10. In the Fiery Furnace

By John Thiel, Lessons from the Life of Nebuchadnezzar Conference, Study 10, mp3

We have now arrived at an important climax in the process of God’s work upon the heart of Nebuchadnezzar. What we are now about to behold is how God reaches into a heart to bring to the surface the hidden qualities that may be buried under the surface of hopeless idolatry.

Nebuchadnezzar appeared to be in a terribly hopeless state. He had fallen upon his face recognising God, and then, after a time, he had lost that recognition of God and he entrenched himself more heavily in idolatry. It looked pretty hopeless. But we are now looking at what God will do no matter how hopeless a case may appear. He has a knowledge of the heart of every individual, and no matter how corrupt that individual may reveal himself, yet God knows what is hidden inside of that heart and which He wants to bring to the surface.

From the past acknowledgments of God and of God’s servants, the three young men together with Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar had actually promoted these men. After Daniel had shown the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, he was promoted to sit in the king’s gate. He was in control of the whole realm of Babylon, and his three friends were given positions to be judges and counsellors in the province.

…Daniel sat in the gate of the king,”–a place where judgment was dispensed, and his three companions were made counselors, judges, and rulers in the midst of the land. These men were not puffed up with vanity, but they saw and rejoiced that God was recognized above all earthly potentates, and that His kingdom was extolled above all earthly kingdoms. {FE 412.2}

You can put yourself in their shoes, “O, now the Lord is extolled by King Nebuchadnezzar, and everything is well. We have nothing to fear anymore.” But lo and behold, Nebuchadnezzar’s reverses came into action. Now they were doomed in their mind, There is that image, and he has already made it clear that anybody who would not bow to that image is going to be thrown into a furnace. We have two extreme tests that came, one, to these three young men, and two, a supreme test upon the inmost heart of Nebuchadnezzar.

When the music played all the people, fell down as a wave upon their knees and upon the ground.

Daniel 3:8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 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 music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: 11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, [that] he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 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.

This is the story of what is parallel for us today. There will be a decree that everybody is meant to submit themselves to the Sunday law. How did King Nebuchadnezzar discover that these three friends were not bowing down? Somebody dobbed them in. That is what we must expect, because we are little known by the authorities. But as Sister White writes, the relatives and friends who have not submitted themselves to the Lord, will be the ones who will bring us to the authorities. Here was just such a thing. As this report comes to him, this is what happens:

Daniel 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in [his] rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, [Is it] true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 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 music, 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; and who [is] that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?

King Nebuchadnezzar received a little mind jerk when these three young men were reported to him. Did this awaken memory of the past? Did this awaken in his mind respect for the past? According to this, a little bit yes. He wanted to give them another chance. He had respect for them; he remembered something; but he obviously didn’t remember his devotion to God since he had turned his heart away from Him so heavily.

As the three Hebrews stood before the king, he was convinced that they possessed something the other wise men of his kingdom did not have. They had been faithful in the performance of every duty. He would give them another trial. {PK 507.2}

He had really lost it, because he recognised that these men were better than the others, they had fulfilled their duty better than all the others; they had obeyed him on all the other duties. He had a bit of a mind rattle but he didn’t actually come to understand. This is something fascinating that I have observed in human nature. If you try to remind them, they are still on the same track even though you have tried to help them to awaken to something; they still stay there. This is exactly what he did. He could have been awakened. But no. He says, “Look, you are some very good servants of mine, I want to give you another chance. But if you don’t listen, I am going to throw you into the fiery furnace.”

If only they would signify their willingness to unite with the multitude in worshiping the image, all would be well with them; “but if ye worship not,” he added, “ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” {PK 507.2}

Now notice how far he had fallen.

Then with his hand stretched upward in defiance, he demanded, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” {PK 507.2}

He had clean forgotten in his mind what he had expressed before under his convictions. This is very interesting. Do you notice a description of this man in his natural heart and how unbending is the mind that has set itself in a direction to concentrate on a singular objective? His mind was focused on his purpose that he was going to get everybody to worship his image, and his glory, and nothing was going to cause him to deviate at all from this. He had set his mind and all the past convictions didn’t matter anymore.

