Even If (part 1)
How many of us will openly admit this morning to being worriers? You have a plan in your head but then you start to think about the doomsday scenarios and play the “what if” game time after time and this wrecking ball of worry begins to destroy your mind and consume your thoughts. Maybe you’re not in this situation currently, but have you been in the past? According to Pew Research, when asked about their previous day, 55% of Americans said that they felt stressed and 45% said that they felt worried a lot in 2018. Over half of those polled said that they felt stressed and nearly half felt worried during their last 24 hours. I’m not an expert or a psychologist, but in knowing people of all generations, I think those numbers are pretty accurate if not low. We are a nation of worriers, generally speaking. We play out the worst case scenarios time after time in our head and we meditate on that worry and unfortunately we allow it to ruin our entire lives much of the time. Maybe you don’t fall into this category. Maybe you’re an anomaly of sorts. However, have you ever asked yourself one of these questions:
What if my nightmare comes true?
What if the health report comes back negative?
What if mom is about to pass away?
What if I had done this differently or said this instead?
We go through these things and we ask ourselves these what if questions on a near daily basis, do we not?
The question that we must ask ourselves this morning is, if my worst fear becomes my reality, is God still enough? Sometimes we don’t like to talk about our fears, doubts or struggles, but let’s do exactly that today.
If my health fails me, is God still enough?
If my family falls apart, is God still enough?
If my ministry flatlines, is God still enough?
If my job gets cut, is God still enough?
If I don’t make the team, is God still enough?
If my suffering continues, is God still enough?
We want to say that we would be quick to say, “yes, of course He is!” in all of these situations and we know that He is, however in the heat of the moment it can be difficult to do so. A lot of times we believe the lie that God will reward us with a worry-free life if we simply do what He instructs of us. This has been a lie that people have bought into for centuries and the fact of the matter is that God does not promise us a trouble-free life. In fact, the greatest assurance that we have as Christians is not that we live a trouble free life or a persecution less one, but instead that we know that even if these things do come our way, He will be there with us.
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed: “To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, 5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. 6 “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.” 7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 8 For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. 9 They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: “O king, live forever! 10 “You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. 11 “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 “Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 “But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Christians will be confronted with Idols (1-7)
Christians will be confronted with Idols (1-7)
As the apostle Paul stated in , “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” This is the last time that we hear of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the book of Daniel, and what we find is that these men are men of conviction, courage and commitment. We see that they have “courage under fire” and they are men of amazing faith in the Lord.
We do not know for sure how much time transpired between and , but we do see that Daniel is not present in this passage of Scripture. Does this mean that Daniel bowed before the idol and did not have faith in God? Of course not! Most commentators believe that Daniel was either out of town conducting business for the king (after all, shows us that Daniel was promoted within the king’s court) while his 3 friends were still doing administrative matters in Babylon. Regardless of his location, though, Daniel certainly would have stood firm with his friends when it came to this situation.
What we see in the text is that Nebuchadnezzar constructed a huge image of gold. Scholars are divided about what this image was, perhaps it was an image of the king himself or perhaps it was of the chief Babylonian god, Marduk. Either way, this image was ginormous! 90 feet by 9 feet is a large statue in the 21st century and especially in the ancient world. Large statues were not uncommon in the ancient world, though. We know of several great architectural achievements in the ancient world include the pyramids, the Great Spinhx (240 ft high), the Colossus of Rhodes (105 ft high), the statue of Zeus (40 ft high) and the lighthouse of Alexandria. There were several large statues that were constructed in the ancient world and they were done so in order to showcase the power and wealth of these leaders/nations as well as to honor the gods. As Driver notes, “Oriental monarchs have always prided themselves on the immense quantities of the precious metals in their possession.” - Does this sound familiar to us today? We might not build statues of false gods and force people to worship them, but we still like to build fancy monuments in order to show off the power and wealth of our nation.
