Faithful: God's Character, Our Calling
God Our Deliverer
October 17, 2021
The Reading of Daniel 3:8-24 by Bekah Marshall
The Situation of Daniel 3: Israel, because of her idolatry, was carried into exile and dispersed among the nations. This happened in a succession of waves. First the
Why we should care about Daniel 3: Because we are not unlike many saints of old who lived in the midst of non-Christian cultures, and as such, were tempted, pressured, and even persecuted because of their faith in the One True God. And in Daniel chapter 3 we will see the wonderful examples of three young Jewish men remaining faithful to their God, even unto death. And even more wonderful, we see our faithful God deliver them out of the hand of their oppressors.
Proposition: Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound by their conscience to remain faithful to God, we understand that as Disciples of Jesus, we are called to walk in faithful obedience to God’s Word in the midst of spiritual opposition, personal ridicule, threats, persecution, even unto death. But the overwhelming burden of this passage is to demonstrate that God is our Deliverer.
The Outline of the Sermon
Strangers in a Strange Land
The Stand of Faith
God’s Great Deliverance
Strangers in a Strange Land (Daniel 3:1-15)
For the Jews living in exile was a crushing punishment. All that they had known was taken away. They had been removed from their own land and were plunged, against their will, into a foreign land, a strange land, with strange ways, strange religions, and a strange culture. They lived in the midst of blatant idolatry, religious pluralism, and religious persecution.
Living Amidst idolatry
The evil of idolatry
The most mentioned sin in the Bible. God hates sin and especially idolatry.
When the Bible talks about idols it is referring to the worship of false gods.
Especially egregious is the worship of a physical idol. A stone or wooden statue.
God really hates that.
When God gave the 10 commandments, dealing with idolatry is at the top of the list
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
God judged Israel in both the Assyrian Captivity (732 BC) and the Babylonian Captivity. And God is still judging idolatry.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:18-25)
The awful exchange: Idolaters exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images…and the truth about God for lie.
And God’s judgment upon idolatry is further debauchery. God takes his restraining hands off and they slide even lower.
The idols of Babylon: Now, back to Daniel 3. Babylon was no different than any other of countries and empires of that period of history. They had numerous idols. Marduk. Bel and Nebo are mentioned in Isaiah 46.
And now, in addition to the idols they were already worshipping, King Nebuchadnezzar adds another image to be worshipped.
Text: Daniel 3:1-7
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Notice how big the statue is: 90 ft. high and 9 ft. wide. It seems to have been made of pure gold. No doubt some of the gold plundered from the temple in Jerusalem.
Daniel doesn’t tell us what the image was or what it was called. Only that when the band started playing you better bow down to it.
And who knew they had bagpipes in Babylon.
And notice Daniel mentions 6 times in these 7 verses that the image had to be set up. Daniel is saying something. “You want people to bow down and worship something that can’t stand on its own, it has to be set up.” All the pomp and pageantry for something that you had made, something you have to carry around and something you have to set up. It is truly stupid.
Idolatry makes you stupid.
Every man is stupid and without knowledge;
every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
15 They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish. (Jeremiah 10:14-15)
And even more sinful. Ezekiel 20:31 God condemns Israel for sacrificing their children to idols. Evil.
We mustn’t think that idol worship is something that belongs to ancient civilizations.
A number of years ago I was preaching in Rangoon, Burma. There was a lot about that experience that was very interesting and one of the most interesting was visiting a large Buddhist temple there call the Shwedago Pagoda or the Great Dragon Pagoda. The largest building was almost 400 ft. tall. And there were a lot of other smaller temples around the largest. And they all had images in them. Gold everywhere. Architecturally, it was fascinating. But the saddest thing in the world was watching people bowing down in front of them, crying out to them, burning incense, putting money in front off images. It was heartbreaking to watch. But chilling as well, knowing how evil it is.
