Three Men of Great Faith Part 1
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. (Daniel 3:16-18)
If you have read the second chapter of Daniel, you may have thought that Nebuchadnezzar was close to believing in God.
He had a dream that bothered him, but Daniel explained it.
And then the king told Daniel, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets...”
He acknowledged that Jehovah, the God of the Jews, was the greatest of gods, however in a short time we find him setting up an idol, and putting to death anyone who will not worship it.
That shouldn’t seem strange because we see it every day; we see men and women who appear to be Christians, but after a while they forget all about Christ, and they may even become enemies of the gospel.
There will always be some who will slip back to what they once were, because according to the proverb, “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.”
Jesus said that they will go from us because they are not one of us.
And their final state will be worse than the first.
This great king of Babylon was an absolute monarch, and no one dared to disagree with him.
After all, who would disagree with a man who could back up his arguments with a fiery furnace, or who threatened to cut you into pieces and to make your house into a pile of rubble?
And when he sets up a god of his own design, and brings all the officials in his vast kingdom to the image, and makes them bow down before it, would anybody refuse to do it?
But, there were three who defied him, and they had done it once before.
They had broken the laws of his court by refusing to eat unclean meat; and although they ate nothing but vegetables, “At the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat."
The King, himself, had promoted them in the kingdom, and so he expected them to do what he said and to be a good example; but these three had a faith that couldn’t be conquered, even by the master of the whole world.
They stood before their king and refused to bow before the idol.
There are three things about these men that we should take notice of:
FIRST, THE EXCUSES THEY MIGHT HAVE MADE.
SECOND, THE CONFIDENCE THEY POSSESSED.
THIRD, THEIR DETERMINATION.
First of all, as we think about these three brave Jews, let’s consider THE EXCUSES THEY MIGHT HAVE MADE.
They were accused of committing crimes by the Babylonians, even though Daniel and his three friends had just recently saved their lives.
The king was furious and he ordered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to be brought to him immediately.
He found it hard to believe that anyone in his kingdom would dare to defy his authority, so he gave them a choice.
He said, "Here is the golden image; you three Jews are to bow down before it. If you do not, there is the burning fiery furnace, and into that you shall be cast at once. What is your answer?"
They could have said to themselves, “It is useless to resist. If we give in, who would blame us? We can’t be expected to throw our lives away. Let’s just bow our heads and worship the image, just like everyone else.”
Then again, they could have said something like this, “Didn’t one of our wise men say, ‘When in Babylon, you must do as Babylonians do’? If we were home in Jerusalem, we wouldn’t think of doing such a thing. We would remember that God said, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me…and thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.’ If we were at home we would obey that law, but we are hundreds of miles from Jerusalem, and so we may be permitted to give in this time.”
I have known many Christians who think this way when they are away from home.
When they are in a place where no one knows them, they say and do things that they never would at home, where family and friends are on hand.
This is a bad excuse, but it is made all too often.
They might also have said, “We are government officials.”
They were high officials, and they had sworn loyalty to the king, so they might have used this as an excuse to bow before the image.
But these men did not think that since they were rulers in Babylon, they could go ahead and sin against God.
It is true that they were duty-bound to obey the lawful orders of their king; but their conscience decided that it was better to obey God than man, so they never used this excuse.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were prosperous, and they were rising in importance, so it could be that God sent this trial to test them.
They might have used this excuse, “We don’t want to throw away all we’ve been working so hard to get.”
One of the greatest dangers to Christians is accumulating wealth—the danger of prosperity.
All too often, a Christian will become prosperous, and as his riches increase, he forgets the God who gave them to him.
We often pray for Christians who are having troubles, and we should always do that, but it may be even more important to pray for Christians who prosper.
Some good Christians serve God well when they are poor, but when they become prosperous, they become too important to associate with their former friends.
Let’s remember, that when we prosper, it is a blessing from God, so let’s never turn His blessings into an excuse for sinning against Him.
Those who are rich have no more liberty to sin than those who are poor.
There is still another way they might have excused themselves.
Their logic might have sounded like this.
"Putting up the image was not entirely a religious act.
It is just symbolic.
The image was meant to represent the power of Nebuchadnezzar, so by bowing down before it, we are just honoring our great king."
They might have said, “We are bound politically to honor our king by worshiping the image.”
These three men never even considered this line of reasoning.
They might have found a soothing salve for their conscience, from the absence of any command to renounce their religion.
They might have encouraged each other to submit, by saying, “We have not been asked to renounce our God.”
They didn’t have to believe that the idol was really a god, or express any faith in it.
As they bowed their heads they might have whispered to one another, "it isn’t a god, it’s a devil."
They might have even prayed to Jehovah, with their heads bowed before the image since He can be worshiped anywhere and under any circumstances.
But they did not use these excuses either because they were thinking about the God of glory.
Listen, anything can be used as an excuse for those who are willing to compromise.
Here’s a familiar excuse they might have used, “Everybody else is doing it.”
That morning, music was everywhere, and everyone bowed.
There were thousands of Jews there, and they bowed.
There were fire-worshipers there, men who hated the worship of graven images; but they all bowed.
There were men there who didn’t worship any god, but they all bowed before Nebuchadnezzar’s god.
What a remarkable thing it was for these three men to stand alone at this time.
The devil might have said to them, “Your own countrymen have bowed, why don’t you; better men than you have bowed, so why don’t you.”
Millions bowed, but not these three; they stood as firm in their faith as they would have if thousands lined up on their side.
My friends, when you serve God, you can’t make decisions by counting heads.
You must follow the Lord’s will wherever He leads you, whether you go alone or not.
Here’s something else they might have said, “We will only have to do it one time, and it won’t last long.”
It would only last ten minutes or so, and they would only have to do it once in their life, and it’s such a minor thing.
Why should they risk the fiery furnace?
If they were going to take a stand, it should be over something that is really important.
But sometimes, it’s the little things that cause such great damage.
All Adam did was to eat an apple, and all Esau did, was to eat the stew; all you or I may do is give into one temptation, and we will suffer loss for a lifetime.
Another excuse they might have made was, “We can do more good by staying alive than we can by being cast into that furnace.”
It’s true if they are burnt to death they won’t accomplish anymore, but if they live, they can continue helping their fellow Jews, because they hold high offices in Babylon.
However, they didn’t use this excuse either.
It is our duty to our Lord, to do what is right, and to follow Jesus, no matter what the consequences might be.
But they might also have said, “Really, this is more than should be expected of us. If we were asked to increase our tithe, we would do it cheerfully, but to die in such a horrible way, to be cast into a burning fiery furnace is more than we can bear.”
It would be hard for any of us to submit to that fate.
But remember what Jesus said to the multitudes who went with him, "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple."