Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered July 15, 2006 by Pastor Donald J. Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Daniel: Footsteps in the Furnace

Daniel 3
(RealAudio Version available)

Well, today we would like to continue our series on the book of Daniel. Right now we're beginning chapter three of Daniel . Next week we'll be in chapter four. Chapter three begins with the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

Remember that in chapter two, Nebuchadnezzar's dream was interpreted and he said, "God is the God of gods." It sounds like he became a believer. But we backslide so quickly, don't we. In Daniel 2 the great king Nebuchadnezzar believed in the God of heaven as a "God of gods." But, here in Daniel 3 he has already reverted to heathenism. You know a lot of people like Nebuchadnezzar. They are in love with themselves. The king built an image that probably looked like himself, only much taller. It was not of four metals bu only of Gold. He wasn't content to be the head. He wanted it all. He could have lived in this century very well, a selfish man.

The image was ninety feet (60 cubits) tall. Now, the image could not be made of solid gold. That would have taken most of the known gold in the world. He didn't have that much gold. It was probably a bronze framework overlaid with gold. You know, the statue of Liberty is hollow with a framework of steel and the surface is attached to that. Possibly Nebuchadnezzar' image was like that. His ultimate goal was to be a world ruler dominating people by fear and by faith at this ceremonty. The ceremony was an amalgamation of state and religion. In fact it looks much like a religious worship service because everybody was supposed to come. They were supposed tp bow down to this image and worship the image. The word 'worship' is used nine times in this chapter, Daniel 3.

Babylon contained 384 street altars and 955 sanctuaries dedicated to heathen gods. The temple complex in the center of Babylon was the largest and most famous of all the temples in the ancient in the entire world as it was known in those days. Americans don't worship gold idols anymore, but we idolize gold! Is that much different? We want more. We want a better Ipod. We want shoes with heel wheels. We want fancier material stuff. We want it all. I think some of us might have descended from Nebuchadnezzar, himself.

King Nebuchadnezzar built his great image on the level plain a few miles out of Babylon named Dura. I think he wanted his kingdom to last forever. Gold is indestructible. We tend to think what we build and what we do will last a long time don't we? It all quickly disintegrates just like he quickly backslid. But just a few months later the world monarch would be eating grass out there in the field with the cows. That's not very good.

And so, it must have been quite spectacular to stand there on that level plain of Dura. He chose a level plain so that the image would be the very tallest thing in existence. With the suns shining, it must hav been really something to look out on that golden image. It was there.

It was under construction, God's people saw it and they knew that a test would be coming. You realize that in the day in which we live that we have a great test coming. You are aware of that, aren't you? Now, God's people will be tested in a remarkable way. It's very similar here to Daniel 3. That test is in our future. With every bomb that goes off in Lebanon, every bomb that goes off in Israel in the Gaza strip, we realize that the whole world will soon be involved in the end events. We know this is going to happen. And we're going to be tested. And they knew that as that idol was being built and completed that they would be required to worship that thing on the penalty of their life.

Look at Daniel 3:2. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. God's people knew their faith would be tested. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew there's a crisis coming and their faith would be put to the test. Let me tell you that a faith that can't be tested can't be trusted. Peter refers to this test as a fiery trial in 1 Peter 4:12.

All the leaders of the known world were required to come to Babylonia. [Babylon was the city, and Babylonia was the country.] I don't know how they came, but they came from long distances. Some of them came by camel, by horses, by carts, some may have walked, some of them may have been carried on their throne by slaves. But they came. All the rulers of the then-known world came to Babylonia to the plain of Dura that day. They were there. They were sequestered to a luxurious dedication ceremony. No expense was held back. Not only was the image made of gold, but a lot of gold was spent that day, wining and dining, all of these leaders of the then- known world. Leaders who were Jews were also required to be there. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were there. I think that even Jehoiachin and Zedekiah, the captured kings of Judah were probably required to be there because all leaders were there. There were lots of people there. Daniel was not there.

