Sermon – February 23, 2020 – Transfiguration

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Vicar Lindemann † ~  Transfiguration  † ~  February 23, 2020

What are you looking at?

1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” – Matthew 17:1-9

I can never look at the FedEx logo the same way ever again after arguing about what it looks like. I insisted that I knew the FedEx logo – it’s purple and orange, and it simply has the words “FedEx.” But this other person insisted that there is an arrow in it too. So we had to look at a picture, and sure enough, I had never noticed what I was looking at before. There’s a hidden arrow in between the e and the x to symbolize that FedEx is always on the go.  So now I look, to try to find just one time where there is no arrow in the logo, and I’ve been looking since. You have to know what you’re looking at if you want to understand the full picture. The disciples thought they knew what they were looking at on that Mount of Transfiguration, but they didn’t understand the full picture. The answer to this question alluded them at first, but with Jesus, they learned the answer to the question, “What are you looking at?”

1.It’s a lot to take in.

Peter, James, and John were looking at something amazing on that mountain. The disciples knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, but they were still confused about why he said that he was about to suffer and die. The transfiguration would make sure that they wouldn’t forget that he was God, even during his suffering.

On that mountain, those three disciples got a glimpse of the holiness of God. When Jesus walked around, he looked like any normal person; he was fully man. But Jesus was also fully God, and on this day, his divinity peeked through for the disciples to see. Jesus was transfigured; he was transformed; he was changed. His face lit up and was shining – not like a smile might “light up” a room or a watch face catches the light just right. Jesus’ face gave off light like the sun from his holiness. He was so holy and righteous that even his clothes became as bright as light. His glory couldn’t be shielded; he would illumine anything that covered him. “The people living in darkness have seen a great light.” Jesus’ holiness is so great that he is the great light.

The disciples saw another glimpse of God’s holiness. They saw two Old Testament prophets, heroes that they’ve only read about. They saw Moses, whom God had spoken to on another mountain when he gave the Israelites the Law, who led the Israelites with God’s Word and interceded for them to God. The disciples also saw Elijah, who prayed to God on another mountain when he contested with the Prophets of Baal to show who the real God was, who spoke the truth of God to people who desperately needed him. They saw two prophets who spent their lives pointing ahead to the Savior to come and were now speaking with him. The holiness of God is a lot to take in.

And while they were witnessing the holiness of God, the disciples must have wondered why they were there. They recognized that it was amazing, like seeing the Grand Canyon times a million. Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” And it sure was! But Peter also showed that they were confused about why they were there. “If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Peter didn’t want this to end. This is what he was waiting for – God to come in power and might to shine like the sun to save all his people! But Jesus wasn’t transfigured for that reason. He didn’t give this peek into his divinity for himself, to start his kingdom. He didn’t reveal his holiness there to stay on the mountain. He was transfigured to strengthen his disciples to leave the mountain. He did it for Peter, James, and John. He did it to confirm what he had been teaching them – that he really was the holy Son of God. He was transfigured so that in the near future, when they watched Jesus suffer and die, they would be able to believe in him. They saw the glory of God on the mountain to strengthen their faith to leave the mountain.

Wouldn’t that have been neat to look at the transfigured Lord? Wouldn’t that have been incredible to hear the heavenly conversation? How honored Peter, James, and John must have felt! But don’t underestimate what you’re looking at. The transfiguration was amazing, and God did other amazing things, too. You have the honor of having a full collection, a full account of the amazing stories of God. You can see the whole picture of God’s plan. You are looking at how God has been working all things out for you since the creation of the world, the countless miracles he did along the way, the predictions of how he would save us, and how he carried it out in Jesus. And we have the honor of taking it all in week after week when we gather here.

Do we sometimes need to be reminded why we actually come here? Like Peter, we can get confused about why we are here, why God has chosen to reveal himself to us in this way. You can get confused about what you are looking at. You are not here to prove you’re better than someone who didn’t make it to church. You don’t say, “All right God, I’m going to go to church today, now you owe me a break later this week.” You don’t come here to hide from the sinful world, there’s plenty of sin here, too. You don’t come here to fulfill your spiritual duties for the week and then live however you want for the rest of it.

