When Nebuchadnezzar saw that God had delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he exclaimed: “There is no other God like this!”
Daniel, chapters 3-4; Psalm 81; Revelation, chapter 17
Daniel 3:26-30 (NLT):
Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and he shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”
Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
The Arrogance of Power
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (Lord Acton). Nebuchadnezzar held absolute power in Babylon, and we see several ways that his power corrupted his character in today’s passage. First, “King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon” (verse 1). I have no idea how much that statue cost, but a ninety-foot gold statue must have been expensive!
Second, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that everyone would gather and bow down to the statue. The command was to “bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue” (verse 5). It’s not clear from the passage whether the statue depicted Nebuchadnezzar himself or one of his gods, but the command was to “bow down and worship.” Absolute power led the king to command that everyone bow down and worship at his insistence, so it really doesn’t matter whether the statue represented Nebuchadnezzar or one of his gods.
Third, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey, “Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage” (verse 13). His absolute power convinced him that no one could disobey his commands. Even though the three Hebrews were trusted officials in his government, Nebuchadnezzar accepted no dissent. He had ordered that anyone who disobeyed be thrown into a fiery furnace, and he intended to follow through.
“We Do Not Need to Defend Ourselves”
Probably because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were trusted officials, he gave them “one more chance” (verse 15). Their response must have shocked him. “We do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us…But 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” (verses 16-18).
Their response didn’t satisfy Nebuchadnezzar. Indeed, he “was so furious…that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual” (verse 19). In fact, it was so hot that the soldiers who took Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to throw them into the furnace died from the intense heat! “How dare they challenge my power?”
“There Is No Other God Like This!”
We all know the story. When the king looked into the furnace, he saw four – not three, but four – people. They were not bound, screaming for mercy; they were “unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed!” (verse 25). How could this be?
So Nebuchadnezzar called out to the three Hebrews to come out of the furnace. The flames had not died down; Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace. If the fire had been mysteriously extinguished, Nebuchadnezzar might have been able to explain it away. The fact that the fire was still raging, yet the three men could emerge unharmed, allowed only one explanation. Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. Nebuchadnezzar might have been arrogant, but he wasn’t stupid! “There is no other god who can rescue like this!”
No Other God Like This
You would think that Nebuchadnezzar would realize God’s power after a display like this. Of course, you would think that he would have recognized God’s power when Daniel not only interpreted his dream, but told him what it was (see yesterday’s reflection, “There Is a God in Heaven”). But he didn’t; and he wouldn’t. “Power tends to corrupt…” Chapter 4 tells about Nebuchadnezzar’s spectacular fall – brought about because he still trusted in his own power.
We see the seeds of that downfall in Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation at the end of chapter 3. “If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble.” Think about it: if God could deliver the three Hebrews from the furnace, did he need Nebuchadnezzar to threaten anyone who refused to acknowledge him?
And, of course, Nebuchadnezzar himself slipped back into his old ways. As we see in chapter 4, even after being warned by Daniel, “he looked out across the city, [and] 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” (4:30, emphasis added). And he then discovered that there is no other God like God (see 4:33-37).
Father, we are so prone to trust in ourselves, and to elevate ourselves rather than you. Thank you for reminding us that there is no other God like you! Just as you did with Nebuchadnezzar, you caution us against the corrupting influences of power and ego. Help us to have “the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5), who humbled himself and submitted to your way – even when that led him to the cross. Help us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus today. Amen.