Monday, September 23, 2019

Standing Up In A Falling Down World #4: Faith Under Fire - Daniel 3

Faith Under Fire

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Sometimes no matter how unpleasant, how dangerous or how unpopular an action may be, you still have to take that action. In other words, standing up when the world is falling down is not easy, popular or pleasant, but the child of God will still stand up, every single time.

Image of Gold Daniel 3:1-7

Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

Veneration Assimilation

This image of gold was very tall and very thin, roughly 90 ft tall by 9 ft wide. This meant it was probably a statue that was set upon a tall pedestal or perhaps and obelisk. We are not told what the image was, nor was that important. It could have been an idol, it could have been a image of the King or something that represented his kingdom, like the Babylonian lion. What is important is the command given to the people. When they would hear the music plays they all bow down and do obeisance to the image and to what it represented.

Several times in the passage we are told, all people, all the officials, from all the conquered lands, all the nations and all the languages were to bow down. And in verse 7 that is exactly what they did. Except for 3 lone figures, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.

Conformation Temptation

What is the “image of gold” the world is trying to make you bow to? There are many images of gold today.  Everything from pop culture, to fashion, to sexuality, to the sanctity of life.

These things to which others want us to bow down may not even seem that bad. What was so bad about H,M, A bowing before the idol? They didn’t believe it. They could just go along for the time, not rock the boat, not embarrass themselves, not suffer the cost.  But you see, the problem they faced then is the same problem we face today.  If they had fallen down before the image, then it meant they were declaring, for all the world to see,  that they didn’t belong or obey God. 

There is place in our hearts and lives for the worship of one and only one. You can belong to one and only one.  You can worship and belong to this world and the god of this world, or you can worship and belong to the God of all creation, but you can’t claim both.  There is room in our hearts and lives for only one.
You must choose to conform to the world or transform the world by standing for God.
Romans 12:1-2 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God

D.L Moody answers the question, Do I give up the world?

A young man who had recently been converted to Christianity was talking to DL Mood. 
"Now that I am a Christians must I give up the world?" He asked.
"No, you need not give up the world, " replied Moody.  "If you give a ringing testimony for the son of God the world will give you up pretty quick."

Standing Bold Daniel 3:8-18

Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10  Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image:  And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, [that] he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in [his] rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.   Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?  Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Rejection Conviction

A. M, H & A stand for God's commandments. When I was a boy in Sunday School, the teacher asked my little brother, Cory, the names of the three Hebrew children that were thrown into the fiery furnace.  He thought for a moment and then a smile came on his face and he said, "Shadrach, Meshach and a Billy Goat."
Their real names were not Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, those were their captivity names. Their true names were Hananiah which means "God has favoured"  it was changed to Shadrach = "royal" or "the great scribe", Mishael = "who is what God is"  to Meshach = "guest of a king" , and Azariah = "Jehovah has helped" to Abed-nego = "servant of Nebo"

They are challenged by the King, himself, in Daniel 3:14-15, “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?  Now if you are ready when you hear the music to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you will be thrown into a fiery furnace. (and notice his last question) And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?”
Why did these three stand when all others fell down? It was because of who they were and who their God was. They were the Hebrew children, and their God was Jehovah, the creator of the earth and sky, Jehovah was the only true God and Jehovah was the only God worthy of worship or obeisance. Their God had commanded them never to bow to an idol and because they were His they would not bow they would not fall. They may have been in captivity, stolen from their home and family but they still belonged to God.

Their answer reveals the depth of their conviction and belief. Daniel 3:16-18 O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. (There is no need for us to answer this question, it did not need to even be asked.) If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

They had the conviction of their faith and identity and they would reject the kings command. God would deliver them, either by death into His glory or through His providence or by supernatural event our of danger. It did not matter, how, they were convinced that God would deliver them because dead or alive they belonged to God.

Renunciation Determination

There is great strength of will for the person who knows they belong to God. When you know that then you will also know that you can stand up in this falling down world. You’ll stand just as these three stood, because you are His and those that are truly His will always stand.

