The God Who Delivers
Scripture Reading: Daniel 3:16–18
Our text for our lesson today will be taken from the third chapter of Daniel. It is the third part in a series I am doing on Daniel. I would encourage you to follow along with me in your Bibles if you wish.
(Opening Slide) At the opening of the third chapter of the book of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar has an Idol erected. It is an enormous idol. It was 90’ tall and 9’ wide (that’s more than 6 ½ stories tall) and he has it erected in the plains of in plain of Dura (Map) (a province of Babylon empire) which would make it visible from a very long distance away.
All of the king’s counselors and leaders are called to attend the dedication ceremony for the image Nebuchadnezzar had made.
An announcement was made at the dedication of the idol. The people were instructed to fall down and worship the idol when music was played. They were warned, if anyone refused to do so, they would be immediately thrown into a burning, fiery furnace.
Everyone submits to the king’s orders except three men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Some of the Chaldeans observe that these three men are not obeying the king’s decree and report this to the king.
Furious that these men have disobeyed his command, Nebuchadnezzar has them brought before him and threatens them and makes a key statement for our lesson this morning:
"15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”"
- Daniel 3:15 (NKJV)
Now notice the response of faith from the men:
"16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. "17 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. "18 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.”"
- Daniel 3:16–18 (NKJV)
Nebuchadnezzar is a king not known for tolerance or even being reasonable. He was a tyrant who would not tolerate insubordination. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refuse to disobey God and submit to the king, Nebuchadnezzar became furious and had them bound and thrown into the fiery furnace. In fact, the flames were so hot that the men who threw them into the fire die. But then something amazing happens!
Nebuchadnezzar looks into the fire and sees not one, not two, not three men walking in the midst of the fire but four men and the fourth was “like the Son of God.” Nebuchadnezzar calls for the men to come to him, but notice how he addresses them:
"26 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."
- Daniel 3:26 (NKJV)
Their hair and clothing weren’t affected by the fire. Tey didn’t even smell like smoke or singed hair. Nebuchadnezzar immediately realizes something: the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego is different from the idol he serves. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes that they serve the highest God of all and decreed this:
"28 …“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! "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.”"
- Daniel 3:28–29 (NKJV)
And in stead of being executed that day, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego are promoted in the Babylonian province.
Lesson #1: Let’s serve God without compromise.
Babylon, in some ways, was a lot like our culture in America today. Babylon was a pluralistic society. That means that all views were treated as equally valid in a sense. One god was considered just as important as another so when the king issued a decree to worship that god you were expected to accept that religious view as equally valid to your own. Sounds a lot like the politically correct culture we live in today, doesn’t it?
When our society (like Babylon) pressures us to compromise, we shouldn’t. Modern mainstream society wants to tell us that Islam (a religion that teaches that you can kill unbelievers) is a religion that is equal to Christianity (that says we are to love even our enemies). They are not equal religions. Or that the Hindu religion (that says there are millions of deities) is equal to Christianity that teaches that there is one God. They are not the same. Those ideas are incompatible. Christianity is an exclusive religion meaning that there is only one God, one Savior that can save us from our sins:
"12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”"
- Acts 4:12 (NKJV)
Saying that is an issue for people who compromise their faith. But for the faithful Christian, there are some things we simply will not compromise on and Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego understood that.
Lesson #2 God is the solution to would-be problems.
When king Nebuchadnezzar made the decree that everyone would bow down and worship the idol, that sounds like it is going to be a real problem for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. On the one hand, they can’t bow down and worship the idol because that would compromise their faith. The first commandment in the ten commandments is that they were to serve no other gods. If they worshipped the idol, they would break that commandment. If they kept the commandment, they risked suffering the wrath of the king. For many people that would be a real problem. A real pickle to find themselves in. But it wasn’t for Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
Is your life different since you became a Christian? If so, in what ways? For some people being a Christian just means your life changes in some ways. You go to worship more. You try not to cuss. You try to be a good person in most ways.
But what about politically-charged or controversial subjects? What about homosexuality or divorce or abortion? What would you do if you found yourself in a situation like some countries where being a Christian is illegal such as North Korea, Afghanistan or Somalia where you could suffer imprisonment or death for being a Christian or for sharing your faith with others?
Being a Christian means that the position you take on many of those topics is already decided for you. Generally, should we obey governing authorities? Yes. But governing authorities and the law of the land don’t have the final say. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego answered the king, they weren’t trying to be rebellious. They were simply explaining to the king that, under normal conditions God’s people submit to governing authorities. But when God’s laws and man’s laws come into conflict with each other, God’s laws trump man’s laws every time. We stand strong. We obey God regardless of the consequences.
This is why attending Bible studies is so important. We encounter these topics from time to time in our studies and its impossible to live out the life of the Christian if we aren’t aware what position the Christian is supposed to take in various situations.
Should you avoid paying the taxes you owe? No. Should we go to mediums and palm readers? No. Is it ok to kill unborn children? No. Do we obey the law when it becomes illegal to share the gospel? No. Is it o.k. to use drugs for recreational purposes and get high? No. God is the final authority of the Christian.
Lesson #3: God is the God who delivers us.
The reality is that some of us are too concerned with the short-term instead of the long-term consequences.
What people think about me if I take this stand against them? (Lose respect of others? Lose approval? Disagree with me? Think that I’m intolerant?)
What will they do to me if I take this stand? (Reject me? Oppose me? Physically threaten me?)
What I want us to think about is what made Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego’s decision to disobey the king in spite of his threats against them.
And I want us to think about two words that, while related, have different meanings: faith and faithfulness.
God said that they weren’t supposed to serve any other gods.
When you are put into a situation like this you are being put to a test and the test is this Do you really trust God? Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego trusted that God would save them. In Psalm 56 David is being attacked by his enemies. It would have been easier to give in, to look for some sort of compromise. To lose faith, to be scared. But David makes this statement and asks this question:
"11 In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
- Psalm 56:11 (NKJV)
And we need to ask that question to ourselves when the pressures of the world tempt us to cave in and compromise. What can men do to us?
Do people have the ability to do a lot of things to make our lives miserable for a time? Of course they do. They made David’s life tough sometimes. But we need to remember, in the final analysis, we serve the God who delivers.
I’ve wondered if there is an intentional spiritual application to our story. That, because of our sins, we are all like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
Have you ever noticed that the Babylonians who threw the men into the fire make the statement that the fourth man they see in the fire ? Have you ever wondered how they would know what the Son of God would look like? I don’t know either but whatever they saw, it was obvious to them!
I can’t promise a miracle like Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego experienced. But in the end, God delivers all of us who will be faithful from the fire, doesn’t He? And isn’t it because the Son of God that we are safe from the fire?
In closing let’s not forget the God that we serve. Let’s not forget to serve God without compromise. Let’s recognize God as the solution to would-be problems. And let’s remember that we serve the God who can deliver us.