Summary: The effect Jesus had on those he encountered in the Firey furnace
Over the past several weeks we have looked at encounters that Jesus had with people when he was here on Earth 2,000 years ago. There has never been a person who impacted the world more than Jesus, and this is evident in his life. Not only did he impact people during and after his life, but he impacted people before he came. The hope of the Jew was in the coming of the Messiah. The way in which a Jewish person was saved was by having faith that God would bring this Messiah into the world. There are a select few times in which Jesus gives us a brief viewing in the Old Testament; this is called a Christophany or an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament.
One of my favorite stores of the Old Testament is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego or as Veggie Tales calls the Shad, Rack and Benny. We are all quite familiar with this story, but I think that many times we miss the main points being taught to us by God.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are three great men. They were Jewish men who lived in the Southern country of Judah. After an attack by the Babylonians they took back to Babylon the smartest and the wisest of the Jews, among that crowd was Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. As they were there the king made attempt after attempt to drive God out of those Jewish people. I have heard it said that you can take the girl out of the country, but you cannot take the country out of the girl. I believe this was uniquely true with these four amazing and Godly men. From what I understand the Babylonians were quite successful in driving God out of the Jews’ lives. They were away from their homeland, they were away from their place of worship and they were backsliding fast. We know though that there were four who didn’t bow.
Daniel and his friends became well respected throughout Babylon to the point that they were promoted to leadership positions. The reason they was not because Babylon had an Affirmative Action program that forced them to put Jews into public office, but because they were blessed by God for their faithfulness. They were living in a completely pagan world; there were not many people who even believed in one God. Constantly they tried to remove God from their lives. Two decrees came out by the kings during that time in Babylon. First was a command for everyone to bow down and worship a statue that was made. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow. We know that is when the three of them were thrown into the fiery furnace as a result of their disobedience to the King’s command. Secondly, there came a command not to pray to any God for thirty days. Despite that Daniel prayed three times a day and was thrown into the lion’s den because of his faithfulness to God.
Perhaps we do not live in a world that so hostilely threatens our faith, but in these stories I see much of our culture. I see people who claimed to follow God renounce him when the first threat of oppression came. I see one time it being popular to be a follower of God and then all the sudden people bailing out when it was no longer the majority. People when threatened quickly bowed down and worshipped other gods. For many people then the Truth was exchangeable for prosperity and popularity. When we look back though we see who was rewarded both spiritually and even physically. It was Daniel and his friends who were respected and promoted. In their time of testing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t bow, they didn’t bend and they didn’t burn. The question we need to consider is, will we too give in on what we hold dear when hard times come our way? When we unexpectedly loose someone we love will we turn away from God in anger? When we loose our job, money and homes will we blame God and stop following him? When life does not treat us the way we want will we bow to some other God? When being a Christian is no longer the popular thing, or when most of the people at work are doing immoral things will we too leave our faith and join them because it is convenient? Or will we hold fast to our faith and not bow and not bend.
Text: Daniel 3:4-30
I. Their Challenge
After the king’s command to worship the statue went up, I bet that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were aware of their challenge. They knew that they would be in trouble for breaking the law of the land, but they decided they would rather be right with God. The Apostle’s Peter and John were presented with a similar situation in the book of Acts. They were commanded in court to stop speaking of Jesus, and they said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God, we cannot help, but to speak about what we have seen and heard.” They took seriously the command of the Lord and would carry it out to any extent even if it meant breaking the law. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came to the same conclusion. They were not willing to give up their faith and worship some statue. But why didn’t they just give in? It wouldn’t have hurt anybody to give just a little bow to some statue. To them that was out of the question, it was not even an option. In these three men we see integrity and conviction. It seems that in today’s world people do not have integrity about their faith. In one setting a person may be the strongest Christian in the world. Those people are the ones that come to church and know when to say amen and how to act spiritual. Then when those people get to work they indulge in and participate in the same immorality as everyone else. These people with lack of integrity for their faith are very similar to Peter after the death of Jesus. If you remember the gospel accounts, you remember hat Peter was the most zealous of the disciples. He was very religious, in fact, when Jesus told him he must be handed over and killed Peter said, “No way, I will die with you”. Peter was so intent on preventing Jesus from being killed; he chopped off the High Priest Malchus’ ear. Then just a few hours later Peter is in downtown Jerusalem and he is recognized as one of Jesus’ disciples. He is confronted and then three times he denied he even knew the man. Peter denied Jesus, thinking no one would know and that his life was on the line. I do not doubt that Peter was sincere in his faith, but when tempted and when it was not so easy to be a follower of Jesus he denied him.