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.
- 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.
- 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.