This is the case in the subject of the sealing work. People lock themselves into positions, and they find it extremely hard to come out of that, no matter how much God flashes in front of them through the memory triggers, like with these young men.

Acts 28:27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with [their] eyes, and hear with [their] ears, and understand with [their] heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

Is this what Nebuchadnezzar was doing? He didn’t want to know. He was putting down any prick of the conscience, and he defied even their God, Who is that God that will save you from my hand? He wanted convenient amnesia. “I don’t want to know, therefore I forget it.” Amnesia means “out of mind”, “gone”. But it is convenient amnesia.

There is a disposition with many to be impetuous and headstrong. They have not heeded the wise counsel of the word of God; they have not battled with self, and obtained precious victories; and their proud, unbending will has driven them from the path of duty and obedience. {RH, January 26, 1886 par. 2}

This is a very profound revelation of what happens to us when we set our minds in a certain direction and conveniently put aside the convictions we have had in the past. “I’m just going to go through with it.” I put my ears back and go. That’s exactly what we are seeing here. He would not let the memory of the past, of the way that Daniel and his three friends were used of God in the past, come to his mind now. He didn’t want to know. When a person comes to such a condition, can God do something with people like that? When somebody doggedly puts his mind behind something because it’s convenient for them, it’s something that they have indulged their selfism to pursue; can God still do something with that? Indeed He can.

I saw that God could carry on His work without any of man’s help; but this is not His plan. The present world is designed as a scene of probation for man. He is here to form a character which will pass with him into the eternal world. Good and evil are placed before him, and his future state depends upon the choice he makes. Christ came to change the current of his thoughts and affections. His heart must be removed from his earthly treasure, and placed upon the heavenly. {1T 196.3}

Here was King Nebuchadnezzar with his heart set on his treasure, on his position, on his glory of self. He was unbendable at this moment. His current of thoughts and affections were in that direction. “Christ came to change the current of his thoughts and affections,” and He would use human beings in cooperation with that.

Can God do something with a person who has his ears back and won’t listen to his convictions of the past?

Ministers have been presented to me, with their course of action and their character before they were converted–the hardest and most incorrigible, the most unbending, the most stubborn–and yet, every one of these traits of character was what they needed in the work of God. We don’t want to kill that. {9MR 61.2}

We don’t want to kill that.” What mustn’t we kill? “The hardest and most incorrigible, the most unbending, the most stubborn;” we don’t want to kill that. Interesting. Why not?

It is needed in order to fill important positions of trust in the cause of God. There must be a transformation of character. The leaven must work in the human heart, until every action is in conformity to the will of God, and they are sanctified; then they become the most valuable. It is this very kind of individuals that God can use in the different branches of His work.  {9MR 61.2}

With those particular characteristics of being very definite and very unmovable and incorrigible, those characteristics, if they are in a heart that has been converted, will be useful in God’s cause. They will be beneficial for the work, because they will not be moved. We see here in the king a position of just that nature. He could not be moved. What he had decided was going to happen, and nobody was going to stop him. But it was in the wrong direction.

God can do something to change the current of the thoughts of people like that. But He will do it with the cooperation of fellow men. This is what we are seeing in this story. How is God going to change here the current of Nebuchadnezzar’s thoughts? Let us see how the story unfolds. He was an incorrigible person, and so were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we [are] not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be [so], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver [us] out of thine hand, O king. 18 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.

Now this human response in trust to God God can use to save. What happens now? Again you have this magnanimous attitude of King Nebuchadnezzar which he revealed in giving them another opportunity in kindness to them. Can you see the same character traits still operating there? But cross his path, and look out!

Daniel 3:19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: [therefore] he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20 And he commanded the most mighty men that [were] in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, [and] to cast [them] into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their [other] garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

This is now the manner that God was going to use His missionaries. Are we missionaries? It is a different work to what we expect. It is the practical defence of God’s glory that is being called for.

