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Daniel 3:19-23 -

The brief reign of violence.

It is only consistent with the sketches of Nebuchadnezzar's character furnished us, to believe that he was not naturally a cruel man; nor was he so rigid an idolater as to oppose the worship of Jehovah. He was self-willed, excitable, easily inflamed; and was too easily led away by the base designs of others. For the moment he yielded to the excitement of passion. His autocratic pride had been wounded, and he would tolerate no resistance.

I. WE SEE VIOLENCE SUMMONING INTO THE FIELD ALL ITS FORCES , The king is "full of fury." His inward composure is disturbed. His very skin changes its hue. The blood rises and recedes with strange rapidity. Every muscle and nerve are stretched to highest tension. A very madness has seized the man. Reason is overborne as by a sudden tempest. Wisdom, sagacity, judgment, dignity, are drowned in a flood of uncontrollable feeling. Poor man! what an object of pity! He is verily possessed by a demon—"set on fire of hell."

II. WE SEE VIOLENCE OVERREACHING ITS OWN END . The king commanded that the furnace should be heated sevenfold, because of the independent boldness of the slandered Hebrews. This was a suggestion of wanton cruelty. But it would really benefit the innocent victims, inasmuch as it would shorten their sufferings. Yet reason had forsaken the king, and had fled into humbler bosoms. His unrestrained violence was weakness itself. Physical force is destined to fail.

III. WE SEE VIOLENCE INJURING ITS OWN FRIENDS . As the Midianites, when pursued by Gideon in the night, slew unwittingly their own comrades, so the weapons which Nebuchadnezzar's violence was sharpening were injuring those who handled them. The command to execute the Hebrew heroes was assigned to Chaldea's mightiest veterans. Very likely they had egged the king on in this shameless course, and were only too glad to do thoroughly the cruel deed. There is always weakness in haste. Justice is ever calm, for time is on her side. She waits her conquests with sweet composure. But now this cruel eagerness to destroy, lest forsooth the king should relent—this eagerness, is fatal to the proud captains. Endeavouring to slay others, their sword turns into their own breast. The material flame is alive with judicial discernment—has learnt from its Creator whom to slay and whom to save. "Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth!"

IV. WE SEE VIOLENCE APPARENTLY TRIUMPHANT . God has not yet appeared on behalf of his injured advocates. Lo! they are bound, and no angelic hands present! Lo! they are cast into the fiery oven; they fall down into the very midst of the glowing coals! Has not justice abandoned our earth? Now may Violence wag her head and shake her tongue! How she is loud-voiced and jubilant indeed! How eloquent are her taunts[ "Where is now their boasted God? What profit now in all their prayers? These paragons of piety—where are they now? Did we not predict their discomfiture? Ah I so would we have it!"—D.

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