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Daniel 6:16-20; Contrasting Confidences

02/20_Daniel 06:16-20; Contrasting Confidences; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220220_dan06_16-20.mp3

Daniel was the victim of conspiracy. The king himself was conned by his top officials, and now found himself forced to condemn his most competent and trusted official, the 80 plus year old enemy of the state, Daniel, who was caught in the very act, flagrantly violating the king’s latest edict, in his own home, upstairs, on his knees, praying to his God, just as he had always done.

We can estimate the age of Daniel because we know that Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and took some of the nobility captive in May or June of 605 BC, and Cyrus conquered Babylon October 29, 539 BC, 66 years later. Daniel was likely around 14 or 15 when taken as a youth to Babylon, so he would have been about 80 when Babylon fell to Medo-Persia. We don’t know how far into Cyrus’ reign this event took place, but Cyrus II (the Great) reigned until 530 or 529, so Daniel would have been between 80 and 90 years old during his reign.

Daniel 6:10 When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and plea before his God. 12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and said before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or the injunction you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” 14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was much distressed and set his mind to deliver Daniel. And he labored till the sun went down to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or ordinance that the king establishes can be changed.” 16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions.

The Quiet Confidence of Daniel

In what do you put your confidence? Is your confidence contingent on your circumstances? Let me ask the question a different way; what kinds of things happen to you that wreck your day or derail your week? What sends you into distress or depression or despair? What is it that creates fear or anxiety in you? What has that effect on you?

When Daniel became aware of the conspiracy, that prayer was outlawed under penalty of death, he continued in his formed habit of prayer. Not only that, but he continued to see God as good and worthy of thanks. ‘He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously’. He gave thanks.

What if God doesn’t answer your prayers? Or he doesn’t answer in the way you had hoped? Daniel was thrown in the den of lions. The Lord didn’t intervene. Look at the quiet confidence of Daniel. He was not shaken by the king’s edict from his settled pattern of prayer, and he wasn’t shaken by the prospect of facing hungry lions. It seems nothing at all in his outward circumstance could shake his confidence in God.

And Daniel makes no complaint. In fact, based on the record we have in the text before us, Daniel doesn’t say anything at all. He didn’t speak a word in his own defense. Daniel doesn’t speak until verse 21. Might we learn something from Daniel here? In what at least outwardly looked like the biggest crisis of his life, Daniel spoke to no one but God.

Back in chapter 3, King Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, when they defied him by refusing to bow to his statue, and they calmly asserted their confidence before him;

Daniel 3:17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Daniel had made it clear by his actions that he would pray to no one but the Lord his God, deliverance or no deliverance, regardless of the consequences. And in Daniel’s case it was the desperate king who uttered his hope that Daniel’s God might rescue him from the hungry lions.

The Desperate Crisis of the King

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

Daniel was quietly confident in his God, but Daniel’s crisis got the king praying. Darius was desperate. How many of us only seek the Lord when our circumstances are desperate? We don’t know if the king every prayed before, especially seeing that he signed an edict that for 30 days no prayers should be offered except to him alone. But he discovered through his circumstances that he wasn’t enough. In spite of his distress, in spite of setting his mind to deliver Daniel, in spite of his labor till the sun went down, in spite of being the king, he could do nothing. At the end of himself, he finally offers a wish, we might even call it a prayer to Daniel’s God. (I guess, since he was the one offering this prayer, it wasn’t illegal!) He desired to deliver, to rescue, but he had to acknowledge that he was unable to bring about the desired deliverance, and if any rescue was to come to Daniel, it must be from Daniel’s God, to whom Daniel faithfully prayed.

So the king appeals to Daniel’s God in desperation, as a very last resort. Daniel prayed consistently before the crisis, as a settled habit, three times daily. For Daniel, prayer was not a tool for crisis management, but a rhythm of relationship.

We can learn both from Darius and from Daniel. Darius shows us that even if we gain all earthly power, some things are still out of our hands. We are not ultimately in control. We make foolish decisions out of pride, and we have to suffer the consequences of those decisions. Ultimately, we are not enough. We need outside help. Circumstances can show us our need and drive us to our knees.

