Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, and more specifically, begins with the eighth verse of the third chapter, and continues through to the third chapter of the fourth chapter. What I am going to primarily be dealing with in this particular writing is what is recorded in the third chapter of the book. What we read and what we find in the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel is what is in opinion a direct manifestation of what we read in the second chapter. In the second chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel we read of Nebuchadnezzar having a dream—a dream which Daniel entered into his presence and revealed before he and all those who were present within his court. Beginning with the thirty-first verse of the second chapter we find the dream which Nebuchadnezzar dreamed upon his bed, which was an image he saw during the night watch. “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hand, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:31-35). Within these five verses we discover the dream which Nebuchadnezzar dreamt upon his bed, which so troubled and disturbed him that his spirit was distressed, and sleep fled from him. The image which Nebuchadnezzar saw was a great image which had a brightness that was excellent, and which stood before the king. The significance of the image, however, was not in its size or stature, but in the materials that made up the image. Daniel would go on to reveal how the image was made up of a head of fine gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet part of iron and part of clay. The first thing we learn in Daniel’s encounter with the king is the dream which the king dreamt upon his bed—a dream which contained the image of a great image which stood before the king.
When you begin reading in the thirty-sixth verse of this chapter you will find Daniel going on to reveal the interpretation of the dream, and not only the interpretation of the dream, but what the various metals which made up the image comprised. “This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beats of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear ruler over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave on to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it break in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure” (Daniel 2:36-45).
When Daniel reveals unto Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of the dream, he begins with the head of the image—the head which was made of fine gold. Daniel would go on to speak concerning Nebuchadnezzar how the God of heaven had given unto him a kingdom, power, and strength and glory. Daniel went on to reveal unto the king that wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beats of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath the Lord given into the hand of the king, and caused him to become ruler over them all. Daniel emphatically and pointedly declared and proclaimed unto Nebuchadnezzar that he was indeed, and was in fact the head of the king. What causes this to become even more striking is that despite the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, and despite the tremendous power, strength and glory Babylon possessed, it would ultimately be succeeded by not only, but multiple kingdoms and empires upon the earth. As surely as Daniel was declaring unto Nebuchadnezzar that Babylon and his reign was the head of gold upon the image, the Babylonian empire would not remain forever. The day would come when Nebuchadnezzar would be succeeded by another who would sit upon the throne that he himself sat on. As if this weren’t enough, the Babylonian empire would eventually and ultimately give way to kingdoms and empires that would rise up and emerge upon the earth. I can’t help but see a strong connected between the image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, and the image we read of in the very next chapter. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the image which Nebuchadnezzar had formed in the plain of Dura in the land of Shinar was a direct replica of the image he saw within his dream.While the image Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream was made up of various different metals and materials, the image he caused to be made in the plain of Dura in the land of Shinar was made entirely of gold. Thus, the image Nebuchadnezzar caused to be made in the plain of Dura was an emphatic statement and boast of the glory, the strength and the power of Babylon within the earth. The very fact that Nebuchadnezzar sought to have all within the province and empire bow before and worship the image suggests that what he was ultimately seeking to do was bringing men and women into a place of worship and homage of a strength, a glory, a power which he believed he possessed within and in and of himself.
As the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel opens, it does so with a transition from the prophetic narrative that is found in the second chapter, to a historical and biographical narrative within Babylon. The main characters in this chapter might very well be Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, as well as the three Hebrew companions of Daniel—Hananiah, Azariah, and MIshael. Beginning with the first verse we not only read of the setting up of the image of gold in the plain of Dura within the land of Shinar, but also the mandate that came with that image. “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellers, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the decimation of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, TO you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sakcbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sakcbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and whipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up” (Daniel 3:1-7). The third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel not only reveals an image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura, but also the mandate and command that was directly connected and associated with that image. It would have been one thing for Nebuchadnezzar to set up the image of gold in the plain of Dura—perhaps as a monument of the glory, the strength and the power of Babylon, but it was something else entirely to set up that image and demand that men and women fall down and worship the image when they heard the sound of music.
I am reminded of at least two other distinct instances when specific images were set up—not in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon, but within and among the children of Israel. The first instance is found during the wilderness journey of the children of Israel while they were at the foot of the mountain of God. In the thirty-second chapter of the Old Testament book of Exodus we read of the first ever image that was set up among the children of Israel—an image that was set up while the Lord was atop the mountain before them speaking unto Moses. “And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people break off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These by thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it’ and Aaron made a proclamation, and said, TO morrow is a feast to the Lord. And they rose up early on the morrow, and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play” (Exodus 32:1-6). What we read in this particular passage is perhaps the first ever instance of the children of Israel setting up an image—and what’s worth noting is the material the image was made from, for the image of the calf which was fashioned by Aaron was fashioned of gold. I have to say that I am utterly amazed at the material we use to fashion the images and idols we worship within our lives. The very first image the children of Israel ever fashioned and worshipped was not made up of silver, nor of brass, nor of wood, or even stone. The image which the children of Israel asked Aaron to make was not fashioned from any old material, but was made of gold. When the children of Israel approached Aaron to fashion for them gods to worship them because of Moses’ delay in coming down off the mountain, it was Aaron who suggested that they remove their gold earrings, and to give the earrings unto him in order that he might fashion the image the children of Israel would worship.
