Sermons

Summary: Dramatic monologue, done as if I were Daniel, reporting on his three friends in the fiery furnace. Focus on spiritual identity in a power-hungry world.

(Singing) “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, His grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee, He only designs thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

Whew! Does it seem hot in here to you? Does it feel as though the very fires of hell are about to burn you up? No? Maybe it’s just me. I have been all too close to a fire that you would not believe, a raging inferno seven times hotter than any normal fire. I have seen fire take lives, right before my eyes.

And, what is worse, I have seen what awesome fires burn in the hearts of vengeful men. I have seen what the pride that lies buried in the human heart will do. It will destroy; it will destroy utterly.

Whew! I can just feel the heat and can smell the sickly smell of flesh incinerated. May I tell you what has happened here in Babylon?

Thank you. First, may I introduce myself? My name is Daniel. At least that is what my parents in Judah named me - Daniel, which means “God is my judge”. But here in Babylon they know me as Belteshazzar. When I was brought here, they changed my name.

Maybe that’s the place to start telling you the story. Mmph. I can hardly breathe. But, you know, it’s not only the fire that makes it hard to breathe. It’s the smothering atmosphere. It’s the air of oppression, the stench of hatred. A man cannot breathe as God intended him to when the world is polluted by pride.

But I’m ahead of myself. As I have said, I am Daniel. Only a few years ago, when I was very young, the Babylonians conquered Judah, my homeland. Many of us, my family included, were taken into exile. There we hung up our harps and wept, because we did not know how we could possibly sing the Lord’s song in a strange land. My father and my mother constantly talked about Jerusalem and about its great Temple, all of it now in ruins. We, the people of Judah, thought that life had come to an end.

But one day word came that Nebuchadnezzar, the king, wanted some of the young men of Judah for his court. He wanted to train us for positions of responsibility. So three of my close friends went with me to see what this might be about - Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. With a mixture of excitement and fear we entered the king’s service and began our training.

We should have suspected something was strange when the first thing they did was to give us new names. What would have been wrong with letting us continue to be Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah? Proud names, these. Hebrew names. Names that speak of God. But we were told that no less than Nebuchadnezzar himself had decreed new names for us. Belteshazzar for me; Shadrach for Hananiah; Meshach for Mishael; and Abednego for Azariah. I say, we should have suspected something, for each of these names includes the names of Babylon’s gods – Bel and Aku and Nabo. We were most uncomfortable with our new names, but we accepted them. Life goes on, you know, and it seemed as though taking new names was the path to opportunity. No reason to draw a line there.

But they didn’t stop at that point. They took us to the mess hall. Mess is right! The fatty food, the liquor, the garbage they wanted to feed us! I decided that this is where I would draw the line. I would serve the king, and I would accept a new name, but I would not let my body go to ruin by eating and drinking away my health. So I refused, and so did my friends. We refused to participate in this defilement; after all, there are some things not worth your very life. If Babylon wanted strong young men to serve the king, well, we would show them how strong young men are made. They backed down; and we – Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and I – we all ended our training in superb condition, and all of us got preferred places at Nebuchadnezzar’s court. You see, you must draw the line against the indulgent ways of the world, and you must draw it early, or else it will take you over.

One fateful night the king had a dream, a very bad dream, a vicious nightmare. It was a dream about a great image, a statue, made of various metals, but with feet of clay. That worried the king. Nebuchadnezzar had a vague feeling that something was wrong. He demanded that someone interpret his dream. None of the wise men of Babylon could tell him what the dream meant – or maybe it is that none of them would tell him. I rather suspect that they knew, all right, but they were afraid to say. Think about it. A great image, a statue, made of many metals, but with feet of clay? It was not that hard to know what the dream meant; and so I went to his majesty and I told him: the dream means that you are a mighty king, ruling over an empire made of many peoples, nations, and languages. But you have feet of clay; that is, you are not well founded. You do not stand on anything firm and certain. So the day of reckoning will come for Babylon as it has for every nation that ever was or ever will be. I just told Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom was not infinite. That’s all.

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