Daniel 3:16

July 31, 2016

Daniel 3:16
To do what is
right or to do what is smart. 
Have you ever
been faced with a situation where those seem to be your only two options? 
You know what’s
right, you know what God requires of you and yet that doesn’t seem to be the
wisest course of action.  Maybe it’s a
matter of doing the right thing, or not doing the wrong thing.
And while you
know what you should do, at the same time you are doing a quick cost analyst in
your head.  If I do this, what will it
cost me in terms of friends, or money or job security?  Should I speak up or remain silent on an
issue?  If you are like me I’m sure
that’s you’ve discovered that sometimes silence is golden, sometimes it’s just
plain yellow.
And that
question to do what was right or to do what was smart was the question at the
heart of today’s 3:16.
For those of
you who haven’t been with us this summer we have been preaching from a variety
of Chapter 3 verse 16s since June.  We of
course started with the obligatory John 3:16 and then we moved to the oft
quoted 2 Timothy 3:16, and we’ve been in the book of Acts, Joshua and
Ephesians.  
Because this is
a family Sunday and we have many of our children with us in the service I rummaged
around in the tickle trunk and discovered that we actually had a flannel graph
set for one of our 3:16, which also happens to be one of my favourite Old
Testament stories.
This morning we
are looking at Daniel 3:16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need
to defend ourselves before you.  And
we are going to start by telling you the story:
Three young men
who were only doing what they thought was right and now they were to pay the
ultimate price. Because they had disobeyed a royal decree they were to be put
to death, and not just any death they were to suffer a nasty death. 
To many, they
had made the right choice, but I’m not sure anyone thought they picked the
smart choice.
I mean if you
had to be sentenced to death this wasn’t the one you’d want to pick.  They were to be thrown into an immense
furnace used for firing pottery and apparently the occasional execution. Not a
situation that anyone would want to be presented with, but here they were.  And I’m sure at that point they thought of
those great words of Yogi
Berra’s “The Future ain’t what it used to be.”
Our story this
morning happened after Babylon had conquered Israel and the Babylonian King a
man by the name of Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that a the most promising young
captives from Jerusalem were to be brought to the palace as his personal slaves. 
And the story
is about three of those young men whose names were, Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego.  I know of one person who used
to call them Your Shack, My Shack and Little bungalow and I had a professor at
Bible College who was in the habit of referring to them as Shake the Bed, Make
the Bed and in the Bed you Go.  But their
names, at least the names you would know them by were Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego. Those however were not the names they were born with.  Those names were Hananiah, Mishael, and
Azariah,
But part of the
slavery process was to erase who they had been, so their birth names were taken
away and they were given Babylonian names, so that’s when they became Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego.  That of course
wasn’t confined to customs 3000 years ago, how many of you remember the scene
from the Roots mini Series when Kunta Kinta was told that his name was Toby?
For three years
they were taught and trained in the court of the king and at the end of that
period Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the honour students and
were appointed as advisers in the King’s Court.
But that was
then and this was now.  If we fast
forward ahead three years we discover that King Nebuchadnezzar has come down
with a bad case of deity envy, that is he wanted to be God. And if’n you’re God
then you should be worshipped and that’s where we come into the story. 
So, Nebuchadnezzar
had a huge idol created and erected. 
When the royal musicians played everyone was to bow down and worship the
statue, everyone, even exiled Jews. If we had background music here it would
change to a minor key signifying that something bad was about to happen.
Now if you grew
up in church and Sunday School then you probably already know the story. 
Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego may have been favourites of the king but right now they weren’t
making him very happy. 
You see when
everyone else bowed, they didn’t.  Must
have had something to do with the entire Deuteronomy 5:7-9 You know where it says, Deuteronomy
5:7-9
Do not worship any other
gods besides me.  Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals
or fish. You must never worship or bow down to them.
However
Nebuchadnezzar considered himself a fair King and thinking that perhaps his
star pupils had misunderstood the command, perhaps it was the entire second
language thing, he gave them another chance. 
If Nebuchadnezzar had of been an English speaker trying to convey his
message to someone who spoke another language he probably would have simply
repeated the initial command, only slower and louder. You know what they say to
be multilingual means you speak many languages, to be bilingual means you speak
two languages and to be monolingual means you speak English.
Where were
we?  Oh yeah, bow down or be tossed in
the furnace.  And maybe you know the
story, and maybe you don’t. 
This morning I
want to look at the response of  Shadrach,
Meshach, and Abednego to the challenge they faced.  Obey God or do what seemed like the smart and
practical thing. So where were we?  Oh
yeah, King Nebuchadnezzar had this huge stature built and commanded everyone to
bow down and worship it when the music played. 
But instead of
doing that we read the story in Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not
need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power,
Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will
never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
A common theme
through this series seems to be that as Christ followers we are required to
believe. In John 3:16 We talked about how we need to believe that God sent his
Son, In 2 Timothy 3:16 it was how we need to believe the scriptures came from
God.  In Acts 3:16 the crippled man had
to believe that he had been healed.  In
Joshua 3:16 the priest had to believe that the Jordan River would dry up when
they stepped into it carrying the Ark of the Covenant.   And last week’s message from Ephesians 3:16
talked about prayer, which of course is wrapped up in our belief.
So what was it
that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were called to believe?  
They absolutely
believed that they were doing the right thing and that because of that they
were committed to their course of action. 
And this wasn’t a mamby pamby “Yes I believe I’m doing the right thing”
type of faith, they were willing to put everything on the line. 
Talk is cheap,
it’s easy to say that you’ll always do the right thing.  But what happens when doing the right thing
cost you something?  What happens when
taking a stand cost you acceptance with your friends or your family. 
We talk about
someday having a bigger worship centre, but what happens when your commitment
to seeing a new church built cost you money and time.  What happens when your commitment to truth and
integrity cost you advancement in your career. 
What happens when you are standing in front of the blazing furnace and
you are told “Bow or Burn”?
We discover
where there belief began when we read today’s 3:16, Daniel 3:16 O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need
to defend ourselves before you.   So we begin by
discovering that They Believed in God’s Purpose They knew they were doing what they
had to do and because of that they didn’t need to say anything.  They didn’t have to convince themselves and
they knew they couldn’t convince the king so why waste their breath. What were
they supposed to say?  It wasn’t that
they weren’t guilty of what they were being accused of, they were.  I remember getting pulled over for speeding
in Australia, a very isolated incident let me assure you. And when the officer
approached me he asked if I had a reason for speeding.  A reason for speeding, the only thing I could
think of was that it was a beautiful evening, I had the roof down and it seemed
appropriate to be driving that fast. So I looked him in the eyes and said “no
sir.”  Sometimes there’s no need to say
anything.
They weren’t
the only ones in the bible who took that approach,  Matthew 27:12-14 But when the leading priests and other leaders made their accusations
against him, Jesus remained silent. “Don’t you hear their many charges against
you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus said nothing, much to the governor’s great
surprise.
Jesus didn’t
have to convince himself and he knew that he wouldn’t convince Pilate or the
leaders. 
There are times
in your life that you have said what you’ve had to say, you’ve taken your stand
and now all you can do is see how it shakes down.  When Martin Luther took a stand against the Catholic Church 500 years
ago he was called in front of the powers that be and was offered the chance to
recant, which means to change his mind. 
Much like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were given a second chance,
and Luther said “Here
I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”
Let’s keep
reading, Daniel 3:17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power,
Your Majesty. Their faith in
their action was grounded in the fact that They
Believed in God’s Protection
.   Maybe
they were thinking back to the stories of how God had delivered his people time
after time when they were faithful.  Of
Noah and Moses, of Abraham and David and a host of others.  Perhaps they remember the words of the Psalms
where David wrote Psalm 55:16-18 But I will call on God,
and the Lord will rescue me.
Morning,
noon, and night I plead aloud in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice.
He
rescues me and keeps me safe from the battle waged against me, even though many
still oppose me.
When Peter was
in prison and the Roman authorities were going to separate his head from his
shoulders God stepped in.  When Paul was
aboard a ship that was threatening to sink, God intervened.   We all have experienced or know someone who
has experienced the direct intervention of God. 
God will protect and keep us. 
Jesus told the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane,  Matthew 26:53 Don’t you realize that I
could ask my Father for thousands of angels to protect us, and he would send
them instantly?
Sigmund
Freud said “I cannot think of any
need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”  And I can’t think of any need in our relationship with Christ as the
need for our heavenly father’s protection. 
We need to realize that God cares about us and we need to be able to say
with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego the God whom we serve is able to save us.
And as powerful
as their faith was in what they were doing and as strong as their faith was in
God’s protecting hand I think that the most incredible and powerful statement
is yet to come.  We can stand and say “I
believe that I’m doing what is right and I believe that God will take care of
me.”  But how many of us have the faith
to echo those words with these, Daniel 3:18 But even if he doesn’t,
Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold
statue you have set up.”  You see ultimately They Believed in God’s Plan  God will save us, but if he doesn’t then we
will still obey him.  God does protect
his people, but we all know even if we don’t understand it, that sometimes that
doesn’t save us physically, if that was the case there’d be no martyrs. 
