Even If (part 2)
Have you ever been in a discussion, or argument, with someone and you say something so strong that it causes the other person in the discussion to blow up and react in emotion rather than logic? Since working at Lebanon High School a couple week ago, I have seen a number of verbal discussions turn into this type of confrontation and logic/rules are thrown out of the window because someone was insulted or broke the trust of the other person. Maybe you’ve experienced this with a family member or a friend. You thought that they were a trusted friend or ally and they say something that cuts deeper than anything else could have possibly done.
What we see in our text today is that the King is full of wrath because of what Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego had told him in verses 16-18. He did not take very kindly to the idea that these men, whom he had promoted, were going to defy him before thousands of leaders in the kingdom. Because of this, there was going to be a consequence. Nebuchadnezzar had shown these men his favor every step of the way. He had spared their lives in Jerusalem, he had brought them over to study at the finest schools in the world and to eventually become a part of his court/government. These men were heads and shoulders above the rest of the Babylonian magicians and counselors, however Nebuchadnezzar could not simply let their disrespect go unnoticed. He had given a simple command: worship the statue or perish in the furnace. He was a man of his word and he would not allow 3 insignificant Hebrews tarnish his legacy and reputation. What the king was unaware of was the fact that these Hebrews might have been insignificant, however they served the one, true, living God.
Maybe you feel as though you are being told to conform to the ways of the world. Perhaps you have a family member or a friend who is telling you to bend the knee and give into the desires of your flesh. Maybe you have a friend who is struggling with a situation and you are beginning to question the idea of God’s existence. Maybe you yourself are going through a very difficult situation today, right now. Maybe you are wondering if God has it out for you. Our story today shows us that while we are in fact insignificant just as these 3 men were, our God is the great savior, deliverer and sustainer. Even in the midst of the fire, He rules, He walks and He delivers.
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire. 21 Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. 22 For this reason, because the king’s command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. 23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, “Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?” They replied to the king, “Certainly, O king.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!” 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire. 27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 “Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.” 30 Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.
Christians will be persecuted (19-23)
Christians will be persecuted (19-23)
The young Hebrews had defied the king. They refused to bend the knee. They were faithful to God! Yet, the king was filled with wrath and rage. He ordered the furnace to be heated up 7 times more than it was usually heated. Is this a literal 7 times or a figurative 7 times? As mentioned last week, these types of furnaces could reach temperatures of 1800 degrees. Does this mean that the furnace was typically around 250 degrees? Probably not. Most scholars note that this is a proverbial expression.
16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of calamity.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
In other words, the author is noting that the king was doing everything he could do to eliminate these people. The furnace was at its maximum intensity. We know that the number 7 represents completeness throughout Scripture whereas 6 represents incompleteness or regeneration. Nebuchadnezzar heating the furnace 7x its normal amount means that the furnace was as hot as possible.
Not only did the king order the furnace to be heated as hot as possible, but he also sent some of his most valiant warriors in his army to tie the Hebrews up and throw them into the furnace. He didn’t send his young recruits or his old veterans, he sent in his most valiant warriors. He sent in his army rangers, his marine corps of sorts. You might ask, why on earth did the king feel the need to use his strongest troops to simply throw these men into a furnace? Edward Young notes that, “The choice of strength was also intended to forestall any intervention, either of human or of Divine power.” Do you see the fact that Nebuchadnezzar still did not “get it?” He still thought that he was the most powerful and influential individual in the universe. He though that he was the smartest and his army was the mightiest, because of this, no one could thwart his plan or power. Just as he told the Hebrews, “What God could deliver you from my hand?” and now he uses these strong men to ensure that his plan is done and that there are no mistakes.
Sometimes, we are in a situation where the enemy sends things our way that are simply stronger than we are and we see the fire in front of us, we can feel its heat and sometimes we might even feel helpless. In moments like this, though, we must have faith like these men had. We must understand that our God is able to save us, but He also might not do so. Whenever we live our lives with this type of expendability for the Kingdom of God, we are free to live with abandon and have our eyes and hearts fixated on the things of God rather than the trivial things that often drag us down and cause us to struggle.
