AGCC Sun. a.m. 7/21/96
(see also: 5/24/87)
INTRO: As Daniel, Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego discovered long ago, it is not easy to live out faith in a
society that emphasized the secular and the sensational. They found it tough to
live out faith in a materialistic environment where the constant pressure was to
compromise their faith in order to fit in with their society. In this way, not
much has changed!
They found themselves being pressured to bow down to gods of gold and
silver, to be in awe of man's intellect and power, but they would not compromise
their faith! Not much has changed in 2,500 years! The gods of gold and silver
have a slightly different shape (greenbacks now!) but they are still worshipped
and people still "sacrifice" important things to them like their families and
their faith! The 90 foot image of a man that Nebuchadnezzar made to strike awe
and worship in those that viewed it is no different than the focus on man's
accomplishments and awe today in all that man has accomplished!
These few men however refused to compromise their faith in God in order to
bow to these pressures from the ungodly society they lived and worked in, this
means we can learn from their example!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that we must not bow to the gods of silver and gold, nor worship the image of
man! Our faith in God is our priority, and no compromise can be found between
worship of God and worship of man!
TRANSITIONAL SENTENCE: God does
not promise to keep us FROM the fires when we are faithful to Him, but He does
promise to be with us IN the fire!
I. CALL FOR COMPROMISE! 3:1-7
A. Graven Image 3:1-3
1. The focus of a secular society is two fold: MONEY & MAN!
a. Nebuchadnezzar has a 90' image of a man made for worship!
b. It was covered completely with gold.
c. The image may have been made to represent him, or just man in general, it was an idol in this sense symbolizing man's greatness.
2. All leaders of the nation were gathered to bow down to this image and worship it.
a. Is it so different today? Isn't this just what our society is teaching our young people still? To bow to the god of humanism, coated with the god of gold - money!
b. We glory in man's power, we worship the abilities we have to do things ourselves without any help from any deity!
c. Our lives are spent with a focus on making more and more money!
3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves living in a world where the pressures to compromise their faith in God and go along with the world's ideas was so great ... we also live under such conditions!
a. Does spiritual things take a back seat to your occupation and busy lifestyle?
b. Does getting ahead mean no time for your family or for God?
c. If you answer "yes", then haven't you compromised and bowed just a little too?
4. The state of spirituality in this country should serve as a warning
that we are drifting in compromise, we are failing to hear the real message
anymore and are listening to other gods!
ILLUS: When the unsinkable Titanic sank, warning after warning had
been sent to tell them they were heading toward disaster, but the messages were
ignored! In fact, when a nearby ship sent an urgent message warning them that
they were compromising their safety going into an ice field, the radio operators
on the Titanic were talking to Cape Race about the time Chauffeurs were to meet
arriving passengers at the dock, and what menus were to be ready, preoccupied
with trivia the Titanic radio men responded to the warning by this message:
"Shut up!, I am talking to Cape Race, you are jamming my signals!" They
worshipped their own glory and ignored the warnings...destruction followed! Some
things are too important to compromise!
5. Of course, since Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were recently promoted to administrators over the provinces of Babylon, they were there too, and being asked to simply bow to this image of man and gold!
a. They might have thought: "We know it isn't a real god, so it won't mean anything to us if we just bow, it will keep the peace."
b. Or, they might have reasoned: "If we bow this one time we at least will have an opportunity to share our faith later with all these ungodly people."
c. They might have even justified: "If we don't bow and are killed, who will be here to witness to all these people?"
6. No matter how good sounding the logic, any bowing would have been a
compromise of faith in God!
B. Gold Investment 3:4-7
1. This was a huge financial investment by the government into this image of man!
a. It is no wonder Nebuchadnezzar would not take lightly any attempt to not bow ... it cost the government a mint to set this thing up!
b. With this kind of investment, Nebuchadnezzar expected everyone to be in awe and submit!
2. The price was so high that everyone was expected to bow before it.
3. Nebuchadnezzar was hoping to really all his leadership under him by striking awe into them by this statue of man made out of gold.
4. It made all who saw it marvel at the wealth and power it represented.
5. They must have thought, "surely no nation on Earth has such power and wealth".
a. See any parallels here to us today?
b. All Nebuchadnezzar was asking for was just a little bow, just to worship the "image" this one time.
c. How many Christians have sold their soul to worship the gods of man and the god of gold today? How many have compromised important spiritual things to gain the attention of this idol...and to have sacrificed their families and souls on the altars of these gods?
6. To stay ahead, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have to compromise their faith just a little, or it would be fire!
7. However, as J.H. Jowett once said, "the real measure of our wealth is how much we'd be worth if we
lost all our money!"
