Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “You are commanded,
O peoples, nations, and speakers of every language,
that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn,
pipe, lyre, trigon (four-stringed harp), dulcimer, bagpipe,
and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not
fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”
I love it when I am reading my Bible and I discern a new layer being revealed. Such was the case while reading the prophetic book of Daniel, Chapter 3. There is so much in this mighty book that is difficult to comprehend, and each time I read it, I pray for more understanding.
I'm sure you recognize this passage as the beginning of the saga of Daniel's friends, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego and the fiery furnace. It is a well-known story if you've grown up in the church, and is usually presented as displaying the courage of these men, who stood firm in their faith and were saved by the supernatural appearance of Jesus Christ in the midst of the furnace, proving that He never leaves us nor forsakes us. That is an accurate representation, but it's only part of the story, and I love it when I can share something a little deeper.
As I studied this familiar story, for the first time I noticed something that was different; something that had escaped me in all the other times I had read this account ... At the beginning of the chapter, we find King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon erecting a giant statue, and summoning all the governing agents of his Empire to a celebration of this structure. As I read this ancient story, something told me there was more to the celebration than I had previously understood.
Notice in Chapter 3, verse 5 that when the government officials are all assembled that they are commanded, "at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon (four-stringed harp), dulcimer, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up." That phrase of listing all the musical instruments is specifically repeated three more times within the next 10 verses. For the first time, it struck me ... What was so important about the music? And why was it mentioned so many times?
After a little bit of research, I discovered that some Bible scholars believe that Lucifer was the highest of all angels, and since the angels never cease worshiping God (Revelation 4:8), he may have been the leader of that worship. Scripture is not definitive; nowhere does it clearly state that Lucifer was in charge of the musical worship in heaven. But, in reference to Lucifer, Isaiah 14:11 says, ‘Your pomp and magnificence have been brought down to Sheol, Along with the music of your harps [viols]; The maggots [which prey on the dead] are spread out under you [as a bed] And worms are your covering [Babylonian rulers]. This verse is speaking of his fall from heaven, and how all of the glory he had, and the gifts he had fell with him. "The noise of your viols" seems to indicats the stringed instruments he had charge over.
Then we have Ezekiel 38:13, which says, “You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz, and the diamond; The beryl, the onyx, and the jasper; The lapis lazuli, the turquoise, and the emerald; And the gold, the workmanship of your settings and your sockets,[translated as timbrels and pipes, or tambourines] was in you. They were prepared on the day that you were created. Could this be suggesting that Lucifer was, basically, a walking, talking musical instrument? Could it be possible that Lucifer contained something akin to musical instruments – the tambourine, the flute, and the harp all within the confines of his own body? Since Lucifer is a created being, I guess he could have been created with instruments to provide beautiful music for none other than the glorification of God. And being the most authoritative and superior angel that he was might also have been the angel of music. All this is speculation, of course. Scripture is unclear, but this idea has bearing upon the rest of what happens in Chapter 3.
I think we can all agree that the fallen angel Lucifer, who becomes satan, the prince of this world, seeks to have humanity follow and worship him rather than the One True God, the Most High God. And with this understanding, we often see him influencing earthly rulers such as Antiochus Epiphanes, or Hitler, or Stalin. If we see him as a powerful spiritual influence behind King Nebuchadnezzar, then can you see him moving through Nebuchadnezzar to honor himself? Can you accept the possibility that this giant statue, which everyone is forced to bow down to and worship, accompanied by this lavish orchestration of music, is satan's attempt to glorify himself through the commands of a man he has control over? Wouldn't this have been the way he would have liked to be worshiped if he had usurped God's throne in heaven?
Then consider the rest of the story ... in verses 8-12, there is repetition of the command for a great display of musical worship, and those who do not bow down will be "cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace". As I read this, I wondered if this wasn't satan mocking God -- or at least imitating Him in reverse. Instead of those who reject and rebel against YHWH being thrown into "the fiery lake of burning sulfur" (Revelation 21:8), the devil is declaring that those who do not bow down and worship the idol that represents him will die in the midst of a fiery furnace. It all points to a counterfeit worship and punishment scenario.
But the attempt to use Nebuchadezzar to glorify satan fails. The God of Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego protects them in the fiery furnace. In fact, the three men declare that their God is able to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace, and out of the hand of their enemy. And that is just what He does, as a fourth figure is seen in the furnace with them; a figure like the Son of God, walking in the midst of the fire, and no one is harmed. And that is just what our Savior does ... meets us in the midst of our struggles and delivers us from the fires of hell!
And how does this Chapter end? Nebuchadnezzar sees that the fire had no power upon the bodies of the men; nor was any hair on their heads singed, and no scent of smoke or fire lingered on them or their clothes. And what does the mighty King of Babylon declare? "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, who has sent His Angel and delivered His servants that trusted in Him. He saw that these faithful men did not yield their faith to any man, and would not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. King Nebuchadnezzar then decreed that no one could speak a negative word against the God of these faithful Jewish men, because there is no other God that can deliver like this.
The end of the story is that Nebuchadnezzar no longer sounds like a man dominated by satan, but a man who has seen the evidence of the One True God. And that is the power of the Living God... to make His presence and His power and His authority known in the midst of the darkness of this world. No matter how hard he tries, satan will never topple His Kingdom -- on earth or in heaven!