Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 3-03-03

Three Men of Great Faith


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)

 

If you have read the second chapter of Daniel, you may have thought that Nebuchadnezzar was close to believing in God. 

He had a dream that bothered him, but Daniel explained it. 

And then the king told Daniel, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets...” 

He acknowledged that Jehovah, the God of the Jews, was the greatest of gods, however in a short time we find him setting up an idol, and putting to death anyone who will not worship it. 

That shouldn’t seem strange, because we see it every day; we see men and women who appear to be Christians, but after a while they forget all about Christ, and they may even become enemies of the gospel. 

There will always be some who will slip back to what they once were, because according to the proverb, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” 

Jesus said that they will go from us, because they are not one of us. 

And their final state will be worse than the first.

This great king of Babylon was an absolute monarch, and no one dared to disagree with him. 

After all, who would disagree with a man who could back up his arguments with a fiery furnace, or who threatened to cut you into pieces and to make your house into a pile of rubble? 

And when he sets up a god of his own design, and brings all the officials in his vast kingdom to the image, and makes them to bow down before it, would anybody refuse to do it? 

But, there were three who defied him, and they had done it once before. 

They had broken the laws of his court by refusing to eat unclean meat; and although they ate nothing but vegetables, “At the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat." 

The king, himself, had promoted them in the kingdom, and so he expected them to do what he said and to be a good example; but these three had a faith that couldn’t be conquered, even by the master of the whole world. 

They stood before their king and refused to bow before the idol.

There are three things about these men that we should take notice of:

FIRST, THE EXCUSES THEY MIGHT HAVE MADE.

SECOND, THE CONFIDENCE THEY POSSESSED.

THIRD, THEIR DETERMINATION.

First of all, as we think about these three brave Jews, let’s consider THE EXCUSES THEY MIGHT HAVE MADE.

They were accused of committing crimes by the Babylonians, even though Daniel and his three friends had just recently saved their lives. 

The king was furious and he ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought to him immediately. 

He found it hard to believe that anyone in his kingdom would dare to defy his authority, so he gave them a choice. 

He said, "Here is the golden image; you three Jews are to bow down before it.  If you do not, there is the burning fiery furnace, and into that you shall be cast at once.  What is your answer?"

They could have said to themselves, “It is useless to resist.  If we give in, who would blame us?  We can’t be expected to throw our lives away.  Let’s just bow our heads and worship the image, just like everyone else.” 

Then again, they could have said something like this, “Didn’t one of our wise men say, ‘When in Babylon, you must do as Babylonians do’?  If we were home in Jerusalem, we wouldn’t think of doing such a thing.  We would remember that God said, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me…and thou shalt not bow down thy self to them, nor serve them.’  If we were at home we would obey that law, but we are hundreds of miles from Jerusalem, and so we may be permitted to give in this time.” 

I have known many Christians who think this way, when they are away from home. 

When they are in a place where no one knows them, they say and do things that they never would at home, where family and friends are on hand. 

This is a bad excuse, but it is made all too often.

They might also have said, “We are government officials.” 

They were high officials, and they had sworn loyalty to the king, so they might have used this as an excuse to bow before the image. 

But these men did not think that since they were rulers in Babylon, they could go ahead and sin against God. 

It is true that they were duty-bound to obey the lawful orders of their king; but their conscience decided that it was better to obey God than man, so they never used this excuse.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were prosperous, and they were rising in importance, so it could be that God sent this trial to test them. 

They might have used this excuse, “We don’t want to throw away all we’ve been working so hard to get.” 

One of the greatest dangers to Christians is accumulating wealth—the danger of prosperity. 

All too often, a Christian will become prosperous, and as his riches increase, he forgets the God who gave them to him. 

We often pray for Christians who are having troubles, and we should always do that; but it may be even more important to pray for Christians who prosper. 

Some good Christians serve God well when they are poor, but when they become prosperous, they become too important to associate with their former friends. 

Let’s remember, that when we prosper, it is a blessing from God, so let’s never turn His blessings into an excuse for sinning against Him. 

Those who are rich have no more liberty to sin than those who are poor. 

There is still another way they might have excused themselves. 

Their logic might have sounded like this. 

"Putting up the image was not entirely a religious act. 

It is just symbolic. 

The image was meant to represent the power of Nebuchadnezzar, so by bowing down before it we are just honoring our great king." 

They might have said, “We are bound politically to honor our king by worshipping the image.” 

These three men never even considered this line of reasoning. 