These men valued the Kingdom more than their very own lives - I think that is a thought that we’d like to think we’d have, but we must ask ourselves daily if our actions line up with that idea. Do I really value the Kingdom more than life itself? We know that these 3 men did. We know that Paul did. We know many famous martyrs of the faith did. Do we?
Nebuchadnezzar was angered. He had his strongest soldiers go about tying them up and throwing them into the fire. Verse 21 shows us that they were tossed in with their clothes and verse 22 shows us that the heat from this furnace was truly deadly as these valiant soldiers fell to their death simply by being too close to it. The king’s command was “urgent” and the soldiers had to carry out his order so quickly that they were not able to protect themselves form the fire. Perhaps the wind shifted directions after they threw them into the furnace or simply they got too close, but either way they suffered the ultimate price for the king’s command. Sometimes actions have consequences, do they not? Often times whenever we begin to act on impulse, as Nebuchadnezzar did, the result is not a favorable one. Feelings get hurt, the assignment does not go well or the work does not get completed. As Proverbs 29:11 tells us
11 A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back.
We must be slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness as we see in Jonah 4:2.
It goes to follow that because these soldiers perished by getting too close to the fire, the Hebrews should have perished as well because they were tied up in clothing. Their clothing should have caught fire and engulfed them for all to see, however they were not harmed.
Verse 23 shows us that these men fell into the furnace. This leads us to believe that there were 2 openings (one on the top and one in front for others to see into). They had not yet perished, though, as they were still tied up. I think that part is significant for us to remember because these men had full confidence in God, but their outer circumstances were still pretty dark. Nebuchadnezzar and his governors were about to watch these men be consumed in this barbecue of sorts and no doubt the king was going to use this as a lesson for all the people of Babylon to show them that the god of the Jews was nothing in comparison to the mighty gods of Babylon.
Jesus Saves (24-27)
Jesus Saves (24-27)
There are some things in our universe that are “rules” of sorts. Newton’s 3rd law states that for every force in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction - in layman’s terms, what goes up must come down - we know that gravity certainly rules supreme in our world today. We know that there are several things that are givens to human existence: death and taxes! Everyone has to pay taxes and unfortunately everyone dies. This moment you are the youngest that you’ll ever be and the oldest you’ve ever been. Each second you have millions of cells that die and your timer continues to tick down. There are rules that govern humanity and these are a few of them. These men were facing death square in the face and in the laws of human existence, they should have been completely destroyed just like the soldiers who threw them into the furnace were! They should have passed away, yet God was not finished with them. As Pastor Phillip said during our revival a couple of weeks ago regarding death, you are invincible until God is done with you. You are completely invincible until God is done with you. How can a Christian have this type of confidence? Because of Ephesians 2:4-9. Paul writes that we have been made alive with Christ and raised up with him. The same power that raised Jesus from the grave lives inside of you and there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! This is the hope that Christians experience now and it is the hope that these 3 men had back then: either they would live, be raised back to life or they would be in Glory. Either way, it would be for their benefit and for God’s glory.
Verse 24 shows that Nebuchadnezzar and his officials were watching what was transpiring through another opening in the furnace. They saw the Hebrews being tossed into the furnace but the king was now confused because of what he saw. He was astounded for a couple of reasons: first, he knew what nature said would happen. These 3 men would die in the furnace. This was the only logical conclusion. Yet, the Hebrews were still alive! Not only were they alive but they were loose and walking around in the furnace, unharmed and as if it were no big deal. Second, and most importantly, there was a 4th person in the fire with them! Not only were these people walking around in the furnace as if there was not a problem, there was an additional person with them. Verse 25 says that this person had the appearance as a son of the gods. Verse 28 shows that Nebuchadnezzar thought this person was perhaps an angel of sorts. I think there is a third option that is far superior, friends. This is not just a “theophany” or a manifestation of God’s presence, this is a “Christophany” - a preincarnate appearance of the 2nd person of the Trinity, the Son of God. You might be thinking, the Son of God didn’t come to Earth until Bethlehem. We know that the preincarnate Christ appeared to people in the Old Testament. There are 214 times in the Hebrew where we see the term “Angel” and theologians think that around 1/3 of these instances are a “Christophany” or a temporary appearance of Christ in the Old Testament.
