Sermon delivered September 7, 1996

By Pastor Donald Gettys

Daniel's Fire-Proof Friends

Once a long time ago, four boys were living in a large city. Everything was going well until one day they heard that the president of the world had decided to literally make his dreams come true. In the king's dream was a great giant, so strong that he was made of metal. The head was of gold, the chest of silver, the thighs of brass and the legs of iron. To the great king it was astonishing how much this handsome image looked just like himself!

Nebuchadnezar had been told that he was the head of gold. He decided to build a towering image like the one in his dream. He sat for his portrait so the image would look just like himself as it stood straight and tall out there on the plain. The plain of Dura was like an airport; flat and very large. It was named Dura, I suppose he hoped it would be durable and would last forever.

Old Nebuchadnezzar's belief in God did not last very long. In Daniel chapter 2 he had said that Daniels God is the God of gods. And now, here in Daniel 3, how quickly he forgot. You know, time and carelessness can erase your memory of God. His Christainity did not have a very long spiritual life. It didn't have a shelf life of much over a few days. He had to renew daily that fellowship with Jesus If he really wanted to honor God he would have built an image using all 4 metals and included feet made of iron and clay and there along side the image he would have set a huge boulder to be labelled the God of Gods. But he didn't do that. The king was selfish and he thought if there is a golden god, I cannot bear not to be that god myself. And so that's what he wanted to do.

Every day the four boys could see the construction work as the solid gold parts were trucked in by Brinks armored cars and set up. Finally the large head was fastened to the very top and the gleaming image was complete. A great dedication ceremony was planned. The top brass of the entire world would be required to attend. That included the four young men. The problem came when it was announced not only would the dignitaries come but that everybody would be required to bow down and to worship this great IDOL.

Today, as we near the year 2000, we know that soon the time is coming for us to be tested. Soon the great image of the beast of Revelation 13 will be set up and we will be forced to worship it. Those who do not will be under a death decree. So a major problem is coming for us just like it did for Daniels Fireproof Friends. We have the same problem coming to us. The big question for us is will we be fire-proof? Will we be fail-safe?

Nebuchadnezzar could have used his vast wealth to help the poor. But instead he spent it on his selfish desires. You know, when you get some money, what is the first thing you want to do with it. Well, you want to get things paid off, but then you think, "Well I could do this for myself. I could do that for myself. That's what Nebuchadnezzar thought. He squandered the riches God had entrusted him with. Whenever he got more money he looked for ways to spend it on himself.

Finally the day of test came, as it always will. Daniel himself must have been out of town on official business that day. Look at Daniel 3:3--(Keep your finger in Daniel 3 because we'll be using it often this morning.) "So the Satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezar had set up, and they stood before it."

This crisis revolved around two images. The image that Nebuchadnezzar set up and the Image of God being recreated in the lives of these three young Hebrew men. Will the image of God bow to the image of man? That's still the question today, isn't it? The issues were large. The king had changed their names, but he had not changed their devotion to God. You can do a lot to people, but you can't make them release their hold on God.

The four young men must have spent many hours studying and praying to God to prepare for this test. How can we pass the great test at the end of time without doing our home work? The best way to ace the final test is to do well on the daily quizzes! The best way that you can make sure you're prepared for the events that are coming in the future is to do well with Jesus today. We aught to be spending today with our Bibles and on our knees. Getting acquainted with Jesus, building that relationship. If we cannot speak up for God now, how will we be able to stand up for Him when things really get tough?

Daniel 3:4,5-- "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."

So what this was, was forced worship. I want you to know that forced worship is not worship. Forced Worship is Devil's type of worship. God says If you LOVE me keep my commandments. The love has to come first, doesn't it? The relationship must be first. The last great issue just before Jesus Second Coming will be over worship, (See Revelation 13:15). Some day the whole world will be commanded to worship. Are you going to do it? Not if Jesus is in your heart.

Notice how attractive it will be to do that which God forbids. The image was impressive! It was absolutely gorgeous, glistening, shiny gold! STaning as tall as the statue of Liberty without its base. Standing ninety feet tall on a flat plain like a Saturn Five Rocket on Cape Canaveral. So enticing. A masterful temptation. Grand music from the Chaldean International Philharmonic Orchestra. The biggest idol they had ever worshipped. What a priviledgeto wqorship this huge monster! The peer pressure: everybody was bowing down.