Before I delve into something that directly challenges the idols and images we make, it’s worth noting the second instance when it is recorded of images which were set up among the children of Israel. It’s worth noting that whereas in the wilderness there was only one calf made of gold which the children of worshipped, there were actually two calves which were fashioned within the inheritance of the people of God. Immediately after the division of the nation and kingdom of Israel into two distinct kingdoms—the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel—we read how Jeroboam son of Nebat, king of Israel had two calves fashioned within the land, and set each calf up within the land at opposite ends of the inheritance. Beginning with the twenty-fifth verse of the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings we read these words concerning Jeroboam’s actions immediately after becoming king over the northern kingdom of Israel: “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priest of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar, which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (1 Kings 12:25-33).
When you read the account of Aaron setting up the calf among the children of Israel in the wilderness, you will read how that image was formed and fashioned of gold, and would thus become known as “the golden calf.” Centuries later—not only once the children of Israel were in the inheritance, but after the inheritance had been divided due to the idolatry of Solomon—there would be not one calf of gold, ,but two golden calves of gold that would be formed and fashioned by Jeroboam son of Nebat. What would begin with the private idolatry of Solomon upon the mountain of corruption across from the mountain of the house of the Lord would only a generation later become the public idolatry of Jeroboam, as Jeroboam would set up two golden calves to entice the children of Israel away from their worship of the true and living God. As if this weren’t enough, Jeroboam would go on to set up priests which were not of the sons of Levi as priests of this new religion and religious system that would now be found in the midst of the land. What would begin with one golden calf in the wilderness would now become two golden calves in the inheritance, It’s interesting how a single golden calf would become two golden calves in the midst of the land of Israel, and the private idolatry of Solomon would become the public idolatry of Jeroboam. Even more than this, the children of Israel and people of God would worship God—or at least perceive that they were worshipping God—in the image(s) in which we have created. The children of Israel thought they were worshipping the God that delivered them out of Egypt when they worshipped the golden calf, and during the days of Jeroboam the same language was used. The author of the book of First Kings writes how when Jeroboam set up the twin golden calves in the land of Israel—not only did he set up a false religious system within the land, but he also professed these to be the gods that delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt. Isn’t it amazing how we can seem to connect idolatry with deliverance? Isn’t it interesting to consider that we can actually be praising God for our deliverance—or at least giving the appearance of praising God for our deliverance—and yet we are doing nothing more than worshipping God in the image(s) we have made.
I find it to be absolutely incredible that within these two passages we find men and women acknowledging the deliverance of the Lord, yet even in the midst of that acknowledgment, they are worshipping God in a false image they have made. I am convinced it is possible that we can speak of deliverance within our lives, and yet from that place of speaking of deliverance we can actually worship God in the images we have made. Aaron professed and proclaimed before the children of Israel that the golden calf which he had formed and fashioned before them was their God who delivered them up out of the land of Egypt, while Jeroboam declared and proclaimed the same words over the two golden calves he had formed and set up. I can’t help but wonder why both Aaron a priest, and Jeroboam a king would speak of the deliverance of the Lord, and yet lead the children of Israel into an idolatrous worship of a false image and idol they have made. PROCLAIMING DELIVERANCE WHILE BEING BOUND BY IDOLATRY! I can’t help but wonder how many men and women enter into the house of the Lord week in and week out and proclaim deliverance of the Lord—perhaps even deliverance within their lives—and yet they are engaging themselves in a false and idolatrous worship of images and idols of their own making. Such men and women enter into the house of the Lord and speak of the Lord’s deliverance and ability to bring His people forth from slavery and bondage, and yet they are enslaved by idolatry, as they are worshipping the Lord in the image(s) they have created. We would be incredibly wise to recognize and understand this, for it is possible that we enter into the house of the Lord and speak of His great signs and wonders—the Lord delivered the children of Israel from the bondage and slavery of Egypt through signs and wonders—and yet worship the Lord in an image that is nothing more than that which we have fashioned and formed. Oh, how many men and women are professing and proclaiming deliverance from slavery and bondage, and yet they are actively engaged in forming and fashioning idols and images of their own choosing and making? How many men and women are deceived when they enter into the house of the Lord, for while they speak of the Lord’s great signs, and the Lord’s great wonders, they are still enslaved and ensnared by idolatry and the worship of false images and idols they have formed and fashioned themselves? Such men and women actually speak of the strength, the might, the power and the glory of the Lord, and yet they are enslaved and ensnared in a worship that may sound right on the outside, but is actually the furthest thing from Egypt. Oh, to the undisciplined and the non-discerning heart, their worship might seem to be genuine and sincere, and yet their worship is nothing more than a declaration of the signs, the wonders, the power and the strength of the Lord, while they themselves are worshipping God in the image(s) they have formed and fashioned.