Not only was the Son of God with these men, but He delivered and protected them through the fire. He walked with them through the fire! We read this story and we think, “that’s great, but why does it matter to me?” It matters because through thick or thin, we have confidence that Christ walks through the fire with us. He can relate with us because He was fully man, but He was also fully God. He was tempted externally, but not internally like we are on a daily basis because He did not have a sinful nature like you and I. The best part of all of this is that because Christ can relate with us and because Christ lived a perfect life and died on the cross, He can be your savior. He wants to be your savior! Jesus is the savior of the world, but sadly not all are saved. Look to the man who walked with these 3 Hebrews in the fire. Cry out to Him today and surrender your life to Him and He will save you from the penalty of sin in the eyes of a Holy God! That penalty is infinitely worse than a fiery furnace.
These men were delivered and the king and his officials demanded that they come out of the furnace. Whenever they did, the officials realized that the clothing was not damaged and the smell of the fire was not upon them. These men were fully delivered. Do we believe that God can fully deliver us today? Do we truly believe that? With all the chaos going on in our lives and in our world: the injustice, the cruelty, the killing, the murder of the unborn and the sheer ignorance of the existence of God… Do we truly believe that God can deliver us and that God can and still does perform miracles? You’d better believe it! I’ve seen them and I know you have as well!
Unlike some Christian denominations, though, we must make the distinction that the miracle does not come from us. It is not our action that brings about the miracle, it is God Himself. The same God that appeared in the fiery furnace with these men is the same God that bled and died on the cross for sinners like you and I and you’d better believe that He is fully capable of saving anyone today as well from whatever situation they are facing, but the greatest way Christ saves is certainly by moving sinners from a place of alienation before the Father into a place of adoption into His family.
There was a story that broke in the news this week about a police officer who supposedly thought that she was entering into her apartment room and found a burglar and shot him to death, only to realize that she had entered into the wrong room and had shot an innocent man. During her trial, the brother of the innocent man asked to say a couple words. During this time he said the following, “I'm not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother — I personally want the best for you," Brandt Jean, 18, said. "I wasn't going to say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don't even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that's exactly what Botham would want." After this, he went on to say that he wants her to give her life to Christ and he gave her a hug.
I’m not sure how I would respond in such a situation. I’m not sure how many of us would respond. I think many people would be angry and “forgive” the person because its the right thing to do but would be unable to articulate as much in front of the killer. Maybe they would forgive them privately but not publically. To be able to stand before this killer and not only forgive them but to say that you want the very best for them and you want them to know the peace that can only come from Christ is what the world says is otherworldly forgiveness and some might even say that it is silly that the person lacks a backbone. Certainly, it is otherworldly forgiveness, but it is forgiveness and grace that can only come because this man has already been forgiven and shown grace from the resurrected Christ! Jesus saves and we are not only saved from sin and death but we are saved to go out and share and witness to others! We should be a shining light in the darkness and faithfully forgive and show grace to a lost and dying world. Church, if we can’t forgive someone who has wronged us because it’s “too hard” then how can we say that we have been forgiven by the King of Kings? We are forgiven to forgive. We are given grace to be graceful towards others. We are given the fruits of the spirit so that we can live them out in our lives daily. Jesus saves not so we can sit on our blessed assurance and fill a pew but so that others will see Christ’s power and see that there is one true God. He is the God who saves and He is the God who calls the dead to life and who brings men out of fiery furnaces without a single burn. His name is Jesus - do you know Him today?
