Good morning, church family. It's nice to be in my home church for a change, and it's a privilege to share the pulpit, Pastor Gettys, and to open God's Word. Before we do, let's bopw our heads for prayer, please.
Eternal and righteous Heavenly Father, This morning hour, upon this Sabbath as we gather as Your family here, we thank Thee for the many blessing that come from heaven every day. Lor, this morning we just pray that Jesus might be seen, and that the same Holy Spirit who inspired the words of Scripture will inspire our hearts today. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
This morning my message is set in the country of Iraq. We all know about that, don't we. But, over twenty-five hundred years ago, Iraq was known as Babylon. Upon the throne of Babylon was an ancestor of Saddam Hussein, and this man's name was Nebuchadnezzar. Every one in the world knew who Nebuchadnezzar was at that time because Babylon was the ruling country, the ruling empire of all the world.
Oftentimes we as Seventh-day Adventists have studied about this particular time. Usually we are studying the second chapter of the book of Daniel in which Nebuchadnezzar had a great dream and he saw an image and Daniel interpreted this image to Nebuchadnezzar and told him that he was the head of gold, but that after him there would be another kingdom and then another kingdom and another kingdom that would be divided and a great stone would come out of the mountain as if cut out without hands, and smote that image and that stone would fill the whole world.
We know that as a prophecy of the history of \this world and the coming of Jesus Christ. But today we want to go to the next chapter, Daniel 3. In the setting of that great vision that Nebuchadnezzar had, the next chapter comes as a narrative between some of the great prophecies. But I believe that in chapter three of Daniel, there are some very important lessons that we need to give some attention to and today I'd like for us to think about some of those.
The divine commentary in Daniel 2:46 points out to us the fact that during this time right after chapter two in the last verses of that we see where king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and worshiped Daniel and commanded that they should make an offering, and oblation of sweet odors to him, and he declared God as the One Who could tell him what was taking place. The servant of the Lord tells us that for a while Nebuchadnezzar served the Lord.
And soon his counselors, the Chaldeans came to him and through lies, through flattery, whatever means that they could do, they convinced him that he needed to build a golden image that would symbolize the fact that his kingdom would never pass away. "You know, Nebuchadnezzar, if these people find out that your kingdom is going to pass away, there may be anarchy. We've got to do something about that," his advisors said.
And so, Daniel 3 says, he built this great golden image ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. He set it on a pedestal on the plain of Dura. He declared to his whole kingdom, "Everybody that is anybody, you're to come to the plain of Dura. Send out the announcement. A certain day is going to be a dedication of this great golden image, a symbol of the kingdom of Babylon, a symbol of the gods of Babylon." Because, remember the kings back then thought they were not only human, but that they were divine. Thus we have down through the ages the divine right of kings. They were worshiped as gods.
And so, the message went out. Preparations were made. The image was there. The symphony of Babylon gathered in their band-shell. It was all set up.
and then the time came for Nebuchadnezzar to go to the plain of Dura. You know, sometimes I like to close my eyes and think about what was taking place and imagine them in my own mind.
One day back in 1995 I happened to be in the city of Berlin. I went to the Perganon Museum. And in that museum there is reconstructed one of the gates of the city of Babylon, that fabulous city, the Ishtar gate. It's about forty feet tall. Archaeologists went to the desert of Iraq and gathered all of these bricks. Beautiful yellow and blue and green bricks. And they're glazed (sic) like tile. They reassembled this great Ishtar gate and the street that went out from it with walls on either side. In those glazed brick are the designs of huge lions that symbolize the Babylonian kingdom. That day as I was standing there under the arch of that gate, I closed my eyes and I could imagine the scene that was taking place that day way back there in Babylon.
As Nebuchadnezzar came through that very arch, being carried on a portable throne probably, on rods on the backs of slaves. And people were ling that street all along the way. As he made his journey out to the plain of Dura, people bowed in worship to the great Nebuchadnezzar. I can just see it in my mind's eye now. This al took place. He was sitting there on his throne with his nose in the air. His crown on his head. The beautiful robes of Babylon. And the scepter, the symbol of his power.
