III. THE GOD WHO IS SUPREME IN SAVING POWER DESERVES OUR UNSWERVING
LOYALTY DESPITE THE PRESSURE OF INTENSE PERSECUTION (CHAP. 3)
Background: Daniel and his friends were in a pagan environment that was hostile towards the worship of the true God. They faced the dilemma of remaining faithful to God's revealed will while trying to submit to the God-ordained authority of King Nebuchad. When there was a conflict between these two objectives, sometimes a creative alternative will do the trick (cf. Daniel 1), but at other times the choice is plain: Remain loyal and be willing to pay the price (recognizing God's ability to deliver if He chooses) or compromise to protect yourself.
A. IDOLATRY CHALLENGES THE SUPREMACY OF GOD (:1-12) Neb's image of gold
Key Question = Who has the supreme authority?
This attack comes from 3 areas:
1. Proud Men in Positions of Power -- They Challenge God's Authority and Standards, Promote Idolatry, and Threaten Persecution (:1-6)
a. Motivated by Pride they seek to exalt themselves thru impressive, outward displays of supremacy
Neb. went to a lot of trouble and expense to build this image.
The image was spectacular (90 feet high by 9 feet, probably overlaid with gold).
The setting was impressive -- "on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon" -- no fear of God; a blatant challenge
The dedication ceremony was impressive:
important people in attendance
appropriate pomp and ceremony
b. Misrepresenting their God-given authority as absolute, intrinsic authority
The image had both political and religious significance.
c. Abusing their power
2. The Masses Promote Idolatry By the Pressure of Conformity (:7)
great music to help people respond on the basis of the emotional mood rather than truth
a fiery furnace to frighten the fencesitters into compliance
3. The Enemies of God's People Make Every Effort to Enforce
Idolatry (:8-12) Chaldeans with a desire to get ahead
Satan is the accuser of the people of God and uses whatever means he can to take the offensive and promote worldliness and idolatry.
B. THE SUPREMACY OF GOD DESERVES UNSWERVING LOYALTY REGARDLESS OF THE COST (:13-23)
1. The Loyalty of Men of Faith (in God's Supremacy) Bothers Men of Pride (in Their Own Supremacy)
a. Proud men are angry when their supremacy is opposed Neb. had so many servants under him, but could not control his own spirit.
cf. anger of church leaders when opposed in various contexts
b. Proud men are mystified when confronted with faith
Neb. had gone to great lengths to organize this event; had prepared for the possibility of non-compliance, but didn't really expect it.
Satan, the tempter, is quick to give us a second chance and a third ... to see if we will deny the Lord.
Neb. left the door open for them to rationalize their surrender to the king's threats:
1) after all he is the king and he has been good to us
2) what's the big deal; why cause any trouble or make waves?
3) it's only this one time
4) we can bow down outwardly, but not really mean it in our hearts
5) what good will it do God if His only testimony gets snuffed out in the fiery furnace (the end justifies the means)
c. Proud men are arrogant about their own power and skeptical about the power of God
Blind to the spiritual realm; could not imagine how he could lose this confrontation; could not see the Lord's hosts
2. Idolatry Should Never Be An Option for Those Who Understand the Supremacy of God (:16-18)
a. The issue is cut and dried
b. There should be no doubt about God's Ability to Save
c. Loyalty is Man's Obligation
d. Deliverance is God's Option
very important that we not try to dictate terms to God or condition our loyalty on any factor other than the Person of God
We need a vision for the supremacy and majesty of God; our God is too small
Why do empty things, the things of this world, hold any attraction for us?
3. The Price of Loyalty May Be Intense Persecution (:19-23)
fiery furnace -- the external circumstances looked hopeless:
a. the wrath of the king -- he has lost control; you can't reason with him
b. the temperature of the furnace
c. the assistance of the valiant warriors
d. the helplessness of being tied up/immobile
picture of submission to the will of God (not putting up any fight)
you don't always come out of the fire alive (Heb. 11:36-38)
Philippians 3:10 "the fellowship of His sufferings"
C. THE SUPREME GOD IS ABLE TO SAVE HIS SERVANTS (:24-30)
Key question: Who is the supreme deliverer? What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?
1. The Living God Can Manifest His Presence in the Fiery Furnace