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Daniel 3:1-30: The Cost of Obedience Print E-mail
Sunday, 23 September 2012

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How much is God worth to you?  Can you put a price-tag on the value of your relationship with the Creator of the Universe?  I would figure that most of us would say that we could not.  God is worth more than any amount of money or resources.  Sitting here this morning we would all say that God, and our relationship with Him, is the most valuable thing in our life.  Yet, is He actually more valuable than our lives?  Would you be willing to give your life for His glory?

Daniel 3 tells us a story about three individuals who were willing to do just that.  It is one of the more familiar stories in the Old Testament.  As we have seen already in the text, when Daniel was taken to Babylon, he was accompanied by three friends: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They were with him during the training period with the king (ch. 1) and they prayed with Daniel when the king threatened their lives (ch. 2). Chapter 2 closes by telling us that they had been promoted to be over the affairs of the province of Babylon.  It is this appointment that leads them into trouble in Daniel 3.  So then, what happens to them in this story?

The Story:

The story begins with King Nebuchadnezzar setting up a golden statue.  The statue was about 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, being made of either pure gold or at least covered with gold (which probably points back to him being the head of gold in his dream).  After he builds the statue, he calls all the different leaders under his rule to come and worship the statue.  It is possible that he is doing this to unify his kingdom by establishing a common religion.  It is also possible that he just wants to stroke his ego by having everyone worship at the statue that he made.  Either way, he commands that everyone come and worship the statue.  And so they come and they worship.

All except for three men.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are not willing to fall down and worship the golden statue.  It does not seem that they were trying to necessarily make a big deal out of this, but they could not obey the king in this matter.  Unfortunately there were those who were apparently looking for these three to mess up and they seized the opportunity.  Look at verse 8.  In verse 12 we see what the real issue is.  Look at that verse as well.  These men, who were probably jealous of the promotion of these Jews, point out that by their actions, the three friends were belittling the king and his commands. 

Of course, the king will have none of that.  So he calls in the three men and puts the question to them.  Look at verse 14.  The king wants to see if they will defy him to his face.  Yet, even in his furious rage the king decides to give them one final opportunity to worship the statue.  And just so that everyone is clear, he reminds them what will happen if they refuse.  Look at verse 15b.  The stakes are high and the king is certain that they will now obey him.

But they do not.  Their response is one of the most memorable places in all of the Old Testament.  Look at what they say to the king in verses 16-18.  They understand the cost of refusing to obey the king.  But they are unwilling to disobey their God who had told them not to worship idols (see Exodus 20:4-6).  They make it clear that no matter the cost, they will not disobey God.

So the king has them thrown in the furnace.  He gets it so hot that the guards are killed just trying to throw the three men in.  Yet, once they are in, something unexpected happens.  The king sees four men in the flames instead of only three and they all seem unhurt.  He calls for them to come out and they do, unhurt.  Of course the king is amazed at this and once again blesses the God of these three men who delivered them.  He lavishes more gifts on them and restores their status.

The Lessons:

What lessons can we learn from this story?

First, God is able to deliver His people.  Did you notice that this is another one of those showdown passages?  We have already seen that God is able to reveal mysteries in chapter 2.  What is the challenge in this passage?  Look again at the kings words in verse 15b.  The king asks: And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?  The king believes that he has power over the lives Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  He believes that he can do whatever he wants and that no god can stop him.  But he is wrong.  The God of Israel is able to save His people, which is what the three friends tell the king: If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.  And that is exactly what the Lord does.  The king has them thrown in and God saves them.  Even the king admits his mistake in verse 28a: Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants.  The king recognizes that their God is able to deliver.  He is able to save.

Second, God’s people should value His glory above everything else, no matter the cost.  In one sense, I think that this lesson is the heart of the passage.  We have a tendency to simply focus on the miracle of God delivering the three friends.  Although this is an important lesson, it is also important for us to see that the three friends were willing to risk their lives for the glory of God.  We may make the mistake and assume that they knew that God would save them.  But that is not what the text says.  Look again at verses 17-18.  They know that God is able, but they do not know what He will choose to do in this situation. 

