Last night we were studying Revelation 12 and Revelation 13 through the meeting, trying to identify the beast and the dragon and the woman. All in preparation that we might really understand what is required of God's people in the last days. We worship, not to receive the mark of the beast, but as we worship receiving the seal of the living God. If we understand Revelation twelve and thirteen and fourteen properly, there is coming a storm upon the world that's going to involve all of us. Each of us will have to take a stand for what is right. The only way that we shall be able to do this is to begin taking our stand today even among the little things that may not seem very important to us.
In the third chapter of Daniel we find these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, taking a stand for what was right. Now listen, Daniel 3:1. Nebuchadnezzar the king mad an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits (about 90 feet), and the breadth thereof six cubit (about 9 feet): he set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Now, an image is a copy. He had his craftsman design a large statue made out of gold resembling himself. And of all things, they were required to do in those days you would not feel very comfortable doing either. Here was this statue of the king, probably in a very stoic, solemn position, and on that head of gold his lips were probably not even shiny. He was just standing there, staunch. Anyone in the kingdom of importance had been invited. They were there.
It says in verse 2. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image. Almost anyone who had a title was there.
Here was the plan: They were lined up, the custom of oriental prayer, most likely having their prayer mats with them. At a certain time, when the music would begin to play, the plan was that in one bold orchestrated movement, they would bow themselves down in front of that statue to worship. Let's read it. Verses 4,5. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: Remember now, in the book of Revelation (13:14) it tells us that in the last days an image to the beast would be made and the whole world shall commanded to worship the image of the beast.
I would invite and encourage any of you to follow through with continuing study or what it means to "worship." It does not mean, in the book of Revelation that all the world religions shall agree on every point of doctrine at the same time, and that's what defines their worship of this image to the beast. Not so! Did you know that if your understanding of a doctrine is correct, and you remain silent instead of taking a stand for truth, you have actually violated your own faith.
Think about that in the context of worship. If you have a conviction that the commandments of God are important, and we could pick any of them, but let's just mention the fourth commandment at this point. If you have a particular conviction that the seventh-day Sabbath is still important to God and His people, but if everyone else is advancing the idea that it doesn't matter which day is the Sabbath, that god really doesn't care, and if you just remain eloquently silent, saying nothing, I'm suggesting that is a violation of your conscience. It does not make God happy. In that definition, then, if we know what is right and do nothing about it, it brings us right under the shadow of sin. Do you believe that?
Now, here were these three men who had grown up under that traditional teaching that the commandments of God are very important. One of those commandments proclaims that we are to worship God, only, that it is a sin to worship before an image or a false god.
There were those three young men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, mixed in with all the hundreds, perhaps thousands of dignitaries that were there. They heard the announcement just as plainly as anyone else did. But when the band begins to play, they are supposed to fall down and worship that golden image. I'm suggesting that if we shall begin some preparation today in taking a stand on the little things, then we shall be able to take a stand on the greater things that are yet to come upon the earth.
What would those three young men do? After all, in this situation it would be so easy to compromise one's faith. You see, there was also a death penalty put on this. Notice with me here in Daniel 3:6. And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Now, that announcer is making that announcement. He says, "When the band begins to play, that's when we want you to fall down and worship the image. If you do not worship the image, look over here at this big belching monster of a fiery furnace. If you would be so blatantly bold as to refuse to worship what the king has commanded, we will kill you this very hour."
And so, feet were shuffled, tunics were straightened, the band began to play. Verse 7. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Now if you just take that one verse out of context, it would be a lie. You could find a lie in the bible in one verse, because not all the people there fell down to worship. And you know the story, don't you.
If it were not for those three men there, I would not have this sermon today. Have you ever felt like compromising? Compromising your faith? I've thought of this story in light of my own convictions. I want to be as strong as those men were. If my life were in peril, I would hope before God Almighty that I would take a firm stand for the truth and nothing but the truth. But it would have been so easy for those men to have compromised. They could have had a discussion the went something like this:
Shadrach speaking: You know, God had preserved our life for a reason. I have twelve Bible studies going in the center building where I work. Surely God doesn't want me to be killed today and lose all those Bible studies. That wouldn't be God's plan."
Abednego: He could come up with something very similar. He could say, "Well, you know, since God has miraculously preserved our life, perhaps we should cooperate with God in this matter. God has placed us here in this place for His witnesses among all of these people. If we are killed today, that would destroy our witness, wouldn't it? We don't want to make God unhappy. Why don't we just bow down here in front of this statue like everyone else. No one will ever know what is on our hearts."
Meshach could have spoken up quietly and said, "We can pray to the God of heaven instead of praying to that old statue anyway. It's always appropriate to pray, and God wants us to pray. I just feel like it would be pleasing to God if we were to pray to Him."
