Whatever the cost.
Bible Study Ideas and Commentary for Daniel 3:14-26
In this famous story of the fiery furnace, we see the right way to hold to our Christian convictions -- without hesitation, trusting God with the outcome. God may miraculously preserve our lives/livelihoods, and He may not, but that must not change how we respond to anyone who would test our faith. As we are fond of saying -- faith over fear.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God—come out!” (3:26)
For the last almost-two-years, many of us have had a sign in our yards saying "faith over fear" (the picture was of the rainbow, not the sign, but that's it next to the cross). The context was the pandemic -- "do not let our fear of the unknown future take us away from our commitment to Jesus". In this week's lesson, we will talk about a very specific fear that we may never face -- the fear of being killed for our faith in Jesus. But I want us to use this sign to remember that challenges to our faith come in many forms, and we need to be able to handle each one with the faith and boldness as the heroes of this week's story.
Getting Started: Things to Think About
By far, the most important discussion topic of this week's passage is the three young men's bold stand for God in the face of execution. But I propose starting in a different place: "In this week's passage, we are going to read about two astounding split-second decisions:
Nebuchadnezzar choosing the execute three of his favorite advisors because they would not worship a golden statue he had commissioned;
Three young Jews choosing, without hesitation, to accept certain death because they refused to follow the king's order.
We all make split-second decisions (regularly), but are they always the right ones? How can we train ourselves to make quick but godly choices?
(Note: we're going to talk a lot more about Nebuchadnezzar next week! Don't spend too much time telling his story in this lesson. Let the focus be on the heroes.)
Here's why I think this topic works: our society (and economy) is based on getting us to do things "on a whim" (usually involving spending money), and social media has become the virus it has because it preys on our tendency to speak before thinking.
Nebuchadnezzar reacted impulsively and his decision cost people their lives. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego reacted impulsively (or was it?) and their decision was absolutely the right thing to do.
What's our track record with impulsive / split-second decisions?
Your Most Impulsive Decision
Being impulsive means to "act without thinking". We have all done it. (And some people try to dress it up by calling it "being spontaneous".)
Blurting something out without really thinking
Clicking "send" without really thinking
Buying something without really thinking
Taking a trip or going to an event without really thinking
Sometimes these impulsive decisions work out great! And sometimes they don't. You might find yourself with the best seats in the house for the best concert you've ever heard. And you might end up with scuba gear in your closet that you'll never use.
For me, it's impulse buying. There are two (or three) places I'm particularly vulnerable -- a "bargain store" and the "as seen on tv" aisle at Walmart. (And a bookstore, but there aren't so many of those anymore.)
Look at those! It's a toy that flops like a fish! No, I don't have a cat -- why does that matter?
I have no idea if these statistics are real or not, but that really doesn't matter. I'm just using them to get you thinking:
People average 3 impulse buys per week, resulting in $5,000 per year
People at the grocery store will spend 1/2 to 2/3s more by buying things that weren't strictly on their shopping list
4 out of 5 parents admit to impulse toy purchases for a demanding child
Almost half of all impulse purchases are gadgets (I can't see this being true)
People admitted to spending more than expected on delivery/takeout
Is any of that true for you? Probably -- considering our entire economy is built on the premise that retailers can get you to purchase things you don't need.
Anyway, there are two ways you can pursue this:
What's the best outcome (you are willing to share) from an impulsive decision you've made? and/or
What's the worst outcome (you are willing to share) from an impulsive decision you've made? (There are a number of terrible impulsive choices I've made in the past that I'd just as soon leave in the past. I learned my lesson; let's move on.)
I had friends say that I was being impulsive when I asked Shelly to marry me (we hadn't known each other for very long); however you label it, I was right.
So then, this is your transition question: "How can you ensure that your 'impulsive' decisions are the right ones?"
The answer is pretty simple: with a few exceptions (more on this below), our impulsive decisions line up with who we are. We behave according to our character. So, if we want our "impulsive" decisions to bring glory to God (like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), we need to commit to thinking, acting, and being like Jesus.
When we have learned how to "think like Jesus", we can know that our reactions will be God-honoring because they will be in tune with the Holy Spirit at work within us.
Aside on Impulsive Decisions
I learned a lot about this topic this week. It doesn't really apply to the lesson, so I'm just going to skim over it. But I thought you might find it interesting...
