DANIEL MAN OF PRINCIPLE Part 2
Readings: Daniel 3: 1-30
In Part 1, we examined the life of Daniel from when he, along with a number of other intelligent and capable young men was captured by the conquering Babylonian army and taken back to Babylon to be inducted into the traditions and practices of that nation.
- Israel had been taken into captivity because they had followed idols and not worshipped the true and living God…a problem with which Israel had grappled down the ages
- God called them ‘unfaithful’ but promised (through the prophet Hosea for instance) that He would have mercy on them and one day restore ‘a remnant’ of them to their land
Of course we see the ongoing consequences of that promise even today as Israel fights to survive as a nation against hostile enemies
Daniel and his three friends — renamed Shadrach (S), Meshach (M) and Abednego (A) — determine that they will not be drawn into idol worship and God prospers them as a result
Nebuchadnezzar the so-called ‘god-emperor’ (also known as Nebuchadrezzar II) has a dream about a large statue that no one except Daniel is able to interpret…
- The king acknowledges at the end of chapter 2: Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries
- He makes Daniel ruler over the entire province and in charge of the wise men
- He also appoints S, M and A to be administrators in the province
Daniel gives us an example of how it is possible for a godly person to prosper in an alien environment
For one thing, Daniel always behaves in a courteous, well-informed and selfless manner
- His calmness and godly authority in dealing with the pagan king is astonishing… remember that Daniel is only a young man/teenager
- How easy it is, when we are put under pressure, to become distressed, panicky and defensive
- Daniel not only says that he trusts God but demonstrates it through his actions and responses… Jesus reminds us that not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord”… only those who do God’s will (Matthew 7)
Daniel reminds us that it is often in the small events and decisions that ‘greatness’ begins
- If we are careless or faithless in small matters… we are not trained up to deal with the big events and challenges when they arise… and we flounder
- It would be like asking someone from your local football side to play professional football next week…the ‘step up’ would be too large…the player needs time to build expertise and experience
- So it is that our faith has to build gradually throughout life so that we are ready to trust God for big things and tough situations
There will be ups and downs…mountain-top experiences and passing through the ‘valley of the shadow of death’…but like the waves moving up the beach, our trust and belief grows, matures and moves forward
MIND YOU…some young Christians put older ones to shame with their raw zeal and trust in God
- It is possible to get so set in our ways that when someone comes along with a different, faith-motivated agenda, we find it too hot to handle!
- We might feel that it is better to play safe and go with the ‘tried and tested’ approach… even if it has not borne fruit for years!
The problem is that we can hesitate to ‘try and test’ anything that might take us out of our comfort zone…so the church quietly shrinks and falters as the Holy Spirit is denied free access
So GREATNESS AND HEROISM is achievable through the everyday things of life… our ‘going out and coming in’ as the old prayer expresses it
- Daring to be a Daniel may mean standing alone…being unpopular or misunderstood
- But who knows if/when, like Daniel, S, M and A, we shall face a challenge that requires a major exercise of faith
- None of us knows what is around the corner…so we must ‘get into training’ and be wise and determined in our dealings today
We sometimes treat events in the Bible as if they were separate and unrelated…
- However, in reality, the show goes on!
Daniel and friends lived in Babylon all the time…not just during the time of the key events that we teach children in SS!
- They grappled with tough decisions day after day
- They constantly had to resist the lure of godless practices
- They still had to counteract false teaching…wisely but firmly
- I’m sure they still pined for home
These were not ‘characters’ in a story book…they were flesh and blood people who had to face the challenges that you and I face each day…sometimes with great success…sometimes not!
- But in refusing to compromise, they made enemies
- And the fact that they had been promoted (fast-tracked) above others caused envy and spite to increase
Chapter 3 shows all too clearly what happens when people allow themselves to be ruled by a spirit of rivalry and selfish pride
- Despite acknowledging that Daniel’s God is the Lord, king Nebuchadnezzar has a long way to go before he can be described as ‘converted’
- The influence of his upbringing… and spending so long as the ‘great and mighty one’ means that the process of moving from ‘death to life’ will be long and painful (see Part 3)
But let’s not be too smug! How long has it taken you and I to submit fully to the claims of Christ upon our lives?
- Indeed, have we done so at all? Have we even begun to do so?