Listen to what
Peter had to say in 1 Peter 3:12-14 “The eyes of the Lord
watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers.
But
the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”
Now,
who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good?
We like hearing
that but Peter’s not through because he says But even there it is again But even 
if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So
don’t be afraid and don’t worry.
One of my
favourite sections of the bible is found in Hebrews 11, it is the faith hall of
fame. We read about heroes of the Old Testament, people like Noah and Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob, Moses and Joshua. 
Listen to what the bible says about these servants of God, Hebrews 11:32-35 Well, how much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount
the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and
all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice,
and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions,
quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their
weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole
armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.
That’s the list
I want to be in.  The list of the
winners, the victors they trusted God and God came through.  God is good. 
But let’s keep reading the same author, the same book, the same chapter,
carrying on from the same verse  Hebrews 11:35-39  But others trusted God and were
tortured, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free. They placed
their hope in the resurrection to a better life. Some were mocked, and their
backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in dungeons. Some died by
stoning, and some were sawed in half; others were killed with the sword. Some
went about in skins of sheep and goats, hungry and oppressed and mistreated.
They were too good for this world. They wandered over deserts and mountains,
hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
All
of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their
faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.
If I had my
druthers I’d druther be in the first group. 
But we don’t always get our druthers, do we?  And the people in the second group were
serving the same God as the people in the first group.  And we are told by those in the know that
there have been more Martyrs in the last hundred years then there were in the
nineteen hundred years before that.  And
God hasn’t tumbled off his throne, he’s still a good God and a merciful God and
we have to believe that ultimately he knows exactly what he’s doing. 
 Over fifty years ago five young missionaries
flew to South America to reach a tribe that had never heard the name of
Jesus.  One of those missionaries, a
young man by the name of Jim Elliot made this
statement “He
is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.” 
It wasn’t very long after he made that statement that he and his
companions were killed by the very people he went to reach.  People around the world reacted in shock to
the news of the slaughter.  How could God
allow that? And yet Jim Elliot’s wife Elizabeth eventually saw that entire
tribe come to know Jesus.  Elliot
couldn’t have kept his life even if he had of lived to be a hundred.  And yet how many people will live for eternity
because of Jim Elliot’s sacrifice?
And as the guys
stood staring into the flames of the furnace they said “God will deliver
us, but if he doesn’t, tough we still won’t bow.”  Can you believe in the goodness of God no
matter what?
Let’s go back
to the story.  Shadrach, Meshach, and
Abednego’s response was not what the king was expecting to hear and he was
furious.  He commanded that the three be
tossed into the furnace and they were. 
From the
description given of the furnace it would appear that it was commonly used for
executions, that is was constructed in such a way that the accused were tossed
in through an opening in the top.  In
this case the fire was burning so hot and so furious that it actually killed
the soldiers who were escorting the three men. 
And so the story ends.  They took
a stand for God and they lost.  Good was
defeated and evil was victorious, but was it?
Keep listening
to the words of Daniel,    Daniel 3:24-26 But suddenly, as he was watching, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement
and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into
the furnace?”
“Yes,”
they said, “we did indeed, Your Majesty.”
“Look!”
Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire.
They aren’t even hurt by the flames! And the fourth looks like a divine being!”
Then
Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and
shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come
out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire.
And finally Their Belief was Proven  God was there, he had a plan and it entailed
keeping those three young men alive. 
They were to go on and play an integral part of the Government of
Babylon during the time the people of Israel were in exile and a measly little
thing like a blazing furnace wasn’t going to stand in God’s way.  Who was the fourth man?  There have been different theories, some have
said it was an angel, others Jesus.  The
truth is we don’t know, but we do know that he was there for a purpose. Imagine
being thrown into an execution furnace, what would your first reaction be?  Mine would be to scream.  “Ahhh I’m burning” and then you realize
against all odds that you were fine, what would your reaction be?  Mine would be to scream.  “Ahhh I’m not burning.” Whoever or whatever
the fourth person was I think he was there to bring comfort and reassuring to
the guys.  
Because whether
we burn in the trials or whether we don’t burn in the trials God’s promise is
that he will be there for us.  Hebrews 13:5 God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never forsake you.”   That’s the promise folks.  God will never fail you or forsake you.  Do you believe that this morning?  Perhaps you are standing at the door of your
own furnace, my prayer for you today is that you have the faith to not only
believe that God will do what is good but also to believe that whatever God
chooses to do will be good.  I hope and
pray that the prayer of your heart will be, “But even if”