Bible Ballistics: Attitude of Confidence & Grace??? Vol. 6#15
Daniel and his friends paint a beautiful picture of faith and grace, as we’ve seen over these last few weeks. We’ve seen these men of grace, humility and confidence in the God who they loved and served unashamedly. Yet, they were never men of arrogance toward others or presumption toward their God.
We saw that in the crises they turned to God in prayer and He delivered them in those crises. Daniel, you’ll remember, was granted the knowledge to know the king’s dream and it’s interpretation. And I believe it’s that dream that leads us into chapter 3.
“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.” Daniel 3:1
I can’t help but think that King Nebuchadnezzar was so enamored of the dream, (particularly the head of gold) which Daniel had related to him, that it went right to his head!!! Here we see him building a great statue on the Plain of Dura, and I find it amazing that it’s not just a normal statue but one of “gold”, and it’s proportions are absolutely unreal! Approximately 90 feet high and 9 feet wide—go figure. Talk about a toothpick image—but I’m not the king! And whom do you think it might have resembled? I don’t think there’s much guessing to get the answer to that question. Nebuchadnezzar had a large does of ‘self’ esteem and we’ll see that arrogance displayed by the king, that our 4 Hebrew boys have tried to avoid. What about us? What do people see in us? Humility or arrogance? Pressing on:
“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: 6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” Daniel 3:2-7
Wow? What a scene. This great king has gathered all the politicians, all the military leaders, all the legal officials, all the accountants, and all the underlings of the kingdom. This was a party-hearty gathering—but with a twist! All to not only admire the new statue, but to render allegiance and ‘WORSHIP’ to the kings “image”. I find it interesting that this call to ‘idolatry’ was accompanied by music. We fail to realize the power of music to drive people’s fleshly lusts, as well as to inspire (But I’ll leave that conversation for another day). So here’s the dilemma. Where are our four young men?
Scripture is silent on the whereabouts of Daniel during this episode, but it is likely that he was left “back at the palace” to take care of business, but not so for his 3 friends. Let’s see about our other three young men. First we find them at the event, but not alone—they have, in their devotion to God and their commitment to excellence in their service to the king—they apparently have acquired some adversaries on the political scene they work in.
“Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: 11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3:8-12
Oh my, what a dilemma! Any familiar terms come to mind to describe these ‘eager’ public servants? Tattletale? Whistle-blower? Ladder-climbers? It seems that these men were acting with more than civic duty as their motive. It would seem that they have an agenda in using this opportunity to eliminate “the competition”, if you would. These are pretty serious charges they are bringing against our three young men. Do you see their emphasis?
“accused the Jews”—
“whom thou hast set over the affairs”—
“not regarded thee”—
“they serve not thy gods”—
“nor worship the golden image
which thou hast set up”—
Do you see the venom in their personal, direct and intense attack on these three men? They don’t like them because:
they are Jewish (slaves brought in from Judah)—
they were personally elevated by the King himself—
they were “THESE” men who don’t fit in with us—
they don’t ‘regard’ the king (they aren’t “YES” men)—
they worship differently—
they “won’t bow down”!
I can’t help but think about us today. Would we be caught standing when the rest of the world is bowing? Would we be so devoted to God that we’d stand out, and stand up for our God—the only TRUE God in the entire universe? My friends, only God knows, but time will tell as the “evil days” continue to spiral downward around us. Do we ‘stand’ out or ‘blend’ in? Is our focus on the one we humbly and graciously serve? Or is our focus so much on staying unnoticed, that we have betrayed our faith and our God?