You’re here to be strengthened, so that when it’s time to leave you are full of God’s Word. We love to look at Jesus in his Word, just like the disciples knew that it was good for them to look at Jesus on that mountain. It was critical to their faith and for yours to know that Jesus is the holy Son of God. When we are strengthened here in God’s Word, then we can leave this place with stronger faith. You came here because you need something different than the world has to offer. Look at Jesus, and see what God has done for you. Then confidently leave the mountain with the assurance of the forgiveness of sins and confidence in God. And be his witness in the world, telling other people what you saw on the mountain, that you have seen Jesus, and letting them know what they could be looking at, too.

The transfiguration is a lot to take in. Look at God’s holiness shining through the bright face of Jesus and the miracle of the appearance of the Old Testament prophets! There’s one more thing to look at and something to hear. What they were looking at terrified the disciples. But Jesus is there to encourage them to get up and not be afraid.

2. Get up and don’t be afraid.

If they didn’t know how holy God was before, now it’s crystal clear. A cloud envelopes them, but it isn’t foggy. It’s even brighter than it was before! And then as if out of a movie they hear the booming voice of God, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Powerful stuff. God the Father double-stamped and triple-stamped who Jesus is. He is God, he is perfect, he is doing everything according to plan.

And how do the disciples react? Terror seizes them. God’s power was too much for them to handle, because when they looked at themselves, they realized the difference between them and God. God has come in power and holiness to the disciples, who were nothing compared to that. When they look at themselves they realize: They have not pleased God; God should be disappointed in them. The holiness of God makes them painfully aware of how unholy they have been. Their failures make them drop to their knees, because they know what they deserve. They have come into the presence of God, and they see God’s power and their sin. From their knees they fall to their faces shaking with terror.

But Jesus teaches them what to look at. He takes their eyes off of themselves, and wants them to look at him. He knows how weak they are, but he wants them to take comfort in the words that terrified them. “Get up and don’t be afraid. Did you hear what the Father said? I am God, he loves me, and I’m doing all this for you.” Jesus taught the disciples to look at him, because he was there to save them. Jesus came not to bring terror, but salvation. He communicated that with his words, and with his personal touch. Jesus saw Peter, James, and John cowering in fear, and used his power to go to them lovingly. He put his arms on them to say, “I’m not here to condemn you, I’m here to save you.” His personal touch shows that he knows what they’re going through and they can rely on him. Confident in Jesus’ Words and comforted by his personal touch, the disciples were able to get up, put their fear away, and leave the mountain knowing the answer to the question, “What are you looking at?”

You can learn the answer to the question, too, because you also come face to face with God. Maybe God’s power has never thrown you to the ground, cowering in fear. Or maybe it has. When we come into God’s presence, don’t we face the same thing the disciples did? You know how God expects you to live, you know what’s right and wrong. When you look at God and then look at yourself, the failure is obvious. Wrong decisions press on your mind, and haunt your nights. Looking at ourselves makes us afraid of how God will deal with us, because we know the powerful punishment we face because of sin.

But Jesus teaches you what to look at. Take your eyes off of yourself and put them on him. God has come to save you from your failure, he has come to take away your fear. Look at what Jesus is about to do for you. Jesus, whom God loves and approves, who showed his power on the mountain, will go down this mountain to climb another mountain – Mount Calvary. As we review again this year how Jesus suffered and died in the season of Lent, keep looking at Jesus. If you look at the FedEx logo differently now that you know what you’re looking at, how much more will you look at Jesus. Remember that when you look at Jesus, you not only look at a man, but God almighty taking away your sin. It is marvelous that, even though Jesus is all powerful, he put it aside to suffer to save you. Look at Jesus as you hear God’s Word.

He not only encourages you with his Word, he also puts his arms on you as if to say, “I’m not here to hurt you; I’m here to help you.” Jesus has personally come to you in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, too. The Holy Spirit has entered your heart, you have assurance of the forgiveness of your sins, as Jesus comes to you in that personal way.

Who are you looking at? It’s a lot to take in. So many stories, so much going on, but when the dust settles and you look, there is Jesus fighting the battle for you. Take heart at his words, “Get up and don’t be afraid,” Because your faith is in Jesus, who takes away your fear and gives you the victory. Amen.

Sermon – February 16, 2020 – Epiphany 6

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David R. Clark  ~  2 Samuel 11:1-17, 26-27  ~  February 16, 2020  ~  Epiphany 6


1In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” 6So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house. 10David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?” 11Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” 12Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home. 14In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” 16So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died….26When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.