1 Corinthians 3:21-23 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;  Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;  And ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.

Hebrews 13:6  So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

“The power of greatness in not found in physical strength or even in internal courage, but in commitment to righteous convictions.”

Mark Twain once said, "The size of the dog in a fight is not as significant as the size of the fight in the dog."

That's what faith and convictions are in the Christian, that’s what knowing you belong to Him is, it’s the power of righteous conviction,  it’s the fight in the dog. It’s the power to stand when the whole world around you is falling down in sin, conformity and deception.

The difference between David and John Livingstone

There were once two Scottish brothers named John and David Livingstone. John had set his mind on making money and becoming wealthy, and he did. But under his name in an old edition of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" John Livingstone is listed simply as "the brother of David Livingstone."

And who was David Livingstone? While John had dedicated himself to making money, David had knelt and prayed. Surrendering himself to Christ, he resolved, "I will place no value on anything I have or possess unless it is in relationship to the Kingdom of God." The inscription over his burial place in Westminster Abbey reads, "For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize."

On his 59th birthday after the New York reporter Henry Stanley had implored him to come home to a nation that loved and adored him, David Livingstone wrote, "My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All; I again dedicate my whole self to Thee. Accept me and grant O gracious Father, that ere the year is done I may finish my work.  In Jesus name Amen."   A year later he was found on his knees in his tent where he had died in prayer.
David Livingstone belonged to God, dedicated himself to serving God and that made him a great man even if the world had never noticed.

Fire Turned Cold - Daniel 3:19-30

Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.  He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

Conflagration Protection

A. M, H & A are bound and thrown into the furnace, this was a smelter, a furnace or forge used to melt and purify metal. So hot was the fire that the men who through them in were killed from breathing the superheated air, Then Nebuchadnezzar looks into this furnace, probably through the door that was not shut after the guards died and gazing from a distance he sees them walking in the middle of the fire and someone walks with them.
Nebuchadnezzar sees this one, standing out in the furnace.

Now he is a pagan and he would not know diety from a doughnut, and he did not know who he saw when he looked in that fiery furnace, but he knew the one he saw no ordinary man, the one he was supernatural, literally, like a son of god.

The one Nebuchadnezzar did not know we do know.  The KJV translators, made sure you would not mistake who was walking with the Hebrew children. It was Jesus Christ.

Jesus, God the Son, was with them protecting them from the fire and I believe that as they were thrown in and fell down in their bonds, Jesus picked them up and set them free.

This was a miracle of deliverance and protection so amazing that every detail was recorded. They were roughly thrown in but they boldly walked out, they went in like bound like slaves but they came out unshackled and free, they went in to be burnt to ash but when they emerged from walking with the Savior, they did not even smell of smoke. That is the power of knowing God and obeying Him.

Resolution Validation

In this day and age more than ever we need to be standing with the outstanding One, just as A, H and M did that day.

Yes, if you stand up for what you know is right, if you stand up for what is true, if you stand up and declare I belong to God, then prepare yourself because you will be punished by this falling down world. You’ll be punished by ridicule, by exclusion, by backbiting, by pressure from your peers and even your family.

In many countries today God’s people are still suffering the fate of  H, M & A. When Isis invaded Christian towns and neighborhoods in Iraq, they crucified men on lightposts and burned entire families in iron cages lowered into the flames. They marked them and their houses with the 14th letter from the Arabic alphabet, the letter noon, like our letter N and it stood as a mark of identification to those who belongs to “the Nazarene” those who belonged to Jesus Christ.

But Jesus promised to be with his own in the fire. His promises are personal and they are powerful.
I am with you always even until the end of the world.
I will never leave you nor forsake thee
I will not leave you comfortless I will come unto you.

It is worth the cost? Can I say along with those who have suffered over the centuries or those who being persecuted today in the middle east or Africa or India, Can I say with them,  “I would rather be in the fire with Jesus than escape the flames and be without Him?

