1 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 1 The Fiery Furnace Program No SPEAKER: JOHN BRADSHAW The Bible is full of great stories. We can think of the story of the Exodus, when Moses led Israel out of Egyptian slavery through the Red Sea that was miraculously opened up by God, then through the wilderness for 40 years while God fed them with bread from Heaven. A great, great story. In the Bible, there s the story of Joseph. Betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, Joseph made an incredible rise from languishing in a prison cell to being second only to Pharaoh in the Egyptian government. He was reunited with his family and was responsible for getting God s people and Egypt through a devastating famine. High drama, and a magnificent story. We could add to that list and mention Nehemiah restoring Jerusalem and building the wall of the city while his enemies were trying to ruin his work. There s the story of Esther, who rose from difficulty to become the queen of the Medo-Persian Empire, married to the most powerful man on the planet, and used by God to bring deliverance to her people. These stories don t just exist merely to be good stories. They re not in the Bible just to entertain us or to serve as bedtime stories for our children. The great Bible stories were carefully preserved and then included in the Bible to teach important lessons lessons about God, faith, prophecy, salvation, forgiveness and redemption. Those stories are in the Bible to give us hope, understanding and insight. There s a well-known Bible story we re going to look at today. It comes to us from the times of the prophet Daniel. The book of Daniel is an enormously important book of the Bible, especially relating to last-day Bible prophecy. Jesus quoted from the book of Daniel. John borrowed a lot of imagery from the book of Daniel when he was writing Revelation. Daniel was raised in the city of Jerusalem, but of the 363 verses in the book of Daniel, Daniel himself is in Babylon or the kingdom of Babylon for 362 of them. And that s significant. In the opening verse of the book of Daniel, God s people are attacked in fact conquered by the ruling heathen power in the world.
2 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 2 Stop and think about that. That is shocking. God s people were intended to be the recipients of the blessings of God especially favored by God, kept by the providence of God. But instead they experienced 70 years of captivity in Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied this would happen, and he tells us why in Jeremiah chapter 25 (Jeremiah 25:4-5): And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever. Now notice this. Here s what God says next (Jeremiah 25:6-7): Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you. Yet you have not listened to Me, says the Lord, that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Judah had disobeyed God. Instead of being faithful to God, they even went so far as to serve and worship other gods. And that s something God just couldn t tolerate His people rejecting Him and serving other gods, living lives of disobedience. So, here s what God said (Jeremiah 25:8-11): Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, says the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Judah went into captivity because of their unfaithfulness to God and because they rejected the true God and served and worshipped false gods. I think it s important that we notice something here. Here s what God did: Instead of just cutting them off forever, God had a plan to work with Judah and to bring His people to the place where they would turn back to Him. Even though going into captivity was tough medicine, it was God s mercy on display. God had chosen His people to be a light to the world in fact, Paul said in Acts 13 that the children of Israel had been chosen by God to be a light to the Gentiles, meaning, essentially, that God wanted to use Israel to share the knowledge of His goodness with the whole world including, ultimately, you and me. If Israel was
3 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 3 failing miserably in staying close to God s will, God could hardly use them as His witnesses to the world. God didn t give up on His people easily. Speaking of the northern kingdom of Israel, God said in Hosea 12:8: And Ephraim said, Surely I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself; in all my labors they shall find in me no iniquity that is sin. Now, when we say Judah was sliding into sin and apostasy, we re not talking smalltime stuff. Jeremiah writes that there was murder going on, oppression, Sabbathbreaking, Baal worship and that was some seriously bad stuff involving terrible immorality and even child sacrifice. God felt he had to resort to drastic measures to get the attention of His people. God said (Jeremiah 25:12): And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. So Israel, acting like they were doing nothing wrong, went into captivity, with God s intention being that when they came out of captivity, they would have experienced a change of heart. And it was while they were in Babylon that God communicated some of the most remarkable prophecies in the Bible to and through a young man named Daniel. We are going to look at one of those remarkable prophecies one with immense significance for Earth s final days in just a moment. BIBLE QUESTION If God is supposed to be all about love, why did my Dad die of cancer last year? I prayed for him to live. I ve been struggling with the idea that maybe God doesn t love me. That s a serious concern. The one thing you can know for sure is that God is love. The Bible says those very words in 1 John 4. And in John 3:16 it says, For God so LOVED the world... The situation you ve referred to is very serious it s tragic. I m very sorry. In the Bible, there were numerous sad situations. John the Baptist lost his life. Peter was imprisoned and was freed by God, but James was imprisoned and lost his life.