When the king saw that his will was not received as the will of God, he was “full of fury,” and the form of his visage was changed against these men. Satanic attributes made his countenance appear as the countenance of a demon; and with all the force he could command, he ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than its wont, and commanded the most mighty men to bind the youth, and cast them into the furnace. {4BC 1169.6}

Why did he do that? Did you ever think about that? Why did he get these extra-strong men to do it? Why not just ordinary men? Look at what the Spirit of Prophecy helps us to see:

He felt that it required more than ordinary power to deal with these noble men. His mind was strongly impressed that something unusual would interpose in their behalf, and his strongest men were ordered to deal with them (ST May 6, 1897). {4BC 1169.6}

He had a premonition, didn’t he? “There is something that is going to happen here, and I am going to make sure it won’t work out.” He got these strongest men that were in his realm, and he got them to throw these boys into the furnace. What did God let happen? Those strong men got killed by the very furnace that he had made seven times hotter. I love the way that God actually unveils to a mind the futility of trying to fight against their convictions. It is a beautiful story.

As they are thrown in there, what is the next event?

Daniel 3:24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, [and] spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

If you just read these things and don’t think about them, you don’t get it. But I thank God for the Spirit of Prophecy which helps us to really get it.

From his royal seat the king looked on, expecting to see the men who had defied him utterly destroyed. But his feelings of triumph suddenly changed. The nobles standing near saw his face grow pale as he started from the throne and looked intently into the glowing flames. In alarm the king, turning to his lords, asked, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? . . . Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” {PK 509.1} 

How did that heathen king know what the Son of God was like? {PK 509.2}

How did he know that this was the Son of God?

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, {PK 509.2}

They had in their loyalty to the king and to God, over the period of time, represented 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. {PK 509.2}

He had never seen Hm before. But had he? The picture of the Son of God had been brought into his mind by the revelation of the principles that these young men conveyed; and the man who had never met the Son of God before could identify Him.

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. The Hebrew captives had told Nebuchadnezzar of Christ, the Redeemer that was to come, and from the description thus given, the king recognized the form of the fourth in the fiery furnace as the Son of God. {YI, April 26, 1904 par. 4}

How faithfully these missionaries had described the Son of God. Not merely in words, but in reflecting the principles of righteousness they had described the Son of God to him; and the king recognised Jesus.

With God’s helping hands, and using human cooperation to change the current of men’s thoughts, Jesus was right there among His disciples, among His three witnesses, as He also will be with everyone else who is so challenged.

If you are called to go through the fiery furnace for Christ’s sake, Jesus will be at your side. {OHC 358.4}

He doesn’t have to be there visibly, because if He wasn’t there visibly, He was there in His representatives. But for Nebuchadnezzar’s sake, and for our sake as we follow this story, we are able to recognise that the true missionaries of Jesus Christ convey to the minds of those whom they witness to, the true picture of Jesus. Jesus is reflected in them, and the people who are paying attention can see Jesus in them. And Jesus is beside us when we go through the fiery trials.

By faithfulness on the part of God’s people God can change the current of the mind. Follow it now and look how the current of Nebuchadnezzar’s mind has been changed by these three witnesses.

Daniel 3:26 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 of the midst of the fire. 27 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, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. 28 [Then] Nebuchadnezzar spake,

Follow his words, and the change of his thoughts:

Daniel 3:28 …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.

How differently is he speaking now! How beautifully Jesus can change the current of a man’s heart. We have been able to see the living activity of God’s work as He works together with human beings; a totally different frame of missionary work to what we usually imagine.

And now, his own greatness and dignity forgotten, {PK 509.3} 

Can you see what had changed? Before, he had forgotten God, but now the current of his thoughts was changed and his greatness and his dignity was forgotten.

Nebuchadnezzar descended from his throne and, going to the mouth of the furnace, cried out, “Ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.” {PK 509.3} 

Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came forth before the vast multitude, showing themselves unhurt. The presence of their Saviour had guarded them from harm, and only their fetters had been burned. {PK 509.4}

How selective a fire was that. It just burned the cords instead of the rest of the clothes.

