Unarguably, one of the varied dimensions of fear is PARANOIA. It is the Greek word for FEAR, used to describe the insanity of fear. It is experienced as longstanding feelings and perception of being persecuted. It is an extreme emotional state combined with cognition or delusions that one is in danger. You will hear statements like “one should not be paranoid” and “I have a phobia for sounds in the dark” for example. Timothy was constitutionally paranoid because Paul had been incarcerated and more so from the pains and afflictions that came as a result of preaching and teaching the Gospel. This is the reason why Paul wrote a letter to him encouraging him that the spirit he had received was from God and that Spirit did not accommodate phobia/paranoia but love and diligence/sound mind.
Nebuchadnezzar was no joke. He was nothing to play with. His name means tears and groans of judgment. As his name epitomizes, he was an epithet of pain and wickedness. Nineveh was a strong city that seemed indomitable, men feared to go to the country. Jonah refused to go to Nineveh even at the appeal and call of God. He went instead to Tarshish. Finally God cornered him and Jonah expressed his heart felt concern that the men of Nineveh did not need to be saved because of their wickedness. This would give one an insight into the wickedness of the country and all Jonah felt they deserved was retribution from God and nothing else.
Nebuchadnezzar and his men (Scythians) conquered Nineveh, which was a great accomplishment to them. He had fifty thousand men called Scythians who tied men to chariots and had a bet on how they could split them into two physically. He also sieged the city of Jerusalem and did not allow people to eat or get food until mothers started to eat their children as food. Nebuchadnezzar was nothing to play with. He was no joke. It was Nebuchadnezzar who killed Zedekiah’s son. The last thing Zedekiah witnessed was how Nebuchadnezzar killed his son. Nebuchadnezzar nailed King Zedekiah’s tongue to his chin, set him on his chariot and went back to Babylon. Traumatic and disturbing you would say!
Everywhere his name was mentioned, people became very paranoid; everywhere people saw him, great fear came upon them. “No go area” was a statement synonymous with Nebuchadnezzar. The fear of Nebuchadnezzar was ticket for living in Babylon. Everyone feared him; no one wanted direct contact with him. People who had never seen him heard of him and still the phobia was like they saw him physically. It was that bad. Phobia is a devastating mental attitude, the more you surrender to it, the more fearful you become: the extent to which you surrender to fear, the greater your capacity for fear and the more you increase its power in your life.
The achievement of conquering Nineveh got into his head to the point that he made an image of gold whose height was sixty cubits and whose width was sixty cubits. This image was setup at the plains of Dora, which was in the Babylonian province/region. The idea behind was to get everyone to worship this image.
He soon summoned the princes, governors, captains, judges, treasurers, counselors, sheriffs and all the rulers of the different regions inviting them for the dedication of the newly erected image he (Nebuchadnezzar) had setup. Without excuse, they all turned up at the dedication and they all stood before the image. Only God knew what went on in their minds, but unuttered. Some would have stood wondering what this is all about. Some would have wondered what the next command would be. Some would have stood not knowing what to think or what to do.
As they all stood looking at the image, a herald cried out with a loud voice saying, “to you it is commanded, O people, nations and languages, when you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar, the King has set up. Anyone who refuses to worship the image would be thrown into the midst of a burning fiery furnace”. What a consequence when anyone rebels or disobeys. Of course, it’s Nebuchadnezzar, who will refuse. When all that were present heard the sound, they all bowed down to the image that the King had set up.
Among the people that lived in this great city were the people of God who had been captured in Babylon in bondage, the Israelites. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were part of the people of God captured by Nebuchadnezzar. Apparently some of the Jews had refused to bow in worship to this idol and were reported to Nebuchadnezzar by the Chaldeans. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not bow down in worship to the golden calf that Nebuchadnezzar setup. We all know the story that they were summoned by the King. They had refused the order of the King and to people around them, death loomed. It was the end of their lives because Nebuchadnezzar wouldn’t spare them, they thought.
Surprisingly, Nebuchadnezzar warned them again because he held them in high esteem knowing that they had great wisdom, which they got from God. He had set the three men over the province of Babylon. He told them to go and think about the consequences of not bowing to the golden image. In other words, I wouldn’t like to get you killed children because you have been good to me; you have time to bow to the golden image as far as Nebuchadnezzar was concerned.
It has been written of these three that they were men who had no blemish; they were well favored, skillful in all wisdom and understanding science. More importantly they had the ability to stand in the palace of the King. The King also appointed them a daily provision of the King’s meat and of the wine he drank. They were fed for three years so that at the end of three years they would eventually stand before the King.
The story of Nebuchadnezzar stands as an epic that will remain stenciled on the mental sheets of unfolding generations but little did the city of Babylon know that these three men knew better. They knew God was the creator of the entire universe. They knew God had the power and never doubted the power of God to deliver. They knew the golden image setup up by the king was something created that couldn’t take the place of the creator. They had God in epoch and history.
Nebuchadnezzar threw the challenge to their God, threatening that if they crossed the red line, they would trigger and change his calculus: not bowing down to the golden image would be unacceptable by the king. There would be consequences and they would be held accountable. The three men knew the consequences of rebellion was them ending up in the midst of the fiery burning furnace. They replied the King immediately saying “your continued threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, o King. But even if God does not rescue us, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference o King. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up”.
No one has ever spoken to Nebuchadnezzar in this way and manner, people around will wonder. Nebuchadnezzar would also be perturbed and would want to show himself as the wicked king he is.
The King’s face changed and in anger he cut them off in their speeches and ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times over the usual settings. He then ordered some strong men from the army to tie them up, hands and feet and also ordered them to be thrown in the fiery furnace. They were eventually thrown in the furnace completely dressed up and because the King was in a hurry, the furnace was so hot that flames from the furnace killed the men who carried them to it, while the fire raged around Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
The King was alarmed and in his panic, he saw four men in the fire and the fire did not consume them. The King confessed to the fact that the fourth man looked like the Son of God. He ordered for them to come out of the furnace. The princes, governors, captains and counselors saw these men upon whose bodies the fire had no impact – not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them.
Immediately the order of worship was changed. Nebuchadnezzar confessed the blessedness of the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who has sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in Him! They ignored a king to obey the King, laying their lives on the line rather than serve or worship any other god but the creator. He issued a decree: that anyone of race, color or creed who says anything against the God of these three men will be ripped into pieces, limb from limb and their houses would be torn down because there has never been a god who can pull off a rescue of this kind. Therefore the three men were promoted in the province of Babylon.
What earned them this ovation was their tenacity and the “if not” clause. They were ready to die even if God does not rescue them from the King. Had they died, it would have been said of them that they never bowed, that was why they were killed. Job said even if God slew him, he would die trusting in him.
The “if not” clause did not mean God couldn’t deliver them but that they were not with God because He could deliver, or for what they could get from him, but they were ready to worship this same God even if He (God) did not deliver them. They needed to get into the fire to discover the fourth man!
Some of us today worship God because of what we expect him to do in our lives and if it doesn’t go our way, we get depressed and begin to question His power and authority and before we know it we are bowing down to the different images made by man.
You need that “IF NOT” clause to make a difference and definite stand for God.