Sabbath School Lesson for January 18-24, 2020
Another story that rocked Daniel’s world was the story of the fiery furnace that his friends survived. We saw there…
- a golden image created by Nebuchadnezzar (Sunday)
- a call to worship the false image (Monday)
- a test of fire if you didn’t worship it (Tuesday)
- the miraculous escape God provided (Wednesday)
- the need for faith of this caliber today (Thursday)
Daniel’s friends faced a rather simple test when they first arrived in Babylon as captives. It would have been easy to have just gone along with the required diet at the king’s table. Of course, they knew that would have led to their physical and spiritual defilement. So thankfully, they said no to that option, and instead chose to follow God’s commandments about the everyday issue of what foods they should or shouldn’t eat.
This will also turn out to be an issue we face in the very last days of this earth’s history. We will again be asked to ignore God’s commandments and follow the world in ways that are disloyal to our Creator.
In chapter three of Daniel, we find Daniel’s friends facing another test. But this time the stakes are much higher. If they fail to worship the golden image Nebuchadnezzar erected, they would face certain death in a very hot furnace. Can and would God deliver His faithful servants if they chose to abstain from the deceitful idolatry that is all around them?
Memory Text: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.” Daniel 3:17 NKJV
In this second test, they once again decide to remain loyal to God, even though it may mean their end on this earth. Today, we can be also assured of our deliverance, whether God chooses to deliver us at the time of our trial, or in our waking up on resurrection morning to be with the Lord.
Sunday: The Golden Image
So far, the king had at least two opportunities to know the God of the Hebrews. Once, when some of the young captives were found ten times wiser and more fit than their counterparts. And later, when Daniel was the only one who could tell and interpret his dream.
The monarch, though benevolent for that time in history, still had a problem with pride. Just like the arrogant people who built the Tower of Babel so many years before, Nebuchadnezzar chose to build a golden image that would have significant meaning for him and his people.
The fact that it was made of gold throughout signified that his kingdom would last forever, unlike what was revealed in his dream. It’s possible too, of course, that the image actually represented himself. Kings were most likely thought of as deities back then. Daniel’s friends were certainly presented with a real dilemma here.
We shouldn’t be too hard on Nebuchadnezzar though. Don’t we all tend to magnify and bask in our own accomplishments at times? It must have been hard to retain any humility, after successful conquests and planning had resulted in such a wealthy and glorious empire as Babylon. Few of us could keep from feeling proud with that much personal wealth and glory surrounding us.
Read Daniel 3:7. Knowing the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s previous dream, what significance and meaning would this image have for the king?
Read Genesis 11:4. How was this Babylonian king following in the footsteps of his predecessors who built the Tower of Babel?
Read Exodus 20:4-6. What kinds of images or idols do we have in our modern world? Why do they make God jealous? How is His jealousy different than ours?
Monday: The Call to Worship
This test of faith for Daniel’s friends was quite obviously a matter of who to worship. The golden image they were commanded to worship stood in the plain of Dura. The name Dura is Akkadian and means “walled place”. It felt like a sanctuary there, surrounded by mountains. The furnace nearby must have reminded Daniel’s friends of the altar of sacrifice in God’s temple, which also contained fire. And the music that was played felt like a liturgy of sacred music.
The allure of the scene must have been overpowering to all the attendees of this important dedication ceremony. But, of course, Daniel’s friends were acutely aware of the false worship it represented, and they refused to participate in the services that were obligatory to all in attendance.
Even the dimensions of the statue were suspect. Sixty by six cubits, using the sexagesimal system of Babylonian measurements, instead of the decimal system of the Egyptians. Man was created on the sixth day, and the number six is symbolically recognized in the Bible as indicating worship of man, including his disobedience, rebellion, and imperfections. And of course, this is seen dramatically in Revelation 13:18 when the number 666 is revealed.
The holy Scriptures told the Israelites about God creating mankind in His own image on the sixth day and then setting aside a day to celebrate and worship the Creator. The king was therefore taking God’s role in creating this statue in his own image and calling for a day of celebration and worship.
It was not hard for Daniel’s friends to see the irony of the situation and the arrogance of the king in demanding such a thing of his people. They could not, in good conscience, obey the king’s edict.
Read Daniel 3:1, 5. What were some of the indications for Daniel’s friends that this was false worship? Why weren’t there more Hebrews joining them in their refusal to bow down to the king’s image?
Read Genesis 1:26 and Exodus 20:11. In what ways are we found to be in God’s image? Why does this not make us gods ourselves? How does the Sabbath prevent man from making himself a god?
Read Revelation 13:15. What causes us to think that worship will also be a test at the end of earth’s history? What kind of image could man erect that would look similar to God’s command to worship on the Sabbath?
Tuesday: The Test of Fire
Daniel’s friends had served as faithful administrators for the king, but the command to bow down to such a heathen symbol of worship as this image of gold could not be done without totally losing touch with the one true God whom they loved. How would they ever be able to serve as faithful servants of God if they went along with such a command?
When it was noticed that the three had not bowed down at the given signal during the dedication ceremony, there were those who were quick to report them to the king. Knowing this would enrage the king, and it did, Nebuchadnezzar nevertheless offered a second chance to his valued servants.
Not driven by mercy as much as perhaps curiosity, the king reminded them of the dreadful consequences of their noncompliance. The mighty monarch presents the question of “who will deliver you from my hands?” (Daniel 3:15).
