Weekly Insights about the Quarterly Lessons from the 1888 Message Study Committee.
Friday, January 24, 2020
“FROM FURNACE TO PALACE”
"FROM FURNACE TO PALACE"
Sabbath: From Furnace to Palace, Daniel 3
"Our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand O king." Daniel 3:17, NKJV.
These three Hebrews expressed faith and confidence in God and in His power to save them. Even if God did not save them, they would still not bow to any false God or helpless idol. May our faith today be as courageous in the face of imposed worship, under threat of persecution, imprisonment, torture, and death. Now is our time to allow our Lord to prepare us for future temptation, as He helps us through the trials, choices and temptations we experience today.
"These men knew that they had been made subject to the king of Babylon by the Lord Himself. It had not only been prophesied by Isaiah (chapter 39), but by Jeremiah. At the final siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the Lord through Jeremiah told the people to submit to the king of Babylon, and that whosoever would do it, it should be [well] with them; whosoever would not do it, it should be ill with them. Yet these men, knowing all this, made answer to Nebuchadnezzar thus:" (1894 ATJ, CGRRLL p. 33)
Obviously they also understood the limits of that command to submit to the king of Babylon, just as Jesus knew the limits to the angels keeping Him in all His ways. Like those three Jews we must submit, if the laws of our country do not call us to violate God's laws, commandments, and liberties.
Sunday: The Golden Image
Gold today is highly precious. To some, it has become an idol. The most precious and worthy object we can and must possess is not gold, but the Golden Character of Jesus Christ that has been tried in the fires of trials, sufferings and even the pangs of death.
As did those three worthies who had the faith of Jesus, which also included the very confidence of Christ in them, and thus remained victoriously faithful to Him, even so we will have the same support and the confidence of Christ in us and Christ's presence with us. (Matthew 28:20,Revelation 14:12)
Nebuchadnezzar proves certain things about our fallen human nature. When it is shown the finite limitations of its good works and accomplishments, it does not like that! Also, if we were shown that we will be replaced by those with inferior abilities, it could wound our pride, and arouse our arrogance! We too would be tempted to try to effect a lasting change to our legacy. We would desire to change our future and our history. Since all of the future is as open as history to God, we should seek and follow His guidance now so that our present and future influence is what God would have it to be. The courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego has influenced future generations of believers in God to risk and even lose their lives for the sake of our God of Love and Truth. Many souls will be in heaven because of people who stay loyal to our Creator and best Friend!
Nebuchadnezzar, in His position and power which God had allowed him to have, let it go to his head. His pride, arrogance, and selfishness were unwilling to let his kingdom be replaced. The flesh loves to be number one. The Golden Image demonstrated his illusions of ultimate grandeur. After Daniel's revelation and interpretation of his dream concerning the kingdoms of men and the Kingdom of God, instead of continuing on the path to humility [Daniel 2:46, 47], he yielded to the principles of Satan's kingdom of self-exaltation [Isaiah 14:12-14]. In Daniel 3 we see the Great Controversy in the king's heart, as it was manifested in his words, actions, reactions, and inaction by not fully yielding to the true God. Yet God did not give up on him, and He has not given up on us!
Many are tempted to be recognized and exalted by others, however Christ did not seek such for Himself. He has always been and will forever be infinitely High above all creation! Instead He came down, infinitely low, by uniting His divinity with our humanity. He gave Himself to us and sacrificed Himself so that He might exalt humanity to the place of sharing His throne. He would take us from the fiery trials of this earth to His heavenly palace of glory!
The king was once again found beholding himself instead of continually beholding the One true God. Thus he may have failed to see the Lord's Spirit in the three Hebrew friends of Daniel (Daniel 4:8). The king was introduced to the power of God in Daniel chapter 1 through His servants, and experienced communication from God through His servant Daniel. And yet he was not completely humbled. Whatever respect he may have shown God previously, by the time of chapter 3 it was evidently short lived.
