Nebuchadnezzar's Huge Idol
King Nebuchadnezzar built a huge idol.
Dr. W. A. Scott writes:
We are not without historical confirmation of the narrative as to the existence of gigantic idols of gold among the Babylonians. Herodotus writes that in his day there was at Babylon an idol image of gold twelve cubits high; and, what is still more remarkable, another authority, obviously speaking of the same statue, mentions that every stranger was obliged to worship it before he was allowed to enter the city.[i]
Herodotus was a Greek historian who wrote about 100 years after the events of Daniel.
Pride. Pride is why Nebuchadnezzar built his idol. He said:
Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.[ii] (Daniel 4:30)
He made a name for himself, a name that is remembered to this day.
Nebuchadnezzar had at least four godly men in his service: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. God used these men to confront Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.
However, Nebuchadnezzar was king. He had authority over all the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials. (Daniel 3:2) He insisted that all the high officers and officials worship the image that he had set up.
What is the point of that?
He could tell them what to do and they had to do it; such power, such control!
Consider how he responded when he was refused. He did not get his way.
Three men, three Hebrew men, refused to bow down before his idol. His goal was blocked. He wanted to demonstrate his absolute power and these three had the audacity to refuse.
Nebuchadnezzar was furious. He threw a kingly fit. What is the point of heating the furnace seven times hotter? It is unreasonable. The scriptures tell us that his face was distorted with rage! (Daniel 3:19) His command (read tirade) was so urgent that they heated the furnace so hot it killed the soldiers throwing the three Hebrews into the fire. (Daniel 3:22)
Before we go on to consider how this situation worked out, let’s consider how this applies to our lives.
We all build idols. Our idols are not 90-foot tall statues of gold, but we still expect others to bow to them.
Galatians 5:17 says:
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
These idols I am speaking about are the desires of the sinful nature that are opposite of what the Spirit wants. The real idol is self. Whether Nebuchadnezzar’s image was a statue of himself or an image of one of his gods, it represented his high opinion of himself. We, as believers, have been crucified with Christ. (Galatians 2:20) God should be on the throne of our lives, but sadly, too often self is on the throne.
For example, with self on the throne, we will set a goal, and believe we have the power to make it happen. It may be something as benign as a nice family outing. However, any member of the family can block that goal. When the five-year-old decides he does not like the family outing, the goal is blocked and self sees the offense against its power. The family spends the next few days in the fiery furnace of self’s kingly rage.
Or, for another example, with self on the throne, we set out to control the people, circumstance and events in our lives. This control might express itself in perfectionism. The books on the table are always arranged just right. The silverware in the drawers are always lined up and stacked just so. The kitchen counter is always clean and neat. The person, usually a family member, who ruins this perfection is thrown into the fiery furnace and suffers under self’s kingly rage.
Or for yet one more example, perhaps self has exalted self to law giver and judge. We are always right. James 4:11 speaks of this when it says:
Don't speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God's law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.
We judge our brothers and sisters and even know their motives. When others do not do right in our eyes, we send them to hell, the ultimate fiery furnace. We write them off. We do not speak to them.
Anger most often shows up when our goal or goals are blocked. When we find ourselves getting angry, it is a good practice to ask, “What goal is being blocked?” Ask God to help using the words of the Psalmist:
23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Nebuchadnezzar did not see that he was wrong. He was the mighty king of Babylon and had the right to require the worship of his subjects. However, God used those who were powerless to shame this powerful man. (1 Corinthians 1:27)
These three Hebrew men told Nebuchadnezzar:
O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)
I love the boldness and faith of these men. They stood up against something that was clearly wrong. God says, very clearly, “You must not have any other god but me.” (Exodus 20:3) These men were also willing to pay the price for their boldness. The king had the authority to throw them into the blazing furnace, and in their response, these men showed they were willing to face those consequences.
I want to be sensitive in drawing the application in our lives, but if we love someone, we will not pander to their huge idols. Relationships are often the battlegrounds for huge power struggles. If I find myself, like Nebuchadnezzar, in a rage, my problem is me: no one else, me. In contrast to this, God calls us to a standard of Love. He commands us to love our neighbor as our self. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says:
4Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
With self on the throne, this is impossible. However, the fruit of the Spirit is love.
Sometimes being loving means we have to stand up against something that is wrong, no matter what the consequences.
There are times in life when we, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, are thrown into the furnace, even for trying to do the right thing.
At times like this, it is helpful to remember 1 Peter 4:12-14:
12Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
14So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian, for then the glorious Spirit of God rests upon you.
Do you see these words, “So that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory revealed to all the world!” This is exactly what happened with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Being angry because my goal is blocked, and standing up for my faith in Jesus Christ are not the same thing. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were used by God to confront the pride of Nebuchadnezzar because they chose to obey God rather than man. God honored these men, because they honored God. They consistently honored God. When all the other captives accepted the food and drink provided by the Babylonians, these men decided to honor God and ate vegetables and water. They put God above their bodily comfort. When these men were faced with bowing before another god or dying, they chose dying. They put God before their lives.
When you and I honor God more than self, He honors us. When you and I honor God more than our job, He honors us. When you and I honor God more than family, He honors us.
We must seek to honor God above all else, especially self. Jesus said:
26“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26-27)
Look at the results of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s actions. The proud king, Nebuchadnezzar, acknowledged the greatness of God. The Name of the God of the Hebrews was proclaimed throughout the lands under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar as he issued a decree that to speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was a capital offense.
Pride would lead us to set up meaningless, fruitless and empty idols, huge idols. However, if we would live fruitful, powerful lives, we must honor God above all else.
[ii] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.