In Chapter one in the book of Daniel, Daniel and his friends were put in a situation where they had to decide to conform to the culture and its practices or stand up for what they felt were right and trust God for the results. God came through for them and they did not have to worry about any consequences of not eating the kings food because God caused those watching over them to have sympathy and they complied to Daniel’s request to not eat the food. Daniel and his three friends would accept being taught the Babylonian way, even though they did not agree with it, but they could not accept the Babylonian way of eating.
In Chapter two they were confronted by the possibility of death because King Nebuchadnezzar did not get the information he wanted from some of the wise men and so the King was going to have them all killed. Daniel and his friends asked for time and they prayed and God again came through for them and Daniel was able to tell the king not only what he dreamed but also what the dream meant.
Daniel and his three friends show us that as followers of God there will be decisions we have to make that will go against the culture. Decision making for Christians is becoming more and more difficult and the situations Christians are finding themselves in are not always agreed upon in how we should respond as Christians in a society that is increasingly falling away from God.
When a clerk in Kansas said it went against her beliefs to give out a marriage license to a gay couple some Christians backed her and some criticized her. When a baker decided to not bake a wedding cake for a gay couple because it went against their religious beliefs some Christians backed them and some criticized them. These are difficult circumstances that Christians are finding themselves in and the book of Daniel shows us that this is nothing new to those who follow God and His word. Each one of us will give an account to God (Romans 14:12) for how we live and so we need to pray about the circumstances we find ourselves in and see if in Gods word we can know how we can live in a world that is constantly pushing us to conform to how they want us to live.
Today in our story we will see three Jewish men who have to make a decision about following the law of the Land or to rebel by standing up for their convictions. My goal is not to make things black and white for you but to challenge you to study Gods word and come up with a conclusion about what you should do if you are faced with one of the issues of our day. Christians may disagree about the final outcome but we all need to study the word of God and allow His Spirit to guide and direct us in how we should live.
If we are honest we do not like to be labeled and we especially do not like the term extremist or radical when it comes to people describing our religious beliefs. When we think of extremist we think of people over seas, who because of their religious beliefs, cut peoples heads off, throw them for buildings and even stone them for breaking a rule in what they consider a holy book.
In America we do not want to be labeled as extremist because we think of people like Westboro Baptist Church who picket military funerals and hold up degrading signs toward the homosexual community. We do not want to be one of those Christians who talks to others about their faith in public but rather we want to be one of those Christians who is liked by the culture that we have to live in. Because we think of them as being extremist we do not want to be put in the same category as them and sometimes we do all we can to avoid the label put on us by others.
Read Daniel 3:1-7
16-20 years has passed since Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that was interpreted by Daniel and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faithfully serving the King. If twenty years has passed since the dream of Nebuchadnezzar then that means Jerusalem would be destroyed by now and two other times men would be brought to Babylon to be trained and groomed to serve the Kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar would continue his pursuit of the brightest and best who would adapt to the Babylonian way which would keep the nation that was conquered in check and sway them to the Babylonian lifestyle.
Large statues constructed by Kings were not uncommon and many of them saw themselves as a god and would expect others to worship them.
The Great Sphinx in Egypt with its lion body and human head was 240 Foot Long and 66 foot high. Constructed in 2500 B.C. The Colussus of Rhodes built a statue that stood 105 feet tall in 300 B.C. Ramses 2 and other pharaohs built statues of themselves and placed them throughout Egypt. I bring this up simply to say that this was not a made up story and it should be taken literally because statues of this magnitude have been built before and after Nebuchadnezzar.
This statue that was more than likely overlaid with gold instead of it being pure gold all the way through. Similar to the bronze altar mentioned in Exodus 27:1-2 and 30:3 where it would be created and then molded with gold into the shape it was designed to have.
The Dream Nebuchadnezzar had in Daniel chapter two showed silver, bronze and clay but many believe the King was demonstrating that there would not be any other Kingdoms after his and his kingdom of Gold would reign forever. Ninety feet tall could have included the base for the image to stand on and French archeologist Oppert says that he located the remains of a brick structure 12 miles south east of ancient Babylon that he believes to be the base of this very story.
All of the high ranking officials would have been required to come to the unveiling of the statue which would have included people of all the nations that Nebuchadnezzar had conquered. Just like Daniel and his three friends each country when they were conquered would have the brightest and the best men come and serve the nation. All the nations with all of their languages would have been represented at the unveiling of the statue made of gold. The Statue was either an image of Nebuchadnezzar himself or of the god Marduk which was the Babylonian god. If Nebuchadnezzar was trying to get everyone to worship one religion to bring unity to the country then worshiping the god of Babylon makes sense.
