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While Ezekiel is dealing with the issue of punishment for the wicked, Daniel’s three friends are in the capital city of Babylon. They are being punished by King Nebuchadnezzar for being faithful to God. Where Daniel is during this episode is not known. Presumably he is away from the capital, for surely he would have interceded for his friends. Nevertheless, just as before (when Daniel had interpreted his dream and Nebuchadnezzar had praised the God of the Hebrews), there is no evidence of any lasting conviction in Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. But the concept of a real and powerful God is steadily having its effect on this pagan world leader, and may someday result in true conversion.
1. What is the hottest you can remember being?
2. What has been your closest brush with death or disaster?
3. What does King Nebuchadnezzar do and why (verses 1 – 3)? This king’s huge statue and invited guests speaks to what tendency in people?
4. At the dedication ceremony for this statue (verses 4 – 7), what was the king’s audience commanded to do? By whom? With what result?
5. What exception to this universal decree is duly noted (verses 8 – 12)? By whom? Why would these people tip off the king?
6. Why is the king furious? What test does the king propose? Who is he really testing?
7. How does this relate to Daniel’s theme of God’s authority verses world authority? To the Fall (Genesis 3)? The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)?
8. For you, what is the bottom line or climax in the classic testimony by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (verses 16 – 18)? What were they sure about? What were they unsure about? What does this say about how martyrs for the faith ought to face their divine Maker and their human executioner?
9. What is remarkable about the fiery furnace? Who is killed? Why? Who manages to survive? How?
10. How do you explain the mysterious fourth figure? Explain your answer.
- an “angel”, as does a Jewish tradition (see Psalm 91:9 – 12)?
- a “son of the gods”, as does Nebuchadnezzar (who, as a pagan king affirms “polytheism” or many gods)?
- “Son of God”, as does ancient Christian tradition?
11. What does Nebuchadnezzar make of the “God Most High” and his three undying servants (verses 26 – 30)? Why? Do you think this experience made a believer out him or not? Why?
12. In what ways do you identify (or not), with the following egos?
- the colossal ego of the pagan king?
- the subservient ego of the king’s officials?
- the jealous ego of his astrologers?
- the obedient ego of the near-martyrs?
13. How is God with you in your sufferings? What have your sufferings to do with standing up for what you believe about God? How do you remain faithful “if He does not” rescue you?
14. How does the king’s affirming the Most High God relate to the Christian belief concerning Jesus (see Philippians 2:6 – 11)?
15. How much are you willing to risk to obey a clear commandment of God?
16. When did you come to have a faith in God that caused someone (like Nebuchadnezzar) to notice God working in your life?
17. Where do you feel God wants you to take a stand because of your faith?
- family relationships
- my business practices
- breaking a bad habit
- a public issue
- setting priorities
- being open about my faith
18. What is your greatest resource for taking a stand?
- supportive family
- supportive friends
- financial resources
- God’s power
- the Christian community
- encouragement from Scripture