But Daniel shows us a better way. Daniel lived above his circumstances. He started every day with an acknowledgment that God is God and he is not, that in himself he is not enough, that he is a needy sinner daily in need of God’s amazing grace. And God delights to give grace to sinners who ask him! And he went back to God throughout his busy day. Daniel shows us that spending time, regular time enjoying relationship with the sovereign God of history frees us from being reactionary to circumstances. When our circumstances are staring us in the face, they loom large and fierce. But when we arise from bowing at the feet of the omnipotent One, we gain perspective on those same circumstances. They are tamed, on a leash held by his sovereign omnipotent hand, awaiting his command to do his righteous bidding, ultimately for his glory and for our ultimate good. Daniel could look lions in the snarling teeth and not be afraid, for he knew the one who held their leash. Your snarling circumstances today are on a short leash. Our God is sovereign, and we can enjoy peace in his presence in the middle of the storm.

Faithful Service to God

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”

What commendation from the king! He knew that Daniel served his God continually. The king also knew that Daniel served him and his kingdom faithfully. He intended to set him over his whole kingdom, ‘because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him … with regard to the kingdom’. But in his serving the king, the king knew that he was serving his God. Daniel was obeying God’s command through Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 29:7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

In Daniel’s seeking the welfare of Babylon, he was serving his Lord. We read in Colossians:

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (cf. Eph.6:5-8)

We are all called to be ministers, full time servants of the Lord Christ. Whatever you do, business owners, manual laborers, food handlers, public servants, elected officials, students, educators, administrators, whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men. Darius understood that Daniel was serving his God continually as he was serving Babylon with integrity.

The Deal Sealed

Daniel 6:16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” 17 And a stone was brought and laid on the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet and with the signet of his lords, that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel.

The deal was sealed. No one could now intervene either for or against Daniel save the Lord alone. No foul play from the deceitful officials, no rescuing intervention from the distressed king. Nothing could be changed concerning Daniel, for good or for ill, without the seals being broken. Daniel’s fate, and his tomb, were sealed.

The Frightened Faith of the King

Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.

Here we see the frightened faith of the king. He hoped against hope that Daniel’s God might be able to deliver him. Had the story of the Hebrew’s God delivering the three from Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace some 60 years earlier come down to him? He had hope, but it was feeble and frail. He spent the night fasting, no diversions were brought to him, sleep fled from him. He had a faint hope in God, but it was no quiet confidence like Daniel. He was full of anxiety, worried and afraid. No doubt his vivid imagination got the better of him, the aged Daniel gruesomely torn in pieces by the ravenous beasts. Was it slow and agonizing, or was it over quickly? What grizzly evidence would he find at the crime scene in the morning? Would there be anything left? What would become of the kingdom, if his top officials were such scheming manipulating self-seeking deceivers? What would he do without his trusted Daniel?

Maybe his fasting was merely an expression of grief and mourning. Maybe he felt he could manipulate God by denying himself pleasure and food. He labored by his own efforts until the sun went down to deliver Daniel, and now he spent a sleepless night fasting and denying himself until the sun came up. Fasting can be a good thing, used to train our own hearts that it is God who truly satisfies, not the good things of this world. But fasting is misused if by it we think we earn God’s favor or coerce him into answering our prayers.

Daniel 6:19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

The king is holding on to hope, but it is faint and fleeting. He went in haste to the sealed tomb. He cries out in anguish as he comes near. He doesn’t know if Daniel is dead or alive, but he addresses a question to him in desperate hope. ‘Has your God been able to deliver you from the lions?’ His question is different than the confident statement of the three before the king;

Daniel 3:17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

They had no question about God’s ability. He is able. Is anything too hard for the Lord (Gen.18:14)? But Darius does not yet know this God. Has your God been able? He expressed his wish ‘May your God deliver you’ and now he asks the question; ‘Has your God been able to deliver you?’

This reminds me of the father who brought his demon possessed boy to Jesus’ disciples, but they were not able to cast it out. Explaining the situation to Jesus, he says:

Mark 9:22 …But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

He brought his boy to Jesus, hoping he could help. Now desperate, he pleads with Jesus ‘if you can do anything…’ At the beginning of Mark’s gospel,

Mark 1:40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.”

