They Would Not Bend, Bow Or Burn!

Bible Book: Daniel  3
Subject: Faithfulness; Courage; Testimony; Witness; Jesus, Presence of
Series: Living Right When Life Seems Wrong
Introduction

Some people are just plain mean! A pretty young girl had just broken off her engagement with the young doctor and experienced just how mean some people can be. Her friend asked her, “You mean to tell me that he actually asked you to return all his presents?" The young girl said, “Not only that, but he also sent me a bill for forty-four house calls." The moral to this story is never date a doctor if you suspect that he will charge you for house calls if you break up with him!

Well, today we are going to look at a really mean man and some truly committed teenagers. You see, Nebuchadnezzar was a vicious man. He was arrogant and brutal. He must have been like the man I read about the other day. There was a sign in front of a man’s house that read, “Never mind the dog, beware of the owner.” Nebuchadnezzar might have had a sign like that in front of his palace. He was King of Babylon and he thought the world revolved around him.

In our text today we read that King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image in the Plain of Dura and then required everyone in his realm to bow down to worship the image. There were three young Hebrew men who loved the true God and they refused to bow down or bend a knee to worship the false idol. This presented a difficult problem for the King. He could not allow someone to skirt the law and get by without diminishing his own authority and power, yet he had to realize that it was actually impossible to make someone worship.

You can force someone to go to church, but you cannot force someone to worship. Worship is a matter of the heart and the King had to know that he was facing an impossible task. Oh, to be sure, he could make the young men bow down to the idol, or he thought that he could, but he had to know that it was impossible to force them to worship the image. Nevertheless, he was determined to make them bow down and worship – to force them to accept his decree or else!

This presented a major problem for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. To bow down before the idol would be to acknowledge a god other than Jehovah. To fail to bow down before the image meant certain death! These three men, like Daniel, loved the Lord and they made up their minds that they would not bow down to the idol, even if it meant a horrible form of execution.

Though you may not face death for your faith, you will face pressure from the world to bow down to the gods they worship. There are some people in the world today who are forced to make a choice to either reject Jesus or die for their faith. We haven't reached that point in America yet, but it may very well happen in the years to come. But, all of us face peer pressure. Perhaps you are already facing pressure to submit to the way the world thinks rather than to obey what God says. Maybe it will not mean a death sentence for you to be committed to Christ, but it could very well mean that you lose a promotion at work, or possibly even lose your job. Your decision to honor the Lord may mean that you will be excluded from a group or organization. It may mean that you will be scorned or laughed at by people whom you thought were your friends. Satan is always looking for ways to force God’s people to make a decision to bow down to public pressure rather than honor the Lord.

Political correctness is a theme of our time. Perhaps you heard or read about the student in Florida who faced a dilemma regarding his faith. Ryan Rotela, a student at Florida Atlantic University, was told by his professor, Dr. Deandre Poole, to write the name Jesus on a piece of paper and to then place it on the floor and stomp on it. Rotela refused to follow the professor’s directive and was suspended. Later the university reinstated Rotela and placed the professor on temporary administrative leave. Still, the student is bound to face harassment and perhaps be viewed with disdain in the future simply because he viewed stepping on the name of Jesus to be a violation of his faith. This sort of thing is happening in schools, universities, the work place and in government offices almost every day across America. It is likely that this type of situation will become more frequent, and perhaps more serious, in the days ahead. Only those with real faith will be willing to take a stand for the Lord.

So, today we are looking at three young men who had true faith and refused to worship the image set up by the king or to bow down before it. Let’s look at this story from the Bible with in a little more detail.

I. The Anger toward the Hebrew Young Men 3:13

A. The Source of His Anger

The king was furious at the refusal of the Jewish young men to bow before his image. Who would dare to defy the King of Babylon? Just who did these young men think they were? How could they think they could refuse the edict of the potentate of the most powerful nation on earth? The refusal of these three Hebrew boys to obey the edict of the king riled the king’s anger.

When it comes to honoring our Lord, peer pressure can be tough but it does not compare to the danger people face from authorities in political power. There are places in the world today where standing up for Jesus can cost you far more than public humiliation. Many people are put to death everyday across the world for simply claiming Jesus as Savior and Lord. What do you think you would do under that kind of threat? That is what the three young Hebrew men faced in this passage we are considering today.

B. The Surprise in His Anger

He called them in before him and asked if it was really true that they refused his edict. He was utterly surprised that there was such religious conviction in the world. You see, Nebuchadnezzar thought like the world - that every man has his price. He sees three young men who cannot be bought with a price and it angers him.

Do we surprise the world with our faith? God is looking for some people who love God so much that they will not compromise their faith.

C. The Seriousness of His Anger

He told the young teenagers that he was going to annihilate them unless they obeyed his command. His plan was to throw them into a fiery furnace and burn them alive. Nebuchadnezzar did not understand the faith that these young men had in God.