When you hear the music you are to bow down and worship the image.
Verse 5 is clear the intention that Nebuchadnezzar wanted was for people to worship this image which would have been a declaration that Nebuchadnezzar’s god was supreme in all the world. Musical instruments were brought out to be played and some believe they were used to get people into more of a hypnotic state and ready to bow down and worship the golden image. Music is very powerful and many false prophets even today will use music to get people into a numb state or an emotional frenzy that can give them false feelings of a spiritual experience. In John chapter four Jesus told us that His worshipers would worship in Spirit and Truth. To worship in truth means that your mind should be engaged in what you are singing but with the word worship being mentioned eleven times in this chapter it could mean that the worshipers minds were numb by the worship which would make them more compliant to bowing down to the false idol of gold.
Anyone who refused would be thrown into the fire which many believe looked like a modern day lime kiln. This furnace was more than likely located out on the plain because it was used to make the statue by melting the gold or even to make bricks, which some believed made up the interior of the statue. Jeremiah 29:22 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar burned to death two men so people knew he was not bluffing and would easily throw anyone into the fire that did not obey his command.
Read Daniel 3:8-12
1) Extremist Know the Word of God
Exodus 20:1-6 And God spoke all these words, saying,2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
We live in a world full of opinions but as believers in Christ we live our lives based on the Word of God. When we live our lives obediently to the Word of God it will at times put us up against the culture that we live in. Sometimes we try to change the Word of God away from its clear teaching so that it will make it easier to live in our culture. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would have learned that they should not bow to this image as young men and they were not going to break the clear teaching of the word of God.
When we do not know the Word of God we give no thought as to what we should and should not give into when the pressures of the world are put upon us. As Christians we believe in an absolute truth which means what is true, is true for everyone, no matter where they live or what culture they live in. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have easily said that the Word of God worked for them as long as they were in their Jewish culture but not in the Babylonians culture. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not compromise what they believed because they were in a different culture but they allowed the Word of God to dictate how they should live no matter where they were living.
As Christians we better know what we believe if we are going to stand up to the pressure of this world because although we may not face a literal fiery furnace we will be put into situations that will be difficult to stand when everyone else is bowing.
2 Timothy 2:15 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[c] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
The reason the Apostle Paul says to rightly handle the truth is because people were wrongly handling the truth. Paul later names men by name who were preaching false doctrine to the church and so we have to be careful to not allow the pressures of the world change our views of what Gods Word clearly says. The lie from the beginning is “Did God really Say” found in Genesis 3:1 when Satan questioned Eve on what was right and wrong and we will be asked that same thing as the situations in our life become more difficult to stand up to.
Shadrach Meshach and Abednego were not willing to twist the scripture to fit their lifestyle and because of that they would be labeled extremist. Everyone was literally doing it as some estimate three hundred thousand people were present for the unveiling of the gold statue. The amount of people present would be the reason that the King did not see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego not bow. Some of the other officials, who were jealous of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, saw a chance to kiss up to the King and get them in trouble and possibly take their positions of leadership.
If you are going to live for Christ there will come a time where your life will stick out from among the crowd because following Christ will not allow you to bow to culture. When you do not bow the culture people will hate you for it. If you are a Christian the test of faith will eventually come your way just like Shadrach Meshach and Abednego who did not say anything or raise a protest but just refused to bow to what the rest of the world was bowing down to.
Keep in mind there were 70 Jews taken with them but there would have also been more Jews captured as the third raid on Jerusalem was completed at this time. Why were there not more Jewish men standing when everyone else was bowing? Were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego the only Jewish men present for the ceremony? We do not know but it is a safe assumption that there were other Jewish men present who bowed to the pressure of the King. Daniel is not mentioned because according to Daniel 2:49 Daniel was in the Kings Court and more than likely stayed back to take care of the Kings palace. As a Christian you may see other Christians bowing to things that you know are clear in scripture not to do and this will make your standing even more difficult as you question what you should do.
2) Extremist do not give into Peer Pressure
You have made a decree
The Chaldeans wanted to remind the King that this was the law of the land that he established and that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were breaking the rules of the land. Today we may hear something similar in America where the Supreme Court made something into law that goes against the clear teaching of the Bible. Christians are being told to let go of what they believe because the law of the land is what matters even more than their beliefs.
