Sermon Study Guide

We want to be a church that tips the culture of the South Valley toward vital relationship with Jesus. Planting God’s Word in our lives, and seeking ways to multiply that Word in others is a concrete way this vision will happen. Use the background below to aid your study of God’s Word this week.

*We encourage you to study each text the week before it is going to be preached. This is not mandatory, but it allows you to come at each passage with fresh eyes, looking for what God is saying to you and your small group. The dates listed correspond to the dates we recommend studying each text; if you’re looking for a previous week scroll to the bottom of the page.

October 21-27 | Daniel 3

*To review our whole series on Daniel here are the texts for each week: 

- October 14-20 – Daniel 1

- October 21-27 – Daniel 3

- October 28-November 3– Daniel 6

- November 4-10 – Daniel 7

- November 11-17 – Daniel 9

- November 18-24 – Daniel 12


GENERAL BACKGROUND: 

(In case you missed it, go back to week 1 of the Daniel series for more important background—see previous studies) 

Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were carried off to Babylon around 605 BC by Nebuchadnezzar. They were of noble and royal birth and proved themselves to be wise and competent. The king assigned them to his court and gave them influential roles over his kingdom. They each received Babylonian names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego (See Daniel 1:1-7). 

In week 1’s background we highlighted two big questions that are raised throughout Daniel. 

  • How does one remain faithful to Yahweh while working for Babylon?

  • And, How is God exposing and re-defining “power” on this page?

What new angles and tensions surrounding those questions come out in this week’s text? 

CONTEXTUAL NOTES FOR Daniel 3:1-30

In chapter 2 the king has a bad dream, makes completely unreasonable demands, and everyone almost dies. We are skipping chapter 2, but it would be worth reading through on your own. It centers around a massive statue that, we come to find out, represents 4 kingdoms on earth. Nebuchadnezzar is given a revelation that his “golden” kingdom will fall and that eventually God will establish His own kingdom with no end (see also Isaiah 9:6-7). 

We start chapter 3 with Nebuchadnezzar creating a massive (90 feet tall x 9 feet wide!) idol! Perhaps his crumbling statue from his dream in chapter 2  was still in his mind, and he thought it would be a great idea to build it! Whatever the image actually is (could be the king himself, one of his gods, a commemoration totem etc.), the author draws our attention to the instability of the whole thing by pointing out that this massively tall statue has a base of only 9 feet.

Idol/Image: Nebuchadnezzar sets up an “image” or “idol”—a “selem” in Hebrew—Genesis 1:27 uses selem to describe how humanity is created in God’s “image.” It’s why Israel was commanded to never create their own images or idols (Deuteronomy 5:8).  There’s an interesting wordplay going on in Daniel 3:19. The ESV says that the kings expression changed, but the word there is “selem,” the same word repeated throughout the whole story as “image.” Nebuchadnezzar could not make these three men worship his selem (image), and then his own selem (expression) became distorted. Compare texts like Isaiah 40:18–20; 41:6–7; 44:9–20; 46:1–7 for more about Israel’s view of idolatry. 

Chapter 3:15—see the parallels in 2:11, 27-28. 

“seven times hotter”—from what we know of Babylonian craft, they had the technology to create ovens that maxed out around 2700º Fahrenheit. 

“and the fourth is like a son of the gods…” Nebuchadnezzar, who boasted that no god could rescue these friends from his hand, now sees what he perceives to be a divine being walking next to them. Yahweh Himself promised to walk with His people into the fire (Isaiah 43:1-3). 

When we studied Ezekiel (see previous studies) we noted how, when God brought judgment upon Israel and sent them into exile, God went into exile with His people (Ezekiel 1:4; 10:19). The same God shows up for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Rather than turning off the flames, God allowed them to be thrown into the crucible. They were not delivered from the fire, but God entered the flames and delivered them in the fire. (Psalm 23:4; Isaiah 43:1-3; Romans 8:36-37). The God who met these friends in the flames is the same God who would one day go all the way to the cross to join us in our exile and slavery. He is the very same Jesus who also invites us to take up our own cross as we follow Him in the world.

Bridging the Gap from Daniel to today: 

Herr Baldur von Schirach declared in 1936, “One cannot be a good German and at the same time deny God, but an arousal of faith in the eternal German is at the same time an arousal of faith in the eternal God. If we act as true Germans we act according to the laws of God. Whoever serves Adolf Hitler, the Führer, serves Germany, and whoever serves Germany serves God”

Five years later in an essay, “The Gods of the Nations and God,” Martin Buber observed how every nation is inclined to make an idol of its own inner spirit; Israel’s calling was to erect a throne to God rather than to itself, and “that is why every nation is bound to desire to get rid of us at the time it is in the act of setting itself up as the absolute

The reality of the holocaust that followed prevents us from regarding chapters such as Dan 3 as children’s stories. 

(From John Goldingay’s Word Biblical Commentary on Daniel.) 

If you didn’t pick up the Study Guide for this week you can download a copy here:

 Go Deeper:

Did you know that some of Daniel was written in Aramaic? The producers of The Bible Project describes this, and many other interesting aspects of the flow and theme of the Book of Daniel. They have created dozens of quality videos helping churches understand books and themes throughout the Scriptures. Check out this overview of Daniel as we dive into this fascinating book: 

For further study of Daniel we recommend the following commentaries and Bible Dictionaries: 

Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 23. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1978.

Goldingay, John. Daniel and The Twelve Prophets for Everyone. Old Testament for Everyone. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016.

Goldingay, John E. Daniel. Vol. 30. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989.

Longman, Tremper, III. Daniel. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999.

Dictionary of Biblical Imagery. InterVarsity Press, 1998. 

The IVP Bible Background Commentary of the Old Testament. InterVarsity Press, 2000. 

The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Available free at Logos.com 

New Bible Dictionary. InterVarsity Press, 1996. 

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