One day some boys asked a young man who went to church regularly to join them in some reckless and illegal behavior. The church attending teenager refused and they laughed at him and made fun of him. The boy went home to his father and told him about it. The father gave his son some wise advice. He said, “Son, those boys can laugh you into hell but they cannot laugh you out of hell.” The young lad stood his ground. That is what we all must do in the face of the world’s harassment of us as believers.

II. The Answer of the Hebrew Young Men 3:16-18

The King was insane with his own power and later chapters in Daniel reveal this truth. But, for now, the young men must give an answer to the king.

A. Look at What They Did Not Do

1. They were not Doubtful

Look at 1 Peter 4:12-13; Luke 6:22-23; 2 Timothy 3:12;

2. They were not Resentful

They did not grow bitter, rather they grew better!

3. They were not Fearful

The boys told the king they did not even have to deliberate concerning their answer to his edict. They were so committed to God that it did not matter what he said, they were going to stand four-square for the Lord. Those young men could have agreed to bow down to the image in order to protect themselves while claiming to hold fast to faith in the secret place of their hearts. What a horrible compromise that would have been. No! They determined not to compromise and cave in to the demands of the king. The devotion in their hearts was too important to remain a secret. Someone has well said that a secret disciple is no disciple at all!

It is important for us to keep the right attitude and spirit when taking a stand for the Lord. Some Christians take a stand but they appear to be mean and angry. These three young men kept the right attitude throughout the entire experience. They were not boastful or disrespectful of the king - they were simply determined to stand for the Lord. It is never proper to be hateful and angry about our faith. We don't win people to Jesus by seeking to humiliate them. A simple, solid, spiritual stand for the truth is what God demands of us. Even in our confession of faith in Christ, we must be loving and kind. There is no sense in this passage that the young believers were arrogant or hateful to the king. They simply stood strong in their faith and their testimony.

B. Look At What They Did Do

1. Note their Trust

They had confidence that their God was able to deliver them. What is He able to do? Look at Ephesians 3:20. He is able to do abundantly above all that we ask or think! He is able to do more than you ask, yes, even more than you think. You can have confidence that God is able to deliver you! Please note, however, that God’s ability to deliver and His decision to deliver are two different things. Many Christians have been killed because they took a stand for Jesus. In those cases, God did not come to their earthly, physical rescue. But, let me make this very clear – a Christian cannot lose! If I live, Jesus is with me; if I die, I am with Jesus! He will deliver us one way or the other. The only question is whether we have the faith and confidence in Him to stand in a world that rejects Him.

2. Note their Testimony

The young men gave a testimony of faith and faithfulness. Talk is cheap, but actions take conviction. These young men were not believers in word only. We are told clearly that we are not to be hearers only but to be doers of God’s Word (James 1:22). That is what these three young men did – they gave a testimony of faith and faithfulness!

3. Note their Tenacity

It was not unusual in those days to punish violators of the king's decrees by casting them into a burning oven. Jeremiah speaks of ...”Zedekiah and...Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire” (Jeremiah 29:22). No doubt, Nebuchadnezzar was used to seeing bodies thrown into an open furnace - to see the instant flash of the burning bodies and smell the stench of burning flesh. He was in such a rage at the three Hebrew teens that he ordered his soldiers to stoke the furnace seven times hotter than usual! You can be sure these three men could feel the heat of the white-hot furnace from where they stood. And they probably saw the strong soldiers falling exhausted as they stoked the furnace, overcome by the intense heat.

These Hebrew young men didn't want to die. They were human beings, like you and me. Anyone would be crazy to want to die by roasting in a fire! Yet these men had an incredible faith placed in their hearts by the Holy Spirit. And so they replied to the king, "O king, we don't even have to think about our answer to you. We will not bow! Our God is able to deliver us. But even if He doesn't, we will not worship the image."

The three Hebrew boys were committed to God no matter the outcome. Even if God did not intend to deliver them the way they desired, they were determined to be obedient. That is the proper attitude to have and to display. You see, it is not a matter of whether things turn out as we wish or hope, the issue is whether we will be true to God in all situations. Some preaching today posits that God will always deliver you from trouble if you have enough faith. Actually, the opposite is true - we must have enough faith in God that it doesn't matter how things turn out, we are standing for our Lord. That is the kind of faith these young Hebrew men had in God.

A Little girl was on bus with a slip of paper in her hand containing a memory verse from the Bible. The verse read, “Have faith in God.” Suddenly a wind came through the bus window and blew the paper containing the verse out of her hand. She cried out, “My faith in God just blew away.” Dear friends, we must be so committed to God that there is no wind that can ever blow hard enough to wisp our faith away.

I think of Job this morning, and the faith he revealed in the midst of incredible sorrow and hardship. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). Job had lost almost everything, but he continued to bless the name of the Lord. Job would not bend in the bad winds of life. That was the type of tenacity and spirit which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had as they faced the fiery furnace.

III. The Achievement by the Hebrew Young Men

What did these young men accomplish?

A. They Revealed that God keeps His Promises

Isaiah 43:2 reads, “When thou passest through the waters, I [will be] with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” These young men achieved the state of believing exactly what God had said to them. They believed the Word of God.