Forgotten was the great golden image, set up with such pomp. {PK 510.1}

What a waste of money. What a waste of time. All the effort that went into it, and all the people travelling from all over the empire, all this was forgotten.

In the presence of the living God, men feared and trembled. “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,” the humbled king was constrained to acknowledge, “who hath sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king’s word, {PK 510.1}

Before, he was furious that his word was not accepted, but now he was happy, “They have changed the king’s word! Praise be to God!” A change of mind; a change of the current of thoughts, affections and feelings. All is portrayed here as to what God can do as we humbly serve Him.

There is however an interesting item that reveals once again that Nebuchadnezzar was not yet really converted. Unless self is out of the picture, we will use even the truth in a wrong manner. Although King Nebuchadnezzar recognised again with such powerful demonstration that the God of the Hebrews was the true God, and he recognised it and exonerated the Lord, look what he does:

Daniel 3:29 Therefore I make a decree,

He is going to make a decree. What sort of a decree is he going to make now, as a king?

Daniel 3:29 …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. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

What was the king just doing? He was decreeing a force that people now have to worship God. This is the natural mind. This is the human way of doing missionary work. I am going to force them to. I am going to use strategy by which I am going to force them against their own will; and I am going to use God’s intervention to make it happen. What we are here observing, and what we should learn from the life of Nebuchadnezzar, is extremely important, so that we do not become like the spirit of the papacy; because that is what he was revealing.

In these and like words the king of Babylon endeavored to spread abroad before all the peoples of earth his conviction that the power and authority of the God of the Hebrews was worthy of supreme adoration. And God was pleased with the effort of the king to show Him reverence, and to make the royal confession of allegiance as widespread as was the Babylonian realm. {PK 510.3} 

God was pleased that he was going to let the whole realm know of God’s true, wonderful ways. But what did he do?

It was right for the king to make public confession, and to seek to exalt the God of heaven above all other gods; but in endeavoring to force his subjects to make a similar confession of faith and to show similar reverence, Nebuchadnezzar was exceeding his right as a temporal sovereign. He had no more right, either civil or moral, to threaten men with death for not worshiping God, than he had to make the decree consigning to the flames all who refused to worship the golden image. God never compels the obedience of man. He leaves all free to choose whom they will serve. {PK 510.4}

Do Christians ever threaten men with death if they will not follow Jesus Christ? This is a mistaken manner of witnessing. We are not to cause people to fear and therefore obey. We are to be representatives of Jesus Christ who came and gave His life for those who were disobedient. This is the missionary work. In using threats like he did, Nebuchadnezzar thought he was doing the right thing, but he was doing a missionary work that was generated from human opinion and human response, instead of learning the true nature of witnessing.

Human zeal is not the work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of souls. The Jews had human zeal.

Apostle Paul spoke of the Pharisees living in the time of the early Christian church in these words:

Romans 10:2 For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.

Do we have a zeal for God? We see in our human frame of mind, like Nebuchadnezzar that, “God is the great God!” and we interpret our conviction in such a way that we feel we, in zeal, have to cause everybody to respond to that God. There is many different ways that we do it. We may not do it in a threatening way; we might do it in a coercing way. How do you coerce somebody? Against their own will? Against their own choice? Salesmen do that all the time. They always work in such a way that the people will buy their product. That is coercion. That is the way we think we can do missionary work. Sorry, that’s not the way. This is not the work of the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is one of wooing and attracting into love. Human zeal is not a zeal according to the knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

There is in human nature a tendency to run to extremes and from one extreme to another entirely opposite. {5T 305.4}

Wasn’t King Nebuchadnezzar extreme? When he was convicted, he went to another extreme in the opposite direction. This is exactly what human nature is prone to do, and we want to understand that about ourselves.

Many are fanatics. They are consumed by a fiery zeal which is mistaken for religion, but character is the true test of discipleship. {5T 305.4}

Do we think zeal is the true test of discipleship? No, character is.