Christians give the glory to God (28-30)
Christians give the glory to God (28-30)
Whenever a miracle of sorts happens in Scripture or in our lives, other people are often quick to say something like, “wow, you’re a good person” or “someone has it all figured out” however the reality of the situation is that every good thing comes from above. In the good and bad times, Christians are supposed to give the glory to God. That is exactly what these men do in verses 28-30. They do not take the credit whenever they walk out of the furnace. They knew full and well the power of their God. They knew that He could save them and lo and behold, they knew that He had. In fact, everyone had seen this 4th figure in the furnace with them. Whenever we are delivered we won’t see the physical presence of Christ next to us, but we know full and well that it is He who delivers us. We make this known to those around us as well.
Nebuchadnezzar issued a decree in verse 28-29 and said that these men had been delivered by their God. Because of this, his decree stated that anyone who spoke out against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego would be executed and have their house destroyed. Because these men were only saved by their almighty God, there would be no such victory or blessing for these other people who cursed Yahweh God.
Nebuchadnezzar, at this point in Daniel, had seen God bless the Hebrew men and give them gifts of wisdom, knowledge and dream interpretation. He had witnessed these gifts on full display as Daniel was able to interpret his dream in Daniel 2 and he even had some conviction in Daniel 2 as he stated in verse 47, “surely your God is a God of Gods and a Lord of kings.” The king knew that Yahweh was powerful. He had some of the head knowledge, if you will. Now in Daniel 3 the king sees this power yet again and he makes this decree… Sometimes people see the power of God in front of them and they make an emotional response of sorts. They say a prayer or they make a public statement during a political race and they say the word “God” in order to win a couple votes. People do stuff like this all the time but we know that these professions and statements do not equal salvation or genuine repentance. As Jesus said in Luke 6, you can judge a tree by its fruit. Some tree’s look cool, but you have to ask, “Are they bearing fruit?” Nebuchadnezzar clearly was not bearing fruit. He was making this statement in order to save face. You might be wondering how we can make such a statement? Because he never took back his command to worship his statue. It was worship his statue and don’t say anything bad against the God of the Hebrews. In modern church language, it was Jesus + something else or there are two separate ways. Friends, we know that this is not true! Genuine repentance does not result in a person saying I will worship myself and Jesus. No! It’s either all of Jesus or none of Him.
The prayer for those of us who have gone through the furnace is that us going through a difficult situation or circumstance would result in others seeing the mighty power of God and that our situation would bring glory to Him. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Beloved, you must go into the furnace if you have the nearest and dearest dealings with Christ Jesus.” Whenever these men went into the furnace what they found was Jesus standing right by their side. They did not have to wait on Him to show up. He was there. Guess what? He is still there with His followers today. He still walks through the fire.
Romans 8:37-39 show us that we are more than conquerors through Christ and that nothing will be able to separate us from His love. Hebrews 13:5 says that He will never leave nor forsake us. Isaiah 43:2 tells us that God will be with us when we pass through the waters and when our enemies overwhelm us. Finally, 1 Peter 4 tells us:
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.
If God could deliver these men from the fiery furnace, He can see saints of any age through their fiery trials. Do we believe that today, church? Do we know that He can do this today? I pray that we do. I pray that we would be a people who have this type of “Even If” faith just as these Hebrew men did and that we would strive to live that faith out on a daily basis, regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.
We know that whenever we live with this type of faith that we will be persecuted. We will not get a “get out of persecution free” card. We know that we will go through trials and adversity. However, we also know full and well that we serve a savior who saves and who has all power and authority in heaven and on earth. We know that whenever we go through the furnace that He is right beside us and we know that whenever we make it out, we must give all the glory and honor to Him.
I pray that we would be that type of church and that we would have that type of faith in our God. Let’s pray.