As he came to the plain of Dura, at the base of that great golden image, the slaves slowly lowered him into place, and his throne was set. The hour had come. He raised his golden scepter and pointed to the director of the symphony. The command had gone forth that when the music sounds everyone is to bow the knee and worship the golden image. What a scene it must have been. I can only imagine the feeling, the excitement, and the thought that were going through people's minds at that particular time. Like a wave upon the ocean people began to bow the knee, and worship the great golden image.
But all of a sudden the scene changes. The Chaldeans, those who had entice Nebuchadnezzar to build the golden image come slithering up to the side of the portable throne. "We've got to talk to the king!" "Oh, what are you going to talk to the king about?" "Well, there are some people out here that are not bowing the knee." And they come before the king and they tell the king, there in Daniel 3:9-12, They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever. Thou hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image.
"And whoso falleth not down and worshipeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
"There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; these men, O king have not regarded thee; they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." "Did you know that?"
Nebuchadnezzar turned back to them and said, "Bring those guys here." And I can see them now as the soldier escort those three Hebrew boys to the throne of Nebuchadnezzar. As they stood before Nebuchadnezzar, he said (verses 14,15) "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach and Abed- nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
"Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, the sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?"
Why do you suppose Nebuchadnezzar gave these young men a second chance.? I think it may be because of the faithfulness of these young men. He didn't want to see them destroyed. He said he was giving them a second chance, and this was unusual for Nebuchadnezzar. It was unusual for a king of that time because there word was carried out. And he said, "I'll give you a second chance. When you hear the symphony play the music again, you bow."
Notice what it says down in verse 15: "....if you worship not, ye shall be cast into the burning fiery furnace. I want you to notice what he said next: and Who is that God that shal deliver you out of my hands?"
Let's stop and think about that statement right there. One translation 1 says: "Where is that god that shall deliver you out of my hands?" You know, I can imagine Nebuchadnezzar's anger at this point. And yet, there was a sense of sympathy toward these men, because he knew Daniel, he knew Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But in his anger, he probably said, "Listen here, guys, you see my golden image? This is a symbol of the power which I have as the great nebuchadnezzar. Now, where is your God? Show us your God, and do you think he can deliver you out of my hand?"
Nebuchadnezzar was placing himself in the very place of God Himself. He was placing himself in diametrical opposition to the God of the Universe. This is what was taking place on the plain of dura that day. This was of great significance. It was far more than any political power. It was far more than any kind of social power. Nebuchadnezzar was placing himself of the God of heaven. That's what was taking place. And he said, "Who is this god that can deliver you out of my hands?"
Notice what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego said (Verse 16) : ....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."
Wow, what a statement these three men made! "We will not worship the golden image which you have set up. And if we die, so be it. But we also know the God Who you have just challenged and said that you're in His place, is able to deliver us out of your hands, O king."
Well the scene changes a little bit when these young men say this. Look at verse 19 NIV. Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach Meshach and Abed-nego, and his attitude toward them changed. The Hilderbrandt version just says, "He was absolutely crazy with anger." He was a madman. I can just see what was taking place in those eyes. Demons were coming into his life, and they were coming forth from his eyes. He said, "Don't even bother to sound the music. Take these guys and put them in the furnace right now. I'm not going to take that kind of insubordination." The Bible says that they not only put them in the furnace, but they heated it seven times hotter. I can't imagine that. You know, hot is hot, isn't it. What's a few more degrees when it's a thousand or more already? They heated it seven times hotter, and the Bible says that they bound them and the mightiest men of Babylon threw them into that furnace, and just the radiant heat killed those mighty men.
All of this is important in this picture, isn't it.
What was taking place? The demonstration of the power of Nebuchadnezzar, and the fact that he was the god of the Babylonians as well as the king. They had many gods, and he was one of those. And they worshiped him as though he were. That's what the record says.
Daniel 3:23 . And these three men; Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego fell down into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was probably sitting on his throne, leaning back with a smirk on his face, the demons still in his eyes, but all of a sudden, the scene changes again.
Daniel 3:24,25 (NIV), Then Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisors, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"
They answered and said unto the king, "True, O king."