We see that this particular statue was 90 feet tall and on the plain of Dura. Several scholars debate as to where in proximity to the city of Babylon this statue was built. Likely, it was build a little ways away from the city so that the people could not have been able to see it until its dedication day. The dedication day was a huge ordeal in the kingdom as we see that the officials were assembled to come and worship before it. We see the specific titles of these people and the point is that they were being summoned out to this plain to have their loyalty tested before the king. Think of the pressure being placed upon the Hebrews in this setting. The leaders of the kingdom are gathered together and the king himself is there to essentially witness everyone bow before his mighty statue. These men would have been stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Have you ever been in such a situation? Maybe you are being told to do something that you know is wrong and everyone is watching to see how you respond. What would you do in such a situation? Would you go with the flow and ask for repentance later? I’ve certainly done that a time or two. Or would you stand up for what you know is right?
What we see in verses 4-6 is that there was a sort of national response or a decree during this dedication that stated that everyone must fall down and worship this image or else… be thrown into a blazing furnace. We see that there will be pleasant music during this occasion as well as we see the words like horn, flute, lyre, harp and pipes in verse 5. As we know with music today, it certainly adds to the worship experience. We could sing every song acapella, however we don’t. We use pianos, keyboards, organs, trumpets and dare I say, guitars in worship services around the world today. Why do we do this? Does a piano make Amazing Grace sound better than a guitar does? No. We do it because it aids in the worship. It provides extra music instrumentation that we would otherwise be lacking. The same principle exists here. These musical elements are added and they might influence others to worship or help those who are worshipping to do so without distraction. The demand was to fall down and worship this image - this is something that no God-honoring Jew could do.
Verse 6 gives us the penalty for defying this command as anyone who would not worship would be thrown into the blazing furnace. The fire in this furnace was probably already ablaze as the herald declares this punishment. records that king Nebuchadnezzar burned 2 men to death named Zedekiah and Ahab. He was daring someone to defy his power and authority. The furnace would have been a horrifying way to die but it also was a convenient option for the king. Why, you may ask? Because a furnace would have been necessary for making this large, golden, statue. It is noted that the temperatures in these kilns could reach as high as 1800 degrees Fahrenheit - a note that we will discuss in greater detail later.
Finally, verse 7 shows us that the people finally did in fact worship whenever the music sounded. There were some exceptions to this, though, as 3 young men defied the most powerful man in the world.
While we might not be confronted with a 90 foot tall golden statue or a blazing furnace, we know full and well that we are confronted on a daily basis to fall down and worship idols. Some of them will come towards us in private, but others will be in public for all to see. What do we do in these situations? Sadly, many idols are seen as good things, and we can fail to view them as the idol that they truly are. For example, who would say that your hobby or passion is an idol? Not many of us would willingly admit to that, however we know that these things can distract us from worshipping God and serving Him. We must not be deceived: God’s people will be confronted with the idols of this world. We know this will happen and we must respond in a faithful manner.
Christians will be Criticized by the world (8-12)
Christians will be Criticized by the world (8-12)
Honoring God and obeying God are not always popular choices, are they? Sometimes doing so will get us in trouble with others, possibly even with family and friends! However, we know that we are to obey God rather than people as Peter writes in . What we see in verse 8 is that the moment of truth was upon these men and they stood firm on the Word of God instead of bending the knee to the king. There was no vocal outcry about how this command was dumb or against their religion, they simply quietly stood up for their beliefs. I think there’s a reminder in that for us as well, is there not? Sometimes we cry foul and we want people to treat us how the Bible says or we hold up our Bible and thump people in the head with it. What we see in is that these men stood up for God and they did so peacefully and with their actions.
We know that Daniel and his friends had received leadership positions in the kings court and this probably led to some hard feelings from the native Babylonian astrologers, magicians and teachers. They had some rivals who stepped forward to accuse them of not worshipping the image, literally verse 8 says that these men came forward and “ate their pieces” or sank their teeth into them. This was done in a clever way because the men buttered the king up before delivering this news. Have you ever been in this situation? You have some really bad news to tell someone, news that they probably won’t believe so you ask them, “Do you want the good news or the bad news first” or you start telling them some really good things first before giving them the cold, honest truth. That is what we see in verses 9-12! These men remind the king that he has some Jews in his administration - they isolate them and almost tell the king that he made a mistake in giving these men positions of authority.
Have you ever felt isolated or picked on because of your faith in God? I know that I have and it is not a fun feeling at all. In fact, it really stinks because no one likes to get picked on or seen as inferior simply because they trust and believe in God. Friends, we must understand that this is going to happen to us. This has always happened for Christians around the world. We see it in the Old Testament. We see it in the New Testament. We see it in the early church during the 1st and 2nd centuries especially as Christians were literally executed for professing Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We must understand this fact and be ready for people to criticize us as well because persecution will come our way in some form or fashion.
We see that these men are facing off with a power that is in direct opposition to them. The men have remained faithful in God, though, just as they did in chapter 1. The question that we are asking is what will God do next?
Christians will be challenged to bend the knee (13-15)
Christians will be challenged to bend the knee (13-15)
Larry made a great point a couple of weeks ago regarding preparation. Prior preparation prevents poor performance. This is certainly true, is it not! We must be prepared and we must be confident in our faith in Christ because if we are not, we will be tossed about by every wind of false doctrine as Paul writes in Ephesians. Why does this “homework” matter so much? Because if you don’t do it, when the moment of truth comes, you will fail nearly every time! We must be prepared.
Nebuchadnezzar set up this golden image to glorify himself and unify his kingdom. All was well until these 3 Jews refused to bow. Verse 13 shows us that the king was in a furious rage! He was very upset by this. Even in his rage, though, verse 14 shows us that he asked them this question directly and personally. He gave them a second chance of sorts. Perhaps he did this because he thought that they had been falsely accused by some jealous rivals or possibly he genuinely liked them (after all they stood head and shoulders above the other men in the test of chapter 1) and wanted them to help themselves. The options were very clear here. They were not just hearing the rules from an official but from the king. They either had to bend the knee or they would face the fiery furnace and be burned alive.
I feel as though many of us would at least waver in our decision. “Are we really doing the right thing here?” “That fire looks pretty hot, shouldn’t we just do what everyone else is doing and save our heads to share about God next week instead?” Think of some of the great massacres in our world today, if you were a student and a shooter came in and asked for all the Christians to stand up and you stood up with your friends it might be easier because you have strength in numbers, however if the shooter came up to you personally and asked, “Do you really believe in Jesus?” That second chance of sorts snaps our brain into focus. We know the outcomes of our decision and the temptation exists to lie.
What we see in our text today is that the king asked them, “What God will be able to rescue you from my hand?” in verse 15. Who is the God that can rescue you from my power? Do you hear the pride in Nebuchadnezzar’s voice here? He had seen God grant Daniel and these 3 men strength and wisdom in chapter 1, he had seen Yahweh answer his dream in chapter 2, yet he is still ignorant in chapter 3 and says that no God can rescue these men from his power. Do you see the pride and self-exhalation here? Of course we do! This is crazy to even think. But, before we point and laugh at Nebuchadnezzar, let’s do some self reflection here. Do we not sometimes exalt ourselves beyond what we should? Do we not often act as if we hold our destiny in our hands rather than God’s? Do you see that the pride that we deal with daily is the same pride that was lurking in the king’s heart in ?
We want so desperately to say that we would quickly stand up for our faith like these 3 men did, but before we make that declaration, we must first ask: Who is the God who will deliver me from my sin, my pride and my arrogance? Who will deliver me from me? While we were still sinners, Christ died for the ungodly - . Jesus Christ is the answer, friends! We must realize that it is not about us. It is not about our power. It is all, 100% about the power of God and the fact that He is in control.
