Summary: A sermon preached on Trinity Sunday. Deals with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s refusal to bow to the golden image, but to worship the true God.
In the 3rd chapter of Daniel we’re told, "King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the princes, prefects, governors, advisers, counselors, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. When all these officials had arrived and were standing before the image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, a herald shouted out, "People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace." So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up".. (Dan. 3:1-7). The whole nation was in a stir. The king had called for a national day of prayer. You could say it was a national holiday because all government officials up to and not including the King’s court were to worship the golden image, and so all government offices were closed that day.
The herald who made the announcement simply stated what everyone knew was a fact of life in the new nation of Babylon. The nation was a multi-cultural society with Assyrians, Hittites, Hurrians, Medes, Chaldeans, Babylonians, and Jews. And there were other cultures, nations, and languages as well. The people of this new nation had more than 200 gods that they worshiped and followed. So the king’s goal was pretty clear: Bring this multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-language society to a new national reality and to a new world order.
Nebuchadnezzar’s national reality and new world order would be that each person would worship the one god, the golden image, as well as their own personal gods. The golden image wasn’t given a name, so everyone could in their own minds believe whatever they wanted. The golden image would signify that everyone worshiped the same god but only with different names. The king knew, of course, that the people would continue to worship the five to six gods they already had, but that was OK! Just as long as they also worshiped the golden image.
And so, all those of importance were assembled on the plain. The king’s high officials were there, but they weren’t asked to worship. Nebuchadnezzar’s high officials, including Daniel, were men that the king could trust. He knew from having had worked with Daniel closely about his strong faith and his rock-solid conviction in the God of Israel. Daniel wouldn’t bow, no matter what! The king knew the political realities and loyalties. But if Daniel’s friends worshiped the golden image, it would still have the same effect of supporting the one national god regardless.
The national worship service music began. All the people bowed down in front of the image except for three men: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What an outrage! What an insult! How politically incorrect! The king couldn’t overlook something like that! But he did give the three one more chance to comply.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have rationalized. They could have said, well, just this once. This is just a once in a life-time event – since it’s only a golden image, each of us could assume that it’s our own god. Why rock the boat? Why have the all neighbors and our co-workers talking about us? Why make waves? Why not just be a team player!
Well you know the story don’t you? We see that God gave them the courage and the faith to follow the one true God. The same God who would send a Messiah one day to die for the sins of all mankind and bring us salvation. They were believers in the one true God – the God of the OT and NT Scriptures who reveals Himself as one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They knew that they had no other choice but to worship Him with all their heart, and with all their mind, and with all their soul. They knew that they were to have no other gods but Him alone.
And so they would defy the king. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s answer is recorded for us by the triune God for the ages to come: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up" (Dan. 3:16-18). Death seemed certain. At least physical death seemed certain. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew of another kind of death – eternal death. They’d rather risk it all, even face physical death than deny the one true God.