The Big Apple that Satan offered to Eve must have been shiny and bright red. The ways of evil are filled with attraction, bright lights and loud sounds calling us over to do what God forbids us to do. Temptations are always exciting. The back seat of a car, the music, and the drugs all add to the appeal to do what God does not want you to do, what He forbids you to do.

These three Hebrew worthies were in a delimma. If they obeyed God they would be thrown into a furnace of fire. If they obeyed the king they would lose eternal life and be cast into a lake of fire. Either choice would result in Fire! Can't win in that situation, can you? Yes you can!

Daniel 3:6-- "Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace."

Sometimes we face a similar delimma in 1996. Someone may say, "If you do not work this coming Saturday, you're fired." Have you ever heard that before? If we work on the Sabbath, we dishonor God. If we do not work we face loss of employment. Or you are a young person and you are invited to a party where alcohol will be served and drugs will be available. If you go you subject yourself to big temptations and you dissappoint Jesus. If you don't attend you may lose some of your best friends. Are they really the type of freinds you need?

Nebuchadnezzar was sure no one would dare disobey and make a fool of themselves. To keep standing would be to lose face and lose life. The blazing beltching fuming furnace was ready to cremate anyone foolish to stay standing.

Let me ask: is it really that important to be different or peculiar if God asks you? It is, isn't it? They could have rationalized, they could have compromised their beliefs and could have said to themselves, "God will understand if only this once we kneel down, He knows we love Him. God has a work for us to do and now is not the time to be foolish. It could be a good time to stoop down and make sure our shoes are tied well.

Do we rationalize and say, the bills are so high this month, I will just keep back my Tithe and offering this time. I can't afford to do what God wants me to do. God will understand. OR--- I am so tired, I will skip my Bible study and prayer time today. The list could go on and on......

THE TEST CAME for Shadracxh, Meshach and Abdnego! Everybody prostrated themselves. But I want you to know that these three Hebrew worthies did not bow down! ABEDNIGO did not go to bed and call in sick! They all stood straight and tall, maybe on their tip toes for God! You will never be dissappointed because you stand up for God and you stand for what is right. The very act of bowing down was wrong. Nebuchadnezzar was attempting to set up a world religion. They're trying to do that now, you know, don't you? This was nothing but the tower of Babel re-enacted.

The secret service was there to note any discrepancies from the law. Their eagle eyes spotted three Sabbath keepers standing tall that day. God was looking, too. Today God is looking for men and women who will stand for the right though the heavens fall. Those who are willing to do what is right regardless of the consequences! Nebuchadnezzar was looking that day. At first Nebuchadnezar probably was jubilant! "This is the greatest day of my life. But he, too spotted those three Hebrews and a scowl crept over his face.

Daniel 3:13-- "Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezaar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

He asked if it was true that they did not bow down to his god. He offered to do it again. He offered to repeat the whole thing just for them. Now, that's magnanimous, isn't it? He offered to do it again in case they had somehow missed the cue. After all, there were thousands of people all bowing down. Maybe they missed it and didn't understand what was happening here. The orchestra was playing and somehow they didn't know what was going on. They missed their cue.

Daniel 3:17-- "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve IS ABLE to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king."

I love the first words of the next verse. (DANIEL 3:18) "BUT IF 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." Now I admire their courage, don't you? You can do whatever you want to us. If God rescues us, that's great. But if not, we will not bow down to your idol. Don't you just admire their couage and faithfulness to God? Praise God for these three Hebrew young men.

Notice their submission to God's will. Whatever happened was OK. They were all willing to lay down their life for God. Like Job they could say: "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." - Job 13:15. That's submission. When you get to the place when you can lay everything on the altar, including your health, your family, and your life to God. A burden rolls off your shoulders. Have you ever faced that? Then you can have peace if you cna give it all to God.

Verse 19 says that the king became furious with burning rage. He was like a mad man. His blood pressure was high. His face turned as red as the fire in the furnace. A cloud of anger came over his face like an impending storm. The form of his visage was changed. "Satanic attributes made his countenance appear as the countenance of a DEMON!" Vol 4, SDA Bible Commentary, p. 1169. If you ever want to see what a demon looks like, just look at Nebuchadnezzar. That's exactly what demons look like.

These three Hebrew young men, could they have saved their lives at that point? Yes they could. They could have said, "Sir, we have changed our minds! We're going to do it. We're going to bow down." Their lives would have ben saved. But they did not. This was their finest hour. Their faith did not come by accident, but it was developed over the years from precious hours spent with God. These three men would rather die than hurt the God that they loved.

Daniel 3:19, last part-- "He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual." Just as hot as you can get it.

Regular fire would surely kill any form of life cast into it. Why did the king order such intense heat? The furnace was possibly a brick-kiln. It was shaped like a round domed beehive. In the back it had a door where you could put in the fuel. On the front it had a door where you could put in the unbaked clay to make those bricks. The fuel consisted of a mixture of chaff and crude oil like Saddam Hussein has over there to this day.

WHY SO HOT? The kings command was not to increase the punishment or torture of the disobedient men. It was done to avoid the possiblilty of intervention on the part of their God. "I'll get it so hot that God himself wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole! He'll stay away from it. And these three men are going to be destroyed"

The strongest military men in the empire were selected to add human fuel to the fire. Each victim was totally bound up in strong ropes. It was to be execution by cremation.

But even with all this precaution, the king was uneasy. He "Felt that it required more than ordinary power to deal with these noble men. His mind was strongly impressed that something unusual would interpose in their behalf," and he wanted to make sure of their death. -Vol. 4, SDA BIble Commentary, page 1169)

THEY WERE FIRED!

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 men who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego," Life back then was cheap. You could take your best soldiers and dispose of them in doing this task. It was worth it all just so the king could have the last laugh. "and these three men firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace." Just like living logs.

If that was the end of the chapter, it would be tragic. Praise God the chapter doesn't end with verse 23.

But they were fired! Have you ever been fired? Surely this would have been the end of the story without God. But the Lord did not forget His own. God Himself came to their rescue. It was Jesus Christ Who entered the flames with them. Jesus was with them in the midst of their darkest hour. Together they faced the flame. And in the presence of Jesus, the flames lost their power.

Daniel 3:25 Nebuchadnezzar said: "Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed and the fourth looks like a son of the gods." When the king saw four men alive loose, walking in the fire it took his breath away. He was amazed, he was startled.

Notice how selective the flames were. The strong ropes that tied those men up were burned off as charred strings. But the flames did not even singe their hair. They suffered no damage and their property or clothing was not singed and did not even smell of smoke. That's a testimony to God's miraculous power. This was quite a miracle.

I want you to know that God will deliver us when we stand up for Him and place Him first in our priorities. God will stand with you in your darkest hour if you will stand for Him in your brightest hour.

When everything seemed lost, God stepped in to save them. "When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, the flames will not set you ablaze." -Isaiah 43:2

The terrible flames, instead of glorifying Nebuchadnezzar, glorified God.

Finally the king invited them to come out of the furnace. The crowd pressed close to examine them and smell them and couldn't believe it.

In verse 28, Nebuchadnezzzar jumped on the band wagon and said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who has sent his angel and rescued his servants." Notice he was still not converted. You would think that he would have been converted to the true God right there. But notice he does not say "Praise be MY God". The Lord was not the God of Nebuchadnezzar. It was still just the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This man has a hard heart, therefoe he has to face Daniel, chapter 4 and what happens to him there and that bad experience.

It would be interesting to know if that golden image was removed or if it stood there during the remainder of the days of Babylon.

Daniel's fireproof friends were promoted at the first crisis. Again here they are elevated still further in rank. God saved their life and He promoted them. The trials they faced were like a pruning knife God used to produce greater fruit in their work. Their characters were strong.

Now does it always work out that way? Does God always promote you? Sometimes a Christian employee who doesn't steal company property is retained while others are fired. But not always. Occassionally the Christian girl who insists on remaining a virgin is later voted in as the high school queen. But not very often. So often the Christian boy who does not laugh at the dirty jokes gets laughed at. But it's during this time that we must say, "But if not, I will not join in with this sin. I will not follow the crowd. We need to be like these three worthies that did not budge, they did not bend, and they did not burn.

Are you Fireproof today? You can be. What made the three worthies fireproof? It was the presence of Jesus inside their heart. The issue was loyality to God. The FIRE in their hearts was stronger than the fire in the furnace.

Pray: Help us to know that if we stand for You in good times You will stand for us when the times get bad. Give us strength to stand for you at all times. Help us to stand tall for Jesus. Help us to trust in You with all our heart.



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