He expressed confidence in Jesus’ ability. You can. No one else can, but you alone can. The question is not in God’s ability, but in his will. Is it his purpose in this circumstance to deliver in this way, or will he choose to be glorified another way? When Paul prayed three times that the messenger of Satan would leave him, he received this answer:

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

It is never a question of God’s ability. Jesus responded to the doubting man who asked if he could do anything:

Mark 9:23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Jesus is gracious. He condescends to our faith or lack thereof. His ability doesn’t change. Our experience of his presence changes depending on where our attention is fixed. Darius spent a sleepless night filled with anxiety and fear. Daniel was able to rest and enjoy the presence of the sovereign omnipotent God before whom he regularly bowed. God’s ability doesn’t change, but our experience will either be joy in his presence or fear at our circumstances depending on what or Who has captured our attention.

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

February 21, 2022 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent; Recapture the Wonder

11/28_1st Sunday of Advent; Recapture the Wonder (Mark 4; Matthew 6); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20211128_advent-wonder.mp3

Recapture the wonder

When is the last time that you saw wonder in the eyes of a child, simple amazement, delight, awe?

What causes you to wonder? When is the last time you stopped to savor a sunset, or gazed up at the countless stars in the dark night sky, or stood at the brink of a precipice that caused you to simply catch your breath in stunned amazement?

This is the first Sunday of Advent, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Advent means coming, anticipating the coming of the Christ. For the next four Sundays, my goal is not to give you new information or teach you something you don’t already know. My goal for us together is to go back and recapture the wonder. My hope is that we would regain our amazement at what this season celebrates.

Wonder and Information

We might be tempted to think that we grow up out of wonder, as if wonder is caused by immaturity or a lack of information. We learn how things work and we lose our sense of awe. We grow up and we mature out of wonder. The twinkling lights at Christmastime was an almost magical experience as a child, but now we have put childish ways behind us. Instead we think about who took the time to put up all those lights and how much electricity they use and when are we going to find the time to put up our lights, and oh, one of the strings went bad last year, I better pick up a new set if they are on sale.

L.E.D’s and Electricity

But I’d like to argue that it is not maturity or more information that causes us to lose our sense of wonder. If anything, more information should increase our wonder. Those twinkling lights, many of them today are light emitting diodes, a one-way semiconductor gate which emits light photons when a tiny amount of current passes through it. Current is the flow of electrons through a conductor or semiconductor, invisible parts of atoms pushed around by a magnetic field from an electric motor running in reverse, being turned by water or a wind turbine or steam, possibly harnessed by the heat of the sun’s rays. Electricity that may have passed through hundreds of miles of cable all to make those twinkling lights twinkle.

The Night Sky

Or consider the lights in the night sky. The closest of those lights may actually be one of the planets in our own solar system. Venus is somewhere around 25,724,767 miles away. The closest of the actual stars (Proxima Centauri) is 4.24 light-years away. By the way a light year is 5.8 trillion miles. And there are literally countless stars that we can see. And that hazy white glow behind the stars, that is our milky way galaxy, about 100,000 light years across, made up of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 to 400 billion stars; and ours is one of an estimated 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe. [https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/blog/1563/our-milky-way-galaxy-how-big-is-space/].

No, our lack of wonder is not a result of more or better information; if anything our wonder ought to increase with increased understanding.

Made to be Amazed

And we were meant to wonder. We were made to be amazed. We are commanded to stand in awe. Psalm 33 says:

Psalm 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. 8 Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! 9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.

When we look at creation, we ought to fear the Lord and stand in awe of him. That should be our instinctive response.

Soul Sickness and the Parable of the Sower

What if our lack of wonder is actually a symptom of a sick soul? I think Jesus gives us a clue as to the root cause of our broken wonderers in his parable about the sower and the soils. Jesus tells a story of a sower who sowed seed indiscriminately. Some fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some on thorny ground, and some on good soil, which grew and produced good fruit. The seed was the word. For some, the seed was snatched away before they ever understood it. Some received the word with joy, but it was not rooted deeply, and did not survive adversity. For some, it began to grow, but was choked out by other things. And some grew and produced fruit. One fruit that the word ought to produce is joy, lasting joy, wonder, amazement; we ought to fear the Lord and stand in awe of him. But there is a disease down deep in our souls that prevents us from being filled with wonder.

Not Rooted in the Gospel

Jesus said:

Mark 4:16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. 17 And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away.

