Summary: A Sermon on the fiery furnace and our need to answer to the higher authority of God rather than the earthly authorities in our lives.
"A Higher Authority"
Sermon on Daniel 3:1-30
September 3, 2006
Badin United Methodist Church
Rev. J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L.
I heard an interview with a lady who has always been one of the most respected preachers in America. It became known somehow that she didn’t watch television. The interviewer asked her why it was that she didn’t watch television and she replied, “It’s because the advertisements do such a good job at making me believe that I need their products. When I see a Samsung cellular phone floating around in the clouds five times in the course of an hour I actually start believing that I need a Samsung cell phone.”
Now, I could never go so far as to not watch television, but I too am a terrible sucker for advertising. This past Christmas season, my wife and I were in Bed, Bath, and Beyond and she saw one of those Shiatsu massaging chair inserts. We both sat down and treated ourselves to a massage while we looked at the many features that could be ours for a mere $99.00. That shiatsu massager made my back and neck feel so good. I felt like a new man, and then I noticed their advertising slogan: “Makes you feel human again.” I wasn’t even aware of the fact that I didn’t feel human until I read their advertisement! But after reading it I was totally convinced that I needed that massaging chair just to feel human again. They had convinced me that I lived in a different world than the one I was living in.
But, not all advertising slogans are bad. For years the Army had an advertising slogan that was great, “Be All That You Can Be.” But for some reason, they have abandoned it in favor of this “An Army of One” business??? I personally have never seen an army of one, nor would I ever want to join an army of one, I don’t like my odds of surviving that tour. But my favorite advertising slogan ever belongs to (of all things) a hot dog producer. Hebrew National’s slogan is “We Answer to a Higher Authority.” This is because Hebrew National is a Jewish company that produces only kosher foods. This company is more concerned about producing foods that fit the stringent requirements of what can be considered kosher than about simply turning a profit, although I am sure they turn a substantial one.
“We answer to a higher authority.” I like that. It reminds me of the Old Testament lesson today from Daniel 3 and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. It may help for us to know a little bit of the background behind this story to understand it a little better. Daniel is one of those books of the Bible that is part history book. King Nebuchadnezzar sacked the whole of Jerusalem and took anybody who was anybody away into exile in Babylon, modern day Iraq. He took three Jewish princes named Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and trained them up for the royal court in Babylon. They learned the Persian language and literature, they lived in the royal palace, they were fed from the royal table…well, sort of.
You see, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (the names Nebuchadnezzar gave the three princes) refused to eat from the royal table. They wanted kosher foods. They “answered to a higher authority” and they would only eat vegetables and drink water. After three years’ time, the king examined his group of recruits and found that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were the three best fit in his whole court. They had even grown fat off of the vegetables and water! He rewarded them by placing Daniel in charge of Babylon and letting Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego help him in that capacity.
However, Nebuchadnezzar has a golden statue erected and he orders all his royal courts to come to the dedication. Everyone there is told to bow down and worship this golden statue as soon as they hear the music or they will be thrown into a fiery furnace. The Chaldeans take notice of the Jews and they see that as everyone else is bowing down to this statue that the Jews Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego aren’t.
The Chaldeans tell the king that the Jewish princes are not following orders and that they are not bowing down to worship this golden statue, and the king is absolutely livid. He calls for them immediately and reminds them of the situation they are in. He gives them a choice that their lives depend on. They can bow down and worship the statue when the trumpets sound, or they can be thrown into a fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when faced with this terrible situation of deny God or deny themselves their very lives decide that they have a higher authority than Nebuchadnezzar to answer to and refuse again to worship the golden statue.