One of my commentator’s writes: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood that since God is sovereign, however, it was his choice whether he opted to be glorified in their deaths or through their dramatic deliverance.  Either way, it didn’t make a difference to their decision.  Whether they were miraculously delivered or left to burn in the fire, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not compromise their commitment to the Lord.  Live or die, they would be faithful to their God.” 1  They are willing to die for the glory of God and God is indeed glorified by such willingness.  The king notes that they yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.  Thus, God is not only glorified by the fact that He is able to deliver the men but also by the fact that they were willing to obey Him no matter the cost.  They valued His glory above all else, even their own lives. 

Third, God is with His people through their persecutions and trials.  Who was that fourth figure walking around with them in the furnace?  King Nebuchadnezzar calls it an angel of God.  Many have seen it as a manifestation of the preincarnate Christ.  From the text it is difficult to make any hard and fast arguments.  But either way, what we can say is that God was with them.  Whether it was Christ or an angel or something else, we can surely say that God was with the three friends in the furnace.  For the record, we need to understand: God has never promised us that we will not suffer.  In fact, He tells us that if we follow Christ that we will suffer (Luke 21:10-19, Acts 14:22, 2 Timothy 3:12).  But here is the promise from Daniel 3: God will be with us in the fiery furnace.  It may lead to our physical death or it may lead to a glorious deliverance, but either way, we will never be alone.  God is with us in the flames of persecution and suffering.  And He has promised us that He will use them for our good, to make us more like Christ (Romans 8:28-30).  He will be with us and He will not waste it.  You can count on it.

Maybe you are here this morning and you are wondering to yourself: “Why should I value God like the three friends?”  Well, I am glad you asked.  The truth is we have just as many reasons to value God as they had.  Like them, God has revealed to us His greatness, His goodness, His justice, His righteousness, His mercy, His grace, His power, His love, and on and on we could go.  We know who God is because He has revealed Himself to us through His Word.  Thus, we should at least value Him as they did.  Yet, we actually have more reasons because we live after the cross.  These friends did not know exactly what God would do for them at Calvary, and yet we do.  We know that God loved us so much that He would send His Son Jesus to take our place at the cross and die for our sins (facing flames far worse than any fiery furnace could ever produce).  We know that He would rise again on the third day.  We know that He would promise to return to take us to live forever with Him.  We know more than they knew.  If they valued God enough to lay down their lives for His glory, how much more should we?

So then, let me close with this question: How can your life demonstrate your value of God?  These friends made it clear that they valued God above all else.  How can we do that?  If you are here this morning and you have never trusted in Christ’s death for you at the cross, then you must begin there.  Turn from your sins and offer your life to Christ.  Become a living sacrifice for Him (Romans 12:1ff) by following hard after Him all your days.  In light of all that He has done for you at the cross, how could you refuse Him?  If you are here and you are a believer then I challenge you to examine your life and see what your obedience, or lack thereof, says about how you value God.  What does your time in His Word say about how you value Him?  What about your time in prayer?  What about your commitment to His people?  What about your willingness to evangelize?  If you want to have faith like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, then it begins by learning to value God over everything else.  And valuing God above everything begins at the cross. 

When you don’t feel like spending time in His Word, remember that He is the Word who took on flesh to have it torn for you at the cross.  When you don’t feel like spending time in prayer, remember that He prayed in the garden: “Not my will, but yours be done.”  When people hurt you and you struggle to love them, remember the crown of thorns on His head, the nails in His hands, and the spear in His side.  When you are afraid to go and speak the gospel, remember that He faced the wrath of the Father in your place.  And remember, always remember, that He is always with us, never leaving us or forsaking us.  No matter what we face, He is with us.  O Church, may we be a people who look to the cross so much that we cannot help but value our Savior even above our very lives.  When we do that, it will not matter what obedience might cost us, for it will pale in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

1 Iain M. Duguid, Daniel REC (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), p. 53.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Friday, 05 October 2012 )

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