Bow or Burn | Daniel 3:1-30
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Daniel 3:1–30
Christopher Rich – June 19, 2015
GOD in the Secular World - The Book of Daniel Pt. 1
Wk3: Bow or Burn | 3:1-30
Good Morning! We are continuing our on the book of Daniel. The first part is GOD in the Secular World. God’s people have been taken and placed in exile, some Daniel and his friends have been put in positions of leadership, but there are challenges. Through it all we see God is in control over the affairs of nations and in the lives of individual people. Shortly after, the pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar is given an image of a statue representing all earthly kingdoms coming to an end when a stone comes in shattering the statue and an all-consuming mountain raises in its place. God says Your Kingdom will end but mine will be eternal. Nebuchadnezzar boldly declares “Your God is God of Gods, and Lord of kings.” But his allegiance has not changed. Last week we saw God display His wisdom, this week we will see him display His power.
Part I | v1-7| Remixing the Vision
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.
In the middle of a plain near the city of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar has set up this golden statue (90’x 9’). In a flat plain this image will stand up and stand out from everything for miles around it. Average statues of the day were 12-18 feet, this was massive! While many believe several years have passed since the troubling dream interpreted by Daniel, this statue is clearly inspired by the dream/vision He was given in chapter 2. It’s “based on a true story.” Only key details are changed. This is the Nebu Remix. It’s not made of different materials for different kingdoms. There is no nearby stone or even a close mountain to put the whole image in prospective. The vision said the head was Gold signifying Nebu’s kingdom, but here the statue is gold from head to toe. The message is clear. I am/this is THE grand kingdom and the only one worth pledging allegiance to. There will be unity in this kingdom and the unity around my work.
He has called all the governmental officials to this grand dedication. It looks like an Olympic opening ceremonies where all the nations come in (Every nation, every language) with great pomp and celebration. His version of the united nations coming together for the purpose of worshiping the image “he has set up” is it a statue of him/or a deity? We don’t know and it doesn’t really matter. The point it “He did it!” There is to be a highly choreographed and orchestrated display of unity. There has been a transition from the previous assimilation plan in chapter one to make serving Babylon attractive to know it is compulsory. Romans 1:21-23 | 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.
Nebuchadnezzar was given a vision of what was true about God and His kingdom and chooses to exchange it for a vision of his own glory. Where the world would be united around what he had created rather than worship of the Creator. “Therefore” as soon as the people knew the stakes involved, there is fiery wrath for all who do not worship what the government has set up. There was mass obedience. Maybe it wasn’t even that big of a deal for most people there. They were pluralistic in nature, there are many god’s many ways to salvation and the divine. What’s wrong if I bow down to this one? It’s just one of many. It doesn’t take long for pluralistic societies to become totalitarian. It’s ok if you worship whatever god you want as long as you bow down to whatever the government says. This isn’t coexist, it’s bow or burn.
Part II | v8-18 | Resistance is Futile
8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared 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.”
13 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. 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?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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. 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.”
The Chaldeans have a motive and it’s not pure worship of this new worldview but it is finally using the power and policy of the state to remove their religious/political opponents. They have forgotten it was these guys friend Daniel that saved them from certain death just a little while ago and now they’re back to their own ambition. “oh King live forever,” These Jews (who worship another god) they don’t pay “you attention” they don’t serve “your” gods, or even worship “your image” you made. They have a singular appeal, and it’s not to some pagan god, it’s they’re not serving you in the way you want to be. They know their audience with this king and appeal to his vanity. Apparently their failure to bow and/or obey the Kings commands wasn’t that conspicuous as the King had to have it brought to his attention. They didn’t ye’ll out or protest, down with your statue! They simply, and quietly, didn’t comply. We not worship that which is not God like God. This strategy worked until their opponents became more proactive and more ruthless.
There is a constant repetition of names, of lists of people, of themes. This is intentional by the author. The pressure to conform to this world is a constant unrelenting drumbeat, one that when resisted doesn’t stop it just grows louder and more persistent. What is the drum beat, and song you hear most right now? What is the world calling you to bow down too? What is the word, song, issue you hear beating in your own head right not that is a tyranny of the mind driving you to pursue, to serve, to worship? What is your motivation? What are you bowing down too? What are you willingly giving yourself (your affection) over too?
In this case the king has set up a false image and he has been content to have everyone else bow down to his version of reality. Everything is fine until he encounters those who will not bow down to or celebrate with him. When he is not completely affirmed in his view of the world and himself he responds with outrage. We are living in a world full of little Nebuchadnezzars each demanding everyone bow to the images they’ve created themselves, deny what is true, and for those who fail to comply receive furious wrath. Because we deeply desire to be loved and accepted we comply rather than suffer being labeled an outsider. Never underestimate the pull of people to be on the inner circle. Idolatry is described by CS Lewis as the allure of “The Inner Ring” to be on the right side of the dividing line between insiders and outsiders. It is where “of all passions, the passion of the Inner Ring is the most skillful in making man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.”
This is the decision time. The spotlight is on them, you will bow down, you will serve, or you will burn. When confronted with the pressure of culture we do one of two things: we tell ourselves the “bowing line” is so far from where were are now and that when it comes to something that really matters we’ll stand up, stand out and willingly suffer the consequences based on principal, until then we say if I am quiet then I’ll have a greater impact for the truth later and easily bow down to every song the world plays. OR we assume everything is a “bowing line” and we boldly declare our lack of approval any change or thing we don’t like and are so vocal and combative when there is a big issue our opposition is unnoticed because we don’t approve of anything. The first is unfaithful, and the second is ineffective. There are real moments to stand:
August Landmesser man best known for not giving the Nazi salute during the launch of a ship in 1936. Irma Eckler, a Jewish woman. He was later imprisoned and eventually drafted into military service, where he was killed in action; Eckler was sent to a concentration camp where she was presumably killed.