You know, this tells me something about the book of Daniel. If I were writing the book of Daniel, I would not have the hero of the entire book missing during one of the most exciting episodes in the entire book. He would be there. The fact that he is not there lends credibility to me that book of Daniel is a true book. It's not fiction. This is a good proof of its truth.

Only one other object rose to a greater height than the golden image that day on te plain of Dura: Black smoke! Nearby stood a great clay and brick furnace. Its smoke ominously ascended into the skies as if to say: 'I stand ready to devour anyone who dares disobey the decree of the great King. My superheated flames will take care of you, so you'd better bow down or else. You'll be cooked, incinerated. Each person's worship was required by law under the penalty of death, so this would be worship law, wouldn't it. A law requiring you to worship. This is very similar to the last day, which you can read in Revelation 13. The proud dictator hated disloyalty with a passion. Nebuchadnezzar would not put up with that.

Notice now, Daniel 3:4-6, Then the herald loudly proclaimed, "This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.

Now what was that furnace doing near that image? Do you supposed normally out there on that big open plain there would have been a furnace sitting there? Well, that plain may have been a clay field, an area that was level and full of clay, and also that furnace may have been constructed there to make bricks, not just brick for Babylon but also for the pedestal that the image was sitting on. And so there was a great furnace there. It had a large opening in which bricks could be loaded in and taken out once they were fired in the kiln. It was a huge thing. It had a smoke stack coming out of it. Perhaps The furnace had been used to bake bricks for the pedestal of the great image. It had a large opening and was already blazing brilliantly. With everybody doing it I'm sure the peer pressure was intense to compromise. Everybody was required to surround this image, with the furnace sitting off to the side, and when the music sounds, you're going to bow down.

Peer pressure is great. Pressure to compromise. You know, the Emron executives who were indited were not bad guys. They were just like you and me until they compromised once. Once you give in, all too quickly all you are doing is compromising. And that is what happened to them. You compromise once, and then it's easy to do it a second time, third time fourth time. First thing, you know, you're just like those Emron executives. You can't compromise.

At the signal thousands of leaders fell down and worshiped the image of gold. Great noble leaders fell flat on the ground. Zedekiah and Jehoiachin must have also bowed down. They all fell down, all except three young people. You know, young people, they claim, like to rebel. Well, I'll tell you, some young people like to stand for what's right. Praise the Lord for those three young people that stood up for what was right. While all the old people were falling down and bowing down, the young people stood for what's right. They stood erect and stood tall. They stood for the true God. This was surely one of the greatest displays of bravery in the history of the world. They would not budge and they would not bow. They were determined to do what was right for God. The world needs loyal commitment. Don't be afraid to show whose side you are on. The world today needs commitment. We need people who are willing to stand for the right. To vacillate is like going to a Tennessee Vols Football game against Alabama wearing a crimson jersey and a bright orange hat. Nobody knows whose side you're on. Choose God's side and stand up tall for God. Don't vacillate.

Apparently the king did not see the three worthies standing there because somebody else had to point it out. When you have a crowd of several thousand people, it's probably hard to see everybody. They all went down, all except three, and they stood up tall. But some of the wise men peeked about and saw. They opened their eyes. They looked around to see who was out there who might be standing. I think they immediately had spotted where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were. They looked in that direction and, sure enough, they were standing. "We kind of figured they might stand." And, sure enough, they are standing. How their hearts must have jumped for joy! The devil must have started drooling. The devil was so pleased and so proud and now these hated followers of the true God would be exterminated.

The wise men were quick to tattle to the king. They came running to the king and said, "King, you won't believe this, but there are three who dislike you. They can't stand you. They hate you because they're standing. They're not obeying you. They don't love you." And the king was furious. He was the conqueror of the whole world but he could not control his own anger. He was as mad as a dog. Proverbs 16:32 (NLT) It is better to be patient than powerful; it is better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

Nebuchadnezzars moment of glory was challenged. Now He must act or be made a laughing stock. You can't just have three people standing there and say, "Well, we got most of them; it's okay." You can't do that when you're a dictator like Nebuchadnezzar. So, he's got to act, or he's going to be the laughing stock of the entire world, because he's the yard stick. It measures everybody else. So he called the boys by name. He knew them well. They were leaders in his kingdom. He said, "Come over here." And he liked them. So he gave them a second chance. He really cared for these three people. He gave them a second chance. I will tell you, that's just like the devil because the devil always gives you a second chance to do wrong. The devil will always arrange that. But a true Christian does not need a second chance to prove what he is.

