Daniel Chapter 3 Daniel Sermon #4 Feb. 21, 2016
Sermon Series: “The Lord is King” Baptismal Service
Title: “Who Do You Worship?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Who is number one in your life? Whose interests do you look out for the most? When push comes to shove, what are you willing to compromise on, in order to save your own skin? What in your life is worth dying for? (As Bob Dylan said, “You gotta serve somebody.”)
Few of us have ever had to make a life and death decision about standing up for what we believed in. But every day, unless we have real and unmovable convictions, we are being pushed along to compromise, to give in, and to go along with the crowd.
Let’s consider this true story of three young men who were willing to die for the God they trusted in, and how their God was not only able to deliver them, but to display His power and glory through their faith in Him.
The King’s Image of Gold
In the previous chapter, King Nebuchadnezzar had been given the interpretation of a troubling dream by God’s power, through Daniel. The dream was of a large dazzling statue, with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs and feet of iron and clay. Each part represented a successive kingdom, with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire being the head of gold. But there was also in the king’s dream a supernatural rock that struck the statue, smashed it, and then became a huge mountain that filled the earth. This rock and mountain would be God’s own kingdom that would endure forever; and we know today that this is Christ’s Kingdom, in which Christ the King reigns forever and ever!
But although King Nebuchadnezzar is impressed with all this, his self-centered heart is unmoved. He ignores the interpretation about the kingdoms that will follow him, as well as God’s kingdom reigning over all others, and he decided to focus only on the bit about him the head of gold. (Do you ever do that? You hear what you want to hear about yourself, and disregard the rest about others and about the Lord? You might even read your Bible that way!)
And so the king makes this very impressive 90 foot statue, and instead of just a head of gold, he makes the whole image of gold, as if his empire and his kingship would never be replaced!
We might say that in making this statue only of gold, the king is resisting the revelation that God gave him through Daniel. He is denying the other kingdoms that would follow after him, and he is suppressing the truth about God’s Kingdom (the stone). The king is exalting only himself above all others. Like the Tower of Babel in Gen. 11, the king is seeking to make a name for himself above all others.
You and I are a lot like this king, aren’t we? We look out for numero uno. We want others to think much of us. We want to be king, or queen… forever. And so we ignore what God has told us in His Word and we live above His precepts and commands. Left to ourselves, we are not much different than this king. And the sooner we see that, the better for us.
But there’s more going on here is Daniel chapter 3. King Nebuchadnezzar is trying to unify his vast and diverse kingdom (over many different people groups and languages) with a common state religion, with himself as the head. He gathers together the most educated and influential people from every tribe, tongue and nation, to bow down before and to worship the image he has created, symbolizing himself! He is trying to unify his diverse empire with one state religion, and himself as the head of it, for his glory!
The king would tolerate all kinds of cultures and languages and customs in his empire… as long as everyone would agree to bow down and worship this image of gold, representing himself.
It was as if the king was trying to reverse the curse of God upon the tower of Babel.
[Like today, with talk of tolerance and diversity, but no tolerance for Jesus as the only way]
So the king erects this 90 ft. gold image and commands everyone in his administration (representing all the various people groups) to fall down and worship the image of gold, when the royal philharmonic symphony starts playing music.
This was a sight and sound spectacular! And everyone knew that if you wanted to keep your job and keep your head, you would be wise to follow the king’s orders, and fall down and worship the image – at least outwardly, whatever you thought inwardly.
The “carrot” was a secure job; the “stick” was the threat of death. It was another example of “obey this government regulation or you will pay the penalty!”
But among the sea of thousands who compromised their beliefs in order to save their heads, there were three men who stood firm in their convictions, and were unwilling to worship the image.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were unwilling to compromise their allegiance to their true King, the God of Israel. They took this stand even though they were exiles in a foreign land; even though Israel had been conquered by Babylon; even though this refusal put their lives in mortal danger. They were unwilling to even give the outward appearance of bowing down to an idol, despite the intense peer pressure (with every other administrator was doing it.) These were the only three men willing to take this stand, out of thousands in the crowd!
