The Big Statue
I guess it should come as no surprise that Nebuchadnezzar developed quite a big head over his dream. I mean it’s one thing to become a king in your early 20’s, but quite another to be told by the Creator of the Universe that you’ve been given authority over all living things wherever they are in the world (Dan 2:36-38). This meant he wasn’t just the Ruler of Babylon, but King of the whole Earth; superior in power and authority even to the kings of other nations. (This was born out by the prophet Jeremiah who summoned envoys from all the neighboring countries to tell them their choice was to either surrender to Babylon or be destroyed. (Jeremiah 27:2-11) Nebuchadnezzar truly was the King of Kings.
But pride goeth before the fall and Nebuchadnezzar decided to go the LORD one better. He commissioned metal workers to build the statue of his dream, only make it entirely of gold, signifying that his kingdom would rule forever and never be defeated. It was a huge image, 60 cubits tall and 6 cubits wide, and stood on a platform with 6 steps leading up to its base. (You students of Revelation will no doubt notice the hint of 666. In fact this whole episode is seen by prophecy buffs as a model of the Great Tribulation with the King in the role of the anti-christ, his advisers being the false prophet, and my Jewish friends representing Israel, but that’s another story.)
A cubit being roughly a foot and a half meant the statue was over 90 feet tall! In a move that seemed to say “The louder you proclaim something the more believable it will become,” he then made it mandatory for everyone to stop what they were doing on his signal and fall down and worship the statue to the accompaniment of loud music.
I was away on the King’s business when all this happened, but my three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were there and got themselves into huge trouble over it. In the first place the worship of anyone or thing other than God was forbidden, and if that wasn’t bad enough the Babylonian form of worship was sexual in nature and involved certain behavior that we believed was reserved for a married couple in the privacy of their own home. But here was the King requiring his subjects to worship the statue by behaving this way in public with whomever. Although the penalty was death by fire my friends defied the King’s orders and refused to worship the statue.
I told you that in spite of the fact that we had saved their lives by telling the King what his dream meant, his other advisers were jealous and had begun looking for a way to discredit us. Well, here was their big chance. They immediately informed the King that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had refused to worship the image. The King was furious, and even though he had named them administrators over the whole province, demanded that they comply or die. Nobody said “No” to the King of the whole Earth.
With the courage born of unshakable faith they refused the King to his face and were immediately bound and dragged off to the furnace. In his anger the King ordered the furnace to be made so hot that when they threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fire, the heat killed the guards instantly.
The King and his advisers had positioned themselves to watch my friends suffer their agonizing death and to say they were amazed by what happened next would be the understatement of the ages. As they stared into the furnace they saw not three but four people walking around in the fire as if it was a common everyday thing. Their ropes had burned away but they were otherwise unharmed, and the fourth person looked, in the King’s words, “like a Son of God.” He then got as close as he could to the furnace and in a loud voice commanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out. When they did, their hair was not singed, their clothes not burned, not even the smell of smoke could be detected on them. The King praised the LORD and issued a decree forbidding anyone from saying anything bad about Him. Then he commended Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for their faith and promoted them again. Talk about snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
As for the King, he was edging closer to acknowledging the LORD as his Creator, which was the plan all along. But as we’ll see it was going to take a really dramatic change in his lifestyle to bring him all the way around.