Brothers and sisters in Christ,

            A number of years ago I had the privilege of attending a service of thanksgiving for the pastor who confirmed me and recruited me to be a pastor. I think he was a good pastor. At that time he had served for 50 years. At the dinner afterwards, people told stories about him. What do you suppose people remembered the most? Was it the way he had started a congregation and LES from nothing? His recruitment for public ministry? It was the one Saturday morning when he got up and sat at his kitchen table drinking coffee and reading the newspaper when he got a phone call. You see, it wasn’t Saturday. It was Sunday and he had missed the early service. People never forgot.

            That was pretty innocent and repeated not as criticism but in fun. But it shows that all it takes is one out of character thing for people to define you. King David was a shepherd and a musician. He slew Goliath and was the greatest king in Israel’s history. But he also had that one thing. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord. Even when he died, David was described this way: 1 Kings 15:5 For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite. You and I usually call this dark chapter in David’s life, “David and Bathsheba.”

            Our greatest witness to the world is in the way we live our lives. So what can we learn about one night’s temptation from the human author of Psalm 23 and 51?


1. There’s no such thing as free of temptation.

            David had achieved a certain level of success. He didn’t need to fight with the army but could stay in Jerusalem and be king. That night was probably like a bunch of other nights. Just like people will sit out on their porches at night, David couldn’t sleep so he went on the roof of his palace to enjoy the night. He looked down and saw a beautiful woman bathing. There was nothing planned by either of them, but that is the way Satan works! Temptation is destructive even for a strong believer.

It can start out innocently. Then comes a sinful thought or look. Then its sinful actions. It can be any kind of sin. Perhaps it is jealousy or anger. Perhaps its money or position. But let’s be clear! We all have our weaknesses, and Satan will keep probing until he finds that one. For David it was sexual temptation, and he failed.

2. There’s no such thing as one sin.

            And once Satan had found David’s weakness, he turned one “innocent” situation in a domino of sins. Lust turned into adultery. Adultery turned into a pregnancy and a need for a cover up. The cover up turned into the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, and a hurried marriage. No one had to know! But God knew.

            Brothers and sisters, this is the nature of sin. A sin in the heart turns into talking about it. Talking about it turns into committing it. Committing it leads to guilt and finding a way to cover up the guilt. But there really is no cover up. We may fool people. We may fool ourselves. But we can’t hide from the Lord. He sees everything. He knows.

3. There are consequences to every sin.

The thing about a successful cover up is that we think we are getting away with it. So let’s be crystal clear: there is no getting away with sin. David’s consequences were severe. The child they had conceived, died. 2 Samuel 12:10 (NIV) 10Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ There is even more. You can find it in 2 Samuel 12.

Consequences are not the same as paying for sin. Some people think that if they say they are sorry all of the consequences of sin should go away. They do not, and we should not expect them to any more than David expected them to go away.

4. There is a need for forgiveness.

            What can go away is the payment for sin. A gracious God cannot stand to have those near to him suffer because of the sinfulness of their actions. When David admitted his sin, the prophet of the Lord assured him that he would not die. That’s how serious sin is! In addition, despite the consequences that would haunt David his entire life, God still blessed him. David and Bathsheba had another child who became the next King of Israel. You know him as Solomon. How great is God’s grace? The measuring stick for greatness in Judah’s kings wasn’t Josiah or Hezekiah or Jehoshaphat or even Solomon. It was David, sinful but forgiven David.

When you sin, you need to know that it is also deserving of death. That’s why Jesus had to die. Because your God is so gracious he died so that you won’t have to. David repented and turned away from his sin. We do, too. We need to go back to living our lives for Jesus and not for ourselves. A Christian life will always have further blessings. Repent, turn back to God, and then look for the blessings he gives you.

            That means strengthening your faith so that you can withstand temptation and the whole anatomy of failure David went through. That only happens through the Spirit working through Word and Sacrament. Make them a regular part of your life. Then maybe you can be a measuring stick for greatness in your own family. Amen.

Sermon – February 9, 2019 – Epiphany 5

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Pastor Mark R Jacobson † ~  Epiphany 5  ~†  February 9, 2020  †~  Joshua 24:14-24


14“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” 16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” 19Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” 22Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. 23“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

  • What is your “his story”?

I have a deep theological question for you this morning. Ready? Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? You won’t find the answer in Genesis, but you will find a response in, a website dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith. offers this conclusion, “God would not have planted on them a false indication that they had developed in a mother’s womb….Lack of a belly-button on Adam and Eve would be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the pre-Flood world, as the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren would come up and say, ‘Why don’t you have a belly-button?’ And they could recount again and again, to generation after generation, how God had created them special.”

