A Cruel Tyrant


Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:8-15 ESV

Why do the nations rage
 and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.” Psalm 2:1-3 ESV


Long ago the Roman empire was ruled for a few years by an emperor named Caligula. Caligula was a cruel tyrant who often said, “Remember that I have the right to do anything to anybody.” Some of the things he did were weird, like making merchant ships form a floating bridge across a bay so he could spend two days galloping back and forth on it, or leading his soldiers to the battle front on the Rhine River or the English Channel and having them fill their helmets with sea shells. But many of the things he did were terribly cruel. For example, he made some of the senators run for miles in front of his chariot. He put many people to death, even for reasons such as mentioning a goat in his presence. After ruling for a few years, he was stabbed to death by military officers. After that happened people said that he “learned by actual experience that he was not a god.”

Nebuchadnezzar was also a cruel tyrant in many ways. When he made a golden image, he passed a law that forced everyone to bow down to it. Anyone who didn’t do that was to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t think he had to answer to anyone, not to God or to any person. When he found out that Daniel’s three friends hadn’t bowed down to his golden image, he was furious with them. He said that there was no way that anyone, human or a god, could save them from the punishment he had prepared for them. Nebuchadnezzar had made himself into a god, and expected everyone and everything to bow to his will and do everything he wanted them to, no matter what it was.

We might think people like Caligula and Nebuchadnezzar were terrible people, but in a way we’re like them. We want to do whatever we want, and we want to make other people do what we want them to do. We don’t want to have to answer to anyone, not even to God. We want to make ourselves into gods, and this is the root of what sin is. Because of our sin and rebellion against God, we deserve God’s punishment forever, and there’s no way we could ever save ourselves. But God came to us in Jesus to save us by dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Because of Jesus, God forgives our sins every day, and he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us follow his ways instead of our own.


Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive our sinful rebellion against you, and help us to follow your ways in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.