The year was 608 before the Common Era. Jehoiakim was king of Judah. Judah was a little jewel that the kings of the south (Egypt) and north (Syria, Assyria, and Babylon) coveted. To keep his head and his throne Jehoiakim, had to play diplomatic games with his greedy neighbors. Babylon was more than a thousand miles away, whereas Egypt was only three hundred miles away. The smart move would be to play footsy with the Pharaohs. Rather than looking to the Lord of Host as his protector, Jehoiakim did the political thing and looked for a “big brother” in Pharaoh. Poor choice indeed, as Nebuchadnezzar soon took Jehoiakim and a large contingency of the ruling class of Judah captive. Among that group were preppies: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, who were given Chaldean names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
They were to become “faithful” advisors to Nebuchadnezzar. They were favored with the best quarters, the best teachers, and the best food and drink the king could provide. Horrors of horrors, the food and drink didn’t meet the kosher code. Now they were in deep trouble. On the long trek from Jerusalem to Babylon, they had pledged to be faithful to their God. But one doesn’t turn down the King’s hospitality without risk. No one knew that better than Melzar, the immediate supervisor of the stubborn four!
With great tact, Daniel proposed a test. Give us ten days on the kosher diet. A great idea; in ten days Melzar would expect compliance—much better than to force a test of wills. To his surprise, in ten days, the four troublemakers were ten times smarter then their classmates. There is no mention of a pretest!
Now for the real test! King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, a troubling dream, which had completely vanished from his mind. He couldn’t dismiss it. So he called for his Chaldeans—who proudly claimed to divine dreams. No luck. Now the king was angry: “I’ve given you my best housing, my best food, academic freedom, and now you fail me. Frauds, all of you—you will pay with your heads!”
Daniel, just a lad, asked for a stay. He went to his three friends and their companions with the issue. They obviously had an earnest prayer session—nothing clears the mind like a death sentence.
That night, Daniel received the same dream. The next day, Daniel related the dream and its meaning. Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold of an image of gold, silver, brass, and iron. Nebuchadnezzar was the king of kings: heady stuff to a proud potentate.
The more Nebuchadnezzar thought about it, the more impulsive he became. “I am not going to be only the head of gold, I am going to be the entire image of gold.” So he commissioned a golden statute set on a high platform—a Babylonian Statute of Nonliberty if you please. Best estimates are that the statute and its base were about 110 feet in height.
Not content with a simple dedication, Nebuchadnezzar demanded worship, understanding that the one who commanded worship was greater than the thing worshipped! Not content with a simple command, Nebuchadnezzar built a fiery furnace as an incentive! The command was to bow or to die by fire! Not a bad analogy, for Isaiah describes the throne of God surrounded by an eternal fire.
Of course everybody bowed. Or did they? Somebody looked and counted! Yes, it was those three troublemakers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego! That got to Nebuchadnezzar; he demanded that the furnace be made seven times hotter, and that the three lads be bound and thrown into the fire. It was, they were, they did, and the throwers died. Then Nebuchadnezzar was astonished to see not three but four men walking unharmed in the midst of the flames. One, he exclaimed, looked like the Son of God. We now know from the pen of Daniel that at least four men have looked directly into the face of the Goldsmith!
Just two years ago, I had my second hip replacement. Our children gave me an iPod prior to surgery so I could record my favorite hymns and classical music. One was a Mormon Tabernacle Choir number: “Peace Like a River.” The music and the message thrilled my soul. I had to know the story behind it.
Horatio Spafford was a Christian attorney with a practice in downtown Chicago. He lost most of his investments in the 1871 Chicago fire. At about the same time, he and his wife lost their only son.
About two years later, the Spaffords decided to join Dwight Moody and Ira Sankey on one of their crusades in England. Mrs. Spafford went ahead with Mr. Spafford to follow as soon as business allowed. Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters traveled on the Ville De Havre, which was struck by an English ship near Newfoundland. The Ville De Havre sunk in twenty minutes. All four girls were lost. Mrs. Spafford wired her husband. The telegram read: “Saved Alone!” Mr. Spafford boarded the next ship to be with his grieving wife. When they met Moody, Mr. Spafford said: “It is well, the will of God be done.” Out of that acceptance came a hymn taken from Isaiah 66:12: “For thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream.”
For all those who have been tried in the fire, yet kept their eye on the Goldsmith’s face:
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll: Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well it is well with my soul.
It is well, with my soul, It is well, with my soul, It is well, it is well, with my soul.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.
If anyone looked into the face of the Goldsmith, it was Spafford, and he liked what he saw.
Can’t you hear Jacob after wrestling all night, Joseph down in the well; David in a cave; Job on an ash heap; Jeremiah in the pit; Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego in the furnace; Daniel in the lions’ den; John the Baptist in prison; Paul shipwrecked three times; Huss and Jerome and a thousand worthies all singing: “It is well with my soul”? All because the man who was God “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:8).
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/94