On the Plain of Dura, Nebuchadnezzar could have also been testing the loyalty of his servants to see who might potentially intend to remove his kingdom as the head of gold. He was trying to change the future that God revealed to him.
In various ways, we might try to test the loyalty and or character of others in our lives, in order to see how far they would go for us or see what they would do for us. If other commitments kept them from bowing to our wishes, our pride might end the relationship, or demonstrate its displeasure with them through our wrath. Our flesh might be tempted to try and make them pay for their lack of commitment to us. We can become like little Nebuchadnezzars in the realm of our own power and/or influence! Like the king, we need God as the Saviour and Lord of our lives, or we will never be fitted for heaven! He fitted the entire human race in Christ (John 6:33, 40; John 12:47; Ephesian 1:3-6; 2:4-8), and those who continue to believe on Him and repent and confess their sins in the face of such a benevolent God and allow Him to save them from their sins (Matthew 1:21), will find themselves in the eternal kingdom of God.
Nebuchadnezzar's spirit and methods were like those of the little horn, the Antichrist who takes the place of God (Daniel 7:25; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). In Daniel 2:35, 44, and 45, Christ and His Kingdom was the stone that became the great mountain. By contrast, Nebuchadnezzar, in his golden image, deliberately left Jesus out as the Saviour, the Mountain whose kingdom would replace his and the rest of the world's kingdoms which would be in a state of weak clay mixed with iron.
So he replaced Christ's kingdom with his kingdom of gold. Yet Jesus, the One he left out of the golden image, shows up and saves His three faithful servants, whom the king was also permanently putting out of his own kingdom and into the fire - into the realm of death! Jesus shows up in person, not as an invisible God, but in a living, walking form (Daniel 3:24, 25)! He is real, personal, and different than any dumb idols!
Why did the Lord wait until they were put into the fire? They must have seen it raging, and as they got closer, surely they felt its intensifying heat ready to consume them and cause their death. God may wait until we are in trouble or in the fire. He is proving us. There are those last and final moments that we have an opportunity to change our minds, and choose to back out. Once in the fire, there was no hope of changing their minds and thus instantly stopping the fire. At that point no man, not even Nebuchadnezzar, could get them out in time. God may have also been giving the king, and his subjects time to repent and change their minds. The king might have opportunity to change his own command to kill God's servants. But he did not.
Even Jesus in the sufferings of eternal death in the garden of Gethsemane had opportunity to back out as He got closer to the cross. On the cross He could have in the last moments listened to the crowd and chosen to come down and save Himself. But Jesus loved God and us more than life and the hope of eternal life itself. He would save us and honor God at any cost to Himself!!!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego proved that God is able to make us strong in His Spirit, strong in faith and unshakable in character! Their witness in this matter was the result of the loving relationship they were experiencing with the true God.
Had these Hebrews bowed to the golden image, in the king's eyes this could have been seen as a form or righteousness by works. It would have pleased or appeased the king! But God was developing their character through righteousness by faith which works by the love of God and a love for God in their hearts.
This ruler, as have many, decided to rule in areas of God's domain. In a sense, God demonstrated His own protest against the king's intrusion. He did this by appearing and using His Divine power over the fiery furnace, and thus changing the king's word. God has given no man, court, or laws of men the right to assume, or to usurp His Divine principles, laws and jurisdiction when it comes to serving, or worshiping Him as anyone chooses to do. God protected His servants' religious liberty.
Noted Alonzo T. Jones: "Everybody who has ever read the Bible knows that God has never enjoined subjection to the laws or governments of men in any such sense as that. It is true that the powers which be are ordained of God; but it is also true that these powers are not ordained to act in the place of God. He who has ordained these powers, and set over them the basest of men (Daniel 4:17) has also set a limit to their jurisdiction."
