How does Jesus fulfil or improve or change what has happened in Daniel 3?
We see that the ruling authority wants to stamp out anything that is perceived as deviant and defiant behaviour by punishing it with death. Just as these three young guys were miraculously and providentially and divinely saved from the ultimate effects of death – they were put in what looked like a life-taking situation – and as they were put in that place for living a life of radical obedience to God’s Word and will and ways, so too was Jesus. They were put into the furnace and given up for dead, then were brought out alive and so too was Jesus.
His deviant and defiant behaviour was telling everyone that God loved them, that God wanted to be in a personal and knowing and loving relationship with them, and that He was the path to doing so. His message was, and is, that He was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14.6). His message was, and is, that He was the fulfilment of everything that God’s people had hoped and prayed for.
For Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, their deviant behaviour was saying to a tyrannical ruler that we are not going to bow down to and worship you because we know that there is only one right way, there is one truth, and God wants us to live one radical life of obedience. So, really, the messages of these guys and of Jesus are more related than we may think at first glance.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and Jesus are both saying look, there is only one way to do this.
In this particular instance, the particular example of Daniel 3, the right way was not to bow down to idols.
Jesus fleshes it out and colours it in and opens it up when He says look, God loves you and wants to be in right relationship with you, and this is how you do it – through me.
For you and for me – so we’ve gone from Daniel 3 through Jesus to you – your right way is to put faith, and hope, and trust, in Jesus.
These guys are an example of the obedience to the singular, exclusive, right way of doing things and how God steps in and says yes, this is it. As He stepped in and saved them from the fire, He also stepped in and raised Jesus to life as the ultimate endorsement, guarantee, sign, and wonder, that yes, this is the guy. The parallels are inescapable, the point being made is just too big and obvious, just too big and important.
As Lazarus was resuscitated by the wonderful workings and glory of God (John 11), the same wonderful workings and glory of God raised Jesus to life (Romans 6.4b), and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego here in Daniel 3 are a great preview of this wonderful work. For me, when we consider this pattern and type and the parallels, this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus: a theophany, a physical and bodily appearance of God before the time in human history when Jesus was born. The parallels are inescapable, the point being made is just too big and obvious, just too big and important not to do it personally.
So, what does this all mean for you today?
We could get all moral and talk about taking a principled stand, about being obedient, about being submitted and committed to living God’s way. But, is that all that is going on here, is Daniel 3 one big moral message?
I think there is more here for you than that.
I think that Daniel 3 shows us that God miraculously and providentially and Divinely provides and protects what He has said is the right way, His way. We see it here in the particular physical example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but it speaks of a deeper truth: that God has provided and then protected a way for His people to come to Him. It speaks of the truth that there is one way to go about it, and even when that one way fell foul of the ruling empire and was put in a situation that seemed it would take life away, God’s one way was protected and actually prospered.
Right here in the time of Daniel 3, the one way was total obedience to the teachings of the law, specifically here don’t worship or bow down to anything or anyone else. For you and for me now, our one way is total faith and belief in the Gospel, the good news of Jesus: that He died the death we deserve on that cross, and that God raised Him to life. Our one way is Jesus, that He is now the one way. He is the way that looked like it was going to die, but through the glorious workings of God was raised to life and stands to testify that look, this is the way to do things, God knows you and loves you and wants you to to the same, to know Him and to love Him and to trust Him, and this is how you do it…through me…
Now, maybe you think this is all a bit exclusive. The world will tell you that all roads lead to the same destination and that we’re all trying to live the same life in different words. But, just think: if two people get on the same train but travel to different places, for a part of that journey the track will be the same and it may look like they are travelling together, but, in reality, they are not.
Nebuchadnezzar wanted exclusivity but he was not worthy of it.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego responded with the exclusivity of the one true God (Daniel 3.18, Deuteronomy 6.4).
Jesus, then, fulfilled this (John 3.18, 36, 8.24, 10.1, 9, 14.6) and it was affirmed by first and closest followers (Acts 4.12, 1 Timothy 2.5).
This, then, is where you come in, we’ve gone Old Testament preview (Daniel 3), Jesus fulfilment (John 14.6), first follower endorsement (Acts 4.12), and now you – your job is to be exclusive.
Is exclusivity a bad thing? When the object of our exclusivity is Jesus, no. When it is anything else, yes.
Charles Spurgeon said this on August 16, 1891,
To close: if we would be servants of God, we must be believers in his Son Jesus Christ. Come and trust Jesus Christ, and you are saved. When you are truly saved, you are to be saved from all hesitation about [exclusive] obedience to God…