AGCC Sun. a.m. 11/30/97
(see also: 1/29/89)
TEXT: Dan. 3:1-30
INTRO: The world was down to only
one superpower, the very prosperous nation was number 1 in every way and proud
of it. This last superpower had just won the gulf war....and declared itself #1
in the world...It was Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man in
the world! Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar were proud and arrogant, felt invincible
and they had little tolerance for believers in God, most of their pride focused
on man's ability and gold and silver!
Some things never change do they? America could have been the answer above
too. Yes, we are #1 in the world too, but before we become too proud, look at
ILLUS: We are number one in the world in percentage of children living below the poverty level. We are number one in the world in teen pregnancy.
We are number one in the world in murders of young males between the ages of 15 and 24.
We are number one in the world in murder by handguns of people of all ages
We are number one in the world in the percentage of population in prisons
We are number one in the world in the per capita consumption of energy.
We are number on in the world in polluting the earth."
-- From Context, 23:12,
June 15, 1991, p.5. Quoted by Mark Trotter What Are You Waiting For, (Nashville:
Abingdon Press, 1992), pp. 74-75.
So how do spiritual people live in a secular society, how do we respond to
the pressures to compromise with this world and its values which often are
directly opposed to Christianity? Can we live and work in a culture that is
often hostile to our faith in God? The answer is YES! We can even prosper in the
face of such hostility if we do not compromise our faith in God. God is ABLE TO
DELIVER us in the face of such pressures.
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that God is able to deliver us no matter how impossible the situation may seem.
Heb 10:23 "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we
profess, for he who promised is faithful."
I. TEMPORAL & FOOLISH 3:1-12
A. Delusions 3:1-3
1. The statue that Nebuchadnezzar makes is nearly as big as his ego!
a. 90 feet tall with a 9 foot wide pedestal!
b. Was probably a statue of either Nebuchadnezzar himself or of the image he dreamed of, which had a head of gold to represent Nebuchadnezzar anyway!
c. This image however is not just a head of gold, the whole thing was overlaid with gold...to put the focus on only Nebuchadnezzar's rule and Babylon as being great!
2. The point of doing this and demanding that all leaders in his kingdom come to bow down before it was to establish his absolute rule over the entire country, after all he was new to being the king.
3. The king and kingdom were deluded into thinking that "man" and "gold" were the most important things in the universe!
a. How some things never change!
b. How many people today just live for themselves?
c. How many spend their whole lives dedicated to making more money, they live to gain riches.
4. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego however saw more important things to live for...and this of course put them in direct conflict with a very secular society!
a. We will experience the same thing living in a very secular society whose values can be quite different from the Christian faith!
b. Power & money are still the false gods of this age...and there are
many who have sought them!
ILLUS: Here are some amazing statements from a very false prophet, Rev. Moon. Some of Moon's former followers quote him as saying:
"The whole world is in my hand, I will conquer and subjugate the world." (1973)
"We must have an automatic theocracy to rule the world. So we cannot separate the political field from the religious." (1973)
"History will make the position of Rev. Moon clear, and his enemies, the American population and government, will bow down to him." (1986)
"The time will come when even a presidential
candidate will need Father's endorsement in order to succeed." (1987)
-- USN & WR Sources:
Cult Awareness Network, Capital Research Center
5. When the power of man is set up as the image to shoot for, or that gold is what makes the world bow their knee, there is going to be a serious conflict with the values of the kingdom of God since neither man is supreme nor is money the goal of life!
a. Living in this environment, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego attempt to live our their faith without compromise.
b. They are very much the minority in this secular society!
B. Demands! 3:4-6
1. Where a society exists contrary to spiritual values there will be pressures and demands to yield our faith to the values of this world.
a. This means there will be difficult times of pressure brought on by values that do not agree with those we have embraced in faith.
b. These demands can at times appear to be overwhelming!
ILLUS: The Salvation Army violated a women's constitutional right
when they fired her for witchcraft, a federal judge has ruled. The reason is the
Salvation Army cannot discriminate against witches because it receives federal
funds for some programs. She admits to using the agency copy machine to copy
satanic rituals, according to the court records. She asks for reinstatement and
$1.25 million compensation for embarrassment, humiliation, pain, and suffering.
