As we began this journey through 3 weeks ago we seen God’s people have been taken into exile, into slavery. We learned more specifically their young men were taken to the capital city for reeducation and assimilation at Babylon University. God gave four young men various gifting’s in learning, literature, language, counsel and wisdom.
These young men had the insight and wisdom to see that the path they were on was going to test their faith, so in Daniel 1 they chose to change their diet as a means to renew their allegiance to their faith in a foreign land. In Daniel 2 their testing escalated as king Nebuchadnezzar was having night terrors. The king became furious that no one in his kingdom would understand his nightmare. At no fault of their own Daniel and his friends were going to murdered as a result of this. Therefore, Daniel and his friends sought the LORD and He told Daniel the interpretation of the dream. And before we pick in our story today I want to make sure we understand the direction the author is taking us today. And I believe the author longs for us to understand that…
Theme: Sacrificial signs should accompany our miraculous faith.
1. Every Culture Calls For Worship—Daniel 3.1-7.
In the dream from Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar saw a massive statue that was destroyed by a rock cut heaven. The head of this statue was made of gold. Therefore, one cannot help but notice the irony here from the beginning of Daniel 3—“King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold.” We know from the description this statue was massive. In the previous chapter the king was warned all these kingdoms would be destroyed, yet the king is choosing to heed that counsel and makes a statue anyway. But it does not end there. Nebuchadnezzar issues a decree across the empire that when all the citizens hear the band rocking they are to fall down and worship—they are to renew their allegiance to the king and his gods (Dan 3.2-7).
Some of us may be immediately tempted to distance ourselves from this story because of the contextual details given. Before we fall into that temptation, I want to help us to see some overlap from this cultural narrative to our own cultural narrative. One of the leading architectural critics in the world is a man named Blair Kamin. As he assess the heart of architecture he says this:
“Every building is…an unflinching record of who we are and what we do. It connects us in time and space to those who went before us even as it represents our legacy…to those who come after.”—Why Architecture Matters
This is the heartbeat of what Nebuchadnezzar is doing. He wants something in their culture that defines not only his legacy, but the legacy of his nation, his people, his family. Isn’t this something we can all identify with? Many long to have something in their lives that says, “I am a [blank].” We may want to be known as Americans, a member of a certain family, that we have a certain career or got our education from a certain place, and the list goes on an on. There is something we attach our identities to. This doesn’t just happen on an individual level but also on much larger scales. Have you ever taken the time to think about what the architecture of our city says? If any of you have traveled the U.S. or across the globe you know there are different types of homes, city scrappers, and much more that tells us something different. In the ancient the architecture would have communicated what they believed about wealth, power, and identity. The same is true today. When we come to a city, if we take the time, we see what the architecture is attempting to say. If you have ever been to NY or Chicago, I am sure you have stopped, taken a look, and said, “WOW!” What is happening there? Admiration, one might say, “Worship.”
The word “worship” is used eleven times and the word “serve” is used five times in Daniel 3. Dear friends this narrative here and the narrative of our own, is about worship.
2. True Faith Is A Miracle—Daniel 3.8-18.
Nebuchadnezzar did not just make statue, a piece of art, or architecture to be admired, but put together a system to demand allegiance to the kingdom. When learn from Daniel 3.11 that anyone who would not renew their allegiance would be murdered.
These are truly escalating circumstances from what we saw from Daniel 2. In the previous chapter Daniel and his friends were not making choices that would put them at odds with the king and nation. In fact in the previous narrative their persecution was not a matter of their beliefs but their inability. In this narrative the escalating circumstances will be a result of their convictions. And we are talking about they will loose their jobs, pay a fine, or even be tossed in jail, no, these young men will die if they do not bow down and worship.
So, as we pick up in verse 8 we see that many of the peers of these young men set out to harm them. It would seem Nebuchadnezzar was unaware, which would seem to implicate that they were striving to be discreet. They did not want anyone to think they were trying to be blatantly defiant toward the king.
Once the king finds out he becomes furious and confronts the young men. He could have chosen to go ahead and just kill them, but he gave them a chance to explain or change their ways. But they chose to stand firm in their convictions—READ Dan 3.15b-18. Before we move on from here I want us to see something HUGE here. Many believe the miracle takes place in the next section, but for the believer it is RIGHT HERE. These young men, possibly teenagers or in their twenties, chose death over infidelity. They chose to keep the faith. This type of faith is not normal—it is miraculous!
They are not being arrogant, stubborn, or even foolish, no, they are placing their everlasting hope in the promises of God. They know there is nothing Nebuchadnezzar can do that God has not aloud him to do. Let’s not forget what we have been taught in Daniel 1. In Daniel 1.2, 9, and 17 we know it is God prerogative to do what He wants. It is not our role to know all the details of what will happen, or even understand them. Once Job experienced the presence and power of God he understood this:
Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.”—Job 42.1-3, 5
You see friends our role as the people of God is to TRUST God. We trust He is who He says He is, and He will do what He promises. Faith is not a matter of us, but of God. If our God is small then our faith will be small. But if our God is BIG, then our faith should be BIG!
Many times in my life where I struggle with God is when I am looking for Him to do something that He has not promised me in His Word. God did not owe us Christ, but gave Him to us willingly—out of the overflow of compassion in His heart. God has heard the cry of the nations, our suffering, the countless injustices, all the hurts and wounds. Friends we must understand the ways we have treated each other angers God. We all know it is unrighteous to let off true injustice! Those feelings flow from us being made in the image of God. But we functionally believe when we just injustice in others, but when it comes to us we start making excuses. We accuse people of being overbearing, legalistic, ungracious, unmerciful. Why? Because we are unholy, self-consumed, and seek our own glory and comfort.
But the Cross is the place where God treated everyone fairly. He chose crucify His Son, He chose to pour out His anger and wrath on Jesus, so we could receive His mercy. Now everyone who calls upon the name of Christ will be saved from the wrath of God. Everyone who places their faith in the finished work of Christ, who trust God that He will forgive us because of Christ sacrifice, all of those people will be saved from the only fiery furnace that matters.
3. Sacrificial Signs Accompany Our Witness—Daniel 3.19-30.
As we approach the final section, we see what God does with the faith of these young men. In His Divine wisdom, God chooses to physically save these men. They were already saved before they entered the fiery furnace, so why this? For the sake of those watching. Many times God accompanies our message about Him with signs. These serve as physical reminders for those who are still blinded by this physical world. We are not promised deliverance from every worldly fiery furnace, no, only the eternal one. So, what does the signs of our time look like? GOOD WORKS. The book of James tells faith without works is dead. Ephesians tells us were saved for good works. For our church the desire is this would happen through radical generosity. When you we see someone in need we would not put a Band-Aid on their deep wounds. When Paul went to Jerusalem to affirm the message He was taught by Christ was not heresy or a result of some hallucination, they asked one thing of after they affirmed his calling—he remember the poor. Galatians 2.10 tells us it was the very thing he was eager to do. Go back and examine church history we have had a heavy hand in the work among the poor. The poor state of someone else should stir our hearts to remember how we were once poor and needy, weak and wounded, sick and soar. God took pity on our state and sent His Son. We should see the needs of others, take pity on them, and act on their behalf.