They found joy in the gospel, but that joy was not rooted deep enough to endure a time of testing. It proved to be shallow and superficial. If our roots go down deep, if we truly grasp the gospel, we will respond with Paul:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul suffered more than any of us have. But his awe in God was so monumental that it dwarfed all his hardships so that he could call his sufferings ‘light’ and ‘momentary’ (2Cor.4:17) and ‘not worth comparing’.

It could be that our lack of wonder is a symptom of not grasping the glory of the gospel. We need to sink our roots down deep and let the simple truth that ‘while we were still sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom.5:8) overwhelm us and amaze us.

Competing Weeds

Jesus goes on to say:

Mark 4:18 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

Jesus points not to a lack of information; the seed was planted. They heard the word, they had the truth, but the truth was choked out and failed to produce wonder. It was choked out by other things, competing things.

The path is the path, and rocky ground is rocky. But good soil can become weedy through neglect or inattention. Weeds compete for the same resources that allow good plants to thrive. They soak up water and absorb nutrients from the soil, they grow up and steal the energy of the sun. Weeds choke out wonder. We must be on guard against weeds.

Cares, Riches, Pleasures

So today we may need to do some weeding to make room to allow our wonder to flourish. Jesus points to three things that choke out wonder; cares and riches and pleasures. These are the things that we like to call maturity; cares and riches and pleasures. Do you have a good job, are you making enough money? What are your plans for the future? What do you really enjoy in life? Are you taking time for yourself? For the good things? You see, weeds might be bad things, but they don’t have to be. They could be good things that are allowed to grow up and choke out the main thing.

Jesus got to the heart of the issue in Matthew 6.

Matthew 6:19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Where is your treasure? What do you most value? If what you most value is able to wear out, break or depreciate, if it is vulnerable to be taken away from you by other people, then what you treasure is not secure. It is not safe, and you’re going to have to worry about it and spend a lot of effort and time to protect it and maintain it.

In the first section of Matthew 6, Jesus warned against ‘practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them’. In your giving, in your praying, in your fasting, beware of seeking the approval of others. It is only the approval of the Father that matters. It matters who you are aiming to please.

Matthew 6:22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

It matters what captures your attention. What do you let in? What are you fixing your sights on? Is you focus single, or is it divided?

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Many people try. But Jesus says you cannot. You gotta serve somebody. Choose you this day whom you will serve.

Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

How does the ‘therefore’ follow? Whose approval do you seek, where is your treasure, what is your focus, who are you serving? If you have a master, it is his responsibility to take care of your needs. Your responsibility is to do what you have been given to do. It is his responsibility to take care of what belongs to him. And he is a good Master, and he values you.

Matthew 6:27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Jesus could have said ‘how many hours does worry cost you, both in wasted time and shortened life?’ You are certainly not going to gain more time by worrying. God is good at what he does, just look around! It comes down to a matter of faith. Who are you trusting in? Who are you depending on? Do you really think that you can be self-sufficient, that you don’t need God? Or do you recognize that any ability to provide for yourself is a gift from God, that you are dependent on him, and you should thank him for it?

Matthew 6:31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Anxiety is a disease of the soul. Anxiety kills awe; worry kills worship. The cares and riches and pleasures of this life choke out our capacity for wonder. We need to be on guard against weeds.

Careless and Irresponsible?

But is Jesus telling us to be careless and irresponsible? Are we not to work and provide for ourselves? Paul goes so far as to say that if someone is unwilling to work, he shouldn’t eat (2Thes.3:10), and if someone doesn’t provide for his own family, he’s worse than an unbeliever (1Tim.5:8). So where is the balance? What is Jesus warning against?

He is not telling us to quit our jobs and ‘just trust in Jesus’. But he is warning us against cares and anxieties for things that are out of our control. We need to be reminded just how little is actually within our control. We desperately want to be in control, and we aren’t.

This is advent season; it is a time to prepare our hearts to receive our King, and to let our hearts overflow with wonder and worship. Let every heart prepare him room. What is choking out your wonder? What weeds need to be pulled? What is crowding out the King of kings in your heart this season?

***

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

December 4, 2021 Posted by | advent, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Daniel 3:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering

07/25_Daniel 03:13-18; Sovereign Over Suffering; Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20210725_dan03_13-18.mp3

In response to his dream that he was the head of gold, to be succeeded by lesser empires, and ultimately replaced entirely by the kingdom crushing stone, Nebuchadnezzar made an image all of gold, 90 feet high, and demanded that all ‘peoples, nations, and languages’ fall down and worship the golden image. God had given into his hand authority over ‘the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens,’ but he did not give glory to God; rather he attempted to make a name for himself.