4 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 4 Now, does that mean God didn t love or care about those people? Of course not. The sad fact is that we live in a world of sin. When Adam and Eve chose to come out from under God s dominion, sin was introduced into the world. Satan worked in the human family and introduced all kinds of sin. Disease is a result of the sin problem. God could have stopped sin and sickness from happening, but only if He took away people s freedom of choice. And what kind of world would it be if we didn t have freedom of choice? When humans sinned, God decided that He would let sin run its course even knowing that there would be terrible consequences. However, in the middle of all of that, He has given us the opportunity to choose to follow Him and to be ultimately restored. Now keep this in mind: God knows what you re going through. He lost a Son because of sin in the world. You can be sure God is familiar with your pain by experience. Sin even cost Jesus His life. Now, the great news is that Jesus is coming again. There ll be a resurrection on that day. The Bible says the dead in Christ shall rise. And you can look forward to seeing your father again knowing that we ll live together in a world where there will be no more sin, no more death, no more sadness. God is going to make it all okay. You can trust Him. He DOES love you. RETURN TO PROGRAM When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked the city of Jerusalem, many Jews were taken captive and marched across the hot Middle Eastern desert to Babylon situated in what we would today call Iraq. Daniel was most likely just a teenager at the time, a young man you could even get away with calling him a boy. He was separated from his family, taken to a foreign land and immersed in paganism. His denomination didn t have any churches in Babylon, so Daniel was really separated from his upbringing and his religious customs. And he couldn t worship God in the manner in which he was accustomed. As soon as Daniel arrived in Babylon, the challenges came at him thick and fast. Daniel was challenged on the basis of his faith in God. So what would he do when he was tested on the principles in which he believed? No sooner had Daniel arrived in Babylon than he was faced with a dilemma. The King had ordered that some of the outstanding youth that had been brought to Babylon should be fed with food from the royal household really a great privilege. But to eat the kings food would have been almost certainly for Daniel to eat unclean food, and he knew God didn t want him eating unclean food. On the other hand, to refuse to eat the food would have been to incur the wrath of the king. So
5 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 5 Daniel could either eat the food and dishonor God, or not eat the food and dishonor the king, and maybe in fact, definitely be severely punished. In choosing to honor God, God honored Daniel, and worked it out that Daniel could eat a simple vegetarian diet. As a result, Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were blessed by God with good health and with the favor of the Babylonian officers. Daniel learned early in Babylon that it was better to put God first, no matter what the cost might be. Then in Daniel chapter two, King Nebuchadnezzar had a remarkable dream where he saw a great image. The image had a head made out of gold, its chest and arms were made of silver, its mid-section was bronze, its legs were made of iron and its feet were made out of iron and clay. Ultimately, in answer to the prayers of Daniel and his three friends, God gave Daniel the interpretation of the dream and Daniel explained it to the king. Daniel explained to the king that the dream was about the rising and falling of kingdoms, and that the kingdom of Babylon would one day be conquered by another kingdom. Shocking news to the king. Daniel told of the time that a great Rock would come and sweep away the kingdoms of the world. In other words, Jesus would return to the earth and set up a kingdom that would last forever. And then in Daniel 3, we see an important theme develop that actually has prophetic ramifications. While Daniel 3 contains one of the great Bible stories, there s an important lesson in that story that helps us to understand the great spiritual crisis soon to come to the world. Keep this in mind: God s people were in captivity in large part because they had stopped worshipping God. And Daniel 3 deals with this question of worship. Daniel himself doesn t appear in Daniel 3 we re not told where he is, but we can presume he was out of Babylon on business for the king. By now he has been promoted by Nebuchadnezzar to a position of great authority, and Daniel isn t mentioned at all in chapter 3, at least not in this story. King Nebuchadnezzar had a statue built like the one he saw in his dream, except unlike the image in his dream, this image was made entirely of gold. That was Nebuchadnezzar s way of saying, My kingdom isn t passing away no matter what Daniel s God says! Imagine this! The statue was 90 feet high and made of solid gold. Nebuchadnezzar called everyone who was anyone to assemble on the plain of Dura to inaugurate the image. They would bow down to it and worship it.
6 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 6 Nebuchadnezzar made clear that anyone who refused to worship this image would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar had a lot of building done while he was king there were kilns all over Babylon, for building bricks, and in Iraq as it was then, there was no shortage of fuel to get a fire burning white-hot. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego wouldn t bow down to the image. Even though their lives were on the line, they wouldn t violate their conscience and they wouldn t dishonor God even though they were miles from home and even though what they were being asked to do was culturally and religiously acceptable where they were. They wouldn t do it. To them, worshipping God was sacred. It was important enough that they would lose their lives over it if they had to. They wouldn t give their worship to anyone else but God. And then something incredible happened. When they went into that fiery furnace, Jesus stood with them in the flames and they weren t hurt. Their hair wasn t even singed, and when they came out of the furnace, they didn t even smell of smoke. Nebuchadnezzar said this (Daniel 3:24, 25): Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said to the king, True, O king. Look! he answered, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. The pre-incarnate Christ stood with them. The Son of God came from Heaven to honor these faithful young men who chose to worship God rather than compromise and bow down before an idol even though they might pay for that with their lives. That s courage, isn t it? That s faithfulness. In the Ten Commandments, God says in the first commandment (Exodus 20:3): Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. And God says in the second commandment, speaking of idols and images (Exodus 20:5): Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them... These young men understood that. Worship was important to them. Worshipping God God s way was important to them.