You might be thinking, that kind of thing doesn’t happen here in America. You’d be wrong. Modern people in America have their own idols. Maybe they’re not golden statues but they are idols none-the-less. We were made for worship. It is built into our nature. And so, everybody worships something. If nothing else, they worship themselves.
“Idols aren’t just stone statues. No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God. Idols cause us to ignore the true God in search of what we think we need.”-Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart
People can worship anything: Money, success, other people, celebrity, ease, and personal freedom.
“…thus we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” – John Calvin, Institutes I,11,8
An incident a couple of weeks ago caught my attention:
A Texas abortionist, Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi a couple of weeks ago before a congressional committee about the Texas bill banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
"I know firsthand that abortion saves lives, for the thousands of people I’ve cared for abortion is a blessing, abortion is an act of love, abortion is freedom," she said.
As awful and insane that statement is, I also found that very enlightening about the present cultural idolatry. “Abortion is freedom.” Freedom. Freedom from having to carry and deliver a baby. Personal freedom is one of the idols of our age. Personal freedom from God-given responsibility. Personal freedom has become the justification for mass murder. Freedom to change gender, etc. Just like in the O.T. people are sacrificing children to their idol. Personal freedom—we can make an idol out of anything.
It’s not always that what you want is bad, it’s that you want it so bad. Therefore, you’ll sin to get it.
And her statement “Abortion saves lives”. I refer you to Jeremiah 10:14. Idolatry makes you stupid.
Living Amidst religious pluralism -
What Nebuchadnezzar wanted doesn’t seem to be to eradicate the worship of God by the Jews, but rather to force everyone to accept this new idol along with their current religion whatever it was. In short, religious pluralism.
But God doesn’t sanction the worship of any so-called God. Under any circumstances.
That was the problem with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They knew they shouldn’t obey the king’s command and they didn’t.
Just a note of caution: I don’t think the 3 young Jew here were trying to make a big deal about their refusal to bow down. They likely hoped that no one would notice. But they did. Nor do I think they would have failed to obey the king had it been something they could do without sinning.
For the Jewish exiles in Babylon as well as Christians in America, we are obligated to honor and obey the civil authorities.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution,[b] whether it be to the emperor[c] as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 16 Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13-17).
Our consciences are bound by God’s word to obey, unless that obedience is sinful. As Peter told the authorities in Acts 5, “We must obey God rather than men.”
What, increasingly, our culture is characterized by is religious pluralism. And I am using the word religious very broadly there and there is and likely will continue to pressure on us to conform to the culture. Shad
Living with the pressure to conform
The authority of the king (verses 1-7) 6 times he is called King Nebuchadnezzar to emphasize that the highest civil authority in the Empire has personally invited you to a dedication service and has commanded you to bow down and worship and image.
And not only the king, but it seems as if everybody there was bowing except the 3. That might tempt you if you cared too much about what people thought. (talk to the young folks).
Living amidst the reality of persecution
The plots against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. (3:8-12)
Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared[b] to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Verse 8. Certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.
It’s hard to tell if the Chaldeans that reported them to Nebuchadnezzar were jealous of their abilities and their governmental position or if it was racism against the Jews. It was likely a combination of both.
But Daniel highlights the fact that they were malicious in their accusation, which means that they weren’t primarily concerned with the glory of Nebuchadnezzar or his statue.
The threats against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by the King himself. (3:13-15)
“Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good.[c] But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:13-15)
There is no intimidation like physical intimidation. I learned that riding on a school bus.
Nebuchadnezzar is enraged by the disobedience of the 3. He gives them another chance.
And then he issues the challenge: “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
That brings us to our second point.
The Stand of Faith (Daniel 3:16-18)
The Response to Nebuchadnezzar:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.” Translate: “We don’t care what you say.”
They refused to defend themselves by arguing with him.
No amount of threats could make them bow down to the king’s statue.
Understand this was not some sweeping rebellion against authority. It was related solely to the king’s edict to bow down and worship the statute.
What were the underlying convictions that caused such a stance of faith?