"Only the things that are Caesar's are to be rendered to Caesar. With anything that pertains to God, government can never have anything to do. The limit of governmental jurisdiction is the citizen's relation to his fellow-citizens, or to the State. This jurisdiction is to be exercised in maintaining "civil order and peace." So long as a man conducts himself peaceably and pays his taxes, with him the State can have nothing to do No State therefore can ever of right prohibit anything which is harmless in itself. To attempt to do so, is the first step toward a despotism." (December 3, 1891 ATJ, AMS 369)
Monday: The Call to Worship
Knowing the lives of these men who were faithful to God, if they had compromised to save themselves, it could have been a deception disguised as homage to the image, and yet a violation of their own conscience. They would have been trying to save self instead of saving in their hearts a pure reverence for God. According to Jesus, He who saves his life will lose it. However, he who loses it for His sake shall save it! (See Mark 8:35).
Had those executioners believed what they learned about God in Daniel chapters 1 and 2, and instead of obeying the kings command, they had disobeyed it, they would likely have been executed, but might have been among those who experience everlasting life in the earth made new. However, by obeying the kings angry and hasty command, they lost their own lives and likely lost eternal life. We should not support others in doing wrong or in treating people with injustice.
Tuesday: The Test of Fire
They had the God-given right to worship or not, and to worship in harmony with their consciences. The reality is that, "It is true the thing which the  dissenters were doing was "harmless in itself," but that could not be allowed any weight, because the law commanded it, and therefore there was a certain immorality in refusing obedience to the laws of one's country, subjection to which God himself had enjoined." (December 3, 1891 ATJ, AMS 370, from The American Sentinel 6 (1891) December 3, 1891 "What Has God Enjoined? See also pp. 369-371).
'"WE have a law, and by our law he ought to die," (1) has been the justification of injustice and persecution in all ages."'
"It was civil "law" that cast the three Hebrews into the fiery furnace; (2) that consigned Daniel to the lions' den; (3) that put to death the apostles; (4) that gave to the wild beasts the early Christians; (5) that clothed with authority the Inquisition; (6) that burned Huss and Jerome and tortured and put to death millions of martyrs in the Dark Ages, (7) that whipped, banished, and hanged Quakers and Baptists in New England and Virginia, and (8) that is today imprisoning honest men in Maryland and driving Christians in the chain-gang in Tennessee. (August 15, 1895 ATJ, AMS 249)
Wednesday: The Fourth Man
We all need that Fourth Man! Jesus is the Fourth Man. The Comforter is the Fourth Man's Representative now. We always need the Fourth Man! The angels minister to us, but they cannot heal us and save us, or do that which only the Godhead can do for us. Wherever we true believers go, the Fourth Man also is leading us and goes with us! Others who believe on the Fourth Man, and even our enemies may not see the Fourth Man, but He is always there, and an ever-present help in times of trouble!
While at the Seminary at Andrews University, a literature evangelist (LE) told me of an account when some young men, who were following him, looked as if they meant him no good. However they walked past him looking scared. He later saw them in a store and they were again afraid, and left the store in haste. The person managing the store said that "they had said they saw two 7' men, one on either side of him walking with him. So, they changed their minds about robbing him." The LE did not see the Angels walking with him, but he was certainly glad the young men saw them!
The king arrogantly said, "Who is that God?" AND soon "that God" showed up! Note that King Nebuchadnezzar did not ask for the Fourth Man to come out of the fire. He just asked for those whom He knew and could command. He did not command God to come out and to talk with him. Had he really known God before this, as it was his privilege, he would not have been defied by God and would have been delivered from his pride sooner than in Chapter 4.
What would have happened had they died in the fire? Knowing God, it would have still been leading to a good end, as Jeremiah said. In this case it was a really good end. They all were astonished! The world heard how great a Saviour is the God of the Hebrews!
But miraculous demonstrations of power do not usually convert people. It is the love of God as manifested and demonstrated for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that caused Him to come down to be with them and to save them. What this also teaches us is that heaven knows and is paying close attention to all the dangerous, fiery situations into which our sharing and living the truth may get us.