They were accused of ignoring the King, the Kings gods and the idol the King had built but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego made their decisions based on scripture not on the pressure put on them by the rest of the world. They could have made excuses for not following Gods word by saying, ” I do not want to offend the King”, or “God knows that I really do not worship this idol which is fake anyways so its not a big deal” Or “if I die for not doing this then I can no longer be an influence in the kings life and then no one will be there to lead him to God.
When Christians compromise their beliefs for the sake of trying to be an influence for the culture they are no longer an influence but they are being influenced. Christians are to obey the government unless the government goes against the word of God and that means you will have to stand up for what you believe.
As Christians we believe that all governing officials are appointed by God and that God established the government.
Romans 13:1-2 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Even though God established the government and every ruler has been placed by God, there will be times when you will have to say no to the government because God’s word speaks out against the law of the land. When the midwives were ordered by the King of Egypt to kill the male babies when they were born they refused to obey the King and obeyed God.
Exodus 1:17 But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but let the male children live.
In Acts 5:29 Peter had to make a decision to follow God and not give into the pressure that was placed on him by the religious leaders. It will not be easy to say no but as Christians we have to know what we believe and why we believe it then we will see what God does through us.
Read Daniel 3:13-15
3) Extremist do not give into Fear Pressure
Fear Pressure is something I heard from Pastor O.S. Hawkins in his book Culture Shock. Nebuchadnezzar could not believe that these three men did this and the other officials had him in a rage before he even found out if it was true. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego must have been some of his best rulers because most Kings would not give people a second chance yet Nebuchadnezzar wanted them to bow. King Nebuchadnezzar’s pride would not allow anyone to disrespect him but especially since all the top officials were present on this special day he created.
When a society cannot get you to bow down to their way of thinking through peer pressure then the next tactic is to cause you to fear consequences that will come your way. Our government is punishing people for not doing what they want them to do even though the people are claiming that it goes against their religious convictions. Florist, wedding chapels, catholic organizations and even pastors have been targeted for believing differently than the cultural norm even though people could go elsewhere to achieve what they are after. People are being fined by judges and sued by our government and made to go to sensitivity training all because they will not say that some things in our culture are right and will not give into their way of thinking. Even some Christians are criticizing other Christians for taking a stand which I believe was happening to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego by other Jews who went along to get along. The pressure to bow is going to increase in America and you have to know what you believe and to make up your mind if you are willing to not give into a government that will put pressure on you through fear.
When we give into the demands of others because of the repercussions we might face financially or even personally, then we do not give God a place to show Himself to a lost world that needs Him. Thinking, “I will not get promoted,” or ” I will lose business, ” or “I will be fined” are all real possibilities if you live your faith according to the Bible. These possibilities have always existed overseas but now we are facing them in America and many Christians are not ready for the challenges that are coming. Jesus gives us words of encouragement by letting us know who we should really have a holy fear of when He says in Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
There are things that are more important than this life and when we sacrifice our own lives to follow God then we are showing that we truly belong to Him. Just like a parent would sacrifice their life for the love of a child our love for God should be so strong that nothing can cause us to bow to the things of this world.
Nebuchadnezzar told them that if they would just bow down then things will be good between all of them and there would be no consequences to them already embarrassing him. Again I think the generosity the King is showing Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is because he really liked them and they were some of his best workers.This is exactly what our culture and some of our governing officials are doing to people when they threaten them with consequences for not giving into what they want. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were pushed into a corner not because they took a political stand, not because they were protesting but because they did not want to surrender their convictions for the sake of culture. Christians in America are not asking for these issues but we are having them pushed in our faces and we have to know what we believe and why we believe it because there will be consequences to us living out our faith.
Then what god will save you
Nebuchadnezzar was spiritual and he believed in many gods and he has already forgotten that it was Daniels God, the true God, that told and then interpreted his dream. Every time we face a trial it is an opportunity for us to show how great our God really is. Most people do not believe our God because our lives are not believable. Because we do not stand for what we believe people see our beliefs as weak or insignificant. We have to learn to trust God no matter what happens in our lives as we stand on what we know to be true and when we do we will show the world that there is a true God that deserves our worship and not a god that is made by human hands.
Being labeled an extremist may be difficult for us but it is a label we may get because we are trying to live our lives for Christ. We need to continue to study and know the word of God because we have to be ready for peer pressure and eventually fear pressure and whatever that might entail. The question you have to make sure you have answered is what issues have you resolved (decided) that you will not bend on no matter what anyone says or does to you. Have you asked God to strengthen and guide you in some of the tougher decisions we have to make in a society that is moving away from the principles that are found in the Bible? Will you bow when everyone else bows?