The pattern of false worship in prophecy
Last post we discussed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, how he saw a statue and that God was telling him that his kingdom would end one day. But it’s also a message for us, to show us that God knows the future, he predicted the next kingdoms including some surprising detail. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you do so. Nebuchadnezzar becomes convinced that the God of Daniel is the true God. Unfortunately, he doesn’t stay convinced. But, this gives us an opportunity to explore how Satan twists God’s truth into something else, to try to get us to worship anything but God. We’ll see this pattern again throughout prophecy.
Daniel 3 opens up with Nebuchadnezzar setting up a gold statue, and not a small one. It was about 90 feet tall (Daniel 3:1). You can just guess the message he’s trying to send to God: My kingdom will never fail. Seems he still believed in God … just didn’t want to humble himself to Him.
In further defiance, the king invites (though they can’t refuse) all his public servants to come attend the unveiling (Daniel 3:2). So they all come and are told that when the music plays, they are all to bow down and worship the statue, and if they don’t, they’ll be thrown into the the furnace (which is currently lit) (Daniel 3:6-7).
The music plays and every bows down. Well, almost everyone. Remember the Chaldeans? Well, they’re still a bit upset that Daniel could interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and they notice that Daniel’s 3 friends didn’t bow down. So they immediately tell the king while not-so-subtle reminding him that they should be thrown into the furnace (Daniel 3:8-12).
If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar has a bit of a temper, and he again shows it. In a rage, he orders the three to come forward and gives them another chance: bow when the music plays, or else. And then he tries to shake their faith by saying “who is the god that will save you?”. Remember, Abednego’s name used to be Azariah, “The Lord is my help”, and Meshach’s name used to be Mishael, meaning “Who is as God”. These three knew exactly who could save them (Daniel 3:13-15). And they know the commandments and that they shouldn’t bow down to another god (Exodus 20:4-6). They tell the king that they don’t need a second chance, he might as well throw them in now. They serve God, whether or not He chooses to save them. (Daniel 3:16-18) Now, that’s conviction.
Nebuchadnezzar, still enraged, orders that the furnace be heated to seven times the normal heat. This is of course just a show, because a furnace at regular heat will kill a man just fine. But, the guards do so. They tie up the three friends, clothes and all, stoke the fire and throw them in. The fire is so hot at this point that the men who threw them in died due to the heat. And so, Daniel’s friends end up in the furnace (Daniel 3:19-23).
Nebuchadnezzar comes to see the fate of these who would defy him and then asks an odd question. “Did we note cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” His men agree, they threw three men in. But Nebuchadnezzar sees four men, unbound, walking around, unhurt. And the fourth is like the Son of God (Daniel 24-25). We’ve talked about this Son of God before.
The king calls into the furnace for the three friends to come out, acknowledging that they serve the “Most High God”. The three friends walk straight out of the fire, their hair unsigned, their clothes in perfect order, they don’t even smell like smoke (Daniel 2:26-27). It’s interesting that the ropes that bound them burned just fine.
Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges the three friend’s God, and that He send His messenger to save the friends, because they trusted God instead of obeying the king. He gives them free reign to worship only their own God from this point forward, and commands no one should speak ill of their God and promotes the three friends. (Daniel 2:28-30)
Now, we see this same pattern occur in Revelation 13. You’ll find, as we continue to go through Daniel that Daniel and Revelation parallel each other many times. We a beast coming out of the earth who spoke like a dragon (we’ll get to what that means in a later post). This beast makes everyone on earth worship a first beast (which had already come up earlier in the chapter) (Revelation 13:11-12).
This beast performs miracles and through them deceives almost everyone. He tells them to create an image of the first beast and that whoever does not bow to it will be killed (Revelation 13:14-15). Sound familiar? It goes on to say that those who worship will receive a mark, on their right hand, or on their forehead, and that only those with this mark will be able to buy or sell. (Revelation 13:16-17) Don’t worry, we’ll get to what that means too. The point is, it’s the same pattern. Almost the whole world will be deceived, will be made to worship this idol. This isn’t some futuristic prophecy. This is happening now, and it has been for some time. Want to know more? You’ll have to stay tuned. The Bible tells us quite clearly how the world is being deceived. You’ll never see it the same again.
In the mean time, we need to be sure of who we worship. In Revelation 14, we are told to “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:7). Christianity is slowly being pulled away from this. There’s been a huge shift to worship God because of Jesus’s sacrifice, to the point of downplaying His role as Creator. Many churches do not profess to believe the creation story any more. Almost all have tossed aside the remembrance of creation. Christianity is slowly being watered down and shifted, so that when judgement arrives, we will no longer recognize God. This issue of creation is much bigger than people think, and it’s a fight that has been going on for centuries. Countless people have died because of it through the ages, and even here in North America, people today still lose their jobs, their livelihood, over it. And it’s not going to get any better, until it all ends.
But it will end, and it is possible to over come this deception, to have victory over this beast, his image and the mark (Revelation 15:2). And we’re going to learn more to ensure you know how that happens.
The next post we’re going to take a look at Daniel 4, and how conflict strengthens us, how it gives us an opportunity to choose, and so, gives us practice to choose correctly when our salvation is on the line.