Daniel 3 Part II – Bowing to the world or to God

Daniel – Chapter 3:16-30 – Bowing to the World and Outside Pressures Conform Us. Bowing to God’s Word and the Inner Voice of Conviction Transform Us  –  Men’s Fellowship – 11/2/12

Laws in conflict – the king’s or God’s?  “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.” (Exodus 20:3-4) “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) Last week we looked at the “if not” faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who boldly declared to Nebuchadnezzar: ”But 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.” (v.18) What an inspiration they are to us even 2,600 years later! The application for us is that even if God does not answer our prayers, or deliver us from our painful trials, etc., etc., we are going to obey and worship Him anyway! The world tries to conform us to its godless ways while God is at work to transform us to be like His Son. Let’s  look at the rest of the story and learn from our three Hebrew friends and their God and our God.

“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. Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire.  For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.  Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to prosper (promoted them) in the province of Babylon.” (Dan. 3:19-30)

There are many lessons from this account that we can learn from the bad example of Nebuchadnezzar and the good example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

1) Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is a general principle taken from many bad examples from Scripture (e.g., King Saul, King Ahab ) and life. Nebuchadnezzar as the ruling monarch of the most powerful nation on earth was corrupted to the point of megalomania (“great madness”) as clearly seen in this chapter as he demanded all to worship him or die.  Yet, power, authority, etc. is not sinful but all power and authority given to us by God must be subordinated to the rule and purposes of God or it will become sinful. As men, many of us have been given spiritual authority as husbands and fathers (Ephesians 5:22-24; 6:1-2) but we know from our own failures and the bad examples of others (maybe our own fathers) how this God-given authority can be abused. Jesus was the most powerful Man that ever walked the earth but He always submitted His power to God. Paul tells us how to do likewise: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:3-8) We need God’s grace to humble ourselves so we can lead others in the Spirit and not dominate them in the flesh.

2) Many men have been given positional authority in the workplace and/or spiritual authority in the church and the body of Christ. Peter as the leader of the church in his time modeled humility (post-Pentecost) and tells us to do likewise: “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:1-6; also see James 4:7-10) A good prayer regarding the stewardship of authority and position is, “Lord, please never give me more authority and power than my character is able to manage in a way that honors You.”

What are some of the lessons we can learn from the amazing faith and obedience of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego?

1) Their absolute reverence for God that led to their total trust in God and total surrender to His will. On the human plane they are very much like our Lord Jesus especially in the Garden of Gethsemane. “But 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.” (V. 18) “My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42) Like Jesus, their reverence, trust and surrender to God all came from knowing God. As A.W. Tozer says, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Yet Elihu challenged Job and his friends by saying this: “Behold, God is great, and we know him not.” (Job 36:25) That was also the challenge of the late Dr. S. M. Lockridge in his famous sermon on Jesus, That’s my King: “WelI, I wonder do you know Him?”  (Read attachment) All believers “know God” in the sense of salvation but Scripture and personal examples show us that we are to never stop growing in the knowledge of God.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6) “Therefore My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge.” (Isaiah 5:13)

“And this is eternal life: [it means] to know (to perceive, recognize, become acquainted with, and understand) You, the only true and real God, and [likewise] to know Him, Jesus [as the] Christ (the Anointed One, the Messiah), Whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) 

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)

“[For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him [that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed [in spirit into His likeness even] to His death.” (Paul – Phil. 3:10)

“This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,  but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

2) And from their faith we learn more about the amazing ability of our God. “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the midst of the fire. The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.”  (vv. 25-27) Note: God used the fire to burn off the ropes that bound them yet the fire did not harm them at all. That is an amazing God! I wonder why we doubt His ability to help us with our problems.

3) God calls and empowers us to be a witness to Him in the midst of our “fiery trials.” “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. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13) It is easy to rejoice and praise God when things are going well but it is supernatural to rejoice in the midst of painful trials. Yet as we anticipate the heavenly reward we’ll receive for our trust and obedience when Jesus returns, we can rejoice in hope for His commendation then.

4) We experience the Presence of God in the midst of painful trials as we seek to obey and honor Him even as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did in the fiery furnace.  “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:14)

“There are three biblical parts to a disciple: A disciple is called to live “in Christ” (conversion), equipped to live “like Christ” (discipleship), and sent to live “for Christ” (calling).” (Pat Morley) I like to distinguish between Christian education and discipleship, as the former means attending church and/or Bible studies and the latter requires homework; i.e., personally responding to the lesson by reflecting on the material and applying it to your life. That is why I type up the lesson, send it to you in advance, and provide the table time to share your personal response to the questions in the lesson. Maybe you are involved in other “homework” studies at your church or elsewhere and do not have any more study time. But if not, I encourage you to do the “homework” and pray to apply these lessons to your life and you will gain so much more from our brief time together on Friday mornings and grow in the knowledge of God.                                                   

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION

1) Bowing to the world and outside pressures conform us. Bowing to God’s Word and the inner voice of conviction transforms us. How is this truth seen in Romans 12:1-2?

2) The test of great faith is not wealth and luxury – it is a willingness to suffer for God.  Source: http://www.neverthirsty.org/pp/series/DAN/D006/D0062.html God calls and empowers us to be a witness to Him in the midst of our “fiery trials.” (See 1 Peter 4:12-13) Share a time when you witnessed a friend bring glory to God by rejoicing in the midst of a painful trial.

3) The king’s response – (See vv. 28-30) How is this different from Jesus’ commandment in Mark 12:29-30? 

4) If you don’t conform, you get noticed.  This can be positive (witnessing opportunities) and negative (persecution).  Vv. 13, 19–rage and anger; people don’t like their sins being exposed.  http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=daniel We experience the Presence of God in the midst of painful trials as we seek to obey and honor Him even as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did in the fiery furnace.  “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” (1 Peter 4:14) Share a time when you experienced God’s Presence as you sought to obey and honor Him in the midst of a painful trial. 

5) 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 (Psalm 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

6) Don’t put God in a box (vv. 16-18); commitment without conditions.  They understood His sovereignty but didn’t regard Him as a genie.  They chose the path of submission to His will: worship and serve Him rather than demand His deliverance.  Avoid the mistake of letting your circumstances determine your view of truth and the character of God.  Don’t be driven by circumstances but by truth.   http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=daniel

7) Servanthood to God brings true freedom (v. 25, “loosed”).  See Psalm 119:67, 71. Serving the world brings bondage with the illusion of freedom. http://www.kenboa.org/search/?q=daniel

8) The conspicuous absence of our resident “strong one” is a divine set-up for Daniel’s friends to step up.  Condemned to a torturous death by being burned alive was not a test God gave to Daniel. God gave it to Daniel’s friends, who play a secondary role in this story. But they passed God’s test, and were used for His glory. We can’t depend on our mentors/friends/family to help us through every divine testing -sometimes we will have to step up to the plate for our turn. In those times of testing, it all boils down to just us and God.  Source of Application quote: Beth Moore, Daniel, p. 46 (See 2  Chronicles 24 for Joash’s bad example.)

9) God will sustain, preserve, and refine us through persecution. Read 2 Cor. 4:16-18 and discuss our part in the refining process.  

Recommended readings: Knowing God by J. I. Packer; The Pursuit of God and Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer

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