Kids are notoriously impulsive, and that's because their brains are still developing. They are learning how to make decisions. Here are the kinds of things to look out for in kids:
Being impatient (not understanding "wait your turn")
Saying things at inappropriate times
Becoming physically aggressive
Doing something dangerous without realizing it
(Just kids?) Kids who behave like this are often labeled as troublemakers because they don't "follow rules" like other kids. Parents of impulsive children can get very frustrated, leading to years of tension. The way to help a child grow through that is patient, consistent training.
Adults tend to be impulsive in different ways than kids:
Bingeing (not just tv, but shopping, eating, etc.)
Fits of anger (that may result in injury or destruction of property)
Escalation (particularly of things that aren't really a big deal)
Joining/Quitting (groups, jobs, relationships, etc.)
One thing I learned is that impulsive behavior can easily be exacerbated by an underlying disorder. The most common is ADHD -- and it should only make sense why someone with ADHD would have a tendency to behave impulsively. Any disorder that affects personality can easily cause someone to behave impulsively. Drug and alcohol abuse leads to impulsive actions by inhibiting the decision-making process. Both kleptomania and pyromania are impulsive disorders, which makes sense if you think about it.
In other words, if you have a friend who struggles with impulsive actions, they might need your help to work through it. And you should help them!
Websites that talk about ways to work through these struggles (short of medical intervention) talk about the importance of accountability partners, role-playing scenarios designed to help you identify your way out of a dangerous situation, and actual physical controls to restrict your access to those things that trigger your impulsivity.
Isn't that also how Christians are counseled to get control of our sin?
That only makes sense. The sins that really gall me are when I behave impulsively -- I know what I should do, and in a split-second I choose not to do it. By helping others learn how not to be derailed by impulsive actions, I can help myself weed out some of the sin in my life.
Very interesting, don't you think? Again, it doesn't really have anything to do with our passage, but I will tuck it away in my database of unexpected ways the Bible speaks into my life.
This Week's Big Idea: The Frog in the Kettle
In 1990 (!!), George Barna published a seminal book -- The Frog in the Kettle: What Christians Need to Know about Life in the Year 2000 -- based on the old fable that a frog dropped into a kettle of boiling water will immediately try to jump out, but if you drop it in tepid water and very slowly bring it to boil, it will stay and boil to death. Barna's argument was that American culture is changing to slowly that Christians will find themselves in a hostile environment without even realizing what happened.
So, yeah, seems he was right.
Let's start here -- the illustration is not scientifically accurate. Once frogs get uncomfortable, they will jump out of the kettle. Unfortunately, that led a number of reviewers to dismiss the book without actually dealing with the content! But we all understand what he was trying to say. When changes happen gradually, we might dismiss them. But when they happen suddenly, you can't ignore them.
Here are two illustrations that come to mind:
Ask yourself -- how much have your children changed in the last hour? What about in the last 5 years?
How much has the city/town you live in changed in the last few months? How about the last 20 years?
There's a trick that makes this illustration easy: photographs. If you aren't convinced that your kids or your town (or you, for that matter!) have changed a whole lot, you can look at older photos and compare.
But how can you "photograph" a culture?
Some things can be measured, like demographics and economics and where people live:
Some things are a lot harder to measure:
People have fewer friends today than 30 years ago: The state of American friendship: Change, challenges, and loss - The Survey Center on American Life (americansurveycenter.org)
People are more stressed today than in the 1990s: Why Americans Are More Stressed Today Than They Were in the 1990s (healthline.com)
Identity politics and a threat to democracy: 30 Years of World Politics: What Has Changed? | Journal of Democracy
But no one will argue that America hasn't changed drastically in the past two generations.
What changes have you observed in your life and family? How have you been able to navigate those changes? And most importantly -- how have those changes affected your walk with Christ?
I have tried to put myself in the shoes of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There they were -- respected advisors to the king! Then, all of a sudden, their Jewish convictions (which had never been a problem) meant that they would be executed. That came fast, and it was beyond their control. (But see below for Nebuchadnezzar's pattern.)
America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave. We need to act in every way possible to keep it that way. But are we prepared to stand against the culture when it is so much easier to drift along with it? And if the culture puts us in danger for our Christian faith, are we prepared to stand for Jesus? According to Transparency International, many governments used the pandemic to gain greater control over their countries, and if those governments become corrupted, there can be near-certain human rights abuses.