Now I don’t know about Grandma and Grandpa’s belly with no button being a tourist attraction. But I do know every family has a story, a history, and because of sin every family has a history that isn’t so good. Joshua doesn’t go all the way to Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3, but Joshua does go back to the family of Abraham in Genesis chapter 11. Beyond the Euphrates River was where Abraham grew up, and beyond the Euphrates River was where Abraham’s father, Terah, had worshipped foreign gods. Beyond the Euphrates River was hundreds of years before Joshua, but Joshua and some of the older Israelites had lived in Egypt as children. They could have remembered some of the Egyptian gods, and they certainly would have remembered the idol their fathers had fashioned into a golden calf. That was their sad history. And now as they lived in the Promised Land of Canaan the potential was there for Israelites to add to this sad history with the gods of the Amorites around them.

What are the gods of our ancestors? What are the gods of the people around us? Martin Luther wrote in his catechism, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in is really your God.” If a foreigner came to America last Sunday, and they went to church in the morning and then watched the Super Bowl in the evening, what do you think they would conclude was the god of our ancestors and the people around us? What would their conclusion be about physical health, social approval, careers, and families? Do our ancestors and the people around us carry out these activities in service to the Lord or in service to self? What about us? Are we naïve to think our ancestors and the people around us have no effect on our hearts and to what our hearts cling?

Thankfully, the nation under Joshua’s leadership, reviewed their history and their “his story.” I’m not the first person to break the word “history” into the two words “his” and “story”. It’s been done before, and the reason is to emphasize the loving hand of God in the history of our lives. This people of Israel captured the “his story” well, “It was the Lord God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land.”

How would we capture our “his story” in our lives? Might you say something like, “It was the Lord who washed away our sin with the water and the Word in Holy Baptism. God has never treated us as our sins deserved to be treated. We have been forgiven completely in Jesus. He was punished for our sins. God loves us and God disciplines those he loves. Every illness is a reminder of our need for a Great Physician. Every emotional setback is a reminder of our need for our Good Shepherd. He protects us from all evil and provides us daily bread. He meets our need every time and in every place. He is our God, and He will open heaven for us. That’s our “his story”! And like Israel our “his story” moves us to want to use our time and abilities in service for him.

  • What is your commitment?

And so let’s now talk about commitment? Joshua said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Then the nation of Israel said, “We too will serve the Lord.” What a warm, feel-good moment! So awesome! Then Joshua puts a cold, wet blanket on that warm moment. Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord.” This is kind of like parents telling their pastor, “We want to baptize our child,” and the Pastor saying, “I want to make an appointment to talk to you about what Baptism is and what it means to raise a Christian child.” It’s like an engaged couple telling their Pastor, “We want to get married in the church,” and the Pastor says, “Congratulations, I would like to set up pre-marriage counseling classes with you.” Why would Pastors say those things? Why did Joshua say what he did? Are we just old and crotchety?

We are old. Joshua was 110 years old. Pastor Clark is younger, and I’m much younger. Hopefully, we are not crotchety. Hopefully, we are concerned about casual leadership. Casual leadership leads to casualties. The Titanic was not indestructible. Pearl Harbor was not too far away from the enemy. It was possible for people to be crazy enough to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. Casual leadership leads to casualties. Joshua said, 20“If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” 21But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” 22Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.   

Witnesses are people who have seen something and heard something. Witness are also expected to say something about what they have seen or heard? Have you seen and heard a parent bring their child to baptism and promise to raise junior in the Lord and then not do it? Did you witness to them? Did you say something? Have you been to a wedding where the man and the woman promised to be husband and wife, but now they hardly look or sound anything like a husband and wife? Did you witness to them? Did you say something?

Casual leadership leads to casualties. Serious leadership leads to casualties, too. There is no foolproof plan to keep our children and our congregation safe. Even Jesus lost Judas, one of his own apostles. We will lose people from the faith and from faithfulness, but let’s make sure as God gives us strength that we lose people after we take them through Bible instruction and after we give faithful witness to the promise of commitment they have made as Christians. And then, let’s also be willing to have people witness to us. I am not perfect. I need a Savior. It would also help to have someone witness to me. As much as I need Christ, I also need a Church. I need a community of family and friends to hold me accountable. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a church to bring a soul to heaven.

