Summary: You may not be facing a literal fire like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, but you may often find yourself facing inflammable experiences or relationships. Learn how to keep your cool when the heat is on.
One of the most dramatic, exciting stories in all the Bible was when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace. I remember hearing the joke about the preacher who for the life of him couldn’t ever remember the names of those Hebrew boys. So one Sunday when he was going to preach on this text, he wrote their names on a piece of paper and pinned it inside his suit coat. In the course of standing up, the paper fell out. He was preaching along and said, “And you know those three Hebrew boys who were thrown into the furnace?” and he opened his coat and said, “Hart, Shafner, and Marx.” Well, they are three Hebrew boys, too, but not the ones in Daniel 3!
This story pulsates with drama, but it also is full of lessons for us. For while you may not be facing a literal fire like these boys, you often find yourself facing inflammable experiences or involved in inflammatory relationships. So today you are going to learn “How to keep your cool when the heat is on.”
Years ago, I remember hearing a song about these three Hebrew boys. I can’t remember the tune or even all the words, I just remember the words said, “They wouldn’t bow; They wouldn’t bend; They wouldn’t burn.” I don’t think you can improve on that observation, so that’s my outline this morning. They wouldn’t bow, bend, or burn.
I. THEY WOULDN’T BOW (1-6, 12): THAT’S DEVOTION
Let’s begin reading in verse 1-6:
“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials (VIP’s) to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the…[VIP’s] assembled for the dedication of the image the King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
Then the herald 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. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.’”
So the band started to play and everybody fell down to worship this image–all except three young men. Skip down to verse 12. Some of the advisors are tattle tales and they report to the king.
Verse 12, “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.”
Now picture what must have happened that day. Out on a massive plain is a huge golden statue, 90 feet tall, shimmering in the sunlight. Thousands of VIPs from the empire have gathered for this important occasion. Can’t you just see the colorful clothes of the VIPs from different nations milling around waiting for it to start? Good Morning Babylon is there interviewing these people. There is an air of excitement and expectation.
The press secretary for the king gets everyone’s attention. He says, “King Nebuchadnezzar has commanded that when you hear the orchestra begin, you must fall down on your face before this image.” There are murmurs throughout the crowd. And the messenger continues, “And as an added incentive–Do you see that smelting furnace over there? If you don’t bow down, you will be thrown alive into that fire! So get ready, here we go!”
Can’t you see the people? They look at the golden statue and then they look over at the fiery furnace and it’s not a tough decision—it’s a matter of life and death. The air is full of the smell of the smoke and flames. Everyone is silent as they await the start of the music. I’m sure some of them thought, “I’ll be the first one on my face, just watch.” The conductor steps up to the music stand, taps his baton, and holds up his hand for the downbeat.
Now I don’t know what song they played to get people to make a decision. We have an old invitation hymn entitled “Almost Persuaded.” Maybe the Babylonian symphony played “Almost Cremated” or something like that. Whatever it was, when the music began, WHUMP! There was the sound of thousands of knees hitting the dirt. WHAP! There was the sound of half that many foreheads hitting the dirt. A cloud of dust arises from the sudden motion. When the dust clears, all across the plain, thousands of VIPs are bowing prostrate before the image–All except for three solitary figures. There stand three Hebrew teenagers. You might say they were outstanding in their field! Their arms were crossed, perhaps their faces upturned to worship the God of heaven rather than the Gold of earth.