Can you see the tendency there to compromise at all? But they did not compromise. If this were a story about modern-day men or women of God, could they find those of us who would not compromise? Oh, you say, "Wendell, I don't compromise much.
Let's think for a moment. The greater the truth that a person understands and the greater his convictions the more responsible he is before God. Do you believe that? And I know being a member of this particular church you have been really blessed with a church family. I can think of no other church family anywhere that God could be more pleased to bring people into than your church right here at McDonald Road. Now I'm sure there may be a few of you, our of 800 members, that might be just a little grumpy some times. But I haven't seen any of them here.
But compromise. What is your temptation? I'm sure I might be well served if I just stopped right here and said the prayer and we got ready for Sabbath School. But I can do this, you see, because I'm going to be gone in about three weeks. You don't really know me all that well anyway, and I don't really know you that well. But God has placed something on my heart, and I want to share it.
How about stewardship? Typically speaking, the pastoral staff doesn't handle stewardship as effectively as they could. Now, I don't see that in this church. But typically that is true in almost all denominational churches. The pocketbook, the billfold, cash, the checkbook is sort of a touchy subject. Have you ever compromised when it comes to your responsibility before God? Surely there is someone here that has compromised. Even perhaps this week. As your paycheck has come and bills have come piling in to your family, it is so easy to look at that check and say, "God really wants me to provide for the needs of my family."
I'm suggesting this morning that in all areas of Christian life and lifestyle if we compromise on one point it becomes much easier to compromise on another point. There's something about the human mind that's marvelous, but also disturbing. I heard a pastor say this: "Whatever the conscience condemns the mind can justify." Now think about that just for a little bit. If you're in the valley of compromise, your mind can figure out to justify whatever it is that want to sin. That's how affairs and infidelity and things like that begin to happen among church people. A man thinks to himself, "There's not woman I've ever met except this lady who really understands me. She may be someone else's wife. In the process of that coveting he begins to justify that God has put the two of them together. I'm just suggesting that whatever the conscience initially condemns, if our thoughts and our actions linger there long enough the human mind will justify that action even though we inwardly know it would be a real sin.
We could talk about diet this morning. And easy area for compromising. But since this just happens to be the day of the fellowship meal I'm really hesitant to mention that. I have to eat, too.
But, Worship. To compromise in worship in a way that would hinder us often brings a temptation with it. There are some Sabbath mornings when I'm tempted to stay in bed longer. Am I the only one here that has that temptation? After an evangelistic meeting on Friday evening, we close down the church, we go home. I'm sort of like a clock. I'm wound up and I have to get unwound before retiring for the evening. Sometimes it takes a little while. The temptation, then, is there on Sabbath morning to just sort of stay in a little while. Now, I know this doesn't necessarily fit this congregation, because you are here before Sabbath School (we're in first church service). But what about those who purposefully choose to miss Sabbath school because of compromise?
There were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The band was playing but they did not kneel. No, I've done my homework. I understand there were certain of those Babylonians there who were extremely jealous of these three young men. They wanted to destroy their reputation and their lives. This could very well have been a set-up situation designed and orchestrated to bring about their death. The word came back to Nebuchadnezzar. "There are those here who do not love you. They do not like you. They do not serve your gods. They do not obey you. And you have made the declaration, O king, that if anyone did not bow down before that image they should be immediately killed. What are you going to do with these men?"
So he brings Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before him. We don't have all the words that were spoken and recorded here for us to enjoy in Daniel 3. It might even be similar to that compromising situation that you may have found yourself in. Sabbath employment always brings about opportunity for compromise. The boss brings you in and he says, "Now, I know that you observe Saturday as the Sabbath. You know that our company orders have been slack for the past six months, and we have this large order that just arrived. If we can get this pushed through this weekend we can become financially secure and I really need you to work this Saturday. I've never asked you to work before. I don't want to ever ask you to work again. And after all, when you were down and out and you needed some work, I was kind to you and I blessed you with a good job. We've given you good insurance, you have good benefits, and all I'm asking you to do is just work one time." It would be easy to compromise, wouldn't it.
There's Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. I'm sure Nebuchadnezzar used his political wisdom and experience on those younger men. Perhaps he said to them, "Now fellows, I've been good to you. So many of those who were brought here the same time you were are working in menial jobs. They don't have the reputation that you have. Why, look at you. You're wearing Nike tennis shoes. You have the best of clothing. Why, Shadrach, I've even noticed the camel that you ride. It's the best one that we have. All of my friends are here. I know that you don't hate me. but this is a very disconcerting circumstance that we're in. I want you to help me. Will you help me?" He must have been a salesman, surely, to be the king. But everything he said to those young men in the spirit of compromise they boldly said to the king, "We cannot sin against our God." Nebuchadnezzar says, "Please, just go out there and when the band plays you fall down and worship the statue. Everything will be okay. Life will go on as usual."
Brother Foster read the Scripture reading this morning. It says this (Daniel 3:16-18): Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said 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. "O king, we have given this much thought. 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 your hand, O king. But even if we should die today, let it be know unto you, O king, ad to all the witnesses that are here from all the other countries and nations. Let it be known to you, O king, that we are God's men, that we will not serve your gods. We will not worship the golden image that you have set up. We will not sin against our God."
That dear friend, is the spirit of obedience, of total faith, acceptance and trust before God Almighty and I want that. I want it for my family. I want it for my children. I want it for you. That's the enduring faith that we must have if we are going to make it through to the end. A faith based upon a loving, trusting relationship with God that declares, "No matter what happens, I believe that God will carry me through as long as I hold His hand."
The king became angry. I can't describe all of his behavior for you because I was not there. But I've seen grown men become so angry that they begin to shake. Blood rushes up into the head and out to the ears and into the arms. Maybe he pointed his fist at those men and he said, "If you shall not obey me you shall be thrown right this instant into the death chamber." Talk about breaking up a worship service! They heated up the furnace seven times greater than it's designed to be heated. [Let's see now. If the day temperature was 80 degrees and the usual furnace temperature was 480 degrees, then they would heat the furnace at least 400 times 7 or to 2800 degrees minimum. That's enough to melt steel.]
I would not have wanted to be a soldier in Nebuchadnezzar's army. Because the story says that the soldiers that took the first man up there... I don't know how the did it. Maybe they did it on the count of three. One, two, three, and they ran up there and threw him into the furnace. You've seen the pictures of the furnace: something like a glorified igloo with a smoke stack coming out the top of it. And the soldiers that threw him in fell back as dead men. Any volunteers to be the next two soldiers?
Finally, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had each been thrown in there. The eyes of all the representatives from the other countries were there looking inside the fiery furnace, along with, of course, King Nebuchadnezzar.
The king rubs his eyes, calls over his closest advisor, and he said, "We've been friends a long time. You can tell me anything, but I want to know the truth. Didn't we just throw three men in there?" And his advisor says, "Yes, my lord. We threw three men in there."
Notice what the Bible describes what's happening next. Daniel 3:25. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. I like what happens next. Nebuchadnezzar knew when he was beaten. He recognized that these young men 's God was greater than his god. What a feat the Jehovah God had performed because those men he had punished, thrown in there had now been rewarded with full life and even the presence of the Son of the living God. Now, can you explain to me how he knew who the fourth person was?
It didn't take Nebuchadnezzar long to figure this one out. He said, "If that God of heaven is working, I want to be on his side." Verse 26. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. As those men stepped out of the fiery furnace, others gathered around them and smelled their clothing. "They don't even smell like smoke! Their hair is not singed." A wonderful story.
Verse 28. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 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." He was really saying to all those people listening to him, "Here are three young men who have a God they are so much in allegiance with, they would rather die than to sin against their God and their God has rewarded them for their trust. He has preserved their going in and their coming out."
And God will preserve our going in and our coming out in the time of trouble that's coming upon the world, but He may only do that if we are willing to let Him do that and begin to trust Him today.
Now, Nebuchadnezzar wasn't much on religious liberty issues. He made one of those laws very restrictive and he says, "Now, if anyone says anything wrong, if anyone says anything badly against their God, we're going to destroy their houses, their families, because we know that no other God can deliver this way. Then i verse 30, the bible says, Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon. We are always rewarded for doing God's will.
Friend, how do we come to the place that we refuse to compromise? How do we come to the place where we can at last stand in our worship of the true god without wavering, fully trusting, and trusting in the face of a death penalty that our God shall deliver us? How do we do that?
First of all I must tell you that it's impossible for US to do that. It take a greater power than that which we can invent to work within us. We must have Jesus in our life. The Bible speaks of the heart, the mind interchangeably.
Jesus has such a wonderful plan for us. He wants you to develop a loving trusting confident obedient relationship to Him. But he wants to help you with it. We cannot have it unless He dwells in the heart. The first placed to begin is to invite Him to come into the heart. And then as He comes into the heart, you begin to spend time with Him, in His Word, in prayer and with His people. This morning is a good time to begin or to affirm that we want Jesus in our lives in a greater way. I want to be ready for Jesus' coming. I wish all of you would be ready for His coming. And we can be if we let the Savior enter our heart.
Opening Hymn: #71, Come, Thou Almighty King Scripture: Daniel 3:16-18 Closing Hymn: #88, I Sing the Mighty Power of God
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last updated 9/4/99 by Bob Beckett.