They might have found a soothing salve for their conscience, from the absence of any command to renounce their religion. 

They might have encouraged each other to submit, by saying, “We have not been asked to renounce our God.” 

They didn’t have to believe that the idol was really a god, or express any faith in it. 

As they bowed their heads they might have whispered to one another, "it isn’t a god, it’s a devil." 

They might have even prayed to Jehovah, with their heads bowed before the image, since He can be worshipped anywhere, and under any circumstances. 

But they did not use these excuses either, because they were thinking about the God of glory. 

Listen, anything can be used as an excuse for those who are willing to compromise.

Here’s a familiar excuse they might have used, “Everybody else is doing it.” 

That morning, music was everywhere, and everyone bowed. 

There were thousands of Jews there, and they bowed. 

There were fire-worshipers there, men who hated the worship of graven images; but they all bowed. 

There were men there who didn’t worship any god; but they all bowed before Nebuchadnezzar’s god. 

What a remarkable thing it was for these three men to stand alone at this time. 

The devil might have said to them, “Your own countrymen have bowed, why don’t you; better men than you have bowed, so why don’t you.” 

Millions bowed, but not these three; they stood as firm in their faith as they would have, if thousands lined up on their side. 

My friends, when you serve God, you can’t make decisions by counting heads. 

You must follow the Lord’s will wherever He leads you, whether you go alone or not.

Here’s something else they might have said, “We will only have to do it one time, and it won’t last long.” 

It would only last ten minutes or so, and they would only have to do it once in their life, and it’s such a minor thing. 

Why should they risk the fiery furnace? 

If they were going to take a stand, it should be over something that is really important. 

But sometimes, it’s the little things that cause such great damage. 

All Adam did was to eat an apple, and all Esau did, was to eat the stew; all you or I may do is give in to one temptation, and we will suffer loss for a lifetime. 

Another excuse they might have made was, “We can do more good by staying alive, than we can by being cast into that furnace.”

It’s true, if they are burnt to death they won’t accomplish any more, but if they live, they can continue helping their fellow Jews, because they hold high offices in Babylon. 

However, they didn’t use this excuse either.

It is our duty to our Lord, to do what is right, and to follow Jesus, no matter what the consequences might be.

But they might also have said, “Really, this is more than should be expected of us.  If we were asked to increase our tithe, we would do it cheerfully, but to die in such a horrible way, to be cast into a burning fiery furnace, is more than we can bear.” 

It would be hard for any of us to submit to that fate. 

But remember what Jesus said to the multitudes who went with him, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple." 

We must yield to God’s will, and say, “I don’t care what it costs, and I will take any risk, because I must follow Christ, wherever He goes, even if I should die for doing it.” 

This is strong language, however, it’s the stance that Jesus has commanded for us to take, and His Holy Spirit will work in us to make us strong enough to apply it to ourselves.

These are the excuses that these three Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, might have made.


The second point to be made is that THESE THREE POSSESSED GREAT CONFIDENCE. 

They expressed it very forcefully and clearly. 

They had a very sure, solid faith.

They said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.” 

Let me put this into modern language: “We are not the least bit worried about our answer.” 

They knew what they were going to say, and it didn’t bother them. 

They were calm and self-confident, and they didn’t address him as king; but instead, they called him Nebuchadnezzar. 

They spoke to him man-to-man, and they didn’t have any problem answering him.

Now notice that they didn’t think that it was their place to answer at all. 

The NIV version puts it this way, “we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.” 

What they are saying is that, “it’s not for us to answer you.  You have brought another Person into the quarrel.” 

Let me read the words preceding our text. 

Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" 

In effect, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, "It is not for us to answer you. There is Another that will do that. You have challenged God, and God shall make his own reply." 

They put the responsibility in this matter on God, Himself. 

So can you. 

It is our job to patiently bear the consequences of our actions and all that comes our way. 

We must do the right things, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and obey Him, and keep the commandments of God, and then whatever comes of it, it is not to be blamed on us. 

The consequences are Gods.

Now notice what these three men did say. 

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace.” 

They confirmed their faith in the All-Powerful God. 

They knew that if He chose, even the King of Babylon couldn’t throw them into that furnace. 

The furnace itself would become as cool as ice, if God willed it. 

Their God was almighty, and they put their faith in Him.

What’s more, they added, “And he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.” 

Whether they burned in the fire or not, they were sure they would be delivered. 

They said, “You asked us, ‘Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?' and we answer you, 'Our God will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.'"