The Salvation Army has not decided whether to appeal the decision.
2. We must not lose our faith however when the conflicts arise, nor feel that there is no choice but to compromise, God is able to deliver us!
3. The price tag of disobedience was obvious: don't bow and worship the image of the man overlaid with gold and it was death by fire!
a. The line was clearly drawn in the sand...what does a good believer do?
b. To bow would be to compromise one's faith, to not bow meant death!
4. The demand was clear...so was their decision!
C. Defiant! 3:7-12
1. Everyone bowed except 3 Hebrews! (strangely, Daniel seems to be absent in this story!)
a. It is the astrologers that take the lead in turning these men over.
b. The new age movement today is taking a direct hand in destroying Christianity too.
c. Ironically it is these same astrologers whose lives were saved by Daniel earlier; the king had ordered them all killed because they failed to reveal the dream and its meaning to the king...Daniel saved their necks and now they turn on his friends!
2. It was a "take care of #1" society...a selfish egotistical society.
3. Yet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to compromise their faith and values in God's Word for political and social gain...we could learn from these men!
4. The only one they would bow before was God...no others!
a. Whatever we bow to will own our soul!
b. The only safe place to bow is before God!
ILLUS: Have you ever watched a bird sleeping on its perch and never falling off? How does it manage to do this?
The secret is the tendons of the bird's legs. They are so constructed that when the leg is bent at the knee, the claws contract and grip like a steel trap. The claws refuse to let go until the knees are unbent again. The bended knee gives the bird the ability to hold on to his perch so tightly.
From sleeping birds we can learn the secret of
holding things which are most precious to us -- honest, purity, thoughtfulness,
honor, character. That secret is the knee bent in prayer, seeking to get a
firmer grip on those values which make life worth living. When we hold firmly to
God in prayer, we can rest assured he will hold tightly to us.
II. TEST OF FAITHFULNESS 3:13-15
A. Disturbed! 3:13
1. Notice who is most disturbed..the king!
a. The world has never taken kindly to uncompromising believers!
b. The king realizes that he has a major problem on his hands, since this ceremony was meant to have all the leaders publicly yield to him, this incident could breed rebellion in all the other leaders if left unchecked...
c. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have to be dealt with publicly!
2. The King did care enough for them to call them in to double check the
facts, after all the king had promoted these guys along with Daniel earlier...he
wants to give them another chance!
B. Decision 3:14-15
1. The king now calls them in and gives them another chance to bow to the image. He informs them also that if they refuse the gracious second chance that there will only be a fiery end, in his words, "Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hands?"
2. In the world's eyes there is no greater power in the universe than man's!
3. The gauntlet was thrown down...it was time for a decision!
4. There are many times in life when we will be called to make a decision
where we stand!
III. TRIAL OF FIRE! 3:16-23
A. Determined 3:16-18
1. Their response paraphrased is basically, "we won't hesitate to say to you O King that we won't even consider compromising!"
a. They won't even stop to think about compromise lest it tempt them ... perhaps they have something here!
b. How many Christians have toyed with the idea of compromise and then found themselves doing it!
2. As for the question the King had posed: "what god will be able to deliver you...." they have a ready answer: "Our God is ABLE TO DELIVER us, AND He WILL rescue us from your hand, O king!"
a. Notice that they are not presumptuous with God, they don't declare that God WILL deliver them, but that He is ABLE to deliver them!
b. They allow room for God to choose how they will come through this, either by death, or by deliverance - they stay with God either way!
c. Their confidence is in God, not just what God might do for them!
3. Their stand was not based on God performing a miracle for them, but on the very character of God and letting God choose how He would deliver them.
a. In any case, even if God does not choose to deliver them from the fire, He WILL rescue them from the king through death if necessary! The king cannot take them away from God no matter what happens, so he is really not that powerful after all!
b. Their faith in God does not determine how God must save them, but that God is in control!
c. And so in verse 18 they declare that if God chooses not to save them from the fire they still will not abandon their faith in Him nor bow to Nebuchadnezzar's idols or ideas!