When you read of the calf which Aaron set up in the wilderness, the calves which Jeroboam set up in the northern kingdom of Israel, and the image which Nebuchadnezzar set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon, you will find that they all share one thing in common—they were all made of gold. I would dare say this is quite remarkable and presents a tremendous challenge within our hearts and lives, for we will never form and fashion an idol and image from that which is not valuable and precious to us. Oh, it is true we may take the earrings from our ears, but we take that gold in order to form and fashion it into an idol and image we can worship. It is absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand that more often than not the images and idols we form and fashion within our hearts and lives are formed from that which is valuable and precious to us. IN other words, we don’t take that which hast cost us nothing, or that which isn’t and hasn’t been important to us. The calf in the wilderness, the two golden calves in the land of Israel, and the image in the plain of Dura were all made of gold, thus signifying the worth and value we place on the idols and images we form and fashion. Oh, there would be times when the children of Israel would begin to fashion images and idols of wood and stone, yet more often than not, the idols and images that were formed and fashioned were overlaid with gold. Consider the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied in the fortieth chapter of the prophetic book bearing his name: “To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him? The Workman melters a graven image, and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth silver chains. He that is so impoverished that he hath no oblations chooseth a tree that will not rot; he seeketh unto him a cunning workman to prepare a graven image, that shall not be moved” (Isaiah 40:18-20). Again in the forty-fourth chapter we find and read these words: “Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any. They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed. Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together. The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioned it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint. The carpenter stretceth out his rule; he markets it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and He markets it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He He Seth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planted an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burnt: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh brea; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasters roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: and the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god” (Isaiah 44:10-17)
In the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel we find Nebuchadnezzar setting up an image made of gold within the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon, and upon the completion of this image, he demanded that whenever the sound of music was heard in the land, all were required to bow down before and worship this image. Nebuchadnezzar formed and fashioned this image of gold as a statement of the might, the strength, the power, the glory of Babylon within the earth. Nebuchadnezzar demanded that all men bow down and worship this image—not necessarily to worship the God of heaven and earth, but to worship the glory and splendor of Babylon. I am convinced that the worship that was demanded before this image was a worship—not of the God in heaven in the image that was formed and fashioned by man, but a worship of the strength, the might and the power of man. What’s more, is that as if this weren’t enough, I am convinced that the spirit of antichrist was in full operation within the earth during this time, as the spirit of antichrist can and will call us to abandon our worship of the true and living God, and to worship images which have been set up. In fact, if you read the New Testament book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ you will read of an image that will be set up in the latter days when the beast and his empire reign upon the earth, and the false prophet is present in the earth alongside the beast. “And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beasts, whose deadly wound was healed. And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on th earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: and that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (Revelation 13:11-18).
What is so absolutely incredible about this passage of Scripture in the book of Daniel is not only that Nebuchadnezzar set up an image made of gold, but that there were three who dared resist worshipping that image of gold. There were three who dared stand up and choose to resist worshipping this image made of gold which Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon, which thus reveals the tremendous challenge that is before us in the age of the antichrist. There is the growing temptation to fall down and worship that which isn’t the true and living God, and even Jesus Himself was tempted by the devil in the wilderness to bow down and worship him. I am convinced that what we find in this passage is a tremendous challenge to us—not only a challenge concerning our own forming and fashioning idols and images, and professing and speaking of deliverance while being enslaved by idolatry, but also a challenge to resist the temptation to bow down and worship the idols and images present within the earth. What we find in the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel is a powerful word of caution and word of warning concerning the spirit of antichrist, for the same spirit that sought to cause all men and women in Babylon to worship the image of gold will be the beast who calls for and demands that men and women worship the beast and the image of the beast. The tremendous challenge that is before us in all reality a decision to resist and stand up against the spirit of antichrist that is in the world, and has been in the world for centuries and millennia. Within the third chapter of the prophetic book of Daniel we are confronted with a decision we are going to have to make—a decision whether we will remain true to our worship of the true and living God, or whether we will allow ourselves to bow down and worship the images and idols of this generation.