclusively worshiping their God. The heat of King Nebuchadnezzar’s anger caused him to have his men ignite the furnace to an even hotter degree as the three dissenters would not move their ground (vs. 19-23). And if we stop the story here, it would appear to be over – but there are still several verses to go.

Application: [Illustrate after verse 18] You know, there is a man in church history who in 1521, made a very bold move in order to stand up for his convictions. This man stood before emperor Charles V, probably knowing that his life was at stake, and despite the sheer magnitude of his situation, he would not recant his words towards the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Because his conscience would not let him turn away from what was clearly revealed in Holy Scripture. Who is this man? You may have already guessed it, but his name was Martin Luther. Like Luther, Daniel’s three friends were also in the “hot seat” to suffer for their faith.

3:24-30 {The Rescue}

            Exegesis: In comes the rescuer of the story, and consequentially King Nebuchadnezzar is perplexed as before his very eyes he sees not three men, but four; even still, these men are not being harmed by the flames (vs. 24-26). Who was this mysterious fourth man? “This One was probably the preincarnate Christ.”[6] Upon the king’s orders, the men were brought out of the furnace and into safety with absolutely no harm done (vs. 27-28). For Nebuchadnezzar, he knew that this was not some strange natural phenomenon; it was an intervention from the very God worshipped by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Therefore, a new order was sent out: no one could speak against this powerful Deity. And also, the three were given not just their old jobs back, but even better ones (vs. 29-30). Now that is the hand of God at work.

Application: [Illustrate after verse 26] Everybody seeks a savior, however no one seeks the Father (God) unless He draws him (John 6). The reality is we look for things that satisfy, but we look for things that are finite and cannot fulfill our greatest need – our relationship with God. So many Christian women are in complete agony because they are single and are worried they will never find their so-called “knight in shining armor.” So many Christian men are depressed because they don’t find the fulfillment in their careers they once hoped for. So many Christian teens are so distressed because they’ve sought thrills in things that are finite – drugs, pre-marital sex, popularity, etc. But here’s the problem: these things are “counterfeit gods” as Timothy Keller writes about in his book – they can only do so much, and when the thrill of these things wear off, people come into a state of not simply “sorrow” but “despair.”[7] The question for you, then, is “who are you worshipping?” Or, in some cases, “what are you worshipping?” Because when we look in the story of Daniel 3, we don’t find ourselves in the midst of a God who is passive, weak, and finite; no, instead we see a God who is active, Almighty, and infinite, even willing to go into the fire Himself. I don’t know what kind of god you are worshipping today, but if it’s not the God of the Bible, then I can guarantee that you will be disappointed and even worse, you will be left alone in your suffering. However, the invitation is available for all who will listen, to know that Jesus Christ has come to seek and save those who are lost. If this indeed was a Christophany, then He not only protected the three men in the fire, but He himself took upon the very wrath of God the Father on the cross. And three days later, He arose from the dead, and as we will see later in Daniel, there is a resurrection, but will you be risen with Christ?

[1] Verses are italicized to indicate a fluent outline of the entire chapter; some are in the text of the sentences, while most are in parentheses.


[2] John Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1971), 80.


[4] J. Dwight Pentecost, “Daniel”, in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985).


[5] See also Walvoord, Daniel, 88.


[6] Pentecost, The Bible Knowledge Commentary.

[7] Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Dutton, 2009), xi.


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