Stephen Caswell © 2005
Story of Eric Liddel
A famous runner prepared himself for the nineteen twenty-four Olympics, his name was Eric Little. He trained hard for this competition and set his heart on winning the gold medal in the 100 yards race. After the trials he was chosen to run in the 100 yard race and sailed for France, as the games were to be held in Paris. Eric Little loved the Lord and he also loved to run. But he found out that his 100 yard race was to be run on Sunday. What would he do? He had trained long and hard for this event and now it was to be run on the day that he held as sacred, the Lord's day. Who had first place in Eric's life running or Christ? This was a conflict between the two, what would he do? The Prince of Wales tried to coerce him to run on Sunday, and put to King and country before God. Eric Liddel reminded the Prince that God makes countries and is supreme. He chose to put God first and the Lord opened up a way for him to run in the 400 yards event that was run on different day. On the race day, the coach for the U.S. team gave him a note with a verse on it " He who honours Me, him will I honour." Eric Liddel went on to win the race.
Last week we saw how Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself with the king's food. His three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah also remained true to God. They stood firm on their convictions in a pagan society. They proved that you don't have to compromise your faith to succeed in life. They resisted the king's command in a way that glorified God. Today Daniel's three friends are confronted with another trial. Again they are commanded to compromise their religious convictions. What will they do? Today we will see:
1. The First Decree
2. The Jews Decision
3. The Jews Deliverance
4. The Second Decree
1. The First Decree - Serve My Gods
a. The Image
Daniel 3:1: Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
In the second chapter of Daniel God revealed to the king how there would be five world kingdoms followed by God's everlasting kingdom. It seems that he didn't like the prophecy about another kingdom succeeding his. So he decided to strengthen his own kingdom. He set up this image to unite his government. Chapter 3 says the king set up the image 9 times. This was his plan and Daniel gave him full credit for setting it up. He would make Babylon the religious and political center of his kingdom. The image unlike the one God revealed was covered completely in gold. Gold is precious and glorious in appearance. This image would have been an impressive sight. The king's great pride can be seen in all of this. There wasn't any silver, bronze or iron in this image. Nebuchadnezzar wanted his kingdom to last in spite of what God said.
b. The Invitation
Daniel 3:2-3: And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Nebuchadnezzar summoned the leaders of his government to the dedication of his image. Those summoned didn't know what was involved in this gathering. They came together in obedience to the royal decree. This would have been a large gathering. The king's top officials were called. This great assembly stood before the image on the plain of Dura outside Babylon.
c. The Instruction
Daniel 3:4-7: Then a herald cried aloud: To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up;
The royal decree was very simple. When the musicians play everyone must fall down and worship the golden image. Those who disobeyed would be thrown into a fiery furnace. The word worship means to prostrate oneself, to do homage. Something like the Muslims do today when they pray five times a day. The idea is one of making yourself low in honor of your God. King Nebuchadnezzar was demanding complete allegiance to himself and his gods. This dedication service of his image was really a dedication of the people to the king religiously and politically. He had set up the image and was assuming the position of religious head as well as political head. The decree was clear and the result predictable, everyone fell down and worshipped the image. The government officials feared for their lives so they obeyed. Everyone got caught up by the music, the crowd and the warning of punishment. All people, nations and languages describes the great multitude. Everyone went along with the crowd. How did these young Jews handle the situation? Let's look at:
2. The Jews Decision - Stand Up For God
a. Before The Crowds
Daniel 3:8-12: Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews. There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.
It seems that not everyone bowed down to the golden image. Three Jews didn't stood up and were counted. Shadrach Meshach and Abed-Nego didn't compromise their faith. How did they resist such peer pressure? Everyone else was doing it! They knew if you stand for nothing you will fall for everything! They knew God's Law and chose to keep it!
Exodus 20:2-5: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.
It wasn't wrong for them to be there. The king had summoned them and they didn't know the reason. But now they could go no further. These young men stood up for what they knew to be right while everyone else was falling around them. They had stood firm before and would do it now. Weren't they noticed by the crowd? Yes they were. The Chaldeans came forward and accused them. The word accused here means to tear to pieces. These Chaldeans were nobles in the Babylonian society. They were jealous of these Jews who held positions in the government. They reveled in the fact that they had defied the king and made the most of the situation. They couldn't wait to condemn them before king Nebuchadnezzar. They accused them of three things, not regarding the king, nor serving his gods, nor worshipping them. But these young Jews didn't blame God for the trial or give up. They stood firm.
b. Before The Crown
Daniel 3:13-14: Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up?
King Nebuchadnezzar went into a rage. He summoned these three young men. The King was furious that someone would dare to defy his royal decree. He asked them in astonishment, Is this true that you will not serve my gods or worship my image? The king like the Chaldeans saw service linked to the worship of the image. It was not just a matter of falling down before the image. This was a matter of allegiance to the gods behind it and to the king. In fact the word serve here means to revere, minister, pay reverence to. Although the king was furious he offered these promising youths one more chance. After all they were useful in his employ. But then he warned them not to defy him again or that they would immediately be punished. To make his point he asked them, what god can deliver you out of my hand? After all he had conquered all the surrounding nations and their gods. Hadn't he carried away treasure from the Jews temple.
In this the king made the mistake of challenging the God of heaven! Other kings had done this before and been humbled like the King of Assyria, Sennacherib. How would Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego answer the king? They said to the king we have no need to answer you in this matter. What did this mean? It meant that God would answer for them, He would deliver them. Nebuchadnezzar had challenged the God of heaven Who would speak for Himself. He was able to deliver His servants if He chose to. He was not some weak idol like the king's gods. He was the Almighty. Their statement shows great faith. Daniel 3:17-18: If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.
