Trial of Faith Daniel

Many years ago a man conned his way into the orchestra of the emperor of China although he could not play a note. Whenever the group practiced or performed, he would hold his flute against his lips, pretending to play but not making a sound. He received a modest salary and enjoyed a comfortable living.    Then one day the emperor requested a solo from each musician. The flutist got nervous.    There wasn’t enough time to learn the instrument.    He pretended to be sick, but the royal physician wasn’t fooled.   On the day of his performance, the impostor took poison and killed himself.    The explanation of his suicide led to a phrase that found its way into the English language: “He refused to face the music”.  As cited by Max Lucado’s Just Like Jesus.     We see in this passage that these 3 young men did not refuse to face the music.   Everybody has some music to face.   Do you have the tools to walk through the music this year?   When push comes to shove the arm of flesh will fail you.   Weak faith will fail.  In the trials of life such as the fiery furnace who do you want to be with you, to walk with you and to help you?  

    Nebuchadnezzar was a rich and very powerful king.   Babylon was a huge city.   Its size is about the distance from the north side of Manchester to the south side of Concord squared covering about 200 square miles.   The city was formidable with huge, huge double walls.   The land that he controlled was from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf and down into Egypt.   That would cover modern day Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iraq and around the Nile river in Egypt and probably parts of Saudi, Turkey and Iran.  He taxed the people of that land and he was rich plus he plundered the people that he conquered.   He had absolute authority.   If he wanted someone to die it was carried out.   When someone has too much money, power and freedom it can lead to misuse.  In his power and control He was like Hitler.    And of course as Hitler killed his millions so many people die under Nebuchadnezzar.   We have 3 branches of government for a reason. 

   In the previous chapter the King Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and he is troubled by the dream and he cannot sleep.    He summons all of his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers to tell him the dream and what the dream means.   And of course they all say you are crazy king – no one has ever asked for that before.   Tell us the dream and we will tell you what the dream means.  And the king says well you can make up any kind of answer if I tell you the dream.   If you can tell me what the dream was then I can believe your answer.   So Nebuchadnezzar is going to have them all killed and Daniel comes forth to answer the king.  Daniel gets his friends together and they pray fervently and God answers their prayers by giving Daniel a vision of it.  Maybe if we prayed fervently more we would have visions or answers.   They prayed like their life depended upon it. 

        In chapter 2 we read Daniel replied, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner – he just put all those guys down- can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.   He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.  Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these:"As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen.     As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.    "You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance.   The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.    While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands.   It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them.     Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer.   The winds swept them away without leaving a trace.    But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.  This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king.   You, O king, are the king of kings.    The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air.   Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all.   You are that head of gold.

     Daniel just told him he is the king of kings and that Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold of the image that he dreamed.   So what does the king do?   Well in the passage for today he builds a great statue and commands everybody to bow and worship it.   Of course his is at least gold covered and it is 90 feet high.   That is a lot of gold.  He gathers all the big boys together.   He wants everybody to worship his new creation and the king thinks that some may not want to worship his god so he has a furnace fired up and declares that when the music starts everybody must worship his object of gold.    He is the king and in control so he can do what he wants to do.  Worship is mentioned 11 times in this chapter.   God wants to teach Nebuchadnezzar a lesson or 2.    Daniel had already told the king his dream and what it meant.  Wake up O king these Jewish lads are different from the other guys.  

      There are some Jewish lads there who do not bow down.  Well here you have these God followers called Christians today who will not go with the flow.  It seems like there are a couple in every crowd.   The rest willingly bow.   It does not mean anything to them.   They believe in all kinds of gods.   Everybody has faith.   Faith is why we get out of bed and eat breakfast and go about our daily lives.   But for the Christian it is the object of faith that makes a difference.    Some of the leaders there notice that the Jews do not bow down.  They were probably watching them.   There is probably some jealousy and some envy so they report to the king.   In other words they tattle tale on the Jews.   These men report to the king that the Jews pay no attention to you king they do not serve your gods and they don’t worship your image and the king hits the roof.   The NIV says he is furious with rage.  He is a smart king and the first thing the king does is investigate the facts and he questions them and in a sense he gives them a second chance.    Nebuchadnezzar tells them if you bow down when the music plays all is well but if not then it is to the furnace you go and what god can protect you from my hand?   Well in the previous chapter he said Daniel there is no God like your God.   Probably several years have passed since then.     In other words it is bow to my idol or it is death for you at least that is what the king thinks.   Nebuchadnezzar thinks he is the man and he is in control just like us at times when we think I am in control.   Sometimes we think this is my plan and I am working my plan and I will see my results.   God tells us wisely in James do not boast about tomorrow because you do not know what tomorrow will bring.      

    It has been said that opportunity may knock only once … but temptation will knock again and again.”   The challenge they face here is whether to put GOD first … or themselves.    It seems that it wasn’t even debatable in their minds.   Perhaps it was not even a temptation.   They had to answer to a much higher authority than the King.   They are confident in God.   They know that God can deliver them from the fiery furnace.    God could change Nebuchadnezzar’s mind. That’s easy for God to do … if He wants to.    If God wants them to die in the fiery furnace and be burned up … that’s OK too!    They put it all in God’s hands.

    Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego have a different idea and see the situation totally different than the king does.   They know that they will be released from the king’s command.  It’s a win/win situation.   God is in charge.   If they die in the fire, then they leave this ole world and then with God for eternity.    God will either protect them or else they will die in the flames either way they will not bow down.   They say the God we serve can save us from your fire King and if our God does not save us we still will not bow down.  They did not give up on their faith from the king’s command or the crowds or some religious service.   True faith obeys God.     I think it was the Statler brothers who sang they wouldn’t bend they wouldn’t bow they wouldn’t burn.   Times of adversary are times for growth.   Times of adversary are times for God to move mountains.  Times of adversary are times for God to be glorified. 

     They could have comprised their walk with God.   They could have made excuses.   I will bow down now and ask God to forgive me later.   Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have said well we have to obey the government.   We have to follow the leaders.   When in Rome do what the Romans do.   When in Babylon do what they do.   They could have said I will fake bowing down.   I will bow down outwardly but not in my heart.   God sees the heart and that is what counts.   I will do it just this one time – God will understand.    They would have lost out big time if they did that.  They have a story to tell their grand kids.     Have you ever figured a way out that was wrong?   Did you ever compromise your walk with God?    Ever been tempted to do that?   What if your life is on the line?    Some do not believe that we will face that in this country.   This country is changing rapidly.  I remember coming back from Viet Nam and thought my how life has changed here.   Missionaries must notice it a lot.   I talked with one Christian this week who said America has changed a lot this past year.  Have you seen and felt the change?   It sneaks up on us.  

      Faith is interesting.   People think that what they believe is true today.   I am glad that is not true.   Some say there is no god.   Some say there is no heaven or hell.   What they believe about that is really not very relevant other than maybe making them feel good but besides that it does not amount to a hill of beans.  They will see things differently some day.   Sometimes Christians believe that certain things will happen.   They believe that God is going to do a certain thing.    One couple with held medical attention from their son and he died and later they were charged for that.  They really believed God would heal him and then they believed God would raise him from the dead.    Faith is trust in God.    If God speaks to us then God will keep his word and we can trust that.   We need to make sure that it is God speaking and God will not go against his word.    Faith is not trust or belief in faith or good luck.    Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not have a faith that said that God should act in a certain way.    Faith is not trust in what we want to happen.    Faith is trust in God and in what God says and what God wants to do.  We cannot force God to do our will.   

      Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not do anything wrong.   God wasn’t punishing them for something they had done.  Sometimes things happen to us which are beyond our control.   Not everything is our fault.  Jesus at one point sends the disciples out at night on the lake and a storm comes up.   They are doing and going where Jesus sent them but there is danger from the storm.   What we need to remember is that God is in control.   He knows what’s going on.   He never allows anything into our lives that He’s not in control of and He is watching you no matter what is happening

     The king is rip snorting mad.  There are some folks in life that you want to be careful about ticking off.   He orders the furnace to be 7 times hotter.   Throw on the wood men.   Then he commands some of his strongest men to bind them and throw them into the fire.   It is so hot the soldiers die from the heat.   It is interesting that they could make a furnace in those days to hold that kind of heat.   It is believed to be a smelting furnace and it was big enough to hold 4 people one of them an angel or Jesus who took the space of a man.    I suspect that some of the other soldiers maybe those not quite as strong were praying that no one else would be thrown in.    How would you like to be the next soldier in line?    

    Well the fiery furnace does not amount to much unless of course you are one of the soldiers who just lost their life.   The king is astounded and said I thought we put 3 guys in there but I see 4 walking around in there.   You go to love what the fire does here folks.   They throw them in bound, tied up and firmly tied and cast into the fire but they come out walking.   The fire sets them free.    Who do you want beside you when things get tough in life?   Who do you want to be walking with?  There is only one who will stick closer than a brother and that is Jesus.   The king says come on out.   This time they obey the king.   Before they would not obey him.  No one wanted to go in after them.   There was not even the smell of fire on them.   The king commends their God and says anyone who speaks against this God shall have his house destroyed and will be cut in pieces.   Then the king promoted them.   When is the last time you went against the bosses wishes and got promoted for doing it?   .They put their life on the line and God came through for them.   God bless faith in Him.   God works in powerful and strange ways doesn’t He?   The satraps, perfects, governors and royal advisors – you know all the big shots crowd around them.   Do you think word got out on that?    What do you think they went home and told their families and co-workers?   I saw the most amazing thing you could ever imagine.  

    We know that not all Christians are delivered.     Bradley Boydston commented that it is estimated that there have been 70 million Christian martyrs over the last 2,000 years.    About 37 million of that 70 million were Christians who died at the hands of the Communists in the 20th century.   Over half of all Christians who have ever died because of their beliefs did so in the last 100 years.   Christian we are at war.   In I Peter 5:8 the Holy Spirit tells us to be self controlled and alert.   Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.     Satan wanted them to bow to that idol.   He wants the Christian bow today.   You know embrace the gay life style, he would whisper embrace and endorse abortion.    He would say do not speak up – be politically correct.   Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not bend they would not bow and they would not burn.     Someone might feel I missed out if I did not share this verse so I am going to close with Isaiah 43:2.   When you pass through the waters I will be with you, when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you, when you walk though the fire you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze and that is certainly true for some of us but we will all leave this old world some day.