Daniel 3:1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” 7 Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Judging from the parallel event in chapter 6, it is possible that this event was politically motivated, orchestrated or encouraged by the Chaldeans out of jealousy of the king’s appointment of Jews to positions of authority over them.

Daniel 3:8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. 9 They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. 11 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

The Chaldeans remind the king of his decree, and of the consequences he established for disobedience. Now they bring to the king’s attention that there are three Jews whom he had appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon who stand in defiance of the king’s decree.

Where Was Daniel?

After Daniel’s revealing of the king’s dream and its interpretation, at the end of chapter 2 we read:

Daniel 2:48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

This is likely meant to answer the question ‘where was Daniel in chapter 3?’ Daniel remained at the king’s court. With the king and all his governing officials assembled several miles south of Babylon in the plain of Dura, someone would have needed to remain in Babylon to maintain order in the city in the absence of the king.

There was obvious resentment on the part of the Chaldeans toward these foreigners who had been promoted above them. They maliciously accused the Jews; literally they ‘ate the pieces of’. Their animosity was thinly veiled. They wanted to consume them, to see them destroyed. They even implicate the king in unwise decisions; appointing foreigners to positions of power who are secretly rebels against the king and his authority. They said:

Daniel 3:12 …These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

This is only partly true. Indeed they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. This was not a gray area; the Scripture is clear that:

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…

Their conscience was captive to the word of God, so they could not bow to the image or serve the gods of Babylon.

Christian Work Ethic

But the allegation that they ‘pay no attention to’ the king was false. They were summoned to the plain of Dura, and they obediently came. There is no evidence that they acted with anything short of the greatest integrity in their positions of authority over the province of Babylon. In fact if they had performed poorly, shirked their responsibility or undermined the authority of the king in any way, the Chaldeans surely would have brought it to the attention of the king. They were following the instruction of Jeremiah;

Jeremiah 29:4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: …7 …seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Those who know and follow Jesus should have the greatest integrity, be the best employees, have the highest work ethic, because we know that we are not just working for an earthly boss for a paycheck, but we are serving the Lord Christ.

Colossians 3:22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.

We are not told how the three Hebrews refused to bow. There is no evidence that they petitioned the king for an exemption to his decree. We are not told that they drew attention to themselves in their refusal to worship. There is nothing that says they attempted to persuade others to join them in refusal to bow, carrying signs, waving banners, shouting the danger of bowing to false gods. It seems that when the music played and all the peoples, nations and languages fell down and worshiped the image, they quietly stood their ground.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Raging Pride

But Nebuchadnezzar was foolishly persuaded by the flattery of the Chaldeans, he allowed his raging pride to overshadow clear headed judgment, and he took offense against these three Jews.

Daniel 3:13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, … But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”

The king, in raging pride, asks if it is true that they do not serve his gods or worship the image he has set up, but he doesn’t give them time to respond. He starts to say that he is going to give them another chance to worship the image, but doesn’t finish his sentence. Instead he reiterates his threat of punishment for refusal to worship.

It is likely that this furnace had been used to refine and melt the gold for the construction of this colossal image there on the plain of Dura. Mesopotamian smelting furnaces had a large opening at the top to add the ore, and a smaller opening at ground level for feeding the fire with wood and charcoal. It was kept burning as a visual reminder of the consequence for failure to worship the king’s image.

King Nebuchadnezzar makes this arrogant and blasphemous statement ‘who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ He had learned in chapter 2 that there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, who is all-knowing and wise, but he had yet to learn that this God is also all-powerful and sovereign over all mankind.

Nebuchadnezzar was the god-maker, who set up this image for all peoples, nations and languages to worship. If he could set up the image, it meant that he was in control, more powerful even than the god the image was meant to represent. It was into his hand that God had given dominion, and it was out of his hand that those who opposed him would need to be rescued. The Chaldeans accused, the Jews were apprehended and brought before the king, the furnace was blazing, and there was no way on earth for these three to escape from the alternatives; either bow in worship or be burned in the furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was in absolute control, and he knew it.

