Summary: Living with confidence in the sovereignty of God.
TITLE: BUT IF NOT
TEXT: Daniel 1:1-4; 3:16-18
TOPIC: God’s Sovereignty, When The Miracle Doesn’t Come
16Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
What does a man in bondage long for and pray for? Freedom! What does this man do when weeks turn into months and months into years and freedom does not come?
It would have been easy to blend with their new culture and to rationalize their accommodation of the Babylonian lifestyle with its idolatry and promiscuity. These men had done nothing to deserve their present situation, so why should they stick their necks out for a God who couldn’t keep His people out of bondage and refused to answer prayer?
In his book "Disappointment With God," Philip Yancey wrote:
We dare not confine theology to seminary coffee shops where professors and students play mental badminton. It affects all of us. Some people lose their faith because of a sharp sense of disappointment with God. They expect God to act a certain way, and God "lets them down." Others may not lose their faith, but they too experience a form of disappointment. They believe God will intervene, they pray for a miracle, and their prayers come back unanswered. [Philip Yancey, Disappointment With God, page 26.]
Instead of being rewarded for their refusal to serve and worship the golden image, these Hebrew men are faced with the threat of death—"…if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?" (v. 15).
How did Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego stay on their feet in the midst of a situation that had caused others to stumble and fall? May I suggest the following for your consideration.
I. THEY WERE MEN OF CONVICTION – In response to Nebuchadnezzar’s attempt to give them a second chance, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered and said to the king, ’O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this" (v.16).
Their actions were not the product of convenience or comfort, but of conviction. They were men of made up minds who did not need to test the wind to determine if they needed to change their behavior to accommodate their current circumstances. They had no need to defend what they knew to be right and they refused to blackmail God—"if you get the king off our backs, then we won’t bow." They were motivated by what was right and by what pleased God.
I’m sure that the enemy of our souls suggested compromise. He may have suggested something similar to the following: "You know that this image is nothing, so just bow your body but remain standing on the inside? You can give them what they want without changing what you believe." Such action dethrones God and enthrones self. It is idolatry. We cannot compromise actions without grave consequences.
· I’m reminded of the story of the Bedouin who was eating dates as he lay in his tent in his bed. The candle was burning beside the bed, and he took a date and bit into it and found a worm in it. He lay the date aside and took another date and bit into it, and there was another worm. His solution? He blew out the candle and in the darkness he ate the rest of the dates.
Watered down preaching may offer a user-friendly god to the world, but it does nothing to address and eliminate the worms that are destroying contemporary society.
Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego knew what they believed and believed what they knew. Their deep certainty concerning God’s will meant that they valued God’s commandments above their own lives. They did not choose death, but neither did they run from it. Victor Frankl, a survivor of German death camps and no stranger to courage declared, "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how." These men were able to remain standing because they were men of conviction, but they were also men of confidence.
II. THEY WERE MEN OF CONFIDENCE – "…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king" (v.17).
Confidence = a certainty that enables reliance. These men were motivated by faith in God’s ability. They served a God who was able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that they could ask or think. He is the one who introduced himself to Abraham as Almighty God (Jer 32:17) and of whom Jeremiah declared, "nothing is too hard for Thee" (Jer 32:17). They were absolutely certain that God had the ability to deliver them from or out of their dilemma.