- Some of the greatest tests of our integrity, and the strength of our relationship with God, come when we have to make a decision to go along with a group or crowd that does not honor God, or to dig in and refuse to do/say something that violates our relationship with God as our Lord and Ruler.
- Exodus 20:1 Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.
- What are the ingredients of the persecution of God’s people? There is an EXPECTATION that the people of God will fully participate in the pursuit and honoring of the specific values of the surrounding culture, there is ACCUSATION leveled at those who are not participating and supporting all the values of the culture, and this all leads to the PENALIZATION of those people, or that group, that do not give satisfactory evidence that they are indeed willing to support the values of the culture, without question. Let’s see how this plays on in Daniel 3…
Big Idea: God calls us to worship Him alone, and to refuse to put any other thing, person, or idea before loyalty to Him. Sometimes a world that worships many gods turns its frustration and anger against people will only worship the One God.
(Read Dan 3)
I. Nebuchadnezzar decreed that all his subjects worship a gold image 1-8
A. The creator of the image: King Nebuchadnezzar 1a
- We are told NINE times in this chapter that King Nebuchadnezzar “set up” the statue. To worship a statue is to worship its creator; here Daniel is emphasizing that although the worship was directed towards a golden image—it was actually the worship of Nebuchadnezzar, the “creator” of the image.
B. The value of the image: it was made of gold 1b
C. The size of the image: 9’ X 90’ 1c
D. The purpose of the image: to serve as the material representative of a new, royal religion—based on the worship of the man, Nebuchadnezzar. 2-7
1. The nation’s leaders were assembled before the image for its public dedication 2-3
- Dedication: to formally, publicly introduce something, and clearly state its significance, such as the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, a new bridge or city park, or the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery one hundred fifty years ago this week.
- Note: The purpose of the statue was not made clear at this point. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego simply attended as they’d been summoned—they did not necessarily know that they would be commanded to worship this new image. As they soon learned, what was a presumably mere civic event was actually a bid by Nebuchadnezzar to initiate a new, state religion.
2. The nation’s leaders were commanded to worship the image 4-6
- The command was intended to be a national law, brought back to the provinces led by the attendees.
- Music: In using the very sound of music as his call to worship, Nebuchadnezzar was tapping in into one of the most primal aspects of human culture: music. Music also tends to transcend language, and can even form culture without language. Generally, music is the first human sounds heard by a baby at his/her mother’s breast, as a mother gently coos and sings to her infant—Nebuchadnezzar was bypassing the need for human language to unify worship to himself by tying worship with music.
- Illustration: State religion: July 29, 1936: the head of Hitler Youth: “One cannot be a good German and at the same time deny God. But an avowal of faith in the eternal Germany is at the same to an avowal of faith in the true God. Whoever serves God serves Germany, and who serves Germany serves God.” This was three years before the start of WWII. In the same way, Nebuchadnezzar was establishing a state religion to exist alongside the many others pagan religions of Babylon, and in worshiping the nation of Babylon, one was worshiping Nebuchadnezzar.
3. The nation’s leaders worshiped the image 7
II. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship the image. 8-18
A. They were charged with crime by “certain Chaldeans” 8-12
- Note: the problem was not that the three Jews worshiped the LORD God of the Jews—it was that they refused to ALSO worship the gods of the Babylonians, and the new “idol/image” created by Nebuchadnezzar. They insisted on worshiping God ALONE, not God AND…
- Most cultures (including our own) have nothing against Christianity, per se, it is when Christians refuse to also worship the gods of the culture or state that they attach Christians. In many countries hostile to Christianity, to attend a church, or have Christian friends means very little to the nationals of that country, but , should one actually convert to Christianity, worship Jesus alone, and be baptized—this often brings intense persecution.
B. They were arrested, questioned, and warned by the Nebuchadnezzar 13-15
C. They refused to agree to worship the image 16-18
- They said, in effect, “We don’t need time to think about this: Our God can certainly deliver us from the furnace, and He certain WILL deliver us from you (whether today, tomorrow, or when His kingdom arrives). But even if He doesn’t deliver us today—you should know for sure that we will NOT worship the image you’ve set up.
D. They were thrown into a furnace 19-23
E. They were delivered from death in the furnace. 24-27
1. A fourth person, supernatural in appearance, joined the three men 24-25
2. Nebuchadnezzar called the three men out of the furnace 26
3. There was no evidence of burning on them 27
- The only thing that had been destroyed by the fire was the bonds of the men. The message was clear to the king—God is sovereign over the nations, and God delivers His people!
III. Nebuchadnezzar blessed their God and defended Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 28-30
A. He blessed God for delivering the three men 28
- At the end of chapter 2 we noted that Nebuchadnezzar allowed the Lord God “a place at the table” with his Babylonian gods—here the LORD God is offered a place “at the head of the table.” Nebuchadnezzar is still under the impression that it is somehow possible for the LORD God to share a place with ANY idol or so-called “god.” Do we need to learn this lesson ourselves?
B. He protected and prospered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. 29-30
Application: How shall we who worship God respond when we encounter hostility towards us for their obedience to our conscience?
Three attitudes to hold when suffering for faith:
1. RESPECT (How we treat those who are antagonistic toward us with due consideration and honor.)
- As Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego maintained a genuinely honoring and respectful attitude towards the very person who would seek to destroy them, so we must not give in to hostility and rancor towards those who seek to trouble us for our faith.
2. REVERENCE (How we speak of our God, and His sovereignty and transcendence.)
- As Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego stated their confidence that God CERTAINLY COULD deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace and CERTAINLY WOULD deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar—they also recognized that God might NOT deliver them! They did not obligate God to deliver them in any certain way, but instead trusting Him in whatever why He would act in the matter.
3. RESOLUTION (An unwavering refusal to do/say anything that violates our conscience.)
- As Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego informed the king that whatever God did with them, they themselves would never worship the Babylonians gods or bow to Nebuchadnezzar‘s statue.
- In the same way—our best moments in faith are often the times when we simply, quietly, resolutely, DIG IN OUR HEELS and say, “The whole world might be against me, and God might save me or He might not save me—but I’m not going along with…