II. CALL FOR CONSEQUENCES 3:8-15
A. Gods Ignored! 3:8-10,12-15
1. The Babylonian magicians who were probably ticked from the recent promotion of Daniel and his 3 friends, remember Daniel had made these mystics look like fools before, now these same mystics whose life Daniel had saved were planning an opportunity to get Daniel and his friends destroyed.
a. They must have known that these men of faith would not compromise, in fact, to destroy them these evil men were counting on their consistent testimony!
b. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn't even consider bowing as an option!
c. While they were willing to serve the king of Babylon faithfully, they would not compromise their service to the KING OF KINGS Himself, not for any human king's demands that compromised that relationship to God!
2. They simply ignored the command to bow, something noticed by the others who now saw an opportunity to get their old job status back.
a. These are the same men who were ordered to be executed earlier and were saved by Daniel and his 3 friends!
b. They are obviously opportunists, forgetting how their lives had earlier been spared by these Hebrew believers.
c. The world was a cut-throat place, every man for himself, and gain at any one's expense was the rule, not too different that today in many ways!
3. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would have nothing to do with this kind of lifestyle or values however, they took their values from God's kingdom and His Word.
a. They lived by these values, so no compromise!
b. and they would die by these values if necessary! Some things are more important than promotions and even physical life.
4. History is replete with examples of those who sacrificed to the gods of
gold and silver, and the price they paid for it!
ILLUS: In 1923 at the Edgewater Beach hotel in Chicago there was a
meeting of the 9 most successful financiers. Those present were: the president
of the largest independent steel company; the president of the largest utility
company; the president of the New York stock exchange; a member of the
President's cabinet; the greatest "bear" on Wall Street; president of the
largest gas company; the greatest wheat speculator; head of the world's greatest
monopoly; and president of the bank of international settlements. These were men
who had bowed to the god of gold and had done well. 25 years later here is their
status: the president of the largest steel company - CHARLES SCHWAB, died
bankrupt and lived on borrowed money for 5 years before his death; the president
of the largest utility company - SAMUEL INSULL, died a fugitive from justice and
penniless in a foreign land; the president of the largest gas company - HOWARD
HOSPON, is now insane; the greatest wheat speculator - ARTHUR CUTTEN, died
abroad insolvent; the president of the New York Stock exchange - RICHARD
WHITNEY, was recently released from Sing Sing Penitentiary; the member of the
President's cabinet - ALBERT FALL, committed suicide; the president of the Bank
of international settlements - LEON FRASER, died by suicide also. All these men
learned the art of making money, but not one of them learned how to live or to
have faith! Their idol could not save them in the end!
5. Faith in man or gold may offer some help in the here and now, but it can do nothing for the future! Only faith in God can offer hope for both now and in the future! Therefore, no compromise! Even when facing real consequences, no compromise!
a. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not interested in trading temporary gain for compromising their faith!
b. To bow to this idol was not even a possibility in their minds!
B. Great Inferno! 3:11
1. The consequences were quite clear if they failed to compromise.
2. Sometimes there are consequences in our lives if we refuse to compromise with this world!
3. The only question is which consequences we are willing to endure, for there are spiritual consequences for compromising also!
4. It was fire now by man, or fire later by God if they compromised...which one would you choose?
5. IT was not their fear of God's fire however that drove them, it was
their love for God that made them unwilling to bow to an idol.
III. CALL FOR CONSISTENCY 3:16-23
A. Godly Integrity! 3:16-18
1. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not afraid to speak directly to the king about the fact that they are unwilling to compromise.
a. They want the king to know why they are refusing, it is not a personal dislike for the king, just a matter of their faith in God.
b. They also use this opportunity to witness about the God they serve, how many believers today might have been bitter that God had put them in this place, but not them, they use this to show that God is not like the Babylonian gods, He is a God who can anything! He is a God that can even save them from the fire of man!
c. Note however that they don't presume on God's goodness, they don't state that God WILL deliver them from the manmade flames, only that God CAN deliver them!
d. Then they state that either way, if God does spare them from the fire or if He doesn't, either way, God WILL deliver them from the king's hand and power!
(1. The king can only kill their bodies, but God will take care of them after this, thus delivering them from the hand of the king of Babylon!
(2. They are witnessing to the fact that the king is temporal, But God is eternal!
2. Their act of faithfulness is not based on whether God does a miracle for them or not, it is based on their faithfulness to obey and serve God no matter what horrible thing that happens to them in this life.
a. This is godly integrity!
b. How many people are willing to serve God when they get the miracles they hope for but turn away from God when they fail to get what they want!
c. Not these boys! They will be faithful no matter what God permits in their lives.
3. They understand the importance of upholding God's name no matter what.
They won't cave in just because things get "hot" for them.
ILLUS: Like one soldier who served under Alexander the Great, he
was young but proud to serve. Yet, when the battle grew fierce he had a habit of
yielding or running! Alexander the Great took great offense by this young man's
actions because he also bore as his first name the same name - ALEXANDER! One
day the great general called this young soldier in and sternly said to him,
"stop being a coward or drop that good name!"