He said, "Look, I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."
let's get this picture a little bit clearer. This is not quite descriptive enough. Let me tell you how I see that scene: Nebuchadnezzar was still sitting there. A scowl on his face. A degree of satisfaction that he had taken care of this. And, all of a sudden, he can not believe his eyes what he has seen. He jumps up from that throne, bounds down off it, and as he does, one of the sleeves of that flowing royal robe catches on the arm of that throne and as he goes, it rips the sleeve right out of his garment. But he pays not attention to it. That crown that was on his head probably tumbles to the floor. He bounded down those steps and jewels went all over the sand. And that golden scepter across his arm fell to the ground and he stepped on it and bent it as he went down. He had to be close to that burning fiery furnace.
In Daniel 3:26 it says, Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace. He probably put his hands in front of his face to shield his face from the heat. He had to be close to that burning fiery furnace because he had seen the Son of God walking in the midst of that burning fiery furnace. When he saw the Son of God walking there, it didn't matter about that royal robe. It didn't matter about that crown. It didn't matter about that scepter. It didn't matter that there were thousands of people out the looking at the king of Babylon. Nothing mattered except to get as close as he could to see the Son of God.
Now, brothers and sister, we behold Jesus Christ. Nothing else matters. Nothing else matters. And it didn't matter to Nebuchadnezzar, either.
How do you suppose he knew that was the Son of God walking in the midst of the furnace? Ellen White gives us a little insight into that. She says, "The Hebrew captives filling positions of trust in Babylon had a life and character represented before him the truth. When asked for a reason of their faith, they had given it without hesitation. Plainly and simply they had presented the principles of righteousness thus teaching those around them of the God whom they worshiped. They had told of Christ, the Redeemer to come; and in the form of the fourth in the midst of the fire the king recognized the Son of God.2
What an experience that must have been to be there and to see that taking place. The record goes on. It says, (Daniel 3:26, last part) ....and he spoke and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed- nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came forth of the midst of the fire.
Daniel 3:27, And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
You know, I remember that when my daughters, who are grown now, were about six and eight years of age. We were traveling one day in the car, and they just had to have something to drink. You know how that goes, parents. Finally dad stopped the car at a convenience store and went inside to get them some juice. I was not in that store more than one minute. I guarantee it. I'm a buyer, I'm not a shopper. I mean, I go and buy and then I'm out of there. I got back in the car and both my girls and Dolores said, "Ugh. You smell terrible!" Tobacco smoke had just grabbed onto my clothes just like that, in thirty second to a minute. And here these guys were: had come out of the burning fiery furnace that had been heated seven time hotter. The ropes were gone from their hands. But their clothes were not changed, and not even the smell of smoke on them. What a miracle that God had performed.
But, my dear friends, I submit to you that that was not the greatest miracle that taking place on the plain of Dura. The greatest miracle that was taking place on the plain of Dura was taking place in the heart of Nebuchadnezzar.
Just a few verses before, just a few minutes before, we saw that Nebuchadnezzar was saying to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, "Who is this God that can deliver you out of my hand? I'm the great Nebuchadnezzar." And now notice what he is saying after they come out; Verse 28. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed- nego, who hath sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. What a statement to be made now just a few minutes later. God was working upon the heart of Nebuchadnezzar, wasn't He.
Then notice verse 29. "Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort."
What a change! The challenge of God of heaven Himself back there in verse 15. And now he is declaring there is no God that can deliver after this sort. What a miracle had taken place on the plain of Dura.
You know, as we think about what was happening here, I want to summarize this experience in three brief points about these men. We've got the picture of what's happened. These three young men met some tests, I believe, that day. I want to summarize them like this:
They met the test of their personal piety. What do I mean by that? They met the test of a personal, individual relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, which was the foundation of their very experience. Now, let's go back to the night before. In my mind's eye I can see these three young men as they were gathered together, maybe in one of their rooms, or their apartment. Because they knew what was taking place. They served in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. And as they met the night before, they might have said like I would or maybe you would, "Hey, you know, guys! There's really no reason for all three of us to perish in that burning fiery furnace. If God is only looking for an example, and He knows our hearts, so, why don't you, Shadrach, be the one that stands up and there's not need for the others of us to die."
