Scripture Text: Daniel 3:8-18
Have you faced a real threat to your faith? Have you been placed into the proverbial hot seat and made to make a defense for what your believe with real consequences? Have you lost a promotion or a job because of what you believe? Have you lost a relationship because of your faith? Has your life been threatened just because you trust in Jesus Christ? I suspect most of us have not had many of those circumstances, particularly where our lives were in danger. What will you do if and when you face a real threat to your faith? Last week we read about Nebuchadnezzar’s huge, golden statue that he commanded the people to worship. There might not be a huge colossal statue that we worship today, but there may be huge idols that draw our hearts away from the one true God in heaven. Do you know what your golden statues are? Although Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged God, he kept God at a distance and within his mishmash of religious objects. More likely, Nebuchadnezzar built his colossal golden statue as an image of a Babylonian god and called for its worship as a way to test the loyalty of his subjects. His people faced a real threat to their lives if they chose to not worship his golden statue.
You May Stand Alone for God
Have you ever had to take a stand for what you believe? If so, did you do it alone? If you take a stand for what you believe, you may do it alone. If you take a stand for what is right, you may do it alone. Are you prepared for that? Are you prepared to stand alone for what you believe even when everyone else leaves you? When Nebuchadnezzar called his people together to worship his golden statue, and the music began to play, the great crowd of people fell down and worshipped the colossal statue just as Nebuchadnezzar commanded. Everyone, except three men, worshipped the statue. There were three young Hebrew men who stood alone. Look at the following verses.
Daniel 3:8–12 8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 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. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 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.”
There were certain men, called Chaldeans, who saw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego not bowing in worship to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. These Chaldeans were most likely part of the group of magicians, enchanters, and astrologers that Nebuchadnezzar used for counsel. These Chaldeans maliciously accused the three faithful Jewish men for three things: 1) not obeying Nebuchadnezzar, 2) not serving his gods, and 3) not worshipping his golden statue. Perhaps these Chaldeans believed that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego thought they were better than everyone else. Perhaps these Chaldeans were jealous of the three young men for Nebuchadnezzar promoting them. Perhaps their accusation of these three Hebrew men had nothing to do what they actually did, but maybe it was just hatred of the Jewish people that motivated their accusation. Hatred of the Jewish people is common, as it was with Haman in the book of Esther. Either way, the three young men stood alone among the other people and refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol. Would you have stood alone with them?
People Question What God Can Do
Nebuchadnezzar was not pleased to hear about the three defiant Jews who refused to worship his golden image. Maybe he thought to himself, “Who would possibly refuse to worship his idol, especially with the threat of death lingering above.” Therefore, he commanded the three Hebrew men be brought to him so that he could question them.
Daniel 3:13-14 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 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?
Nebuchadnezzar was no just displeased with them, he was furious. Perhaps he could not believe anyone would openly defy his command. Perhaps he was even more enraged that anyone would defy him with such a serious consequence as being burned to death in a fiery furnace. Not happy with just questioning Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s reason for disobeying his idolatrous command, Nebuchadnezzar then questioned God. Look at the following verse.
Daniel 3:15 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?
Nebuchadnezzar asked the three Hebrew men this important question, “Who is the god who can rescue you out of my hands?” Nebuchadnezzar should have known who this “God” was. God had already provided answers to Nebuchadnezzar and had shown him the future through a dream. Nebuchadnezzar had also acknowledged Daniel’s God, but only as one god in a list of other gods to worship. Nebuchadnezzar should have known who this God was. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar thought that he had more power than God had. Perhaps he thought that the God of Daniel was good for revealing dreams and things that will happen in the future, but what could He do to such a powerful king? God had proven Himself a revealer of dreams, but maybe Nebuchadnezzar thought that even such a great god would not be able to protect His faithful followers from death in a fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was ultimately challenging God.
Not everyone believes in an all-powerful God of the universe. Not everyone believes in a God who cares for and who rescues His people from danger. Nebuchadnezzar was not alone in this disbelief. He was not the only king to question who God is or what God could do. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt who imprisoned the Israelites and would not let God’s people go, defied God. Look at the following passage.
Exodus 5:2 But Pharaoh said, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”
When Sennacherib, the King of Assyria, attacked Judah and harassed the people, he defied God and tried to break the will of the people by intimating them to not trust in God. He told the people the following.
2 Kings 18:35 Who among all the gods of the lands have delivered their lands out of my hand, that the LORD should deliver Jerusalem out of my hand?
Nebuchadnezzar did not believe that there was a god who could stop him or who could save His people from him. Nebuchadnezzar did not believe that the same God who had revealed His power to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream had the power to save three Hebrew men from a fiery furnace because they chose to not worship his golden idol. People can be incredibly arrogant when it comes to what God can do. Remember the Titanic, the ship that supposedly God could not even sink? People greatly underestimate who God is and what God can do. Their arrogance can manifest itself in different ways. You may be impacted by men who neither fear God nor believe He will save His people. You may be someone who does not appropriately fear God. You may be someone who really believes that God does not work in your life or will answer your prayers. Do you underestimate God and what He can or will do?