Put yourself in their sandals: if you don’t do this one thing, you lose your job and your head; probably your wife and children are also killed; and you are trying to think clearly in the midst of all this peer pressure, this loud and compelling music, and the direct commands and threats of the most powerful person on the face of the earth! What would you do?
Well, these three refused to bow down and worship the image. “They who were made in God’s image refused to bow down to an image which was made by man.” They would worship only the Creator, not the creature. The words of God in the Ten Commandments were ringing in their ears:
“I am the Lord your God… you shall have no other gods before me.” “You shall not bow down to (idols) or worship them…” They would not be unfaithful, adulterous, and disloyal to Him, when He had created them, sustained them, saved them, and loved them.
The King’s Fiery Furnace
Note their response in vv. 16-18: They replied, “King 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 deliver us from it, and he will deliver 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 believed that the God they served was able to deliver them from a fiery furnace. “But even if our God chooses not to deliver us, we still won’t worship this idol.”
“They were confident in God’s power to save them, yet at the same time they were open to God’s will to direct them.” As Jesus would pray, “Not my will, but yours, O Father, be done.” Live or die, they would remain faithful to the Lord.
v. 22 “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.” Such irony here. Those who obeyed the king’s commands died in the fire, while those who defied the king’s orders, in order to obey the Lord, emerged alive from the fire! “The issue is not whether Israel’s God can keep His servants alive, but whether Nebuchadnezzar can keep his men alive!”
v. 25 The King said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Like the story of Ernest Shackleton and his two companions, when they made an almost impossible 800 ocean voyage in a 23 foot lifeboat, followed by a do or die 36 hour trek over unmapped mountains and glaciers, in order to find help to rescue the rest of their team. Afterwards all three men said that they sensed the presence of a fourth mam with them.)
The Suffering of Any Fiery Furnace
God promises to be with us in the fire. Isaiah 43:2-5 “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….I love you…Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Our God is Immanuel, God with us, especially in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Modern “Fiery Furnaces” (Think of the beheaded martyrs in Libya, or the Christians burned to death in India). Sometimes God chooses to not save his people from the “furnace” but if so, it is for his wise and sovereign purpose.
But here in Daniel 3, God does choose to deliver them… and much more! For not only are they spared from burning to death; they don’t even have any smell of smoke upon them, and nothing on them was singed or scorched! Why? This was a clear witness to the completeness of God’s salvation!
Fiery Furnaces Are Meant to Refine Us
If you are a follower of the lord Jesus Christ, you need to see that it is precisely in the furnace of trials and afflictions that the reality of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ will be most clearly displayed. 1 Peter 1:6-7: “…You may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith…may be proved genuine, and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” The fire intended by the king for persecution became the showcase for the display of God’s glory and power.
The Ultimate Fiery Furnace
But there’s one more very important perspective on this story that we must not miss.
First, consider that Jesus Christ Himself went into the fiery furnace of hell, in our place. He took on the burning judgement that we all deserved. He was both with us in the fire, as Immanuel, God with us, and He took our place in the fire, as our Savior. “Amazing Love, how can it be, that you, my King, would die for me!”
Second, consider that what King Nebuchadnezzar sought to do by fear and by force – having all peoples and nations bow down and worship Him – that has been and will be accomplished, in a much greater way, by God, in the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ! Nebuchadnezzar was an imposter and his plan was faulty; Jesus Christ was the true King and the One who untes all peoples around His throne. See Phil. 2:9-11.
We could think of that truth this way: “The cross (not the image) is the towering symbol that binds all God’s people together as one.” – Iain Duguid
The Ultimate Significance for Us
For those not yet following Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior:
Only Jesus Christ can save you from the fiery furnace of hell.
Only Jesus Christ is worthy of your worship and your service; everything else will turn to dust. Turn to Him, today!
For those who are trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior:
Are you so in love with the Lord that you are ready to lose, suffer, and even die for Him?
The same battle that the three men faced is fought out daily in our hearts, over lesser issues. We constantly have to reaffirm, “Who will I serve? Who will I worship?”
What would you die for?