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DANIEL, GOD'S MAN IN THE FIELD (PART V)
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
30 JULY 1989
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
The Preparation: (Galatians 1:15-16a)
15. But when He who had set me apart, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through His grace, was pleased
16. to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles....
Last week we ended our sermon on Daniel at the point when all of the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had gathered before his golden image, bowed down before the image.
We also saw that if they had not bowed down, they would have been thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.
And we also questioned where Daniel and his friends were at this time.
As we reopen the book today at chapter 3, verse 8, we are still not sure where Daniel may be, but we do find that his friends are present; and we also find out the true character of the Chaldeans:
8. For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews.
Most likely this is being done out of jealousy.
They know that the golden image is no god, but because they were forced to bow down before it and worship it, their pride has been hurt.
And they want everyone else to have their pride hurt in the same manner.
Listen to them:
9. They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: "O king, live forever!
10. "You yourself, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image.
11. "But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.
12. "There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."
First these Chaldeans puff-up the king to make him think that they are totally in agreement with him and all that he did.
We see people like this every day in our own society, particularly in the business world and politics; but it’s everywhere, even in religion.
And the key to this particular accusation goes back to the time when Daniel gave the interpretation of the king's dream, and these young men were elevated to higher positions.
They simply are jealous of them, and since their pride has been hurt over the golden image, this gives them a perfect chance to get even.
It is also giving them an opportunity to hurt the pride of the king, for he is thinking that everyone would automatically obey him, just because he is so powerful and holds the power of life and death over them.
But it isn't true, and the king now knows that at least some people don't seem to care to honor the king and his image.
His pride is now hurt, also:
13. Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king.
Now in the time that it took them to bring these three men before the king, his anger must have subsided somewhat, and he may also have thought about what they had done for him in their positions.
14. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?
15. "Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"
Do you see Nebuchadnezzar's pride?
Do you also see that he remembers their stance concerning God?
He seems to be fairly sure that what he was told about these men is true; but at the same time, he wants to show that he has more power than their God, which of course we know he doesn't.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego know that also. Listen to their response and the assurance of their faith:
16. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this.
They knew that the king knew the truth and that he was acting in his pride, and they also knew that he realized that they would not bow down and worship the golden image.
And in the power of the Holy Spirit, they answer the king in such a manner that lets him understand that they will not play his game of pride and blasphemy.
17."If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
18. "But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
Satan tries everything he can to get us to give in to him.
He knows that if he gets us to give in on the little things, we will follow along in the big things.
All God wants us to do is to stand firm in His word and wait upon Him for the solutions, no matter how bad the situation may seem.
And the situation looks pretty bad for these men, and it will seem even worse after we hear what the king has to say in response:
19. Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.
Haven't each of us, at one time or another, been caught up in our pride?
Didn't we get even angrier than we were before?
If you would like a pretty good example of what Nebuchadnezzar looked like, picture the cartoon character Yosemite Sam when Bugs Bunny pulls a fast one on him.
That is what we look like, when we get into similar situations.
And remember something else: When we get angry we also become irrational; for by heating the furnace seven times hotter, it would cause less suffering, because death would come quicker.
So, let's see what happens:
20. And he commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.
21. Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.
Isn't this the perfect place for a cliff hanger?
But we won't stop here.
22. For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
23. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.
God actually let them fall into the fire.
And He will sometimes let us fall into the fire, but that is no time to give up; in fact, it's the time to build upon your faith and continue to stand firm.
So what happened next?
24. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he responded and said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They answered and said to the king, "Certainly, O king."
25. He answered and said, "Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!"
26. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.
27. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.
God had indeed performed a miracle.
It was a miracle to show Nebuchadnezzar and all his officials that there was only one true God, and that it was time for them to repent.
And something more: God sent one of His angels to make a personal appearance, as further proof that He had indeed performed this miracle.
Note the immediate results:
28. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.
There is absolutely no doubt that Nebuchadnezzar got the message.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did exactly as God desired them to do; and their witness of faith, coupled with the miracle of God, showed Nebuchadnezzar that there is only one true God.
29. "Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way."
30. Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.
The king still has a long way to go to understand God's love, and the fact that He gave us a free will.
But will Nebuchadnezzar hold fast to what he has just confessed, or is he still caught up in the emotionalism of what has just taken place?
We will have to wait until next week to find out.
The apostle Paul had a similar experience of God's personal witness in Acts 9.
Let's take a look at this passage, beginning at verse 1, and see the results that this had on Paul, or Saul, as he was known then:
1. Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,
2. and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
In last week's sermon, we read about Paul with the people of Athens, so that they might come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Here in today's sermon, we see Paul before his conversion; and by comparison, he has much of the appearance of Nebuchadnezzar when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego wouldn't worship his golden image.
3. And it came about that as he journeyed, he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him;
4. and he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Paul has had a personal encounter with the Lord.
He still has not gone through his conversion from the religious Pharisee condition of Saul, defending the Jewish tradition, to that of Paul as we know him in the rest of the Bible.
But something has happened to Paul, and Paul's reaction is quite subdued as compared to that of Nebuchadnezzar:
5. And he said, "Who art Thou, Lord?" And He said, "1 am Jesus whom you are persecuting,
6. but rise, and enter the city, and it shall be told you what you must do."
Here we begin to see the difference between a true conversion and that of a person who is caught up in the excitement of the occasion.
Paul is submitting to the Lord's will and asking what he is to do.
Nebuchadnezzar just continued doing his own dramatic thing. He still wanted to remain in control.
7. And the men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but seeing no one.
Nothing was hidden from the Babylonians; they saw it all, for they did not have the knowledge of Paul; and God, in all His grace and mercy, was giving them every opportunity to turn from their idols and repent and seek Him only.
Paul knows that what is happening is from God, just as Nebuchadnezzar did; but the true desire of Paul's heart was to serve the Lord, even when he acted in ignorance.
Thus he obeyed the Lord, and waited upon Him for further understanding.
8. And Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus.
9. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Paul has been living in spiritual blindness as Saul, the Pharisee of Pharisees.
And here we see that God has given him a temporary, real blindness in which to meditate on what has been revealed to him.
From what we know of Paul, he probably realizes that he deserves to be blinded for the rest of his life; and as his spiritual blindness is being removed, he is repenting and seeking the truth.
And we know that he will serve the Lord Jesus Christ to his utmost.
This kind of spiritual blindness and persecution has been going on throughout the history of Christianity, even to this present day.
We hear pastors and other religious leaders spewing hatred against certain groups of human beings, when Jesus clearly calls upon us to love our neighbors.
What about some of the spiritual blindness that remains with us?
De we hate certain groups of people because the think, act, or believe differently than we do?
Do we still desire to cause billions of animals to suffer horribly and die for our lustful pleasure of eating them or otherwise using them, when we know full well that this is against God's creation intent and heavenly will?
Do we truly desire to get rid of such things and serve the Lord completely?
Do we want to be like Paul, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, or do we still desire to live in our pride with worldly desires as does Nebuchadnezzar?
The light of God's Word has shown around us, just as it did with Paul.
Are we going to seek the light, or remain in the darkness?
The choice is ours.