Today we need youngsters like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. Christians who will stand for the right when the furnace belches forth super hot fire. The three young men actually represented the entire Jewish nation. Had they bowed it would have been like the entire Jewish nation bowing. The nation was on their shoulders, you see. They were representatives. They were the ambassadors. When you take the name Christian upon yourself and you sit on some bar stool sipping some forbidden drink you, basically, dishonor Christ and you dishonor all Christians because you represent Christ, because you have taken the name, Christian, upon yourself. So, don't do that. Either you're a Christian or you're not a Christian. When you bow before some hot sweaty rock stars one day and attend church the next day and sing 'Amazing Grace' in the pew, your example may be like that of a Chameleon. It's no good.

What was the issue here on the plain of Dura? Worship! Can you worship two gods at the same time? Can you be loyal to two wives at the same time? Can you be a member of two different churches at the same time? Can you bow before the King of Kings on one day and then bow before an image that God did not establish the next day? You've got to be careful with your worship. Exodus 20:3,5 You shall have no other gods before me....You shall not bow down to them nor worship them. The commandment is very clear. We know what the commandments are, don't we.

Remember the temptations of Jesus? Satan simply said, "You see all the world out there? All You've got to do is bow down and worship me once and I'll give it all to You." Matthew 4:9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." "Skip the cross. Skip the pain. You can have it all. Just bow down once. And it's all Yours." What did Jesus do? Jesus said, "Get away from me, Satan." He didn't need a second chance to do wrong.

Notice the devil's words: "If you do this I will reward you. I will give You all this stuff." You know, that's the devil's philosophy of religion. So many modern folk say, "I will put God first as long as He rewards me." That is wrong. That is the devil's idea of religion. That is a wall street type worship. "I'll keep putting the money in as long as it does well. But when things go bad, I'm gone." That's not commitment. The real Christian is true because of his loyalty and his love, and not because of the rewards.

What did Daniel's friends do?

What did they do? Daniel 3:16-18. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into yhr blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king, but even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

You know, these words: "But if not." are the most important words in this chapter. 'But if not It doesn't matter.' Reward or no reward, we're going to be loyal to God. That's the kind of Christianity God wants. At this, the king's secret fear shows itself. He commanded the furnace to be heated to its hottest, seven times hotter. I don't think you can heat a furnace seven times hotter, but I suppose it depends on where you start measuring the heat. Seven time hotter than boiling water would be about 1400 degrees farenheit. Lead melts somewhere around 500 degrees and that heat would be enough I'd guess. He wanted the furnace to be as hot as you can get it is about what that means. Pitch and bitumen were shoveled in. Sweaty men on the circumference of the great furnace worked the bellows until the fire became white hot, as hot as it could possibly be. While that hot heat emanated from the very bowels of the cauldron, Nebuchadnezzar was happy. Why did he want it so hot? Do you suppose that Nebuchadnezzar secretly feared the true God. He said, "Even the true God will not deliver you from me. What I decree is going to happen. And even God Himself won't be able to help you. No chance of escape." They were bound by soldiers using the strongest ropes, which were tied super tight.

Daniel 3:21-23. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.

Now, that would be the end of chapter three, wouldn't, if God had not intervened. Imagine what thoughts the three must have had as they were so violently handled. Imagine all their knowledge of God and all the things that took place. Imagine what King Zedekiah thought. 'Maybe those three should have compromised like I did,' he may have thought. Without God chapter three might have ended with verse 23. But praise God for verse twety-four and twenty-five.

Dan 3:24,25. Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?"

They replied, "Certainly, 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." He said, "a son of the gods." Now, how did he know that?