On this map from their website, the darker the color, the more corrupt the country. A lot of Christians live in places where they are liable to face the same treatment as the heroes in this week's story. We should pray for and support the cause of human rights and freedom, just as we do for the promotion of the gospel.
Where We Are in Daniel
Last week, I noted that the first 6 chapters contain six representative events from Daniel's time serving in the Babylonian court. Chapter 2 occurs very early on in their tenure, the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. (This likely means that Daniel and his friends were still in training (which explains why they weren't summoned initially), although the way that years are counted could possibly mean that they had just "graduated".) Anyway, God gave Nebuchadnezzar a disturbing dream about the future, that his kingdom will one day be supplanted. He wanted to know what the dream meant, but he would not tell anyone what it was. The Babylonian wise men said that the king's request was impossible, and in a fit of rage (like we will read about in this week's passage), the king ordered all of the wise men put to death! Daniel intervened, not just on his own behalf but on behalf of all of the wise men (a very gracious act on his part), and explained the dream to the king.
Daniel, or whoever put the final edition of this book together, included this particular episode to demonstrate that God's wisdom is superior to Babylonian wisdom. This followed the conclusion of the previous chapter in which the king might think that the young Jews were so knowledgeable and effective because of superior Babylonian training and diet, but the reader understands it's all because of God.
We don't have a handy date for chapter 3 except that it was long enough for the king to forget what he said at the end of chapter 2 (however long that would take):
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell facedown, worshiped Daniel, and gave orders to present an offering and incense to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Your God is indeed God of gods, Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, since you were able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many generous gifts. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and chief governor over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to manage the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.
Clearly, chapter 3 is intended to make Nebuchadnezzar's foolishness (? double-mindedness? capriousness?) very clear to the reader. This man can't be trusted.
In chapter 3, he orders a massive golden statue (90 feet tall!) and sets a time for everyone in the government to "dedicate" it by worshiping it. (When the herald says "people from every nation", he meant the gathered government officials who represented every nation.) Perhaps he didn't think this at all inconsistent about what he had earlier said about the Hebrew God. Perhaps he just completely forgot. Perhaps he didn't mean it in the first place.
Anyway, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not worship the golden statue. And Babylonian officials who were extremely jealous of their position and ability immediately brought this to the attention of the king. Again, either the king did not make the connection or simply forgot what he had said before, but he ordered the three to worship the statue on pain of death, and that's where our lesson picks up.
Part 1: Allegiance Declared (Daniel 3:14-18)
14 Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. 17 If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. 18 But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
For very obvious reasons, there are some of the most memorable and beloved verses in the entire Bible.
But the background plays out like a satire with Nebuchadnezzar playing the role of the spoof villain:
CAMERA pans up on impressive golden statue surrounded by people dressed in styles from around the world. ROYAL PROCESSION enters scene led by many musicians, followed by the KING in grand regalia.
Close-up on HERALD who reads the royal edict; cutaway to KING looking smug.
Musicians begin to play; everyone bows down except for three men, causing the musicians to awkwardly stop. KING'S ADVISOR gleefully points out the problem to the KING, who calls the three men to him.
Thinking they had simply not heard the edict, he repeats it to the three men [speaking loudly]. CAMERA pans left to a massive burning furnace with a big sign saying "Conscientious Objectors This Way".
If it weren't for the threat of death, the whole scene is preposterous. Gathering all of the government officials together to worship a gaudy, over-the-top golden statue. Led by a huge entourage of musicians. (I can't help but think of street processions from the Middle Ages.) This is Bible shorthand for "basically every kind of instrument the king could find someone qualified to play".
Nebuchadnezzar's words in verse 15 are intended to be threatening and frightening, but because the editor put them immediately after his words in 2:47, they just sound silly. The editor has quite brilliantly shaped the events so that the reader knows that God is about to remind Nebuchadnezzar of his place.
But the three young Jews take it to yet another level of drama. Their words in 3:16-18 have encouraged and inspired for countless generations. In fact, I'm convinced that anything I try to say about them will just take away from them!
Some things worth pointing out:
God doesn't need to be defended by us. If we go into a religious debate thinking we need to defend God's honor, we will fail. If we calmly state the facts as the Bible shares them (illuminated by the Holy Spirit within us), God will bring the event to the necessary conclusion.
The Jews did not speak on God's behalf, nor did they put God to the test. They said, truthfully, that God was more than able to rescue them from even certain death. But that was not why the Jews served God! God was not their get-out-of-hell free card; God was the One True God. They would worship only Him.
