Daniel – Chapter 3 –“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol.”

Studdart Kennedy, who was an Anglican minister and a pastor at Worster in England, also was a chaplain in World War I and he has written some very, very beautiful poems that have always been favorites of mine. But Studdart Kennedy as well as a poet was a pastor and a chaplain. And as a chaplain he had to go to the war and he had to leave his family. He had a little son and he wrote a letter to his little son from the trenches of France where he was in the midst of very serious warfare. This is what he said. Obviously the letter was through his wife for his son couldn’t read. “The first prayer I want my son to learn to say for me is not – God, keep Daddy safe. The first prayer I want my son to learn is – God, make Daddy brave and if he has hard things to do, make him strong to do them. Life and death don’t matter, my son, right and wrong do. Daddy dead is Daddy still. But Daddy dishonored before God is something too awful for words. I suppose you’d like to put in a bit about safety too and Mother would. Well, put it in afterwards, always afterwards for it doesn’t matter nearly as much.” http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/27-11/uncompromising-faith-in-the-fiery-furnace-part-2

“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits (90 feet high by 9 feet wide); To you the command is given …. you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.”  “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” (See Daniel 3:1-20)

What a change we see in Nebuchadnezzar’s attitude from chapter 2 when he said to Daniel, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” (Dan. 2:47) Miracles can lead people to true saving faith but as seen here, God’s miraculous power seen through Daniel did not convert Nebuchadnezzar. We can clearly attribute this to his pride which is seen at its worst in chapter 4.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. He was the ruler of the world in a sense and losing his kingdom as prophesied in the dream did not sit well with him. So instead of the statue seen in his dream (from God) going from gold (representing Babylon) to silver, bronze and iron, etc., it seems he tried to overrule God’s decree and make the entire statue gold, indicating that his kingdom would never end. Fallen man does not give up his (perceived) control easily.

Speaking of control, it seems that the tattle-tales did so because they had lost their positions (control) to these three young Jews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. “For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews.” The Hebrew words for “brought charges” means “to devour in pieces.” It describes their slanderous passion – their hatred for these men when Nebuchadnezzar placed Daniel and the three of them over them. “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men (and the Chaldeans were at the top) of Babylon. And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court.” (Dan. 2:48-49) “Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Prov. 27:4)

Laws in conflict – the king’s or God’s?  “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?”  (Dan. 3:14) In Exodus 20:3-6 God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me.  You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,  but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” So whom do we obey?  “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1)  “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,” (1 Peter 2:13) “So they brought them and set them before the council (Sanhedrin). And the high priest examined them by questioning, Saying, We definitely commanded and strictly charged you not to teach in or about this Name; yet here you have flooded Jerusalem with your doctrine and you intend to bring this Man’s blood upon us. But Peter and the apostles answered and said, we must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-29)  As Christians we are to obey human law except where that human law violates God’s Law as it clearly does here with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Count the cost: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) [“A remarkable faith: these young Hebrews had no known scriptural or historical precedent or dream or vision to suggest that God would choose to not allow them to burn to death.  By now they clearly understood the ruthless, fierce nature of this king of kings.  To disobey the most powerful man on the planet was certain to bring death (they already witnessed this with Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to tear off the arms and legs of the wise men for failing to answer him, and to make their homes a garbage pile (2:5).  Many believers today are masters of the art of rationalizing the clear commands of Scripture.  They could have reasoned, “When in Babylon, do as the Babylonians do.”  Or, “Everybody’s doing it.”  Or that if they went along, they would be able to continue to occupy strategic positions in government and be able to help their people when they need it.  But these men prove the lie in the saying, “Every man has his price”–they could not be bought.”] http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=daniel

“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 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. 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.” Here we see two amazing statements by these three men. First, God is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace. They had absolute confidence in the miraculous power of God to either overrule the king and keep them out of the furnace or to keep them alive in the furnace. Wow! That is amazing faith. In one case in the gospel Jesus was amazed at the Gentile centurion’s faith in Him (Matthew 10:8) and yet He was also amazed at the lack of faith of the people in Nazareth. (Mark 6:6) Maybe a good question to ask the Lord would be: are You more amazed at my faith or my lack of faith?

Now notice their second amazing statement: “even if He does not (deliver us), 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.” They also had amazing faithfulness to the Lord to only bow down to Him even if it cost them their life and a painful death. As one pastor put it, we need to have “if not” faith like these men. Even if God does not answer my prayers, or deliver me from painful trials, etc., etc., I am going to obey and worship Him anyway. What an inspiration they are to us even 2,600 years later!

“Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.  He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.” (Dan. 3:16-20) “He who has no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” (Prov. 25:28) Many a hot-tempered king would be assassinated by his own sons or even his slaves. This did not happen in Nebuchadnezzar’s life for as we see later (in chapter 4) God finally broke him of his pride.

“You shall have no other gods before Me.” Jesus expressed this in the New Testament as a passionate love relationship with God which He perfectly modeled for us as a Man. “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.” (Mark 12:30) Today we don’t worship idols made of gold, stone or wood as seen in pagan worship in the OT and secular historical records but as Tim Keller and other writers teach us, idol worship is very real today. In other words, we fear or love something or someone more than God. From Tim Keller’s teaching on Identifying Your Idols ask God to help you answer the following questions that may reveal an idol or idols.

a) What is my greatest nightmare? What do I worry about most?  

b) What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live? What keeps me going?  

c) What do I rely on or comfort self with when things go bad or get difficult?  

d) What do I think most easily about? What does my mind go to when I am free? What pre occupies me?  

e) What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?  

f) What makes me feel the most self worth? What am I the proudest of?

g) What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?

(Only after answering these questions above consider these answers from Scripture: a) Psalm 23:4; b) Habakkuk 3:17-18; c) Psalm 16:11; d) Matthew 6:33; e) Matthew 26:39; f) Matthew 25:21; 2 Corinthians 5:9; g) Psalm 73:25)

[“If you want true success, you must keep eternity in view. We all seek approval, but play to the right audience–seek to please the Lord your God.  Otherwise, you will be pressured to please and conform to the wrong audience.  Recognize that the righteous often suffer in this life, and the wicked often prosper (Ps. 73).  If we are only looking at this life, we are in trouble.  (Understand that all the benefits of prosperity are temporal; all the risks of prosperity are eternal.) If you don’t have eternity in view, you will bow.” http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=daniel]

“Without faith it is impossible to please God. By faith…. others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” (Hebrews 11:6; 35-39)

A) What did these faithful saints have in common with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?

B) Would Jesus be amazed at your great faith or amazed at your lack of faith?  (Matthew 10:8; Mark 6:6)

C) Do you have “if not” faith and faithfulness to God, to obey and worship Him no matter the cost? (V.18)

D) How does this line up with what Jesus said in Luke 14:26?

E) Based on this verse are you Jesus’ disciple?

F) How did Paul state this in Philippians 3:7-8?

G) What may the Lord be calling you to give up (idols) to gain more intimacy with and likeness to Jesus?  

Next week will see “the rest of the story!”


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