These three young men knew that all along. They had decided years ago that they would not trust in the powers of the world even if it costed them everything! If they were challenged to worship the gods of this world or the one true God and be burned to a crisp, it is not even a debate! As says - as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
15 “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
Christians must be Courageous in the face of danger (16-18)
Christians must be Courageous in the face of danger (16-18)
We see in and 7 that God will send His people to the nations to share the Gospel with every nation, tribe, people and tongue. With that said, sometimes He sends the nations to us - the church. This is exactly what He did in Babylon. The mightiest nation in the world was about to hear the reply of these young men in the face of this king. We see that God’s servants will bow to God and God alone. We see that God’s servants will trust God’s sovereign power no matter the situation. We see that God’s servants will trust in God’s plan and leave the results up to Him.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego tell Nebuchadnezzar that they do not even need to give him an answer in verse 16. They don’t need to defend themselves. The facts are clear, they did not bow and worship and they are accepting of the consequences. They did not compromise with a passionate speech about bowing down on the outside but standing on the inside like our society likes to tell us to do. This was not an option! They proceeded to say that “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.... and He will deliver us out of your hand o King!” These men know beyond the shadow of a doubt the power of God. There was no doubt about the ability of God to deliver them, they humblely accepted the fact that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in human circumstances, even on behalf of his servants.
Verse 18 gives us arguable the greatest affirmation of faith in the Bible, “But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods and worship the gold statue you set up.” What they are essentially saying here is that if they perish it will not be because God is unable to save them but rather because He chose not to do so. These were men who knew Scripture, they knew what God had done for the people in the Exodus account and in the Canaanite conquest. They saw what God did through Daniel in chapter 2. They knew that God could save them, but not necessarily that he would spare their lives.
Here is our question today, church, Does God have all power? Yes. Is God able to deliver believers from all problems and trials? Yes. But does God deliver believers from all trials? No. God may allow trials to come into the lives of his people to build character or any number of other reasons as we see in . The purpose of trials might not be understood, but God simply asks that His children trust in Him even when it’s not easy. As Job declared in , “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him.” God does NOT declare that his followers will never suffer or experience death, he does promise to always be with them. In times of trial, our attitude should be like these men!
Even if these men had to suffer a horrible, painful death in this burning oven, they refused to forsake their God and worship idols. Even if they perished in the furnace, they had full confidence that they would either be resurrected (as some scholars note) or that they would enter into the presence of God. Either way, they knew that the outcome would be for their good.
How can we live that way and with that kind of faith? These men were willing to be burned alive and they had faith that the outcome would be for their benefit.
We know people who are going through insane circumstances. Whether it be health related, cancer, family situations or having a sword put to their neck for having faith in God like we see in the Middle East today, there are people who stand up for their faith and believe even when its hard. Having that type of “Even if” faith is not a natural human tendency! We want to know the outcome and we ask the what if questions. We are worriers and we are anxious, whenever God simply asks us to trust in Him and say “Even if this happens, I will still trust in you.”
Even if the cancer takes my life - I will worship you and be a witness for you until my last breath.
Lindsey and I knew a woman like that from our time at FBC Ozark. She was diagnosed with cancer very young and had every “reason” to be mad at God. but instead she trusted in His plan and used that diagnosis as a way to minister to people that she would have never met otherwise. She remained faithful to God even till her last breath.
Friends, do you think these men wanted to live? Probably. But they knew that ultimately God is in control. What I’m about to say might rub you the wrong way, but hear me out. We can pray for healing and restoration, but the focus of our prayer should always be that God’s will be done and that we are obedient along the way regardless of the circumstances, just as these men declared in . We know that our God is able to save us and deliver us from whatever situation we are facing, but even if He does not, we will still continue to worship and praise Him the same because my circumstances do not dictate God’s faithfulness and holiness! He is worthy, regardless of my feelings or experiences.
The next time you are in a difficult situation, replace “what if” with “even if.” Whenever you do this, you trade your irrational fears of an uncertain future for the loving assurance of an unchanging God. Even if the worst case scenario happens, God will carry us, He will still be good and He will never leave us! He will be with us through the fire. show us this type of prayer. Habakkuk had pleaded with God to save His people, but he closes his book with this:
17 Though the fig tree should not blossom And there be no fruit on the vines, Though the yield of the olive should fail And the fields produce no food, Though the flock should be cut off from the fold And there be no cattle in the stalls, 18 Yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
Even then, I will praise the Lord. Church, I pray that is our testimony regardless of what we go through in life.