God's servants were alive--not dead! They were loose--not bound! The flames were comfortable to them. It wasn't an uncomfortable situation. They weren't sweaty. The hot coals were like the rich thick rich carpet of a castle. The two thousand degree heat had zero effect upon them. Why? I thought about that. How could that be? Because they were temporally clothed with heavens garment of light. Psalm 104:2. He wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a mat. Nothing can harm such ones. Isaiah 43:2. ....When you walk through the fire you shalt not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze." I think they were wearing the garment of light, like Adam and Eve did before their fall. I believe you will be wearing a garment of light when you get to heaven. You're going to be wearing clothes with a garment of light. Nothing can phase you. You won't be cold, you won't be hot. You won't need air-conditioning. Everything will be exactly perfect. Have you ever been thrown into a furnace?

None of us Christians is immune to trouble. Hot times await all of us. I will tell you that when you get into your furnace, and you get in trouble, and you lose your job, and you go bankrupt and things happen to you, and your health goes, you will encounter Jesus in the furnace way ahead of your appointment with Him in the skies. It is there in the furnace that we are molded and made. Jesus may not always deliver us from the troubles of this world but He will always be with us in the troubles of this world. There were four sets of footsteps in the furnace that day. Why? Jesus came because Jesus cares. We are never alone. Matthew 28:20, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Wherever you go, He is going to be with you.

Hebrews 11:34 Alludes to the famous three who quenched the fury of the flames. The king ordered them to come out, and at this command they instantly obeyed the king. They didn't obey the first command. The king said, "Okay, you can come on out." And they came right out. They obeyed the king because we obey. Christians are obedient as long as it doesn't conflict with God.

Thousands quickly crowded around the three, smelling them, touching them, looking them over for evidence of these heavy ropes they were bound with. The ropes were gone. You know, that's a miracle: how the fire could burn those ropes and burn all the ropes off and not even touch the clothes and the hair. It was an amazing miracle, and the massive crowd all witnessed a true miracle of God. Like wild fire the message of the true God went with each person back to their lands all around the world. All these people who witnessed this event went back home and told everybody about the true God. Everywhere the three went they were asked to tell the story of their wonderful God, the true living God Who rescued them from the jaws of certain death.

The fire in their hearts was stronger than the fire in the furnace. God needs people today in 2006 that have His fire burning in their hearts. He needs people of commitment. You might live with a spouse who does not study the Bible or pray much, but you stand for Jesus. You might be in a school where everybody does a certain thing. That doesn't make it right. Just because the crowd is doing something does not make it right. Don't you do it. Stand up for Jesus. Stand for what's right. They didn't do the popular thing, but they did the right thing.

We are living in the last days and at the risk of our lives we will soon be called upon to stand for the right, for God. It may happen when you go down to Walmart, it may happen when you go to work Monday morning, it may happen, we don't know where or when, but you will be tested. People will be watching. And you make sure you do what is right. In a time when the furnace of trial is burning seven times hotter than ever before, we need a faith that is seven times stronger than ever before. And God will give us that faith. We need to fight fire with Faith. The faith of those three Hebrew young people is the faith that we need today. We live in turbulent times. You just turn on the news and it's scary. The stock market is going down. Oil prices are going up. Wars, battles, everything is happening. We live in a bad time. God needs a people who will not bend, not bow or not burn. And you can be that person. You can stand up for what's right. Stand for Jesus. Stand like the brave and be counted. Go out here and live the Christian life the way it ought to be lived and make people proud of you.


Sources:

Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, pp.797-798.

A. W. Tozer, The Set of the Sail, p. 33.

Be Resolute, by Warren W. Wiersbe, 2000.

Daniel Verse by Verse, by Henry Feyerabend, 1990

Let Daniel Speak, by Arthur Keouch, 1986.

Prophets and Kings, by EG White, ch. 41.


 Hymn of Praise: #34,  Wake the Song
Scripture:  Daniel 3:15-18
Hymn of Response: #610,  Stand Like the Brave

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