Listen to what Paul said, in …
Romans 8:14-19  For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.  For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.  For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

The earnest expectation, the intense desire of creation, is waiting to behold the revealing of the children of God!
When will the children of God be revealed? When they come through the fire. When they stand up in a falling down world!

The Path I Feared

I said, "Let me walk in the field."      
He said, "No; walk in the town."       
I said, "There are no flowers there."  
He said, "No flowers, but a crown."              

I said, "But the skies are black,          
There is nothing but noise and din."  
He wept as He sent me back. 
"There is more," He said, "there is sin."
I said, "But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun."
He answered, "Yet souls are sick,      
And souls in the dark undone."         
I said, "I shall miss the light, 
And friends will miss me, they say." 
He answered, "Choose tonight          
If I am to miss you, or they." 
I pleaded for time to be given.           
He said, "Is it so hard to decide?       
It will not seem hard in Heaven         
To have followed the steps of your Guide."  

 I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said: "My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?"

Then into His hand went mine;
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light Divine,
The path I had feared to see. -George McDonald

Conclusion: Forty Wrestlers For Christ

            In the days of the Roman Emperor Nero, there lived and served him a band of soldiers known as the “Emperor’s Wrestlers.” Strong, brave men they were, picked from the best and the boldest of the land, and recruited from the great athletes of the Roman amphitheater.

            In the great amphitheater they upheld the honor of the emperor against all challengers. Before each contest they stood before the emperor’s throne. Then through the courts of Rome rang the cry: “We, the wrestlers, wrestling for thee, O Emperor, to win for thee the victory and from thee, the victor’s crown.”

            When the great Roman army was sent to fight in far-away Gaul, no soldiers were braver or more loyal than this band of wrestlers led by their centurion Vespasian. But news reached Nero that many Roman soldiers had accepted the Christian faith. Therefore, this decree was dispatched to the centurion Vespasian: “If there be any among your soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christian, they must die!”

            The decree was received in the dead of winter. The soldiers were camped on the shore of a frozen inland lake. It was with sinking heart that Vespasian, the centurion, read the emperor’s message.
            Vespasian called the soldiers together and asked the question: “Are there any among you who cling to the faith of the Christian? If so, let him step forward!” Forty wrestlers instantly stepped forward two paces, saluted, and stood at attention. Vespasian paused. He had not expected so many. He read to them the emperor’s edict.

“Until sundown I shall await your answer,” said Vespasian. Sundown came, again the question was asked. Again the forty wrestlers stepped forward.

            Vespasian pleaded with them long and earnestly without prevailing upon a single man to deny his Lord. Finally, he said, “The decree of the emperor must be obeyed, but I am not willing that your brothers should shed your blood. I am going to order that you march out upon the lake of ice, and I shall leave you there to the mercy of the elements.”

            The forty wrestlers were stripped and then, falling into columns of four, marched toward the center of the lake of ice. As they marched, they broke into the chant of the arena: “Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!” Through the long hours of the night Vespasian stood by his campfire and watched. As he waited through the long night, there came to him fainter and fainter the wrestlers’ song.

            As morning drew near one figure, overcome by exposure, crept quietly toward the fire; in the extremity of his suffering he had renounced his Lord. Faintly but clearly from the darkness came the song: “Thirty-nine wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory and from Thee, the victor’s crown!”

            Vespasian looked at the figure drawing close to the fire. Perhaps he saw eternal light shining there toward the center of the lake. Who can say? But off came his helmet and clothing, and he sprang upon the ice, crying, “Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory” and from Thee, the victor’s crown! - Paul Tassel

What are you standing for?  What are you falling before? 

This world will make you believe that the most important thing is money, acclaim and popularity.  It’s a lie and should you achieve those things you will be broken hearted and empty when you realize how great was the lie that deceived you.

Take a stand for eternity! Take a stand for God, turn your back upon this world and looking into the open arms of Christ, go where He leads, do what He commands, stand where He tells you to stand.  Yes you will pay a price, but the reward will be worth it all.

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