First, they were familiar with the very clear warnings against idolatry in the Law of Moses.
The first two commandments
Leviticus 26:1 “You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God.
Their stance was based on Biblical convictions. So should ours.
These exiles took idolatry very seriously. They understood that it was Israel that got them plundered and carried away to Babylon in the first place. They weren’t about to repeat that sin.
But in reality, they did answer Nebuchadnezzar’s threats. A very loud answer indeed. Their answer was a bold declaration of their trust in their faithful God.
Let’s look at what else they said in response to Nebuchadnezzar. Look at verse 17: “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.
Our God will deliver us.
They trusted in God’s character: That He is faithful, i.e., that he keeps His promises. That He would deliver them through the fire. They knew what the prophets said. They knew the promises of God and trusted that he would deliver on his promises. Because he is a faithful God. Isaiah said 150 yrs. earlier.
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:1-3)
Our God is a God of salvation,
and to God, the Lord, belong deliverances from death. (Psalms 68:20)
But they don’t stop there.
The third thing they said (see verse 18) “18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Their heart was to obey God’s clear commandment not to worship the Babylonian idols even if it cost them their life.
They were ready to die boldly and fearlessly if God had so ordained such a sacrifice.
Our takeaway from the example of the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Faithfulness in the midst of trial.
Faithfulness springs from true saving faith in Jesus Christ. We are to be a people of faith. A people that declares unashamedly that Jesus is Lord. We confess Him. We identify with Him. We are not ashamed of Him or His gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation.
Faithfulness springs from a deep understanding of what God expects of us. We must read our Bibles to get our moral bearings.
To make our stand regardless of the cost.
A note of warning: You be careful what you make your stand on. It should be a clear command from the Bible. Not your fallible opinion. Not what some TV preacher tells. Not what some podcase. Not even what your pastor tells you. It should be from the word of God.
But for most of us, we are in more danger of compromising; of caving in under the pressure of the culture.
And some perhaps will try to withdraw from the culture. We are to be in the world but not of the world.
I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. That’s why this account is in the Bible. To give us good examples to follow.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4.
So, I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Don’t you? Don’t you hope that when call to bow down and worship false gods comes to us that we will be like the 3 here. Say it with me;
I want to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?
Well let’s see how the story ends. Needless to say, Nebuchadnezzar was not happy.
God’s Great Deliverance (3:19-30)
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he ordered some of the mighty men of 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 cloaks, their tunics,[e] their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. 22 Because the king's order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. 27 And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king's counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.
What a deliverance!
So, they bind them and throw them into the furnace. We don’t know what the furnace looked like but some of the sources I read indicated that it might have been shaped like a bee hive with a hole at the top where you would throw something in and it also had an opening like a door or window at ground level so that you could see since Nebuchadnezzar did see in.
Who is the fourth person in the fire? Nebuchadnezzar declares he is “like a son of the gods.” Was it an angel? Was it the Son of God? We don’t know and Daniel doesn’t clarify it for us. Hence, it really doesn’t matter.
It could have been the Son of God in a pre-incarnation appearance. What we call a Christophany.
But it could just as well have been an ordinary angel like the one that killed all those Assyrians in 2 Kings 19.
God is with us in the fire. God is with us in the flood. God is with us when suffer. God is with us when we are persecuted. God is with us. Miraculously.
God was always showing up to deliver his people. Because God is our Deliverer!
It was God who closed the door of Noah’s ark to save his people.
It was God who parted the Red Sea to save his people.
It was God who caused manna to fall day by day to feed his people.
It was God who brought forth water from a rock to quench their thirst
It was God who was their Rock, their fortress, their high tower.
It was God who went before them when they entered the Promised Land.
It was God who appeared to Joshua and revealed himself as the Commander of the Lord’s army on the eve of battle for Jericho.
It was God who made the sun stand still, so that Joshua could defeat the 5 armies arrayed against his people.
