Summary: What are the Idols in the marketplace, what might happen to you if you refuse to bow down?
Singing the Songs of the Lord in a Strange Land November 7, 2004
We have followed Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, & Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego) through exile from their land, to being chosen for training in the King’s court. They honoured God by refusing to eat the king’s food & God honoured them with good heath and great wisdom. God Gave Daniel the supernatural insight into the dream that was troubling the king, and the king rewarded Daniel and the boys with some of the highest political positions in the land.
This meteoric rise to power by these 4 Jewish men does not go unnoticed by the other wise men in Babylon and they wait for their opportunity to pull the rug out from under these new rulers.
The opportunity comes when the king, Nebuchadnezzar, decides to create this great idol on the plain of Dura. We are not told who the stature is of, but it is likely one of the Babylonian gods: Babylonian kings were not known for setting themselves up as gods.
All the same, Nebuchadnezzar makes worship of the idol mandatory – he is trying to consolidate state worship. So… when the band strikes up, everyone is supposed to bow down to the new idol.
Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego don’t show. The king doesn’t notice, but the astrologers, jealous of their position do.
You might be wondering, “where is Daniel in all of this?” The answer is, we don’t know. He isn’t mentioned. We can guess that he didn’t bow to the idol, but that he had too much favor with the king for the astrologers to go after him just now. – they wait for a new king to try to take Daniel down.
The Astrologers come to the king and make a big stink about the three, and the king blows his top – he is not used to being disobeyed.
He gives them one last chance to bow down to the idol, he reminds them about the furnace and threatens them with their life. He throws down the gauntlet, so to say: he declares that no god is able to save them from his power.
They stay standing. They tell 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, You Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”
Idols in the Marketplace
In most workplaces, the boss is not going to set up a big statue, play some music and have everyone bow down and worship. We are usually much more subtle than that. But we have our idols all the same.
John Calvin said that the human mind is a “factory of Idols”
Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped. - Augustine.
An idol can be a person, an institution, or an idea or ideology.
How to recognize an Idol without the gold & stone…
What do you do with idols?
Worship them – this can happen when there is a “cult of personality” when one person is held is such high regard that they can do no wrong.
Sacrifice to them – This is where it is most obvious that institutions can be idols – often times the language sacrifice is applied to them.
“(institutions) make claims upon human beings for idolatrous commitment in that the moral principle that governs any institution – a great corporation, a government agency, an ecclesiastical organization, a union, utility or university – is its own survival. Everything else must finally be sacrificed to the cause of preserving the institution, and it is demanded of everyone who lives within its sphere of influence – officers, executives, employees, members, customers, and students – that they commit themselves to the service of that end, the survival of the institution.” – William Stringfellow
Placate them – keep them happy or incur their wrath.
Trust in the power behind them – this is seen most powerfully in ideologies – when we trust without thinking the process of privatization, or nationalization, or where free market ideals or socialist ideals are applied as if they are the infallible word of God. Certain business methods might fall into this category.
Protect them – I see this in the idolatry of the family institution – when all is done to protect the name of a family when horrible things are going on. This is where we can sacrifice our children for the sake of the family – the family is supposed to be there to protect the children, not the other way around.