The words, “As for me and my household” are stenciled on living room walls or intricately carved into wood or even tattooed with gothic font on the body. The Lord and what he has all done for us is part of our “his story.” And so today and in the future, let’s let our light shine by rethinking our commitment to Christ and our need to witness and to be witnessed to by our Christian community. Amen.

Sermon – February 2, 2020 – Epiphany 4

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David R. Clark  ~  Daniel 3:13-27  ~  February 2, 2020  ~  Epiphany 4

What Your God Can Do

13Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” 16Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” 19Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans, and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 23and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. 24Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 26Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire, 27and the satraps, prefects, governors, and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.


Dear friends in Christ,

It was early in my ministry, and I had been hooked up with three older Texans to play golf. Golf is such a frustrating game that people have been known to use colorful language when things don’t go their way. Sure enough, one of them let loose regular bursts of profanity after bad shots.

So, do I say something? I’ll never see these guys again. On the other hand, I AM a pastor! A witness to the truth, an ambassador of God.

I probably should have been thinking of three Jewish men before the most powerful man in the world, Nebuchadnezzar. Then I would have remembered what God can do.

  1. He gives divine courage.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, along with Daniel, were part of the first refugees taken from Judah to Babylon. Under the guiding and protecting hand of the Lord, Nebuchadnezzar promoted them because he and his kingdom were blessed through their, really God’s, action.

Nebuchadnezzar was not a believer in the Lord, but he did have an understanding that there is a power greater than he. In an attempt to honor that power, he worshipped idols, many idols. He even built a great gold idol with a furnace in its belly. And he commanded obedience to the idol. Whenever his musicians would play, everyone was to bow down to this idol.

You can see how Nebuchadnezzar had an investment in this. The cost and his personal reputation alone were significant. So you can imagine his anger when three foreigners who worked for him, to whom he had given wealth and position, refused to follow directions. Use whatever description you can think of for extreme anger, and that’s what the Bible describes!

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a lot to lose! They could lose their jobs. They could even lose their lives. And even if they didn’t, imagine what their wives would say, and how this would affect their children, and even other Jews.

But this is what they said: “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Each of you has been put into a position where you have had to decide to honor someone else’s idol. Those temptations come from everywhere, from friend and stranger alike! It’s going to happen. When you won’t worship their idol, people are going to take that personally.

So learn a few things from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. First, don’t be surprised. Most people are not Christians. And even those who claim to be Christian have lapped up so much of the polluted water of idolatry that they can be confused. Second, speak respectfully. Witness what your God wants you to do. Not the church, not your family, not your tradition. Witness what God wants you to do. Finally, rely on your Lord for courage. You place yourself in a gospel rich environment so that, when that time comes, the Holy Spirit is strong in you so you know what to say.

If you can’t take Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s example, take it from Jesus. He could not have been in a worse situation before Pilate, Herod, Ananias, and the crowds. But he always spoke respectfully. He said what God wanted him to say, and he relied on divine courage to say it. It’s part of what Jesus did to save us.

  1. He saves from the fire.

That’s really what Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood. To the outside world, their decision was foolishness. It looked like they would be safer if they just did what Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to do. They knew better.

They spoke up respectfully with God’s courage, and although they had no idea how it was going to turn out, they never doubted God’s power. They knew the true God could save them from the fire, but even if he chose not to, they would still be saved eternally. Either way they were going to be saved from the fire!

It might have seemed smarter if Jesus had just bowed down to Satan when he was tempted. Or if he had told Herod and Caiaphas, “I’m not after your jobs.” Which was true! But if he had, you and I would be concerned about a much greater fire than the one in the belly of a golden idol.

God saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – to the extent that their clothing didn’t even smell like smoke after they walked out of the furnace as free men, and he sent the angel of the Lord to protect them. That’s your God, too.

Whether it’s the idol of bad morals, or sports, or prevailing attitude of the day, don’t bow down to the idol! There is no guarantee that it will not cause you problems with your job or your friend or your family if you don’t. But you will be saved from the fire.

That good old boy I golfed with continued his profane tirade. Finally he turned to me and asked me what I do for a living. I looked him right in the eye and told him, “I’m a Lutheran pastor.” He looked a little sheepish and said to me, “Well, I’m sorry preacher. I usually make it a practice not to talk like that in front of women, children,…and preachers.” He didn’t utter another profane word. The Lord finally gave me a chance to speak up. I’ll never ever doubt what my God can do. Amen.