Meet Me in the Fire

How does sacrificial worship refine us and reveal God to the world?

From the burning bush to the pillar of fire in the desert and the tongues of fire at Pentecost, God’s presence often manifests in flame. Beauty, warmth, and light all blazed within each holy conflagration, entrancing Moses, guiding the Israelites, and baptizing the disciples. But what happens when the safe distance disappears? What happens when you actually enter the fire?

 

Read

To get the most out of this Bible study, read Daniel 1-6. But first, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into the truth available in this passage. Give yourself permission to ask questions that may not have answers. Wonder aloud, imagine the scene, and take note of anything that surprises, confuses, or even offends you. Above all, trust the Lord. He’s the best teacher.

Key Passage: Daniel 3:1-30

 

Background

In the 6th century B.C. Nebuchadnezzar exiled many prominent and accomplished Jews to Babylon. Among them were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who all received high administrative positions (Dan. 2:48-49).

 

Reflect

After an unspecified amount of time, the king erected a gold monument, summoned his officials for a dedication ceremony, and decreed that they must worship the image.

  • Look at Daniel 3:4-7 and pay particular attention to the word therefore (v. 7). How did Nebuchadnezzar motivate the crowd to worship?

  • The phrase fall down occurs four times in chapter 3 and each time is joined to the word worship. What does that indicate about the role of the body in acts of worship? Look back at Daniel 2:46, where Nebuchadnezzar responds to Daniel’s dream interpretation. He too falls down—at Daniel’s feet. What does that tell you about how worship can be misdirected?

  • In worship settings, either individual or corporate, how does your body engage in glorifying God? Now think about how your body conveys enthusiasm, awe, and joy in less overtly spiritual moments, such as sporting events, family celebrations, announcements of good news. Are those postures or motions premeditated or spontaneous? Are they different than how you respond to God? If yes, reflect on why that might be.

 

Continuing the Story

In the cultural context of the ancient Middle East, this dedication ceremony was more about pledging allegiance to Babylon than adoring a deity. At least that’s probably how Nebuchadnezzar viewed it. To Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, however, bowing to anyone besides Yahweh, even if just for political show, was idolatry.

Even their defiance was worshipful, revealing the resolute belief that God could and would save, as well as their unconditional obedience.

  • Look at Daniel 3:13-15. Considering that Nebuchadnezzar was furious at their treason, why do you think he gave the young men a second chance to fall down and worship the image?

  • How would you describe the king’s self-image, based on the second part of Daniel 3:15? With that in mind, what would you say was his real priority: worship or maintaining control?

  • Notably, the three men’s response wasn’t defensive, but their stance was unwavering—they’d worship and serve only Yahweh. Even their defiance was worshipful, revealing the resolute belief that God could and would save, as well as their unconditional obedience. (See Dan. 3:17-18.) In your life, can you speak as boldly and definitively of God’s power and intentions? Is your worship of Him conditional or unconditional?

 

Reflect

Nebuchadnezzar kept his word and had the three men bound and tossed into the furnace.

  • In Daniel 3:25, pay special attention to the description of the fourth person in the furnace. How do you think Nebuchadnezzar was able to recognize Him as a “son of the gods”?

  • Many scholars agree the fourth person was the pre-incarnate Christ. In Daniel 3:22, the guards carrying Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to the furnace died, meaning the heat should have killed the Hebrew youths before they fell into the furnace. What does that tell you about God’s presence and protection? The text says it was the king who first saw the fourth person in the furnace. When do you think Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego initially sensed His presence?

  • In Daniel 3:28, when Nebuchadnezzar praised God for rescuing the three men, he connected their trust of God with their violation of the royal command. How is trust, like worship and service, a zero-sum game? (See Matt. 6:24.)

  • God is neither tame nor restrained.

  • In verse 28, King Nebuchadnezzar also noted that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego “yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.” His language is very similar to Romans 12:1, where Paul instructs believers to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice … which is your spiritual service of worship.” How is worship an act of surrender? In what ways does this particular account illustrate the role of trust in surrendered worship?

REMEMBER Worship trusts.

 

Revisit

Over the next several weeks, use this section to review the study and consider how its message applies to your life.

Like fire, God is neither tame nor restrained—and the bright warmth that attracts us can illuminate the darkness around us as well as incinerate the darkness within us. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego exited the furnace, the king and officials were astonished to find that nothing had been burned by the fire, not even their hair or clothes (Dan. 3:27). The one exception? Only that which bound them succumbed to the flames.

  • Knowing that God’s fire releases us from bondage, how does that reframe your perspective on trials and tribulations in your life? Are there any fires that you should surrender to rather than suppress?

  • In the Greek Septuagint, an apocryphal passage records that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were singing praise to God while in the fire. Accepted as canonical in some Christian traditions, though not in most Protestant denominations, the passage includes a prayer from Azariah (Abed-nego) where he says “Let them know that thou art the Lord, the only God, glorious over the whole world.” Consider that it was in the midst of the furnace that the presence of God was most visible to the antagonist of the story, Nebuchadnezzar. What does that tell you about the impact of sacrificial worship on a hostile world? With regard to your own life, does this bring an awareness or change your expectations about what God might be revealing to others when you are in the midst of a fire?

  • Worship is an act of trust where we surrender our whole being to the Lord. To meet with the God of fire is a risky endeavor, but it’s only there that we find true freedom and fellowship with the divine.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Worship

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What happens to my notes

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.

2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

3 Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed: To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language,

5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.

6 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire."

7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

8 For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews.

9 They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: O king, live forever!

10 You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image.

11 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.

12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king.

14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?

15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.

20 He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.

21 Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.

22 For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.

24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They replied to the king, Certainly, O king."

25 He said, Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!"

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.

27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.

29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way."

30 Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.

48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.

49 And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king's court.

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed: To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language,

5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.

6 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire."

7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king.

14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?

15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"

15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."

25 He said, Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!"

22 For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.

24 No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.

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