This leads immediately to the final application of this lesson. The end of the story isn't actually important! If the men had died in the fiery furnace, the power and meaning of the story wouldn't have changed at all. It would just be much less popular and probably not used in children's ministries. The men did not tie their allegiance to God because He would save them from execution; they simply knew that He could.
And that's the hardest -- but most important -- truth we need to take away from this lesson. Think of it in terms of what Jesus said (Matthew 10):
26 “Therefore, don’t be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. 28 Don’t fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32 Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever denies me before others, I will also deny him before my Father in heaven.
Is that not astonishingly appropriate to our text? Will you fear Nebuchadnezzar, or will you fear God. One of those two cares intimately about you and has the power to preserve your soul for eternity. And one of those ... does not.
What are the ways you "acknowledge Jesus before others" in our world today? What are the ways you "disown Jesus before others"?
The odds are that we will not be faced with certain death unless we deny Jesus (not in our lifetimes in Thomson Georgia). Not in those terms. But we will be faced with lots of other choices. Last week, I mentioned the florist who was sued for refused to do flowers for a gay wedding, and the football coach who was fired for praying on the field. Those are the kinds of sacrifices we may be faced with. Perhaps the better wording might be this: "You can say that you would die for Jesus, but how are you willing to live for Jesus?"
Aside: Religious Persecution in the Bible
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego weren't the only heroes in the Bible who were persecuted. Far from it! The author of Hebrews started with Daniel in mind and hinted at so much more (Heb 11):
32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
Jeremiah was treated horribly for being a true prophet of God.
Stephen was killed by the Jewish leaders!
Jesus was executed for what He believed (and, yes, a lot more).
Peter did disown Jesus when faced with potential threat of persecution!
Peter's story gives us the comfort of knowing that disowning Jesus in public doesn't have to be the end for us. It is a sin that can be forgiven. Peter gave in to fear. When faced with a split-second decision, our impulse might also be to give in to fear (self-preservation). Like the heroes in our story, we want our impulse to be faith over fear.
Bonus Aside: Where Was Daniel?
A startling omission from this story is Daniel. As the hero of the book writ large, why didn't he boldly defy the king's orders?
This is where I think we have to take note of 2:49, where Daniel is explicitly distinguished from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They had a job, and Daniel had a different job. Daniel served in the court proper; they served with the other officials.
When you read other commentators, they usually explain this by saying (1) Daniel was away on royal business, or (2) Daniel was sick. Either of those works just fine. The point of the episode is that Daniel was not the only heroic God-fearer in Babylon. Daniel wanted his three friends to get their due for their faithfulness to God, which is why he made sure to include them in his book.
I have two other possible explanations:
Daniel was there and also defying the order. However, the jealous courtiers went after the much easier targets. Daniel did not intervene because he had the same faith and wanted God to get the glory for the outcome, not him. -or-
[This is the one that I lean toward:] Daniel knew about the statue and the gathering, but Nebuchadnezzar made an impulsive decision to have the statue dedicated through worship. Daniel did not know about that, and so he was simply not in attendance (he was too busy and important to bother with every government ceremony).
Part 2: Persecution Intensified (Daniel 3:19-23)
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary, 20 and he commanded some of the best soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 So these men, in their trousers, robes, head coverings, and other clothes, were tied up and thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 22 Since the king’s command was so urgent and the furnace extremely hot, the raging flames killed those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire.
The word "rage" is one of the reasons I think Nebuchadnezzar may have put this whole thing together rather impulsively. "Rage" is used of an uncontrollable emotion -- something I mentioned above with respect to impulsive behavior in adults. These three men were favored advisors -- men who were the best in the kingdom at what they did! How stupid and shortsighted to execute them!
[Aside: Sadly, we all know enough of history to know that this is not uncommon. Nazi Germany, Communist Russia (and China and North Korea), Monarchial Rome (and England), and more. (Note: not all "mad" rulers have to be murderous: 10 (Allegedly) Mad Monarchs - HISTORY) Nebuchadnezzar was in a position to act with impunity (well, at least until next week's passage), and so he did.]
Nebuchadnezzar was so angry that his face changed (contorted). My mom mastered a "look" (you know what I'm talking about). When she gave me "the look" I knew to tread lightly. But that "look" was never uncontrollable anger. I think we have all seen when a person becomes uncontrollably angry -- their face does something truly frightening. This, I'm assuming, is what the Bible is describing.