Now, if anyone is experiencing problems, or if you’re being tempted to do the wrong thing, remember this; God can deliver you. 

He can prevent you from suffering what you may suppose is going to happen, but if he doesn’t prevent it, He will help you bear it. 

He can make the worst thing that can happen to you, the very best thing that ever did happen to you. 

If you are serving God, you are serving an all-powerful Being; and He will not leave you when you are having difficulties, instead, He will come and rescue you. 

Here is our third point; THEY HAD GREAT DETERMINATION.

Listen to their words: "If not", if God does not deliver us at all, "be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." 

This is courageous talk, and it showed that they were determined to be loyal to God, regardless of the cost.  

They would not bow down to an idol, which was lifeless, and could not even set itself up, but was set up by Nebuchadnezzar the king.

There’s a certain pleasantness in having to make some sacrifices for God. 

It’s a wonderful thing to do something for the Lord, without calculating what it’s going to cost us.

Some people will say, “It’s too hard.  You can’t expect men to love God so much that they will die for Him.” 

No, but there was one who loved us enough to die for us, and He died the worst kind of death, so that He could save us. 

“Well,” someone might say, “I think it’s impossible.  I couldn’t bear the pain.” 

But the truth is, it is possible, and many have endured the pain. 

There’s a story about one of the martyrs, who was to be burned at the stake on the following morning. 

There was a large fire in his cell, and he thought he would put his foot in it, to see whether he could stand to have it burnt. 

He tried it and quickly pulled it back. 

But when he had to put his whole body into the flames, it looked as if he felt no pain at all. 

God didn’t call him to put his foot in the fire, He called him to put all of himself in, and when he did, God gave him the grace to bear it. 

Don’t judge yourself by what you are today. 

If you are ever called to suffer for Christ, grace will be given to you. 

But, you may never be asked to do something so difficult, however, if you can’t stand the small trials, how could you bear the great ones. 

Do the right things, and fear nothing, and God will help you.

Remember, God sees everything; nothing is hidden from Him. 

So He will see you, if you bow your head to an idol. 

That is, the idol of money, popularity, entertainment, alcohol or drugs, or any of a thousand gods that is around today.

The Law of God says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them." 

No picture, no image, no visible object is to be regarded with reverence, or worshipped instead of God. 

That is clear enough; and therefore Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, feeling that God was near, and knowing what God's law was, did not dare to violate that law, but would rather die instead.

But, you will never obey God, until you are “born again” and have a new heart, and that heart is full of love for Jesus Christ. 

Then, if you love Him, you will choose the furnace, rather than to have that flame that burns in your heart quenched. 

But what did these three men accomplish? 

It wasn’t that they simply did not bow their heads, and they were cast into the fiery furnace. 

What they did was to influence the times they lived in, and influence their people and people throughout history. 

They influenced Babylon and the whole Babylonian Empire. 

And they influenced King Nebuchadnezzar. 

They influenced the next age and every age up to this one, by their brave stand for God. 

Their story will stand for all time; that these men didn’t yield, no matter what might happen. 

It’s the power of God that made them strong, and He will make us strong too.

These three men command the admiration of heaven and earth. 

A fool would have pointed at them and said, "There go three fools—men who hold high office, with large incomes, and wives and families.  They only have to bow to the idol, and they can keep their wealth; but if they do not do it, they are to be burnt alive.

Are they fools?" 

The Son of God did not think so. 

Although He was in heaven, He heard them speak those brave words to king Nebuchadnezzar. 

Then Jesus said, "They are brave men! I will leave the throne of God in heaven to go and stand by their side." 

He went to the place where the fierce flames had killed the men who threw the three Hebrews into the burning, fiery furnace. 

He came and He stood by their side, and He walked through the flames with them. 

The four of them walked together, on those burning coals, in sweet fellowship.

They won the admiration and sympathy of the Son of God, so it was a comparatively little thing that they had won the admiration of Nebuchadnezzar. 

That proud king shouted to those around him, "Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?"

They answered, "True, O king;" and he, with his countenance white with ghostly fear, said, "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."

The king, himself, just stood there, awestruck, and admired these three heroes. 

Let me end with this: if we want to be servants of God, we must be believers in his Son, Jesus Christ. 

There’s a little poem that kind of wraps all this up.

"In full and glad surrender,
I give myself to thee,
Thine utterly and only,
And evermore to be.
"O Son of God thou lov'st me,
I will be thine alone;
And all I have, and am, Lord,
Shall henceforth be thine own."
Amen.

 

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