Or they might have said, like we might have been tempted to say, "You know, wouldn't it be so convenient tomorrow, when the symphony sounds, that we would just have some very conveniently reach down and buckle our shoes. And no one would be the wiser for it. And you know, God knows our hearts." Doug, have you ever heard that expression, studying with people? When truth is come, and they cannot grasp what it means to them, and they say, "O, but God knows my heart." They might have been able to do that. But Ellen White makes it very clear in Prophets and Kings that each of the persons gather there that day had to make a personal, individual decision based upon what they believe and that it was very clear that in bowing to this golden image not only were they declaring allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar, but allegiance to the gods of Babylon.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had to make a personal decision, and each of them had to decide for themselves.
Moms and dads, we can't decide for our children, can we? Children, we can't decide for our parents. We can't decide for somebody we love and care for. Each of us must make a personal individual decision in our relationship to the Lord, Jesus Christ, and stand upon that.
The second test that they met is what I call 'The test of social pressure.' We know it as 'peer pressure.' Young people know what peer pressure is all about. "Well, everybody's is doing it." young people say. "Why can't I do this?" "Everybody is going there. Why can't I go there?" "This is the popular thing. This is going to make me popular among people." Young people, don't take that deception of the devil. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego could have taken that, couldn't they. They were dependant upon Nebuchadnezzar. They were public officials. We need to pray for our public officials, don't we, because they have pressures we don't even think about. Our church leaders have pressures we don't think about. We need to pray for our church leaders. These young men could have fallen to peer pressure. But they had to take a stand on their own.
I'm reminded one time in a church where I was pastor, a family began attending church; a mother and three children. The father had committed suicide some years back. I began studying the bible with them on Sabbath afternoon. I remember one Sabbath afternoon we had studied about the seventh-day Sabbath. We talked about how the Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday and closes at sundown on Saturday. There was a sixteen-year-old boy in that family and he was listening. As I left, I said, "I'm going to pray that the Holy Spirit will impress you of what He wants you to do in relationship to the Sabbath.
The next Sabbath afternoon I came for Bible study. Before I could even get started, this sixteen- year-old said, "Pastor, I've got to talk to you." When a sixteen year old says that, I listen. "Tell me what you've got in your heart." He said, "Well, you know last week you talked about the Sabbath beginning at sundown on Friday night. You know how much I like to play baseball." Well, I could understand that because when was his age I was playing on three teams at one time. He and I talked often about baseball. He said, "I looked at my schedule and I found this week that we had a game late Friday afternoon. You know I wanted to play baseball." I said "Sure." I went to the game. When I got there, the game before us had gone overtime. And now we were late starting. If it had starte on time, I would have time to finish the game and been home in time for Sabbath. Now, inning after inning, I watched the sun, and I watched the clock. I watched then sun. After two or three innings I had to go to my coach and say, 'Coach, I can no longer play. I have to go home because the Sabbath begins in fifteen minutes.' You talk about peer pressure. This young man made a decision that week. The last I heard of that young man, he was dean of men in one of our colleges. Praise the Lord that he made that decision that day. Young people make that kind of decisions.
The third test was that of severe punishment. How many of you have been faced with the end of your life because you would honor God? Have you ever? I haven't. I dare say that not one of us in this room. But, you know what? My Bible tells me that we're living in times when that might be the case. We saw what happened on the plain of Dura, on the plain of this world. This afternoon go home and read Revelation 13.
Another image is being established. As you read down through chapter 13 of the book of Revelation and compare it back to the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, look at the similarities. Look at the issues that are there, and what is taking place in Revelation 13.
How important it is to me, and I believe to all of us, that we understand the times in which we are living and that from Daniel 3 we can gain valuable lessons that apply to us in 2005, of faithfulness and trust in the Lord, Jesus Christ, no matter what comes.
In closing, I want to share this final statement from Prophets and Kings.3 It says, "From the history of their fathers, (speaking of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego) they had learned that disobedience to God results in dishonor, disaster and death. And the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the foundation of all true prosperity." That has not changed to this day, has it.
1. Editor's note: I could not find which translation used "Where..." All 21 translations I checked were in agreemant with the idea of "What god...."
2. Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 509.2.
3. Ibid. P. 508.1.
Hymn of Praise: #22, God is Our Song Scripture: Psalm 34:1-8 Hymn of Response: #509, How Firm a Foundation
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last updated May 24, 2005 by Bob Beckett.