Regardless of what happens we won't serve your gods or worship them. They would not change their position. Their allegiance lay with the God of heaven whom they served. They displayed great faith in God. They would remain faithful whether He delivered them or not. In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. - Thomas Jefferson
Title: Doing My Master's Will
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify.
A never dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powers engage,
To do my Master's will.
Have you ever been faced with a situation like this? Did someone ask you to do something that went against your convictions? Like betting on a game of golf? Or going in a sweep on Melbourne Cup day? Have you been asked to lie to cover up for someone else? Have you been pressured to go to a fortune teller or read a horoscope? Did you go along with it because everyone else did? These are times that we need to make a stand! If you compromise once it is much easier to do it again later. These Jews stood firm against The Crowds and The Crown. What would be their fete? Now we see:
3. The Jews Deliverance - Salvation
a. King's Power
Daniel 3:19-22: Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
This answer made the king even more furious. He would make an example of them. He commanded the fire to be made seven times hotter. He then ordered his valiant men to bind them and cast them into the fire. They were thrown into the fire with all their clothes on. This was not the normal practice. Usually they disrobed them first. But the king wanted their clothes on so that they would burn faster. And because the command was urgent and furnace exceedingly hot, the soldiers died from the heat. But the king didn't care about them. He wanted to show his anger against these defiant young Jews. The king did all of this to demonstrate his power and make an example of them. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego feared God more than the king.
b. God's Protection
Daniel 3:23-25: And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said to the king, True, O king. Look! he answered, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt,
God delivered them. He protected them from the fire in the midst of the furnace. These three youths had trusted the Lord to help them and He did. The only thing that the fire burned were the ropes that bound them. Nebuchadnezzar had challenged the God of heaven to deliver them and now he saw God do it before his own eyes. Did Shadrach Meshach and Abed-Nego know that God would save them before they were thrown into the furnace? No they didn't. They stepped out in faith. They knew that He was able to deliver them, but they didn't know for certain that He would. The same is true today. We must choose to do what is right regardless of the outcome. It may be that God will deliver us. It may be that He won't deliver us. But either way God is glorified when His people remain faithful to Him.
Protection in Life Here and Now
Listening to a student read the Scripture in seminary chapel, Joseph Sittler, now blind, heard something he'd never heard before. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me." "The text does not speak," said Sittler, "of the valley of death but the valley of the shadow of death. There is a difference. ... The wonderful truth ... is that God is with us now. It is not simply that God will be with us in the experience of death itself; it is that God will walk with us through all of life, a life over which death sometimes casts its shadow."
Jesus told us whom we should fear. Matthew 10:28: And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. God will take care of His servants when they remain faithful. He will do what is best. Hebrews 11:32-34: And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
c. God's Presence
Not only did God protect them in the fire, He was personally present with them. God intimately knows the trials we go through because He is with us. The Lord has promised us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. God can always give us grace to help in time of need. Let us remember that and stand firm for the Lord each day! Let us stand for something lest we fall for anything.
d. God's Purpose
Daniel 3:26-27: Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. What was God's purpose in all of this? To reveal to this proud king who was the true God. The Lord answered Nebuchadnezzar's challenge in the most dramatic way. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were servants of the Most High God. The God who owned all the earth. The one who was supreme over all including his gods. Nebuchadnezzar saw first hand that he didn't have the power he thought he possessed. For the Lord had victory over him in this. Therefore he called for Shadrach Meshach and Abed-Nego to come out of the fire. He Didn't ask the Son of God to come out though. I am sure he would have been afraid. All the king's rulers saw how the fire couldn't touch them. The king now made:
4. The Second Decree - Serve The Most God
a. He Praised God
Daniel 3:28: Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!
King Nebuchadnezzar now issued another decree. His first decree had become obsolete. His gods were shown to be fakes. The king blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego who can deliver His servants. The word bless means to kneel and bless. The king acknowledged that their God was able to deliver and thus worthy of worship. But he didn't acknowledge the Lord as his own God at this time. God had to humble him further first. He acknowledged the faith and courage of these three youths and how they had changed the kings word. They had defied him and proven that his gods were powerless whilst the Lord was powerful. Shadrach Meshach and Abed-Nego had given a wonderful testimony for their Lord through this whole affair. They risked their lives and exalted God. All of Babylon heard of this and glorified God.
b. Punished Blasphemers
Dan 3:29:Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.
Furthermore the king warned that if anyone blasphemed God's name they would be cut in pieces and their homes made into rubbish heaps. The king was upholding the third commandment. The dedication of the image and its worship had been turned around and used by God to reveal Himself and bring honor to His name. God used this to protect His great name from blasphemy in this pagan capital. Because three youths defied the king refusing to take part in idolatry the Lord was glorified. What would have been the outcome had they compromised their faith?
God would not have received the glory that He is worthy of. Idolatry would have won the day.
c. Promoted God's Servants
Daniel 3:30: Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.
As for God's three servants, they were promoted in the province of Babylon. They chose not to compromise their faith to please the king and God honored them for it. God's ways are above our ways. If we are faithful to Him, He will provide for us. God honors those who honor Him.
Today we saw how three Jewish young men stood firm on their convictions.
1. The First Decree - Serve my gods or suffer the consequences.
2. The Jews Decision - Stand up for God - They stayed true to the Lord.
3. The Jews Deliverance - Salvation - God honored their faith.
4. The Second Decree - Serve God - The king’s word is changed.
What will you do next time you are pressured at work to deny the Lord? Will you stand up and be counted or will you go along with the crowd? Will you stands firm on your convictions? Will you fear God more than man? I trust you will respond like Shadrach Meshach and Abed-Nego and stand up for the truth! I trust that you will stand up for Jesus! God uses faithful servants greatly. They glorify His holy and worthy name. Amen.
2 Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.