The book of Daniel presents some of the most memorable events and tests of human faith in all of the bible.
Daniel recalls and interprets king Nebuchadnezzar’s forgotten dream in chapter 2, and ends up being elevated to a position of great power in the kingdom. The king awoke troubled and upset by the vividness of dream he could not recall. When his counselors could not tell him what he had dreamed, and insisted that “only the gods can show the dream” (vs. 11), Nebuchadnezzar ordered the execution of ALL his wise men, including Daniel and his companions (who had apparently not yet been consulted). Daniel asked for time to pray (vv. 17:24) and then recounted BOTH the dream and its meaning (vv. 25ff.). His prayer is a model of thanksgiving and a lesson about the effectiveness of earnest, honest prayer! When he told the dream and interpreted it, he credited God for this ability.
The dream was of a giant statue of gold, silver, brass, iron, and iron mingled with clay that was destroyed by a stone “cut out without hands.” According to Daniel, each layer stood for a world-ruling power, with Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian empire represented by the golden head. The other parts represented empires that would follow his; Medo-Persian (the silver breast and arms), Greek (brass belly and thighs), and Roman (iron legs, and feet of iron mingled with clay), culminating in the coming of GOD’S kingdom (the rock). Verse 44 is the key; the rock represents the Messiah Who would establish God’s everlasting kingdom. This record is important because it served as a “chronological roadmap” from Daniel’s day to the time when the Messiah would establish His kingdom!
The faithfulness of Daniel’s friends (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) in chapter 3 is an example for every Christian to follow. Although Nebuchadnezzar had already seen God’s power vividly demonstrated (ch. 2), he clearly continued worshiping idols! In his vanity, he commanded all his people to worship a giant golden statue or suffer death by burning in a furnace. (The statue was about ninety feet tall by nine feet wide – whether it resembled the image in his earlier dream is not clear, but it seems improbable since he demanded that all the people worship it). Because the king allowed no exceptions to his commandment, Daniel’s companions were accused by envious and scheming Chaldeans of not obeying the king’s command to worship the image (vv. 8-12). Why Daniel was not included in these charges is not explained.
When Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego were arrested (vv. 13-18), the king offered them a second chance to worship his idol, but their attitude (vv. 16-18) should be copied by every faithful Christian – “even if God does NOT save us from your fire, we will not bow down to your idol.” “Seven times hotter” (vs. 19) shows how angry the king became; he wanted the fire to be so hot it would instantly kill the men who dared to defy him (and it was, vs. 22). Even though the king placed himself so he could see them suffer and die, God’s faithful men were delivered; “…the fire had no power…” (vs. 27). The lesson is that God’s deliverance is never by half-measures, and through Jesus, He can deliver us as completely from sin as He saved these servants from the fiery furnace! (Note also in vv. 28-30 that this incident also produced a good result with the king as far as God’s people were concerned: He issued a royal sanction for the protection of the Jews’ religion, and in vs. 29 he notes that, “there is no other god that is able to deliver after this sort”). God’s people could prosper even in captivity, when they worshipped and served him faithfully!
– Dave Rogers