Have they the meekness of Christ? have they His humility and sweet benevolence? Is the soul-temple emptied of pride, arrogance, selfishness, and censoriousness? {5T 305.4}

What does censoriousness mean? If somebody in the church doesn’t behave, now we have to censor him.

Is the soul-temple emptied of pride, arrogance, selfishness, and censoriousness? If not, they know not what manner of spirit they are of. They do not realize that true Christianity consists in bearing much fruit to the glory of God. {5T 305.4}

We do not know what manner of spirit we are of. When were those words used by Christ? It was when the Samaritans did not want to respond to Jesus, and the disciples said, “Shall we ask fire to come down? They have rejected our Lord and Saviour! Let us pray that God will punish them.”

When Nebuchadnezzar was so powerfully convicted once again to give glory to God, to give testimony of his position, to confess publicly that the God of the Hebrews is the true God above every other god, and that he was so happy that he had been proven wrong; that was a good trait. God was happy about that. But he still had that human imperfection operating within.

You may manifest great zeal in missionary effort, and yet because it is corrupted with selfishness, and tastes strongly of self, it is nought in the sight of God; {7BC 961.8}

How many missionaries are nought in the sight of God? Great zeal in missionary effort, and yet it is nought in the sight of God? Why?

…for it is a tainted, corrupted offering. Unless the door of the heart is open to Jesus, unless He occupies the soul temple, unless the heart is imbued with His divine attributes, human actions when weighed in the heavenly balances, will be pronounced “Wanting.” The love of Christ would make you rich; but many do not realize the value of His love. {7BC 961.8}

In their work they do everything from a human standpoint, and if it doesn’t work, “Huh, we’ll do it this way, I will give it to you, and you have to do it this way.” No, that is the human nature. It is not the love of God.

Many do not realize that the spirit which they cherish is destitute of the meekness and lowliness of Christ, destitute of the love that would constitute them channels of light (MS 33, 1894). {7BC 961.8}

There is such a thing as being rich and increased with spiritual goods, and yet being wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. When Jesus says, I am going to spue you out; what is actually involved there?

The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expressions of love to God. {6T 408.2}

People are still expressing love to God, they are praying to God, but what is the problem? It is not the incense of Jesus. He cannot offer up those prayers because they are full of their own spirit, not the Spirit of Christ.

He cannot endorse your teaching of His word or your spiritual work in anywise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you. {6T 408.2}

This is tough. People are worshipping Him, people are expressing love to Him, they are doing missionary work; and He cannot offer it to God. What was wrong? This is what is wrong: They “manifest great zeal in missionary effort, and yet because it is corrupted with selfishness;” because it tastes so strongly of self, it is nothing in the sight of God; “for it is a tainted, corrupted offering.

Unless the door of the heart is open to Jesus, {7BC 961.8}

Isn’t that what He said? “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” “You people are doing all the missionary work, but I am not in your heart.”

Unless the door of the heart is open to Jesus, unless He occupies the soul temple, unless the heart is imbued with His divine attributes, human actions when weighed in the heavenly balances, will be pronounced “Wanting.” The love of Christ would make you rich; {7BC 961.8}

You say you are rich and increased with goods, but you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. The love of Christ would make you rich.

…but many do not realize the value of His love. Many do not realize that the spirit which they cherish is destitute of the meekness and lowliness of Christ, destitute of the love that would constitute them channels of light (MS 33, 1894). {7BC 961.8}

Our study of Nebuchadnezzar, and the lessons to be gained from him, is not yet quite complete. One would think that by now Nebuchadnezzar is really a converted person. Sorry. He is still in a Laodicean state. He honours God, and he wants to give a confession of his faith to the world, but he does it all wrong. Just as his conversion is not yet complete, so we also may learn where is ours. I have learned so much from God, I have come so far, and He has led me to be convinced that He is the God of my life; yet there is more conversion needed, and there is more to be understood as we move on into our next study. May God help us to understand.


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Posted on 28/02/2015, in Nebuchadnezzar - Lessons from the Life of (2014 Conference) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Restorer of the breach

    Be blessed again..Just letting the word of God speak..pray u will be as blessed as i was

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

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