Jesus as a boy must have heard or read this story. As He was on the cross, in the garden, and even in the wilderness He had hoped that God would save Him! We are told that Jesus cried "with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared." (Hebrews 5:7) God Hears our cries and knows our thoughts, feelings, and our needs! He responds!!!
To bow would not only be a poor example, but would have hindered them and damaged them, stunting their character development. God delivered them so that before the world they could freely worship Him, the God who is infinitely greater than anything made, and is the One we all can aspire to be more like in this life and in the world to come! (See 1894 EJW, PTUK [Present Truth United Kingdom], 755.6)
"Babylon next spread her empire over all nations, and to them God left not Himself without witness. He bore witness directly to Nebuchadnezzar, in the dream of the great image, and its interpretation by Daniel, the captive Hebrew. Again, in the affair of the three Hebrews and the fiery furnace, God bore witness of Himself to all the power and all the provinces of that mighty empire, by the representatives that were present (Daniel 3:3), and also by the decree of the king, which followed. Verse 29…" Daniel 5:27, 28. (November 29, 1894 EJW, PTUK 755.7)
Thursday: The Secret of Such a Faith
Note that Waggoner says the following: "And the king saw that He was God and believed on Him and praised Him, and commanded that if anyone should say a word against Him they should be cut in pieces 'because,' he said, 'there is no other god that can deliver after this sort.' The image could not keep its worshippers from being burned, but God could."
"How glad the three Hebrews must have been that they had learned to obey God in their youth!"
"Do not be afraid to take Jesus for your best Friend. He can strengthen you to say No when you are tempted. He is able to deliver you from sin and every other evil thing. He may sometimes allow you to suffer, but remember if He does it is for your good, for He loves you and gave His life to save you." (May 4, 1893 EJW, PTUK 141)
"And thus God not only vindicated their course as righteous, but continued the truth of His idea of empire and changed the king's word and also his idea of empire." (February 3, 1904 ATJ, SITI 4.6)
Waggoner further elaborates:
"Three friends of Daniel were cast alive into a burning, fiery furnace, because they persisted in serving God. Then the reward of their service appeared, in that the flames, which were so fierce that the strong men who came only near enough to the furnace to throw the captives in, were instantly destroyed, only burned off the bands of the servants of God, leaving them free. That indicates the freedom that God gives to His servants." (November 14, 1901 EJW, PTUK 723.10)
The Lord would have all men free. If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed! John 8:36.
"Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning, fiery furnace, and spake and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the Most High God, come forth and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came forth out of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed." Daniel 3:19-27. (November 14, 1901 EJW, PTUK 723.11)
In this lesson what these three men saw, heard, and felt should not have made them calm but should have made them anxious! But these men were so calm that even when they heard the roaring of the raging fire, they did not change their minds!
Friday: For Further Reading
The Fourth Man
The Fourth Man is the Jesus Who has promised "I will never leave you nor forsake you!" He promised Joshua He would be with Him and give him "good success" (Joshua 1:5-9)!
Those three Hebrews got what they had chosen. They received an experience like that of God's chosen people. These three were a type of Christ's last day Church. They are those who would rather have Jesus than anything this world can give them. They would rather forfeit life than to deny their God. They would rather have Jesus, and they get Jesus! Jesus, was Who they had chosen, and they had Him! It was Jesus that kept them from the power of the king and the power of the fire!
We must also make the same decision and be as those who love not their lives even unto death, as seen in Revelation 12:11. May our lives demonstrate that we would rather have the life of Jesus than anything else. For to have Jesus with us and in us is all we need!
Jesus Himself went through the fires of our life on earth, and the fires of demonic efforts to destroy Him and His character development (cf Hebrews 4:15). The gospel testifies that with great drops of sweat and blood Jesus suffered on Thursday night. At His crucifixion on Friday Christ truly was tried, and died for us all. Now as humanity's representative, He also sits in the palace on the right hand of the heavenly Father for us, in us, and as us. May we all be seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus at our heavenly Father's side soon!