B. They Revealed that God maintains His Presence

Once the three young men were thrown into the fire, the king looked in and saw not three but four men in the fire. There was a Fourth man in the furnace. When you and I go through the fires and trials of faith in a proper manner, the Son of God goes with us. We are not alone! How many went through the fire that day? Four! How many men came out of the fire? Three! Where is the fourth man? He is still in fire, ready to walk with you and with me when we are called upon to enter the furnace to take a stand for Him!

C. They Revealed that God provides Preservation

Jesus did not come into the crisis of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to impress the heathen king. God had already done that in a previous chapter when Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream. It was such an impressive thing to the king that he declared, "...Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings..." (Daniel 2:47). But how soon Nebuchadnezzar forgot this! No, this incident with the three Hebrew young men was not an evangelistic visitation. God knew the heart of the vacillating king - and He knew that miracles impress heathen minds for about three days. Rather, Jesus came into this crisis for one reason – for His name’s sake and for their sakes! He came to comfort and rescue them because He loved them. The Lord of glory committed Himself to them in their hour of crisis because they were totally committed to Him!

The truth is that our Lord does not commit Himself to every man's crisis. Scripture says when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, "...many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and knew what was in man" (John 2:23-25). Jesus knows the deception that is in the hearts of so many people. He knows many are willing to acknowledge Him as God but are not willing to commit their lives into His hands! There are many so-called "Sunshine Christians." God is looking for believers who are faithful to Him in the midst of the storms!

It is one thing to believe Jesus is God and Savior - but quite another to commit everything to Him. To commit means to "entrust or give charge” to another. So commitment to Christ is all about giving your life to Him completely - entrusting your whole being to His care. And, in turn, He commits Himself to those who are totally committed to Him!

These young men were preserved so that God could complete His purpose! God had promised them that they would walk through the fire and have His presence. The songwriter penned, “Some through the water, some through flood, some through the fire, but all through the blood, God gives a song.”

Amazingly, God often uses the fires of life to loosen the ropes in our lives and set us free. Malachi 3:3 tells us that God is a refiner’s fire. He purifies us in the fire. He uses the fire of trials to set us free and purify us for service. Always remember that the size of the furnace you are in is a compliment to your faith. The hotter the furnace, the more silver and gold God is producing in you. The hotter the fire, the greater the work God is doing and planning to do in and through you. It has been said that a silversmith heats the silver till he can see his reflection in it. At that point, he knows that the silver is pure and ready for the best use. Dear friends, God heats up the furnace of life so they we can be purified and reflect His nature in us.

Do you feel that you have been placed in a furnace of hardship right now in your life? Don't despair! Keep the faith! You will soon see the Son of Man walking in the fire with you and you will be delivered! As you trust Him in the furnace of trial, He will make your testimony more useful.

God totally preserved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were so preserved that they did not even have the smell of smoke on them when they came out of the furnace. Now that is a real miracle. If you have ever been around anything that has been burned, you know that the smell of the fire is practically impossible to remove. You see, these young men did not have the smell of smoke on them because they had not been burned by the fire. You can be sure, when we arrive at home with the Lord, the stench of this world will not be upon us.

D. The Promotion for the Lord

The deliverance from the fire promoted the cause of the Lord. The name of God was lifted up through the fiery experience. Now the Hebrew young men got a promotion of their own. They were blessed through the experience.

The fire did not burn them, it blessed them.

The fire did not restrict them, it released them.

Conclusion

Are you willing to face the fire of rejection for the cause of Christ? Be sure, this world is going to test your faith. Sometimes the fire will come in the form of rejection by people. On other occasions the fire will come to see if you will honor Jesus above all else. Occasionally the fire comes in the difficult and unexplainable circumstances you must face. Some of us are going through these kinds of things right now in our lives. Are we standing up in the fire? You can be sure of this, as you stand up in the heart of rejection, hardships and trials, if you look closely you will find that there is someone with you – His name is Jesus!

Larry Christenson writes that television personality Arthur Godfrey used to tell about an old blacksmith he once knew. He used to watch this man at his work, as he took each piece of metal in his experienced hand to examine it. Some he would throw onto one pile, to be worked on later but others he would glance at and throw onto the junk heap.

"Godfrey asked, 'Why is it that you throw some onto the junk heap and some over here?'

"The blacksmith said, 'I can see that some of that metal will be useful when it is put through the fire. There is something in it that will let it go through the fire and come out refined and perfected. But the other metal is useless - it cannot take the fire, so I have to toss it over onto the junk heap.'

"That experience made a lasting impression on Godfrey. It became symbolic of some of the experiences he had later in life. He recognized that many of the difficult experiences he had to go through were the very things that tested and proved him, and made him a better man. It became something of a motto in his life. When he faced one of these difficult situations, he would say, 'Lord, the fire, not the junk heap!'" [The Renewed Mind by Larry Christenson. Bethany, 1974. Pages 104-105.]