Summary: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fought fire with faith.
THE FIERY FURNACE
(Daniel 3:1-30-fighting fire with faith)
INTRODUCTION: Testing-we seldom enjoy it. We don’t like having to endure the challenges that test our knowledge, patience or faith. But, the only way we will find out the value of something is if it’s been tested. Consumer Reports has been a valuable tool used by countless people to evaluate certain goods and services. Many stand by CR’s findings and shop accordingly. We too, as Christians need to go through various testing in order to determine our strengths and weaknesses. Our level of character, integrity and morality will be determined when it’s put to the test. I want to talk today about some guys whose faith was put to the ultimate test. Let’s see how they did and what we can learn from their experience.
· BACKGROUND: In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar attacked and besieged Jerusalem. He deported some of the Israelites to Babylon. Among them were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were found to be approved men, fit for service in the king’s palace. About a year later in 604 B.C., Daniel interprets a dream for Nebuchadnezzar (2:1-45). Then, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges God and sets Daniel up as ruler over Babylon and upon Daniel’s request, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were set up as Administrators over Babylon (2:46-49).
· Then, some time later, Nebuchadnezzar erects a massive golden image, 90 feet high and nine feet wide (3:1). This image was probably of either a pagan god like Bel, or Nebu, or of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Then, he summoned all the rulers of the land to come to the dedication of this golden image (vs. 2&3). Then a decree was issued that stated than whenever someone heard certain music they were to fall down and worship the image (vs. 4&5). The consequence for not following this decree was being immediately thrown into a blazing furnace (vs. 6).
1) Being the minority. (Vs. 7-12)
· Christians are the minority in the world. Jesus said many are called but few are chosen. He said the gate that leads to destruction is wide and many enter through it. But small is the gate that leads to eternal life and only a few find it. We as the minority are going to be tested to conform due to the peer pressure and opposition of the majority. Although S, M & A were outnumbered, they weren’t going to allow that to sway their devotion. How do we do when we’re the minority at work or with our friends? Do we stand up for Jesus?
· Being the minority means opposition (vs. 8). The astrologers denounced the Jews but specifically targeted Rach, Shach and Benny (vs. 8, 12). These guys were likely jealous that Neby had lifted them to high positions (2:49). When God blesses our faithfulness, others may get jealous and try to attack our character. They will want to undermine or sabotage God’s work.
· But we’re not the minority force. Our faith is tested when we’re outnumbered. Will we trust that God can do what he sets out to do regardless of the odds? In Judges 6, the mighty Midianites had been oppressing the Israelites for seven years. God raised up Gideon to take on the massive Midianite Army. Gideon was confused why God was choosing him since he was the least in his family and his family was the weakest clan (6:15). But God assured Gideon by telling him that He would be with him (6:16). So Gideon gathered the troops and set out. But God threw a wrench in the system. Judges 7:2, “The LORD said to Gideon, ‘You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her’.” God took Israel’s army from 32,000 men and whittled it down to just 300. With 300 men, Gideon defeated the Midianites. God allows us to be the minority so that we don’t take the credit but rather give the glory to God for surpassing seemingly insurmountable odds.
2) Hot, hot, hot! (Vs. 13-15)
· Nebuchadnezzar was a prideful hothead. One reason he was furious may have been because he didn’t feel appreciated (vs. 12). He had made Rach, Shach and Benny to be administrators and they have been given royalty treatment all this time. “And this is how you repay my kindness?!” Have you ever had to deal with a person who blew up every time he didn’t get his way? How often do we pacify people because we don’t want them upset with us? When we’re tested by having to deal with a hothead we need to maintain our convictions.
· Nebuchadnezzer allowed them one more chance to comply (vs. 15). Satan turned up the heat by forcing S, M&A to stand in Neby’s face and deny his request. They could’ve compromised and said things like: well, I’ll bow down outwardly but inwardly I’ll still remain true to God. God doesn’t care about us anyway; he’s taken us away from our homeland and made us live in captivity to these pagans. I’ll do it now and ask for forgiveness later-no big deal. When face to face with the temptation to compromise, how do we do?