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Sunday, June 16, 2019

posted Jun 16, 2019, 2:54 PM by Site Administrator   [ updated Jun 16, 2019, 3:38 PM ]



Daniel 3:1-30

Key Verse 3:18


But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” 


First, “Even if he does not,...” (1-18). Look at verses 1 and 2. King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. There, without any prior announcement, they were ordered to bow down to the image of gold the king set up at the sound of the musical instruments with a warning that whoever did not fall down and worship would immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace. Among those officials were the three friends of Daniel – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Since they were high governmental officials, they had to attend this dedication ceremony, and there, they were demanded to bow down to the image the king had set up. Such an idol worship was forbidden for them. But if they didn't do, then, they would be thrown into a furnace immediately; their already secured high government officer's job would be gone, and so would their promising future. Moreover, most likely, their family memberswould be sold as slaves, if not killed right away. They didn't want to worship the idol, but it would be too costly; literally, they would lose everything. They were put in a rock and a hard place. How did they deal with this dilemma? 


At the sound of musical instruments, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. There were Buddhists, but they worshiped the idol; there were Hindus, but they too bowed down to it. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn't bow down; while everyone was bowing down, they stood firm; they were the only ones who were standing there, and thereby, they stood out. To them, worshiping God was the matter of life and death; and in order to keep their purity before God, they were willing to defy the king's order and sacrifice their life. Their idea was clear: Instead of compromising, instead of throwing up their love for God so that they might enjoy their successful life or enjoy their family life a little longer, they chose to keep their pure love for God and die. Keeping their integrity before God, their purity before God was more important than all other things – their high government jobs, their promising future, even their family life. They truly loved God more than anything else. It was indeed a trial in the fire. 


When this was reported to the king, he was furious. No one had ever defied his order. But then, these three Jews defied his order publicly – it was unthinkable; his pride was hurt. So, he summoned them immediately. He said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” He didn't kill them immediately. Instead, he gave them one more chance with a promise that if they bowed down to the image, he would forgive them; otherwise, he would throw them into the furnace. 


In the book, “Pilgrim's Progress,” written by John Bunyan, at the border of the city of Destruction, Apollyon met Christian. He was hideous, and he would not let Christian leave his country. But instead of attacking him and killing him right away, he gave Christian another chance to consider his decision and go back to the city with a promise that he would give him all he wanted – wealth, health, and pleasures. He threatened, otherwise, to kill him. This is the tactic Satan uses so enthusiastically – a promise of success if they serve him, but destruction if they keep their decision to live for God. The world challenges us and threatens us with the matter of security and success in the society. We want to serve God only and keep our purity before him. But the world, or simply, our boss asks us to work with him on Sunday, and sure thing – there is a hidden threat that, otherwise, we will be fired – in that way, Satan challenges us to kneel and bow down to the idol of security, compromising our purity before God or perish. We are just happy to study the Bible, love God, and serve his purpose; then, suddenly, our professors threaten us to work harder and complete the project quickly, saying, otherwise, our position will be given to someone else. In that way, Satan challenges us to kneel and bow down to the idol of success in the society, giving up our dedication to God. But our security is not in the hands of our boss or our professors; our success or survival is not in the hands of Satan; instead, as the Bible proclaims, in God's hands are security, success and prosperity. The Bible declares, “Long life is in his right hand; in his left hand are riches and honor.” (Prov 3:16) Our boss or professors have no power to give us security or take it away from us; when they are of no use for his purpose any longer, simply God removes them from their positions and gives them to others according to his purpose. 


The challenge was terrifying and the offer was tempting. But what was the response of the three friends of Daniel? Look at verses 16 through 18. Let's read these verses together:


Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”


They were bold and cool. They said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.” They were like Jesus who did not try to defend himself, when people falsely accused him; it was because, like Jesus, they were already determined in their hearts to keep their purity before God no matter what – if they had to die and lose everything, then, let it be so; if God was going to save them from the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, let it be so for the glory of God. When their hearts were determined, they didn't need to try to defend themselves; as a result, they were bold, powerful and cool like real heroes. God is looking for this kind of people who love him with a single-hearted devotion. the Bible declares that double-minded people should not expect to receive anything good from God, because they are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind, unstable in all they do. (James 1:7,8) Who are double-minded people? Christians without their heart’s firm determination to love God alone! The king challenged, saying, “What god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” King's power seemed real and practical. But they accepted that challenge, saying, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.” The God they knew and believed was real, not conceptual; they knew and believed that their God was with them and could save them from the king. Their faith in God was tangible and practical. They must have experienced God in their practical life many times. 


But their response did not end there. They added, “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” They had already surrendered their life to God completely that they just honored God's choice, God's will upon their life completely. If God's will for them was to survive this trial by his miracle, they were happy; but if God's will for them was to die in the furnace, they were willing to go that way too. They entrusted their life in God's hands. No matter what, despite any outcome, one thing was for sure – they would not compromise; they would not bow down to such a worthless idol; they were determined to love God and worship Him only; they were determined to die as God-worshipers rather than living a little longer by defiling themselves with idol worship. We can characterize their faith as the faith of “But even if he does not,...” the faith of “Nevertheless.” They would not bow down to any idol no matter what outcome there might be; they would serve God only. When they had such a heart's determination to worship God only, they were strong and powerful. Maybe, saying such words would hurt the king more, making him moreangry; maybe, because of such bold response, more harsh punishment might come. But they didn't care; they boldly proclaimed their one single-hearted love and dedication to God before the king.


