Now Nebuchadnezzar has seen the amazing truth that God’s Kingdom rules over all. He bows before Daniel after the revelation and interpretation of his dream, and he declares that Daniel’s God is the true God. And he promotes Daniel and his three Jewish friends to leadership positions in the Empire.
So the King of Babylon humbles himself and learns how to worship that true God, right?
Interestingly enough, Nebuchadnezzar has this dream that tortures and troubles him, and sees this huge statue destroyed, and his response … is to build an enormous golden statue of himself and make everyone bow down to it.
This thing was impressive. It was ninety feet tall, as tall as a football field is long, and made of gold. It spoke of the King’s power and wealth. Nebuchadnezzar set it on a plain so there would be room to worship it. He ordered his top officials to come to the field and bow to it.
As a quick thought … don’t assume because a leader who seeks power says some things that sound spiritual that their hearts have changed. Many times, in our search for qualified leadership, we can be swayed by words when actions will reveal the heart. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Power over others is seductive and addictive, more than any other vice we can imagine. It does not mean power WILL corrupt, but it has great power to do so and we must be careful not to be manipulated by the words of politicians and those that seek it.
Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego were given power. Because of their testimony to God, they were given leadership positions. As a condition of that power, they had to bow to Nebuchadnezzar.
I’ve said it before, but if anyone had a reason to buy in to Babylon it was Daniel and his friends. God had judged and seemingly forgotten his “chosen people,” and they had been given the greatest luxuries and resources of this vast empire. If they simply went with what they could see, they would have chosen Babylon. No one outside of crazy religious people would have blamed them for bowing to maintain their position and, ultimately, their life.
But they didn’t.
Under threat of death from a fiery furnace, they refused to bow.
Nebuchadnezzar was upset. Enraged.
Their logic, and Daniel’s, was interesting. They were willing to serve Nebuchadnezzar but not worship him. There’s a difference.
As spiritual people who live in earthly nations, we must see this difference. We must recognize the difference between serving earthly leaders for peace and good … and bowing to them. Citizens of the Kingdom bow to no one, which WILL put is in conflict with the governments of this world. To what degree depends upon how much the worldly government demands our worship.
This does not mean that we seek to make the government a spiritual entity. That is how governments and leaders seek our worship, to cross that line from a humble and temporary institution to something more than its intended role. Those of the Kingdom must remind government of its limitations and the church of its eternal calling. It might enrage the government, but that is part of our call in the world.
Even if it costs our life. For Shadrach, Meschach, Abed-Nego, they know that God is able to deliver them, but “Even if he doesn’t, we WILL NOT BOW.”
We know the story. God does deliver them, giving testimony to their stand for truth and the Kingdom – you know, after a dream of its power and everything – by standing in the midst with them. The King says, “I see a fourth one in there, like a god.” An angel, or God himself or Jesus, was standing there with them. They escape unscathed.
Nebuchadnezzar “repents” and promotes them again.
Citizens of the Kingdom must realize that it is love to know this difference, to remember that we have a duty and a calling to not bow to earthly nations or leaders. We cannot lead people to truth by participating in a lie.
And it is for their good that we refuse to bow to them. It is love to tell the world that there is only one Person worthy of our worship, and that is the only true God. Our refusal to bow will seem arrogant to those that seek power, but it is the ultimate humility to worship the only One that is Worthy. Despite how offended others may be, our testimony of God’s sovereignty is serving them for their own good and for peace but with an eternal perspective from an eternal Kingdom.