Submission to Sovereign Wisdom

Daniel 3:16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

No negotiation, no begging for mercy. No discussion, no need to give a reason or argue in their own defense. No need for the orchestra to play the symphony again. They were resolute, and they were willing to suffer the consequences of their stand. They were glad to serve the king and seek the good of the city but they will not serve the gods of the king, and they will not worship the image he has set up.

Compromise would not be seeking the good of the city. God had sent them on mission in exile in Babylon so that the nations would know that there is a God in heaven. They were willing to submit to the king’s God given authority, but they would not compromise their testimony by acknowledging false gods.

Yahweh is Gracious, Who is What God Is, and Yahweh will Help (those are the meanings of their Hebrew names; Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) testify to the God they serve. God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace. God who created all that exists with his word, God who destroyed all life on the earth with a flood, God who rescued his people from bondage in Egypt with displays of his mighty sovereignty over the false gods of Egypt, God who took his people safely through the Red Sea and closed that sea over their enemies, God who brought down the walls of Jericho, God who sent an angel to kill 185,000 Assyrians who had besieged Jerusalem in response to Hezekiah’s prayer, God who had given them favor with the chief of the eunuchs and prospered them, God who answered their prayers and revealed the king’s dream, this ‘God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.’

Our God is able. There is no limit to his power. His hand is not shortened that he cannot save (Is.50:2). Nothing is to difficult for the Lord (Jer.32:17). There is no king too powerful, no furnace too hot, no cancer too advanced, no prodigal too far gone. Jesus spoke into the tomb of his friend who had been dead four days, and Lazarus came out! Our God is mighty to save. Nothing is impossible with God (Lk.1:37). God can deliver people from the burning fiery furnace, God can deliver his people out of the hand of the most powerful king. These three had no doubt about the ability of God to do whatever he pleases (Ps.115:3; 135:6).

But If Not

The next three words are stunning. But if not. There was no question about God’s power, God’s ability. But there was a realistic realization that although God can save, sometimes he does not save, and this is not a lack of either his power or his goodness. God saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians in response to Hezekiah’s prayer (2Ki.19:32-35). God gave Jerusalem into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Dan.1:2). God could have saved Joseph from his brothers who conspired against him and sold him into slavery. But instead God sent Joseph ahead, into slavery, to preserve life for many people (Gen.45:5,7; 50:20).

So many of us love salvation by grace. God freely gives good to those who do not deserve it. But we don’t want to live by grace. We want to live by works. When bad things happen to us, we begin to ask ‘what did I do wrong to deserve this?’ If we want to live by works, the answer is that I am a sinner, and what I deserve is hell, the eternal wrath of God. I am a sinner, and that’s what I deserve. But to those who live by grace, we enjoy a gift we didn’t earn and don’t deserve, a gift God is free (not obligated) to give. But somehow the works mentality is so ingrained in us that we easily switch over to our default thinking that if we do the right thing, then God is obligated (not free) to reward us with good things right now. We so easily forget that any good we do is ‘not I but the grace of God that is in me’ (1Cor.15:10).

We want to come to Jesus on our terms, not his. Forgiveness of sins, eternal life, to all who believe in him? Great! I’ll take that! Reconciliation with God, an all-satisfying relationship with him? Sounds good to me! Fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at his right hand? Sign me up! Take up your cross and follow me; in the world you will have tribulation? Wait, I think I’ll pass. God hears and answers prayers? That’s great! Sometimes he says ‘No’? I think I’d rather have a genie in a bottle.

These three give us a beautiful example of bold confidence in the omnipotence of God and humble submission to the sovereign wisdom of God. God is able to save. But if he doesn’t save right here right now, will I walk away? Will I doubt his goodness, his love? “But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” When Jesus said some things that were hard to swallow, many stopped following him. When he asked his disciples if they too would go away, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (Jn.6:68). Job in the midst of his anguish and suffering, said ‘Though he slay me, I will hope in him;’ (Job.13:15).

Job 19:25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. 26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, 27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!

The author of Hebrews celebrates the faith of those:

Hebrews 11:33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. …

Stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire; these are exciting stories of miraculous deliverance; but Hebrews saves the best ‘till last.

Hebrews 11:35 … Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy

Paul said:

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

These are heroes of the faith. Some are rescued miraculously. God is able. But if not… may he find us faithful even unto death.

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Revelation 2:10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

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Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org

July 31, 2021 Posted by | Daniel, podcast | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment