“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. 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.” Daniel 3:17-18
Dear Faithful, fearless & fruitful Seed sowers,
“God With Us” is the series that we are working through at The Seed Christian Fellowship of Rancho Cucamongam California! It is my prayer that as we look at the big stories of the Bible we see how God was with all the people and that God is with us, too. In last week’s Seed of faith we laid a foundation of Daniel 3 and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace.
In this story you can find at least three different groups of people. The conformer, those who bow down and worship the golden statue. Then there are the informers, those who are jealous of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego because they will not bow down. This group goes and tells. And you have the last group, the reformers. The reformers are Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They did not bow down. This is how it is recorded in Daniel 3:12 — “But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, O king. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The convictions, the beliefs and the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego provided their enemy (and coworkers) with an opportunity to accuse the four men of sedition, disloyalty, subversion and treason. The informers go to work doing what informers do: they phrase their remarks in such a manner as to work King Nebuchadnezzar into the greatest possible rage and agitation. “Furious with rage” is what we are told. Nebuchadnezzar brought the three young men before him and probed them for a confession. “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?” Daniel 3:14
No reply is recorded, but there must have been one. They must have told the king that what he had been told about them was correct.
Nebuchadnezzar offered to give them another chance.
Here in this story lies a problem that confronts every follower of the One True God: when the requirements of serving God come into conflict with the demands of a secular world—to whom do you bow down to?
Are you in this story, yet? Put yourself in Babylon, standing in front of the King. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego do not go to seek more time or to get a professional lawyer’s advice. These young men did not rationalize their options. They did not try to justify their actions. They did not go and discuss their decision with others. They did not stop to consider the arguments of others. They simply remained faithful to their one, true God.
What is the king’s reply? “But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Daniel 3:15
These words written in Daniel 3:16-18 are some of the most memorable verses in the Old Testament. “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 the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 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.’” Daniel 3:16-18
What in the world? Are you with me? Are you right here in this story? You are standing before the pagan King Nebuchadnezzar with your BFF’s. Here’s a great idea to ponder: What gave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego the conviction and the faith they needed to remain loyal to? Here’s my answer. I believe that they knew that the God whom they worshiped and served was sovereign. They knew their Scriptures and they were not going to worship any false idols. They were willing to die for their faith. These three were faithful!
When we read the rest of the story, Nebuchadnezzar is furious with rage; he has his soldiers light the fire in the furnace seven times hotter! Then orders the three men — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego– to be thrown into the fiery furnace. The furnace is so hot that the soldiers who bound the 3 men together and threw them into the furnace are killed by the intensity and searing heat of the fire. Are you in this story? This is one red, hot fire.
What happens next is miraculous! In the middle of the fiery furnace Nebuchadnezzar sees not three men, but four. He knows he threw three men into the furnace but now—he sees four in furnace.
Who is the fourth man?
Is this the pre-incarnate Christ? Is this “GOD WITH US”?
Nebuchadnezzar is astonished and calls for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to come out of the fiery furnace. They come out unharmed, no smell of smoke or fire and not a hair is singed. ARE YOU STILL WITH ME IN THIS STORY ?
These three were fearless and faithful and because they were fearless and faithful, they were fruitful.
Nebuchadnezzar now expresses a profound truth by saying — “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.” Daniel 3:28
This past week I celebrated my 23rd year of ordained ministry. I have served four churches during those 23 years. I have faced elder boards and church kings and queens who would have preferred I had a softer world view of loving Jesus. If only I’d bow just a little bit, I would fit in better with the people and my approval ratings could soar. There was only one problem here for me: I gave up everything in order to follow Jesus. Conform. Inform. Reform. Transform. What would I choose?
What will you choose? Who will you choose when it’s your turn in the fire?
I want to be able to say with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “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. 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.”
That’s my prayer for each one of us. I want you to be faithful. I want you to know that no matter what fiery furnace you face being thrown into, there’s a fourth man in the fire! His name is Jesus Christ. He is KING OF KINGS and LORD OF LORDS. He’s beaten that fiery furnace. He has also defeated hell, death and the grave. He rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of GOD ALMIGHTY. And it is Jesus who will help you to become faithful, fearless, and fruitful.
A long time ago, and I mean a long time ago, it was so long ago that it was during the days I had turned my back on Jesus. I was rambunctious. And I became a part of plan to tell a small fib to the police. Do you hear me? It was innocent enough. I was at home with my wife but my friend had outrun the police for speeding and somehow ended up at my house. If my friend confessed, he would lose his license. I did what any friend would do. I went to the police station and said it was me. I thought they’d give me the ticket and let me go. Nope. They threw the book at me: evading the police, disturbing the peace and finally lying to the police. Let me tell you something, my wife was furious with me. She went down to bail me out, and the police interrogated her in a separate room and she sang like a bird! You see, Jac told the truth. She wasn’t going to lie for me. She told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Fortunately for me, they let me go. The next morning at 6 a.m. the phone rang. It was my Nana. Jac answered the phone and Nana said, “Put David on the phone.” Nana loved Jesus. Nana had raised me. I explained what had happened. (Nana had heard the morning police report!) I will never forget what she told me, “David, all you have is your name. Do not bow to this world. Under zero circumstances, do not bow to this world.” She hung up on me. Listen, I didn’t know it at the time but I know it now. Jesus was the fourth man in that fire. I began to live for Christ again and I’ve not ever bowed to any other God. There isn’t a church that can make me retract my love for God. There’s not an elder board that make me go backwards with fear instead of forward in faith. Like Martin Luther, “Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me.”
Are you in the fire today? Look around. There’s a champion in there with you. The Lord Jesus Christ is a firefighter like no other. It may get hot but not a hair on you will be singed. Keep your eyes on the one, true God.
I’m praying for you!
GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!
“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 the 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.” Daniel 3:16-18
Dear Faithful, Fearless and Fruitful Seed Sowers,
This is my prayer for you as we travel through some of the big, bible stories together. I pray you remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray the Holy Spirit emboldens you to remain fearless and I pray that you plant all the seeds you can and that those seeds grow each season.
Do you believe these three words: GOD WITH US? or even GOD WITH ME?
How do these three words affect your life? How could these three words affect your life?
Over the next few weeks, we will spend time together in the Old Testament book of Daniel. Today we jump into the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and then we find our ourselves in the lion’s den with Daniel.
Get ready! This is going to be a great series to put yourself into the story! Maybe you already feel like you’re there, living the story! Maybe it feels like you have been in a fiery furnace this past year or maybe you’ve found yourself in the lion’s den with this worldwide pandemic.
The GOOD NEWS is found in these three, small, but mighty, words:
GOD WITH US.
GOD WITH ME.
Let’s set the stage for the next two weeks as we study Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel:
Babylon is the ruling power in the days of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar is the King of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar has already attacked the southern kingdom of Judah three times, beginning in 605 B.C. The second invasion occurred in 597 B.C. when Jehoiakim, son of the king of Judah mentioned in Daniel 1:1–2, was compelled to surrender Jerusalem and go into captivity with many of the Jewish leaders, including the royal family, the commanders of the army, craftsmen, and some of the priests like Ezekiel. The third invasion is the one I remember the most. It took place in 586B.C. when Jerusalem was completely destroyed, and the people of the land were deported to Babylon. A side note of interest is that the prophet Jeremiah was in Jerusalem at the time of this final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Daniel and his three friends were taken in the first deportation of the people of Judah under King Jehoiakim. All four of these young men came from noble or royal descent and were teenagers when taken into captivity. All four had been given Jewish names that reflected their families’ faith and their God: Daniel and Mishael both end in “el’ which is the plural for “Elohim.” Daniel means — “God is my Judge,” Mishael means, “Who is like God?” The names of the other two, Hananiah and Azariah, both contain a shortened form of the name Jehovah. Hananiah means “Jehovah is Gracious” while Azariah means “Jehovah is my Helper”. The very names of these men were reminders of their heritage and a challenge for them to remain faithful to the Lord. But now, they were deported into a strange, pagan land, and their names were changed. Add insult to injury because their new names contain a reference to one of the false gods of the ancient Babylonians: Marduk, Aku and Nego. Daniel wan renamed Belteshazzar, which means “Guard my life,” it was a prayer to Marduk, one of the Babylonian pagan gods. By changing their Jewish names to Babylonian names, this was a way of saying that these four, young men who had been servants of the Jewish God, were now servants and worshipers of the gods of the pagan pantheon. How would you like to be renamed by a pagan system, after a false god?
I want to emphasize something here, and it’s a good “SO WHAT?” for us. The change of their names accomplished nothing.
You see, King Nebuchadnezzar had changed the men’s names, but he could not change their hearts. What does this mean for you and me? No matter we are going through, no matter how tough life is–no one can change your heart without your permission. Remember this.
The four men remained faithful to the true God of Israel.
Will we be faithful to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? When life gets burning hot, will I remain faithful? (Write that down. Think about that!)
As we begin this story, I want you to place yourself into what’s going on. We’re not in Kansas anymore. We’re in Babylon. Nothing is the same, nothing is familiar anymore; they have even changed our names to honor their gods.
Can you relate? A year ago, things were pretty normal but not for long. Covid 19 hit us and so did masks, gloves and the rush on paper products! Life has not been normal. Life has been anything but normal this past year. And, yet, can we be more like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Can we remain faithful to God?
GOD WITH US!
GOD WITH ME.
When Daniel and his three friends were taken captive to a foreign land and given different names did God make a mistake? Did God forsake them? As we are all faced with a world-wide pandemic, does God not know what is happening? Has God forgotten us?
Has your faith begun to fail? Go ahead and read this story. Put yourself right there into Babylon. And answer this question:
To whom or to what do I bow?
As you read, remember this: These young men did not sit down and rationalize our their options. They did not justify their actions. They did not go and discuss their decision with others. They did not stop to consider the arguments of others. These young men simply remained faithful to their one, true God.
I am reminded of the great theologian and church reformer, Martin Luther, when he was on trial at the Diet of Worms. Luther was told by his authorities to recant his convictions, and to recant the 95 questions on the door of the Wittenberg Castle. Listen to Luther’s reply as his very life was at stake: “Here I stand. I can do no other. May God help me.”
I have a long homework project for you to do this week. Read the following question. Pray about it. Think about it. You can even discuss it with people you love. Here’s the question:
What are my convictions? (Conviction: a firmly held belief or opinion.)
And now a final “So What?” homework question: which of the above convictions are worth the fiery furnace to you?
“HERE I STAND. I CAN DO NO OTHER. May God be with me.” Isn’t it just another way of saying, “GOD WITH US” or “GOD WITH ME”?
As I close, the past few weeks have been pretty intense for my wife and I. Caring for Dad in our home has many challenges. Remember the recent MOHS surgery I had on my nose and shoulder? I’m sensitive to the stitches, the gauze, the tape that were used. I have four, dissolvable stitches in my shoulder and it’s going to take 3-4 months for them to dissolve. My entire left side of my shoulder is aflame. I’ve not been taken into captivity by any means but let’s just say, “I get Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And, I’m not bowing down to anything or anyone except the one, true God.”
Are you there? Are you with me?
Next week we conclude the fiery furnace and move into the lions’ den. Oh, man! I can hardly wait!
Spoiler alert for next week: there’s a fourth man in the fire and there’s another in your fiery furnace, too.
GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I!
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