In their life of faith, many people's spiritual condition is dependent on the situation or outcome. They are happy with God when things go well. But when things go tough, when they lose a lot, they doubt God and his love; then, in frustration, many just plunge themselves to sin. They are like a cry baby – we don't know when they will cry and thereby, we have to be ready with milk all the time. As long as they are conditional, they are weak and unreliable. They must come up with their heart’s determination that they would obey God no matter what outcome there may be. As Christians, do you want to be strong and powerful like these three friends of Daniel? Then, have your heart’s firm determination to keep your purity before God! When our hearts are determined to love God and worship him in any circumstances, then, we don't try to defend ourselves; we are not afraid of any outcome – when pains come, we swallow them; when we have to lose things, we swallow the sorrow. We rejoice not because of good things God gives us, but because of him. Such people's Christian life is stable, and they are reliable. 


What Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced was not something very particular for them alone, but very common for all Christians – simply, it is about kneeling down to an idol for survival, or for security or for success, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were determined that they would not bow down to such an idol, even if it meant for them to lose all security, success and even their life; they were determined not to kneel down to the idol, but to God alone. “Even if He does not,...” This expression reminds us of the prophet Habakkuk's confession of faith in God. He shouts, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,he enables me to go on the heights.” (Hk 3:17-19) Let’s not bow down to money. Instead, let’s live as children of God, keeping our integrity no matter what.


Second, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” (19-30). Now the three friends of Daniel openly defied the king's order in front of everyone; Nebuchadnezzar felt really crushed; he was really furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Maybe, Nebuchadnezzar was still breathing out heavily in anger. But it was not the end of the story. Something amazing happened that King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” SoShadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. 


We are not sure whether the fourth that looked like a son of the gods in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar was God himself in a human form, or God's holy angel. Anyway, this person had a similar form of a human – with four limbs, with a head and a trunk, but he was not exactly like a human being because of his glory – maybe, his body was shining, or his eyes were like blazing fire like Jesus in glory in the book of Revelation. Usually, God did not reveal himself this way; in history, God helped many people in secret ways so that people might not see his glory or might not notice him. There might be many ways to save them; God could have let the showers of rain fall on that furnace and put out the fire so that his servants might not be burned. Or God could have stirred up the mind of the king and have him show favor on his servants. But instead, he intervened into the situation in a most dramatic and powerful way, revealing his power to the public so that all people might see what he was doing for his faithful servants. In the furnace, God untied them first. While the fire was burning inside the furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and the one that looked like a son of God walked around, maybe, talking to each other, saying, “How come, these days, the furnace is not so hot any more?” Or they talked about the glorious life in heaven. It was really a glorious miracle. Through this, God testified publicly about who these three men were – no ordinary humans, but God's precious and loyal servants. In this way, God exalted them highly. As they honored God with their life, God wanted them to receive honor and respect from all the people there including the king Nebuchadnezzar.  


When we live before God, keeping our integrity before him, even at the cost of sacrificing so much, even all we have – our future, our marriage dream, our self-esteem,... God accepts our heart's dedication as pleasing aroma, something beautiful to him; God honors those who honor him by revealing his glory powerfully in and through them, and for them. As a result, those who seek God wholeheartedly above all other things come to experience glorious things; such people's Christian life is full of adventures, very exciting and glorious. God becomes their God, and people come to recognize them as God's servants.


Look at verse 28. Let's read this verse together:


28Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 

He praised the God of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego for sending his angel and rescuing them. He also recognized why these three had defied his order even at the risk of their own life – they were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God – they were loyal and faithful servants to their God. So, Nebuchadnezzar didn't make an issue of it any longer. Instead, he promoted them in the province of Babylon because they were trustworthy. It is not easy to be recognized as God's servants by unbelieving people, especially proud and hostile people like the king Nebuchadnezzar. But through their absolute dedication to God, through their absolute decision not to bow down to worthless idols, even willing to risk their life for God, they testified to the unbelieving, hostile and threatening king about their God. 


He came to honor God also, issuing a decree that if anyone said anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that person would be cut into pieces, and his house be turned into piles of rubble. Because of their struggle, this unbelieving king came to see the glory of God, and recognize Him as the only true God. This is how the name of God comes to be known to the unbelieving people. Because we stand firm in God – in the matter of keeping the Sunday worship service absolutely, or attending the Friday meeting absolutely, we go through some troubles with our family members and conflicts rise in the family. But through such struggles and conflicts, by seeing how absolutely we hold onto things of God, they come to recognize God and learn to honor and respect God. One brother kept the Sunday worship service absolutely, even refusing to go to his brother's wedding ceremony; it was a big issue; all his family members called him and tried to persuade him, but he refused to go. Then, later, all his family members came to recognize him as God's servant; his mother calls him a real Christian, and if there is Bible study appointment, she says, “I am sorry. Go and teach the Bible. I will call you later.” God's name is being testified to the people in the world through our absolute attitude toward him.


Today, in our life of faith, we face the same kind of challenges as Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego had – the world demands us to bow down to the idol of security, survival, and success, threatening us that, otherwise, we will lose all the privileges and opportunities in the world. Surely, the world is not a resting place for Christians, but a battle ground, and such challenges often are scary and not easy. But when we stand firm in God with our heart's complete determination, saying, “Our God is able to save us from all these challenges; but even if he does not, I will not bow down to such worthless idols,” God accepts our heart's love for him and reveals his glory to the world through us. May God grant us victory over the challenges of this world. May God establish many single-hearted men and women of God for God's glory on our campuses.


One Word:More Than Conquerors Through Him Who Gives Us Strength!