Summary: Are you willing to follow Christ no matter what the cost? Three young men show us how Almighty God was revealed when they were in the midst of the fire. The third in a series on integrity
Integrity - Counting the Cost
West Glendale Baptist Church
Pastor Don Jones
We are now on the third message of the series entitled "Integrity". To say that they went from the frying pan into the fire would be incorrect. They simply went into the fire. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to stick to their convictions regardless of the punishment. In this case, the punishment was death. Daniel is conspicuously absent from this account in Scripture.
Robert Shank says, "its one thing to debate the elevation of moral high ground: it’s quite another to face death while defending it. As long as acceptance is assured by opposing viewpoints, the resolve of the person with integrity remains untested. But, when principle has a price tag, the depth of commitment is discovered.
That day came for Daniel’s friends. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were spotted as non-participants in the unacceptable behavior that had become the legislated requirement of their society. When given the chance to bend and live, they chose to be heroes for what seemed to be a martyr’s cause. But, the conclusion is never written in advance in the accounts where God is the key player."
Jesus told us to count the cost when looking to follow Him. What can happen when we are willing to follow God no matter what the cost? Let’s look at this miraculous account to see how our God breaks into human history to reveal himself in the midst of the fire.
Cue slide - The Crisis
Once again, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego found themselves in a crisis situation. The king decided to build a monument to his kingdom. It was a tremendous undertaking and the result was phenomenal. I can’t imagine how this was accomplished with ancient technology but it was. He was absolute ruler and had the resources, so the golden image was built. Verses 1-2 says,
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 to come to the dedication of the image he had set up.
After the dedication ceremony, a decree went forth in the land. They were to bow down before the golden image and worship it whenever the musical instrument sounded. It seemed like a fair law, it applied to everyone, no exceptions. Verse 4-6 says,
Then the herald loudly 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.”
Cue slide - The Cost
The cost of not obeying the decree was also made very clear. If you do not obey, you will die. You will be thrown into the blazing furnace (archeologists have found the plain and the pedestal). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were once again being called upon to compromise their beliefs and values. The cost had gone up. When they wouldn’t follow the diet in chapter one they might have been thrown out of the king’s service but now, it was very clear that non-compliance meant death.
Unfortunately, for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, obeying Nebuchadnezzar’s decree meant breaking the Law of God. They knew that God’s law was clear on the subject of idol worship. Exodus 20:3 says,
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
I am not sure if we will ever be called upon to die in a fiery furnace for following Christ. My guess would be, we will not. I am pretty sure that we will never be called upon to die a martyr’s death. But we are called on constantly to live out His life in front of others and be identified as a follower of Jesus. Our lives are to be lived with love, charity, forgiveness, kindness, and selflessness that there can be no mistake we are his child. Are there pressures and situations that make living life for Christ difficult and sometimes costly? Yes, but those are the times that we really will be identified as disciples of Jesus.