It was God who delivered David from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear, and it was God who delivered David from the hand of the Philistine.
It was God who gave Solomon wisdom to lead his people.
It was God who sent one angel to the besieged Israelites and that one angel killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night by sword.
And it was God who delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
It’s God who is for us. And undefeatable God. Immanuel! God with us in Christ Jesus. Fear not, he says. I am with you. And he says to us, don’t be afraid in the culture wars. Fight the good fight of faith, and don’t be afraid.
Now understand, God may choose to allow evil to occur, knowing that He has his purposes which are beyond our knowing this side of eternity. That means that we will experience suffering to one degree or another. We will experience immense trials.
The Bible sometimes refers to this as going through the fire. You find this especially in the Prophets. The people of God going through the fire is usually a metaphorical device. It means that we are going through great difficulties. And God uses the fire to purify us. As in removing the dross from a precious metal.
I will turn my hand against you
and will smelt away your dross as with lye
and remove all your alloy.
26 And I will restore your judges as at the first,
and your counselors as at the beginning.
Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness,
the faithful city.”
And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
In the N.T. the apostle Peter refers, I think, to this metaphorical application of Daniel 3.
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[b] and of God rests upon you.” 1 Peter 4:12-14
So, what’s the takeaway for us?
When we go through trials, grievous though they be, we know that God will be with us. In life or in death.
* Listen, dear ones. We will all suffer. D.A. Carson “all that you have to do to suffer is to live long enough.
Every person you know will die, if the Lord doesn’t return first. You will probably suffer physically. The question is how will you suffer: in faith or in despair. When
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:6-7
If “necessary” means that God is using the trial (maybe brought about by the devil or other people. Even the depression we experience because of prolonged physical trial or loss of a loved one is used by God since we will seek comfort in God’s word. Everything that comes to you, that grief and depression, pass through God’s loving hands.
Our faith is tested by fire, and once proven will result in praise and glory and honor to Jesus Christ, both now, and especially at his appearing.
He won’t give us more that we can bear, though it may feel overwhelming at times. We don’t doubt the goodness of God. And we don’t despair because we know that God will be with us in the midst of awful suffering.
That He will use this fiery trial, as awful as it is, for good. Fiery trials are clarifying aren’t they. If we turn to God in the midst of the trial, they result in a purified faith
And he will either bring us to himself, or he will use that suffering for our good and ultimately, for his glory.
And if we turn away from him, they will result in despair and hopelessness.
Dear ones, you can’t control what anybody else does. But you can control how you respond, and the takeaway for us in Daniel 3 is to entrust ourselves to God in life or in death.
Heidelberg Catechism Question 1:
What is your only comfort in life and death.
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul,
both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for him.
The Gospel – Christ was punished in our place. The Glorious exchange. He took our sin and bore the penalty for on the cross and he gave us His righteousness and eternal life in exchange. He suffered alone that we might never be alone in our suffering.
Now, back to Nebuchadnezzar:
And the king issues new orders:
Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside[f] the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
There is nothing subtle about Nebuchadnezzar.
He makes a decree forbidding anyone from speaking anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
And there is nothing subtle about the power of God. And Nebuchadnezzar recognizes it. He says “for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.” Truer words were never spoken. God is our great Deliverer! What the Devil means for evil, God will use for our good and His glory.
Our takeaway: Let’s be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in their faithful stance against idolatry.
And let’s be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in their entrusting their entire life to the only Wise God who is faithful to his people. In life or in death.
And if you are here today or are watching on the video stream and you’re not a Christian, let me remind you that there is fire that awaits you. Is infinitely worse than Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. And the only one who can deliver you from that fire is Jesus Christ. Believe in him. Trust him. Entrust you life to him and him alone.
We are a church built on the Bible, guided and empowered by the Spirit, striving to make disciples, and pursuing holiness in the context of robust biblical relationships.
10am on Sundays
© 2021 Cornerstone Fellowship Church of Apex