Rosa Parks In her book, entitled "Quiet Strength," Parks says her belief in God developed early in life. "Every day before supper and before we went to services on Sundays," Parks says, "my grandmother would read the Bible to me, and my grandfather would pray. We even had devotions before going to pick cotton in the fields. Prayer and the Bible," she recalls, "became a part of my everyday thoughts and beliefs. I learned to put my trust in God and to seek Him as my strength."
At Damascus Road we have been firm and clear on two key issues our culture has called us to bow down two. One God is the author of life and determines when it begins and ends, the means we advocated for the life of the unborn and discourage the practices of abortion and euthanasia. Two He created men and women equal in value and each distinctly necessary for human flourishing. He also created marriage as a unique covenant institution where one man and one women become one flesh. As the designer of people, marriage, and sex, He has declared all expression of sexuality to be reserved exclusively for the covenant relationship of marriage for the purposes of deepest intimacy and greatest joy. We will converse, teach, engage with the why’s of these issues with any and all, in and out of the church, but these are two big issues we will not bow on regardless of how loud the music is, how angry the leaders are, or how hot the furnace burns.
Verse 15 is a big question! Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hand?! There is a challenge given to them and to God, “Who can stop me from the desire of my heart?” Their answer is Golden. We don’t have to answer you, but we will. WE serve a different God that you. He is ABLE. to deliver us from the fiery furnace taking us from your wrath. Our God can! Wow! What a pronouncement. We see all your greatness, your power, but we know that your kingdom will one day come to an end so we serve a God who is greater than any you serve and yes is even greater than you!. They worship a great God! Peter echoes this idea. Acts 5:29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.
We worship a God who is ABLE! This is good, but this is easy like saying, “I am a Patriot Fan” we on the team that is going to win today. They go a step further and this is what I believe truly sets them apart. “But if not…” we will not bow and we will not serve. There resolution is not conditional on IF God saves them, they confidently resist knowing He is ABLE to deliver them, and they rest in submission to God regardless of IF He saves them or not. Jesus says something similar as he prays in the garden? Luke 22:4 “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
This is a “confident submission” It’s is not the quantity or even the quality of their faith, it’s the object of it. We trust God, the Creator, and we will not bow to the god you’ve created. We know the image isn’t really anything, we know it’s just an idol and we know they’re powerless. Couldn’t they just bow with a wink and nod to God saying “well you know my heart.” They are displaying where their hope is. God is God! This means He is first and He cannot and will not be second. For them to bow and serve at the point of this ultimatum would preach something false to Nebuchadnezzar about God and about who he is. Paul in the face of adversity shares this confident submission Phil 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. “Your supreme weapon is killing, my supreme weapon is dying.” Joseph Tson Persecuted Romanian Pastor
Part III | v19-25 | Faith in the Fire
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, 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.”
Emotionally driven, Nebuchednezzar is controlled by his reaction too their resistance. He is enraged, he is “filled with fury” and his face has changed. To reflect his anger he turns up the gas on the grill. He’s going to char their puny rebellion. His best soldiers bind the three, there is no escape. The hand of the law is upon them. The response to their unwavering allegiance to God and unwillingness to bow and serve is to actually face a terrible fiery trial. They fell into the furnace, tied up, helpless. Verse 22 show ironically those who were unquestionably obedient to the Kings commands are burned. They feared men, not God.
Matt 16:25 | For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
It is in this furnace that God meets them (This may be Jesus, or it may be an angel) Regardless what is clear is the while God could have done any number of things to save them from the furnace. He could have spoken, or zapped them away from Babylon, He chooses to save them by dwelling with them in the Fire. In this world, our God doesn’t always promise to keep us from the fire but he does promise to meet us there.
Isaiah 48:10 | Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
Not only does God meet us in the furnace, but the men are unbound, they are free, they are with/in the presence of God and now they’re walking about in the furnace. Not panicked. Not hurt.
Part IV | v26-30 | Called from the Fire
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. 28 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 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.
He sees the work of what must be the Most High God ( just the best of many) and is overwhelmed by what he is seeing and experiencing. He calls them out of the fire. So now there is a similar gathering (Satraps, etc) to the statue but this time it is an attractive gathering (rather than a compulsive one) around the saving work of God to deliver His people from the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar has converted His position but not his ultimate allegiance He has seen an answer to the question “Who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” It’s the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego it’s NOT the God of Nebuchadnezzar. He is still totalitarian and rules with fear and terror. No one will speak against or they will “be torn limb from limb.” But in this He stumbles on to Gospel Truth that “no other god is able to rescue in this way”
Acts 4:12 | And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Our God calls us to look to Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus, fully God comes and meets us in the furnace of this world. Who was tempted as we are to bow down to the false images of this world. Who was perfectly obedient in our place. Who for failing to deny He is God suffered on the cross the worst way humans could display their wrath and fury, who was not called off it (although many taunted Him to do it) but endured painfully. Not with His friends, but alone and forsaken even from God. In mercy, He suffered in our place so we could go through the furnace of our own judgement and not be burned but dwell with God “without a hair singed, and unharmed.” In grace He gives us His righteousness and a comprehensive salvation where we are no longer bound by our sin, or this world, but we have freedom to walk with God, not bowing and serving the god’s and idols of this world, but able to endure all the fiery furnaces because our faith in is a God who is able to save, and we rest in his will when we Trust Jesus.