4. Too many Christians abandon their faith because God did not answer
their cry the way they wanted....we need to leave room for God to choose the
B. Destructive 3:19-23
1. At this point the king's attitude toward these guys change dramatically (see 3:19)
a. The king becomes so furious that he is out of control!
b. How ironic...the king with all his power is powerless and so he loses control while the 3 Hebrew young men are completely calm and in control!
2. The king is out of control (note: Later on he has a mental breakdown for 7 years because of his pride and emotional instability! See Dan. 4)
a. He orders the furnace stoked 7 times hotter than normal (the technology of that time did not exist to make this possible!...hence this was an unreasonable request...something that is characteristic of tremendous anger!)
b. Some of the finest and strongest soldiers of the king's is killed in the process of following the king's orders...and the king doesn't even seem to be bothered by the loss of these good faithful soldiers to him so long as he can act out his anger over these 3 Hebrews who won't bend!
3. The king does not care who gets hurt as long as he gets his way!
a. such is the spirit of the age!
b. The king's anger is destructive to all those around him...except God's
IV. TESTIMONY OF FAITH! 3:24-30
A. Deliverance! 3:24-27
1. Notice that God DID NOT keep Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego FROM the fiery trial...but HE DID join them in it and preserve them IN it!
a. God doesn't promise to always keep us out of trials, He promises however to always be with us and deliver us from the power of the trial!
b. How can you have a TESTimony without enduring a TEST?
2. The 3 Hebrew men did not look at life in terms of material success, but
of being faithful to God as the most important thing in life.
ILLUS: Mother Teresa of Calcutta once was asked, "How do you
measure the success of your work?" She looked puzzled for a moment and then
replied, "I don't remember that the Lord ever spoke of success. He spoke only of
faithfulness in love. This is the only success that really counts." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations
Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 470.
3. After the 3 guys fall into the furnace all bound up, the king sees 4 guys walking around inside the flames and all of them free!
a. The king asks for someone else to come and take a look and confirm what he is seeing!!
b. The king realizes that the 4th person must be a supernatural being, after all, this is not normal to be in a hot furnace walking around!
c. The king calls them out...and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego come out unbound with no smell of fire or smoke on them at all, not even a hair was singed on their bodies!!!
4. The king finally acknowledges that there is no other god like the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, but this is short of accepting Him as the only God!
a. Nebuchadnezzar simply adds this new god to his list of other gods, just another god to him, albeit a unique one, to the many many gods he already had embraced personally.
b. Even though he saw God's supernatural messenger in the fire he still
does not repent, he simply acknowledges God's existence.
B. Decree 3:28-30
1. Though Nebuchadnezzar doesn't necessarily become a believer, he does issue a decree that makes the worship of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego legal...thus lifting all penalties against them and any future events where they refuse to compromise their faith!
a. Their faithfulness thus opened the door for many others to worship God faithfully and openly!
b. It also shut down the jealous astrologers from scoring any points against them!
c. AND their faithful stand for God opened the door for many Babylonians to worship the true God as well!
2. Greater freedom was the result of great faithfulness, not the fruit of compromise!
3. Ironically enough, though they would not compromise their faith to gain possessions or power, they are now promoted again to a higher place of power and no doubt material gain as well!
a. They were able to prosper in a secular society WITHOUT having to compromise their faith or stand for God!
b. We can do the same thing in our secular society too!
4. They were fully prepared for whatever God would allow, death or life, the overriding principle of their lives was faithfulness and trust in God...their God was ABLE TO DELIVER them....and HE DID SO!
5. We do not have to compromise our faith, even in a society where the
pressures to do so are great, GOD IS ABLE TO DELIVER!
CONCLUSION: He is able to deliver us, but this doesn't always mean escaping the furnace, sometimes it means surviving it! Their TESTimony is the result of passing the TEST of faithfulness! God is always able to deliver His faithful followers!