There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men…
It has sometimes and justly been remarked, that truth is far more wonderful than fiction. Events certainly have transpired in the history of individual men which no fictitious narrative can approach.
I. In the first place, observe, THE MANDATE OF IMPERIAL POWER WHICH HAD BEEN ISSUED. The person from whom the mandate now referred to had emanated, was Nebuchadnezzar, the monarch of the vast and gorgeous empire of Babylon. New in the mandate before us there was heinous and presumptuous sin; and we shall endeavour to notice the elements of which that heinous and presumptuous sin consisted. And we remark —
1. That it was a tyrannical encroachment beyond the just limits of civil authority. The monarch of Babylon had not, nor has any other monarch or person invested with worldly station or worldly power, the right of anywise controlling or attempting to influence the religious professions and religious deportment of his subjects. Human governments were created by Divine arrangement, in order that monarchs might order things aright in their secular or political capacity; and their legitimate power of interference extends only to overt acts which are socially beneficial, on the one hand, or which are socially pernicious and injurious, on the other. Obedience to reasonable commands in this respect is an obligation; but obedience to commands attempting to control opinion and conscience is no obligation at all.
2. Again, you will observe of this mandate, that it was a daring impiety against the majesty and claims of the only true God. You doubtless remember at once the law which that Creator had promulgated in early times, in direct denunciation of the apostacy referred to, pronounced by His own voice and written by His own finger — "Thou shalt not have any gods before Me." "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," etc.
3. Again, you will observe of this mandate, that it was a cruel outrage on the impulses of benevolence and of humanity. To threaten men that if they did not fall down and worship a golden image they should be cast into a furnace of fire there to endure the very worst and most excruciating agonies which the human frame can undergo, was, indeed, beyond expression savage. And here we cannot but observe an illustration of the keenness of despotic power in all periods of time.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS IMPERIAL MANDATE WAS TREATED.
1. And first, you will observe that there was firmness. Let us be "valiant for the truth upon the earth"; and let it be our constant aim, that being "followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises," we may indulge the glowing hope of being ultimately united in their glory.
2. And again, you will observe, that besides firmness there was also meekness. There was no ebullition of self-sufficiency or of anger; there was respect for regal dignity and station — there was forbearance, there was quietness, there was readiness to suffer; they resisted the wrong, but they did not rebel against the penalty. It is always important, in advocating the rights of conscience and of religious truth, that in the same manner mildness should be blended with courage, and gentleness with resolution. The want of this spirit among those who have pleaded the right of conscience and of truth has often inflicted deep injury upon the best and the holiest of causes. There has been the indulgence of a rugged dogmatism and vehemence; there has been not seldom a resort to the use of force, the fighting of battles, and an endeavour after retaliation; and even when revenge would have struck deep injury upon both liberty and religion, and would have mournfully retarded and held back the time of their progress and the era of final freedom,
III. THE PRINCIPLES UPON WHICH THE TREATMENT OF THAT MANDATE WAS FOUNDED, AND UPON WHICH IT WAS JUSTIFIED. You will observe, in the analysis of the narrative, that they were principles worthy of the occasion, and amply vindicating the course which was pursued.
1. Observe, there was conviction of their duty and responsibility to God. Their language is — "our God whom we serve." They were endued with reverence and with love to Him, and these principles, associated with the relationship they embodied, prevented by moral necessity that they could be guilty of the glaring impiety of adoring publicly, in the presence of immense masses, a thing graven by art and man's device, created by man's base passions for man's base and bad designs. In the principle in this manner enunciated, you will observe, they took the highest ground under the highest influences — religion, imparted and preserved by the Spirit of God. And this is alone worthy of the occasion when the rights of conscience and of truth are to be vindicated.
2. Again, you will observe also, there was confidence in the power and readiness of God to deliver. We have seen that the monarch of Babylon uttered this challenge — "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?" And then they replied — "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king." Let us cherish the confidence now. Let us cherish it for ourselves, and know that "nothing shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus the Lord." Let us cherish it in behalf of the cause which is to us dear as our immortal spirits — the cause of the Redeemer's glory in the salvation of man and the conversion of the world; and let us never be guilty even .of dreaming of such an era as when the church shall be in danger. False systems, which have usurped the name, may be in danger, but the true church never. Can the throne of the eternal Father be in danger?
IV. THE RESULTS IN WHICH THE TREATMENT THUS VINDICATED AND JUSTIFIED WAS MADE TO ISSUE. You will observe here what a singular combination of circumstances claims from the narrative our regard. The immediate result was the infliction of the punishment. "Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated." Observe the method in which that deliverance was accomplished. Lastly, you must observe the characteristics by which this deliverance was distinguished. It was accomplished by the agency of the Son of God; and its characteristics require to be noticed. It was, you will observe, indisputably attested. There was nothing equivocal in the mode by which the deliverance was known. And this only indicates a general principle in the Divine interpositions — that when God interposes for the welfare and deliverance of His people, there is nothing uncertain; there is not such an intermingling of secondary instrumentalities that we are unable to separate or to discern the interference of the power of the great First Cause; there is always something in every event by which a devout and enlightened mind is able to pronounce "God is here; here is the work of God." And it is a delightful fact in the history of the church now, as it will be in the annals of the church in time to come, that wherever God interferes for the welfare of His people He accomplishes His work thoroughly. We observe again, that the deliverance produced a vast public impression. The impression, as it was immediately produced, is noticed in the last verses of the chapter: "Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god except their own Cod. Therefore I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill; because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon." The decree manifested a mighty impression on the mind of the monarch. Some more especial lessons.
1. And, in the first place, we learn from the narrative before us the value of early piety.
2. Again, we learn also the immense importance of decision for God under the most difficult of circumstances. If the example of these Hebrew youths at this crisis had been wanting, even had their personal piety remained intact, how evil would have been the consequence! Had they with some mental weakness bowed, or had they been absent far away under some plausible pretence or excuse — how different would have been the result! Not a voice to be raised for God amidst that vast assembly, and the honour of God deeply and painfully compromised in that nation and other nations for ages!
3. And then, finally, we learn the folly of opposition to the people and to the cause of God. It cannot be hindered by the blandishments or by the opposition of the world; it stands aloft amidst the wreck of empires, and it suffers not amidst the fury of contending nations; it rides upon the whirlwind and directs the storm, and never shall cease its manifestation until it shall establish an empire bounded only by the limits of the universe, and terminating only with the destruction of the world. See to it that you oppose not that, individually, or by combination, which is indestructible. "He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, and the Lord shall have you in derision"; and so shall it be, until you shall "perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little."
Parallel VersesKJV: There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
WEB: There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not respected you. They don't serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.