B. Godless Insistence! 3:19-23
1. The king was not used to someone standing up to him, after all, he had just recently promoted these guys!
a. He had tried to give them a second chance to compromise
b. They however weren't even interested in compromise!
2. This made the king furious!
a. In his anger he becomes irrational! Anger can do this to us!
b. He asks that the furnace be stoked 7 times hotter than normal! (which by the way was impossible for the technology of the times! He was asking for the impossible!)
c. He also asks the strongest soldiers he has to tie these guys up, as if they were some kind of real threat to his entire army!
d. His actions as a man were irrational...driven by anger out of control.
3. The world will not back down on their demands that we compromise our faith. If we don't compromise they will be furious!
4. Notice the outcome of irrationality:
a. The best and strongest soldiers in Nebuchadnezzar's troops die in the process of obeying the king's angry commands!
b. The king seems to have no remorse over the loss of these fine faithful soldiers who had given their lives for his power!
c. The king is obsessed with his own power and demands! This is the essence of all sin, selfishness!
5. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego find themselves bound and falling into the fiery furnace since their soldiers guards died in the process of pushing them in!
a. God did not keep them out of the fiery furnace even though they had lived faithfully before God!
b. God does not promise to keep us out of fiery furnaces, but He does promise to be with us in them!
c. God has not abandoned them in the fire...nor are we victims of evil in
this world, God is always in control of our lives as His children!
IV. CALL FOR CELEBRATION! 3:24-30
A. God's Intervention 3:24-27
1. While God didn't keep them from the fire, He did keep the fire from them!
a. Though they had to undergo the experience of being put into the fire, God kept the fire from harming them!
b. Indeed, even Nebuchadnezzar noticed something unusual going on in the furnace, he knew he threw 3 men into the flames but now he sees 4 in there!
2. He asks for confirmation on his mathematics!
3. Now Nebuchadnezzar himself approaches the entrance of the furnace and calls Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out!
a. The 4th member doesn't emerge, his job was done!
b. The king even noticed the 4th member was supernatural, yet he doesn't see this one as God, just a "son of the gods" in keeping with this understanding about his belief in many gods.
4. Everybody was amazed at what they saw!
a. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had no smell of fire on them, nothing had burned except the ropes that bound them!
b. Not even a hair on their heads had been singed!
c. There was no doubt about their GOD VS. FIRE!
5. God had vindicated his uncompromising servants, and in the process revealed His presence to an ungodly nation!
6. Their faith had won the day, and revealed the true God to a fallen compromising world!
7. When faced with an impossible situation, they continued to have hope and trust in God, they wouldn't quit their faith and give up.
a. Though they went through the fire...they emerged without even smelling like it!
b. God can take us through the fires of this world too...and we can emerge
without the stink in our lives!
ILLUS: Two boys found themselves in an impossible situation, one
gave up, but not the other. John and Dave were hiking when they spotted a
mountain lion staring at them, John froze in his tracks realizing it was all
over, there was no way of escape! But Dave sat down on a log, tore off his
hiking boots and he put on a pair of running shoes! His negative friend John
said to him, "for crying out loud Dave, you can't outrun a mountain lion!" His
friend answered however, "I don't have to, I just have to outrun you!"
8. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn't have to compromise to win, they
just had to trust in God!
B. God Identified! 3:28-30
1. Even Nebuchadnezzar recognized God's help to these uncompromising servants!
a. The obvious was obvious!
b. In a strange way, the king of Babylon from now on would know that if these guys made a commitment to something they could be trusted to follow through on it ... he would have even greater confidence in them than before!
2. While it is not clear that Nebuchadnezzar abandoned his faith in the other gods, he is willing to give legal status to the worship of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
a. This meant that worshipping God in the future could not be held as a crime anymore!
b. This opened the freedom for others to worship God openly.
c. Although this didn't turn the whole nation to the real God, it did make it possible for Daniel and his 3 friends to worship God freely during the rule of the Babylonians and for others to come to faith in the true God also!
3. This foiled any future plans to get them into trouble in Babylon by the other mystics!
4. The name of God at least had legal standing in Babylon now! A nation that didn't know about God was getting to know Him more and more through His faithful servants and their witness...is this the case with us today?
a. As we live faithfully, and don't compromise with this world, our neighbors and friends will also come to see the real God!
b. God will vindicate those who serve Him...and make Himself known through
the process if we walk faithfully with Him!
CONCLUSION: There will
always be pressure from the world to bow down to the gods of gold and silver, to
compromise our faith for political and material gain. Being faithful to God will
not always mean escape FROM the fire, but it will mean escape IN the fire! God's
name is at stake, are you being faithful that He might be revealed to