Trust and Fear God Above All Else
The people Nebuchadnezzar had summoned were forced to worship his statue. They certainly had a choice to worship the idol or not, but they were largely motivated by fear to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue. This raises another issue: who do we fear most? Do we fear the crazy commands and threats of a despotic king, or do we fear the eternal consequences of defying the God of heaven? When living in this present, earthly existence, we sometimes confuse the two. The present threats we receive or the life we currently experience often overshadows anything spiritual or eternal. However, in considering what we should truly fear, Jesus gave us the following warning.
Matthew 10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
There is little doubt that the crowd Nebuchadnezzar had summoned was motivated to worship his golden statue because they feared death and did not want to be thrown into the fiery furnace. Only a short distance away the fire in the furnace blazed. If the young Hebrew men did not change their minds and bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, they would be thrown into the fiery furnace, and no god would be able to save them — so Nebuchadnezzar believed. Paul wrote in his first letter to Corinth for us to “flee idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:13–14). Sometimes, we have no choice but to flee from idolatry and into a furnace of fire made by man. In order to flee idolatry and to keep ourselves from it, we must put ourselves into danger by evil men. So, with great faith and boldness the three young Hebrew men responded to Nebuchadnezzar’s second chance to worship his golden statue. Look at the following.
Daniel 3:16-18 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
These are probably the main verses of this passage. Nebuchadnezzar offered Daniel’s friends a second chance to worship his idol, but they persistently refused. They told him that they did not need to answer his question about who would save them from the fiery furnace. They told him that God was able to save them from the furnace of fire, but even if He did not, they would still not worship his golden statue. They did not doubt God’s ability to deliver them, but they humbly accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of His faithful servants. Their faith in God did not rest on what God would do for them, but rather in His sovereign will that could be trusted. They asserted that if God chose not to deliver them from the fiery furnace and instead allowed them to become martyrs for Him, they would still refuse to serve the king’s gods or worship the gold statue. This is one of the strongest examples of steadfast faith in the Bible. Whatever God sovereignly chose to do in regard to their situation, they would not worship a false god. This is similar to Job’s faith in God during his suffering. Look at the following verse.
Job 13:15 Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.
That is the faith we should have. No matter what happens to us and no matter what God’s answer is to our prayers, we will still serve Him. We will still hope in Him. That is a main theme to this book. What about when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Judah, destroyed the temple and carried off many of the people to Babylon? What was the Jewish faith and trust in God at that time? Those events would have been fresh in the memory of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But they had also witnessed God’s power in the matter of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. They also knew the Hebrew Scriptures that included the accounts of the great wonders God performed for Israel, such as the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of Jericho. No question was in their minds that the God who saved their ancestors could do the same for them — if it was His will. Maybe that was their point. They knew God’s power and His ability to save His people, but they also knew God’s sovereignty to do what He desired to do. They trusted God to know what is best and to do what is best, even if it meant their suffering. We should not confuse God’s ability to do something with God’s sovereignty to do what He wills.
Although God does not guarantee that His followers will never suffer or experience death, He does promise to always to be with them. No matter what your circumstance is, God has promised to always be with His children. In times of trial, the believer’s attitude should be the same as that of these young men — no matter what, we will worship, serve and trust our great God and Savior. What will you say when the heat is turned up in your life? Will your faith in God remain? What if God does not answer your prayers the way you ask? Will your faith remain? What will you do when you face a real challenge to your faith? Maybe it is your job. Maybe it is a loved one. Maybe your faith is challenged by some health crisis. Maybe your freedom or even your life is threatened. Will you trust God in those situations? Trusting God does not mean trusting Him when He answers your prayers the way you expect. Trusting God does not mean trusting Him when things go the way you expect. Trusting God does not mean trusting Him when you have all the answers. Trusting God means following Him no matter what, when you do not have the answer, when you are threatened, and when you face the fiery furnace.
In conclusion, what will you do when the heat is turned up in your life? Will you persevere? The church was watered by the blood of martyrs. There may not be a despotic king who commands us to worship a ninety foot colossal statue or threatens us with a fiery furnace if we do not worship a false god, but there are real threats to our faith. God shall be your only object of worship and the greatest desire of your heart even if it means going into a fiery furnace. The good news is that there is absolutely no condemnation for those who love God and there is absolutely nothing that compares, good or bad, to what God has prepared for those who trust in His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:1,18). No matter happens in this life, we have the promise of God that He is always with us and He has prepared an eternal home that is free of pain and suffering. This is good news. Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.