So it was that the king orders a statue of gold [or perhaps plated with gold] 30 yards (28 metres, 90 feet) high and 9 feet wide (3 metres) to be set up in a place where it could be seen for miles around
It was not unknown for Babylonians to erect such statues
- There’s nothing particularly wrong with erecting a statue…except that this one was to be an ‘idol’, an ‘image’ of the king to be worshipped
- Anyone refusing to worship the image when the instruments sounded would be thrown into a blazing furnace (how nice!)
All the senior officials were there to make sure that the king had no doubts about their loyalty!
- You can imagine the pomp and ceremony as the idol was revealed and the herald cried out the proclamation
- No one was exempt…whether native-born in Babylon or one of the many thousands of slaves from other nations…whether high ranking or lowly… ALL had to bow down and worship the image
There must have been many sets of instrumentalists…like beacons throughout the land…to send the message that everyone must obey
- In practice it’s likely that it was only the people in the immediate area that would even know that the instruments had sounded!
- That’s not the point!
- The king was ‘making a statement’: I am the greatest!
- Or perhaps feeling insecure…assassinations were common
Either way the decree was completely contrary to God’s will and S, M & Abednego are faced with a direct challenge…refuse to worship the image…or perhaps pretend to do so
Life is full of tough choices: There is a story about an employee who refused to tell an enquirer that the boss was out of the office when he was standing beside him. When later confronted by the boiss, the man answered as follows: “If I can lie FOR you while you are here, I can lie ABOUT you when you are not!” The man soon became 2nd in command in the company, such was the trust that the boss placed in him.
What would you and I have done if we had found ourselves in a situation similar to S, M and A’s… or in that employee’s shoes?
- Well, S, M & A are reported for ignoring the king’s decree…I’m sure their hearts were thumping!
The Bible is not written to be a best selling novel!
- The black and white page does not say anything much about the men’s emotional condition or doubts or fears
The king (unusually) gives them one last chance (v 15)
But look at their courageous reply (16-18)… “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
In other words…”Father, into your hands we commit our spirits” just as Jesus uttered those words upon the cross at Calvary
The three men must not, of course, be confused with modern day ‘suicide bombers’…dying for a cause and, they fondly suppose, a heavenly reward
- Their attitude was whether they lived OR died they would obey God and not worship an idol [the reason for Israel’s fall]
The king was furious… as you can imagine:
“I brought you here and made you rulers in the land”
“You thankless scum…after all I’ve done for you”
“You’ve no loyalty, you foreigners” etc.
Not only was the furnace prepared, it was heated to 3 times the normal temperature…This king was really mad!
You probably know the remainder of the story:
- The men survived the ordeal…but the soldiers who threw them in the furnace [probably a brick kiln] died from the heat
- Then the king…remember he was a pagan king with no knowledge of the Scriptures…saw a divine being in the furnace with the men
- “Like a son of the gods!” he cries
Some commentators suggest that it was a pre-incarnate Christ; others say it was an angel
- Whatever the truth, the men emerge unharmed
- There was no indication whatsoever that they had been in the flames
- You can smell whether someone has been in a room where someone else is smoking…but there was no smell on the three men
The people gather around in amazement…
- The astonished king exclaims: Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God
- The king orders that from now on no one speaks against the God of the men
- And he promotes the men again!
It reminds us of when another ‘trumpet will sound’ as Christ returns, the dead are raised and every knee bows, in heaven, on earth and even under the earth and every tongue confesses Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father
A question: Where is Daniel during this period of time?
- Quite simply, we don’t know
- He may have been away on business or working in another part of the Empire
It may be that the king deliberately had the statue erected while Daniel was away to ensure that Daniel wasn’t put at risk. Who knows!
There are many lessons to be drawn from this event…
1. The way we live during untroubled periods of life conditions the way we respond when the tough times come
2. It is important to mix with godly people… S, M & A had one another…to gain strength for resisting evil
3. Either we trust God for everything or we trust Him for nothing…”If Christ isn’t Lord of all, He isn’t Lord at all” is a good motto to use!
We know the end of the story… the three men did not know… they were ready to die rather than bow down to an idol.
- And in every circumstance, however hazardous, we have the promise: “Fear not, I am with you to the end of the Age”
- When Jesus died on Calvary He carried our heartaches, concerns, sins, doubts, fears, failures, unbelief…and crucified them, so we can say: “It is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me”
And we can be certain that there is nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of `God found in Christ Jesus our Lord
STRATEGY in times of difficulty… Throughout the coming month, whenever you face a challenge, however small, make this statement out loud:
Lord God, I trust you to be my guide and helper in this situation. Thank you, Lord. Help me dare to be a Daniel, Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. Amen