7 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 7 There s a great prophetic connection between what happened out there on the plain of Dura that day and what s going to take place in the world just before Jesus returns. We ll look at that next. EVERY WORD DEVOTIONAL In a courtroom, a witness is often called upon to testify as to what he or she has seen. Typically, if several witnesses testify in the same way agreeing on certain facts one side or the other feels like they ve got a pretty good case. Listen to what John wrote in 1 John 1:1: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life. For John, Jesus was REAL. He had seen Him, touched Him. What we read in the Bible is not a myth. When it comes to Jesus, we re reading about someone others saw, knew and touched. If John appeared in court, he d be a pretty convincing witness. You can be convinced today the Christ of the Bible is real and true, and you can have confidence in Him today. RETURN TO PROGRAM On It Is Written today, we re looking at the prophetic connection between the experience of the three young men in the fiery furnace, and the prophecies of the Book of Revelation end-time prophecies that will very likely affect most people watching this program. Let s look at the book of Revelation. In Revelation 13, a beast rises up out of the sea. We ve mentioned before on It Is Written that in prophecy, a beast represents a kingdom. If you want biblical evidence for that, look in Daniel 7, where in verse 23 it says (Daniel 7:23): The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom on earth. That s clear. In Revelation, beasts rising up out of the sea represent nations rising up out of populated parts of the earth. So if you want to make a parallel, in Revelation 13 you have a kingdom or a nation, just as you have in Daniel 3. What does the nation in Revelation 13 do? We read this (Revelation 13:4): And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast...
8 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 8 Here s a kingdom receiving worship worship that only God should receive. That s what was going on in Daniel 3. There s more on that (Revelation 13:8): And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him... And yet it goes further. Remember, in Daniel 3, the king enforced false worship, and anyone who wouldn t cooperate would be sentenced to death. Now, do we see that happening in earth s last days? (Revelation 13:15) And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. Now let me ask you who should people worship? Of course God. Getting away from worshipping God was what led Israel into apostasy in the first place. But what s going to happen in the final days of earth s history? An IMAGE will be set up that s what happened in Daniel chapter 3. An image will be set up, and all will be commanded to worship the image. Those who don t will be forced to pay a high price for that. Those who do worship the image will receive what the Bible calls the Mark of the Beast and they ll be lost. That s an even higher price to pay. In Daniel 3, you have the conflict of the last days playing out in microcosm: a pagan leader establishes an image and commands false worship contrary to the will of God. In Revelation 13, you have the same thing, but on a global scale: in contradiction to the Word of God, an image is set up and false worship is commanded. And what we see in Daniel is very telling: very few opposed the false worship. In Revelation 13:8 we read this: And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him. Now here s something to keep in mind. Jesus said (John 4:24): God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Worshipping God God s way. If we ll make the Bible the basis for our lives, we won t have to worry about being on the wrong side of this crisis. If we ve decided to do what is in harmony with the Word of God if God s will is the basis for everything in our lives, if Jesus is living His life in us we re going to be okay.
9 It Is Written Script: 1233 The Fiery Furnace Page 9 See, the good news is that God s people triumph in the end. There s a massive spiritual battle going on in the world today, and there s an enemy that wants no one to be saved. But God s people who have chosen to be faithful to Him receive the Seal of God, and can know that just like Jesus stood in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, He ll do it again and stand with His people in their time of trial. The same Jesus who stood with those three, faithful young men says to us today: I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20) But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. (Matthew 24:13) There s a great spiritual crisis coming. God stood with those three young men Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they stood for Him. Let s pray that we will follow God and God s way, and stand for Him today and tomorrow, knowing that Jesus will stand with us. Let s pray. PRAYER Our Father in Heaven, we thank you that we can know you through faith in your Son Jesus, who died for us to take care of our sin debt, who died for us so that we in turn could have faith in Him and receive new hearts and be cleaned up of all of our mess. We read in the Bible there are challenging times ahead. I know we don t have to lose sleep about that. But I also know that we need to be making decisions now, Lord, that our hearts are given to you so that as Christ lives His life in us, we can stand for you no matter what. Thank you that Jesus stands with us. Keep us and bless us, please, we pray in Jesus name, Amen. It Is Written Box O Thousand Oaks, CA USA Tel: (805) Fax: (805)