"Seven times more" is poetic. They didn't have thermometers. The point is that Nebuchadnezzar went way beyond what was necessary to execute people by fire (that statement felt very strange coming out of my brain).
I don't know very much about fire. If you have someone in your group connected with the fire department or EMS, ask them about just how hot a fire can get. According to the internet, fire can easily get to 600 degrees (!) at face level in an enclosed space, which will almost immediately kill you by scorching your lungs. Clothes can be melted to the skin almost instantaneously.
[Aside: that might be the reason for the clothing detail. Leaving their clothes on was intended to make the execution even more painful. Other scholars say it indicates just how quickly the king's order was carried out.]
But this was not a house fire. A house fire can burn as hot as 1500 degrees (!) -- but a furnace for smelting can get upwards of 3000-4000 degrees (!!!). Babylonians were on the cutting edge of these technologies, so we can believe this was a very hot fire.
[Aside: the ability to "make a fire hotter" was a key part of technological breakthroughs to get to and through the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Stronger metals generally require hotter temperatures to work.]
Note that the fire "raged" just as Nebuchadnezzar raged. Both could be uncontrollably destructive -- but we will see how easily God conquered the raging fire (with the implication being...)
Part 3: God Honored (Daniel 3:24-26)
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king. 25 He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God—come out!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire.
We know how the story turned out, and that makes the story much easier to share!
The fire was burning so hot that the king could see into it! (Usually, black smoke is part of the great danger of a fire.) And not only did he see the three men alive and unharmed, but he also saw a "fourth man" (more on this below).
One of my favorite thought exercises is to wonder what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were doing and thinking in the furnace. Certainly, they must have expected to die going into the flames. They hit the ground expecting to die. And eventually, they realized that they were not going to die. What else can go through your head except "huh!" (In superhero movies, they play this realization for a laugh.) Anyway, being approached in the fire by a "son of the gods" would have been the second-most surprising thing that happened to them that day. At that moment, I'm guessing you can take anything in stride.
Nebuchadnezzar approaches the fire (but not too close!) and makes another dramatic shift (this is clearer if you read the next few verses):
3:28-29 “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. ... For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this.”
Compare to 3:15 "Who is the god who can rescue you from my power?”
And 2:47 "“Your God is indeed God of gods, Lord of kings."
Pick a lane, bro.
He would have had to yell to be heard over the roar of the fire, but I imagine the same supernatural power that preserved them in the flames allowed them to hear through the flames.
God does not intervene miraculously in every case of persecution (if He did, there would be no need for faith). But when He does, we can rejoice.
Here's our question: will we maintain our faith even when He does not?
Will we trust God to preserve us in the way that matters most -- our eternal soul?
Closing Thoughts: Who Was in the Furnace with Them?
Nebuchadnezzar describes this fourth person as "a son of the gods". As Christians, we really can't help but see Jesus -- the actual Son of God -- in the fire with them. Elsewhere, Nebuchadnezzar calls him an "angel", but that doesn't necessary mean anything either. What other options does Nebuchadnezzar have? The point is that this is clearly a supernatural visitor in a supernatural event.
Option 1 is this is actually one of God's angels. For whatever reason, that strikes Christian readers as a disappointment. Stop that! Being visited by an angel is not a "consolation prize" if Jesus is busy elsewhere.
Option 2 is this is Jesus. The question is -- how would that work? Before Jesus was incarnate (born to Mary), He was (and still is) God in every way that God the Father is God. Omnipotent, omniscient, no one can look on Him and live. Right? So, how could He appear with ordinary people and not immediately kill them by His presence?
Well, this might be in the same category as how Christian scholars have identified "the angel of the Lord" (as in Gen 16, Num 22, Jud 6 & 13, etc.). This figure, who shows up at key events in the Old Testament, speaks with the authority of God in the first person. So, it could be an angel, but it could also be God Himself. And because Jesus is the member of the Trinity who condescended to walk on earth as a human, those scholars conclude that these appearances are of preincarnate Jesus (maybe even looking like He will when He is Mary's son -- let that blow your mind), who will walk among us in ways that God the Father does not.
Here's the short answer -- the Bible doesn't say, so we don't know (for certain).
Jesus wasn't sitting in the throne room twiddling His thumbs waiting to be born; He was active just as the Father was active. And doing something like appearing to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in a furnace seems like something Jesus would do. But if it was not Jesus, that would not make this story any less amazing or important.