Continuing on with Daniel 3:
“Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:13-15
Ok, here we have an angry king—in a rage and fury!! Yet we often miss a subtle thing here, even in his anger and fury, the King can’t believe that these outstanding young men would deliberately defy him!!! He has such confidence in them that he—the king—offers them a second chance. Surely, he thinks, what we have here has been a ‘failure to communicate’!! Surely these faithful civil servants just failed to get the ‘memo’. So Nebuchadnezzar extends a second chance to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! But don’t miss the qualifier he adds to his offer. To paraphrase, “If you guys don’t bow, you WILL go into the burning furnace. AND “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” In other words, you may not worship “ME” but who do you think is big enough to deliver you out of “MY” hands. I AM KING! I EXPECT YOUR WORSHIP! Much like the early Christians who were put to death for not worshipping Caesar. And there are many calls today on our hearts to bow to other “gods”! Is your heart sure with God? Let’s continue in our diagramming mode.
“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
answered and said to the king,
we are not careful to answer thee
in this matter.
17 If it be so,
whom we serve
is able to deliver us
from the burning fiery furnace,
and he will deliver us
out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not,
be it known unto thee, O king,
that we will not serve thy gods,
nor worship the golden image
which thou hast set up.” Daniel 3: 16-18
These young men have already made up their minds to remain faithful to their God, regardless of their environment, the culture, their circumstances OR the cost. Yet they have and continue to display respect, integrity and humility beyond most of what we see today. We need to understand that when they say in verse 16 that they would not be “careful” to answer the king in this regard, they aren’t being arrogant, but simply stating (if you will allow me to paraphrase), that they don’t need to consider their answer because their lives have exhibited their answer and they have been, are now and will continue to be faithful to their GOD, regardless of the cost. In light of being given a second chance, they are telling the King that their choice IS their choice. No accident, no ‘failure to communicate’, no error in judgment, no social faux pas, but their lifelong commitment to the God they belong to. They simply and plainly advise the King that they “will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up”! Simply, respectfully and with total integrity and dependence on their God, these men stand firm for their GOD!!! What a standard to strive for?
And do you see how committed they are to trusting God? They declare to Nebuchadnezzar that their God CAN deliver, and ultimately HE will deliver them, but they won’t bow even if it means their death!!! May we be so confident in our God, and yet gracious to those in opposition to us? Lord, may I truly learn to behave in such a way! Remember the words, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?
And now—to the fire they go as a result of standing true before an angry king, and those who hate them.
“Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flames of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” v3:19-23
BUT, as Paul Harvey would say, there’s the ‘rest of the story’! And oh what a “rest” of this story. An angry king is changed into an amazed one, by what he sees in the fire! Perhaps we need to understand that sometimes our “fires” are showcases for our God to display his power and glory!
“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.” Daniel 3:24-26
Talk about a changed mind? This great and powerful King who only moments before declared, “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands”, now declares to our three faithful servants, “ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither”!!! Now Nebuchadnezzar knows “WHO” the God IS who can deliver!!! He knows that these three men stood faithful and sure in the truth. These men who were ‘thrown’ into the fire, NOW ‘walk’ out of that same fire under their own power to a waiting King, with a changed tune.
“And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw
upon whose bodies the fire had no power,
nor was an hair of their head singed,
neither were their coats changed,
nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said,
Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego,
who hath sent his angel,
and delivered his servants
that trusted in him,
and have changed the king’s word,
and yielded their bodies,
that they might not serve
nor worship any god,
except their own God.
29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.” V3:27-30
No singe, no smoke, no ashes—right out of the fire! So what can we take away today? We can learn that being men and women, boys and girls of integrity begins in the heart. We can see that if we will but trust ourselves to God Almighty and His Son Jesus Christ, and follow Him with devotion and commitment, HE will meet us wherever we may be, where ever He has placed us. And He will not only meet us there but also go ‘before’ us, go ‘with’ us, and walk ‘beside’ us through every fire that may come. Who was in the fire? Most believe, and I’m one of them, that it was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus. While three went in and three came out—they were in the fire, but they were never alone. And my friends YOU are never alone, when you belong to Jesus. He brought these young men out of the fire into recognition and promotion? Not the ending their enemies or the King expected. So, will we trust HIM, have confidence in HIM and be respectfully gracious to the opposition? Let’s pursue that goal!
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” Hebrews 13:5-6