In Daniel 3 King Nebuchadnezzar builds a 90-foot tall statue of himself and demands that all his politicians bow down and worship his image. Nebuchadnezzar has entirely missed the point of his dream back in chapter two. After Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream meant all nations will all eventually bow to God. Nebuchadnezzar immediately makes a golden statue and demands that everyone bow only to him (Dan 3:2). It’s a refusal to accept the outcome of the dream and it’s a direct challenge to Daniel’s God.
Daniel’s friends, Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego, refuse to bow to Nebuchadnezzar. Already jealous of their power, some native-born Chaldeans use this against Daniel’s friends. Taking advantage of the King’s vanity they inform him that these three Jews refuse to worship him. Nebuchadnezzar is furious and offers Shadrack, Meshach, and Abednego an ultimatum. “...If you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Dan 3:15).
Confident in God’s power to save they announce they would rather trust God and die than bow to Nebuchadnezzar and live. In a rage, Nebuchadnezzar overheats his furnace and throws them into it. But Nebuchadnezzar’s anger and his fire had no “power over the bodies of those men” and it leaves them unsigned (Dan 3:27).
That’s because someone “like a son of the gods” protects and walks with them in the fire. In response, the king blesses their God, approves of their decision not to bow to his image, promotes them to even greater power despite the Chaldean’s plans and threatens death to anyone who speaks against Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego's God.
Over and over Nebuchadnezzar’s statue is called an “image.” That’s not just because the statue looked like him but because “images” were the ways kings marked their territory. As empires grew kings would place images of themselves in conquered towns and at the edge of contested borders. The point was, every time you saw the image, you knew who was in control. Nebuchadnezzar's golden image was the largest ever built. It was supposed to be the last word on who ruled the world. Everyone who looked at it was supposed to marvel at the King’s supremacy and divine power. That’s why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow because doing so would be buying into Nebuchadnezzar’s claim that he is like God (Exo 20:4-5).
That’s also why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are joined by an image in the fire. Someone who looks “like a son of the gods.” The image of a son of God in the fire proves that God’s image is the only true power in Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t control who lives and who dies, God does.
And in the book of Hebrew, we’re told that the image of God who protects from the fires of death is Jesus. Jesus “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint (or image) of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb 1:4-5). The only true image of God is Jesus. And unlike Nebuchadnezzar, he does not demand we bow under threat of fiery furnaces, but demands us to bow because he has entered the fiery furnace himself, and rescued both himself and all who trust him out. It’s only in the presence of this king that every people, nation, language, and satrap, will bow before.
See for Yourself
May the Holy Spirit open your eyes to see the God who is more powerful than every image and Jesus as his perfect representative who delivers and saves.