Daniel’s friends did not hesitate to declare that God was able to save them from the fiery furnace, but also that He WOULD save them from the hands of the king. They added that, regardless of the outcome, they would not bow down and worship the king’s image.
It appeared their fate was sealed, but God wasn’t through trying to reach this stubborn king.
Read Daniel 3:12, 13 and 2:49. Although we don’t know for sure where Daniel was during this event, how can we be sure that he most likely didn’t worship the king’s idol or that he was absent at the time of the ceremony?
Read Daniel 3:16-18, Matthew 10:19, and Job 13:15. What is most needed when we are faced with similar trials? How can we be assured that we will know what to say, when questioned about our faith?
Read Esther 3:2. How did Mordecai’s experience reflect what had happened earlier to Daniel’s friends? How might the story of the fiery furnace emboldened Mordecai not to bow down to Haman?
Wednesday: The Fourth Man
Nebuchadnezzar was so angry at the Hebrews’ reply that they would not bow down to his idol, regardless of the consequences, that he commanded the furnace be heated up seven times hotter. The number seven symbolizes the most intense heat possible.
Even those who threw the three friends into the furnace were killed from the heat (Daniel 3:22). But remarkably Jesus Christ, in preincarnate form, appeared with them in the furnace and they were delivered from a ghastly punishment.
The king, having recognized the Son of God (Daniel 3:25) walking with them in the furnace, was amazed that they had survived. Not only were they not burned by the flames, but they didn’t even have the smell of fire on their bodies (Daniel 3:27).
The same Man who visited Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:1, 20), and who wrestled with Jacob by the brook Jabbok (Genesis 32:24, 30), delivered His loyal servants from martyrdom.
God is said to be a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24). Moses discovered this when he heard Him speaking from a burning bush (Exodus 3:2, 6). Fire cannot destroy fire. So, Jesus Christ enveloped Daniel’s friends and saved them from the destructive fire that surrounded them in the king’s furnace.
Read Daniel 3:27, Isaiah 43:2, 25:8, and Revelation 7:17. Why were the Hebrews so confident that they would be saved, whether through a miracle or through death in the fire?
Read Daniel 3:25 and Psalm 34:7. What kinds of troubles does God continue to deliver us? What form does our deliverance take, and why?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52, 58. How are we assured of a miraculous resurrection experience?
Thursday: The Secret of Such a Faith
Naturally, with the things going on in the world today, we desire the same faith of these Hebrew worthies. Just how do we attain such bold adherence to God’s word? What can possibly enable us to be as loyal to God as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
Hebrews 11 gives us a definition of this faith, but also a list of Bible characters whose faith equaled that of Daniel’s friends. Evidently, it isn’t as unattainable as we might think.
True faith is simply trusting God to do the right thing when we offer Him our prayer petitions. We may not understand His answer, but we can be sure it will always turn out to be the best outcome.
Our relationship with God determines our level of trust. The longer we know Him, the closer we become and the more this faith will be manifested in our lives. Let’s be patient with ourselves, just as God is patient with us.
Every choice we make for God, even the small ones, will make the next one easier to make. Remember that God is with us, even in the stormiest times of our life, just as He walked through the burning furnace with those three young men.
Read Daniel 3:28. Why was it correct for the king to bless the God of His faithful followers, and not the three men themselves? How easy it is for us to look up to heroes of faith. Why is that not a safe thing to do?
Read Luke 16:10. Why is it important to be faithful even in the little issues of life?
Read Hebrews 11:25, 26. Who and what must we keep our eyes on when trials happen?
It’s easy to dwell on the thrill of this miraculous escape from a fiery furnace and on the faithfulness of the three young men who chose to be loyal to God, even in the face of death.
Often, however, we forget to notice another lesson this story holds for us, especially in these last days. And that is the lesson of worship. Worship of God has been vital for mankind since creation, but Satan does all he can to disguise it, even causing mass followers of Christ to fail to recognize its value and meaning.
The first four of the Ten Commandments deal with worship, including who, how, and when we worship. If Satan is successful in twisting these commandments, he has a chance of diverting the worship to himself. And this has been his plan for centuries now.
- Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3). Diverse religions across the globe have confused the minds of millions today, as we struggle to recognize whose god is the one we are to worship.
- Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image… (Exodus 20:4). Man has allowed many man-made things to become idols to him. In fact, the creation is, in many ways, worshiped more than the Creator.
- Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain…(Exodus 20:7). When we just go through the motions at church every week, and don’t experience a full relationship with our Lord, then we are taking His name in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy (Exodus 20:8). The question is which day is the Sabbath. Should we worship on the first day of the week, Sunday, as most of the Christian world, or keep the seventh day holy, as it says in the Bible?
Daniel and his friends were bombarded with these same temptations in the Babylonian culture where they were captives. We, too, feel like captives at times, trying to exist in a world that has largely lost its spiritual bearings. Don’t let Satan confuse you on how to worship. See Revelation 13:11-18 and discover that is exactly what he tries to do in end times–he creates an image of the beast and causes all to worship it. Sound familiar?
When we fail to honor God in our choices, even small ones, we are, in essence, bowing down to Satan, just as the Hebrews were commanded so long ago (Luke 11:23).
Next Week’s Lesson: From Pride to Humility (Daniel 4)
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/