Peninsula Community Church
February 5, 2017
Focusing on God in the Midst of the Struggle
Daniel 3:24-25; 28 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods”… Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.
Last week we looked at the promise given to the Children of Israel as it related to their captivity in Babylon. This week we will look at one of the stories that occurred during the captivity and how the promise of God was fulfilled even in the midst of the captivity. As always, we must look at the back story so we can understand the story before us even better. When the Babylonians carried the Children of Israel into captivity they desired to indoctrinate the young people in the ways of Babylon. They envisioned winning the people of Israel by winning the hearts and minds of the children.
While this was their desire they had not figured on the number of youth whose faith in God would always trump anything that the Babylonians would try to do to them. We will see that in this story and in the story of Daniel that the Babylonians tried to change their perspective but that would not work as they had fully committed their way to the Lord. The fact is, the Hebrew children were not willing to give themselves to the ways of Babylon. Rather than live by a way of life that would leave them empty and longing for more they did not compromise their beliefs or their way of life.
In this story, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, built a statue that was to worshipped by the people of Babylon and the Hebrew captors. This was motivated by his pride and his arrogance as he believed that he was a god. As we see in the story, while everyone else bowed their knee to worship the statue the three Hebrew children did not. In fact, they refused to bow down which led them to be judged and subsequently they received a judgement against them.
As we review this story, we find that there were at least three tools used against them. The first tool used was the tool of false accusation. The Chaldeans came to destroy the three Hebrew children’s integrity and their standing in Babylon. In Daniel 3:8, we see they maliciously accused the Jews. The problem was that the Chaldeans were jealous of what the King had done for the Jews in that he had elevated the Israelites to positions of power often at the expense of the Chaldeans and men of Babylon. Their goal was to remove them from power by falsely accusing them. You see they did not just accuse them but they did so with an intent to get rid of them and to neutralize their effectiveness.
As we discussed last week, there is never a lack of people to try and tear us down. There will always be accusers in our life. We are accused by the enemy. We are accused by others. Sadly, we are also accused by ourselves. Have you ever noticed for example that when you are sad or down there will be those who think you are too sad and others who think you are not sad enough. You cannot please others and that often results in accusation most often founded in false truth. It is interesting that when trouble comes there is always someone around to accuse us and try to convince us there is no hope and that we should just submit to whatever issue we face. These accusers were no different. They wanted to create an atmosphere to discourage and defeat the faith of the Hebrews but they failed big time. They could not deter their faith nor could they defeat the Hebrew children.
The second tool used against the Hebrews was compromise! You see if the Hebrews only bowed their knee and followed the commands of the King everything would have been good. They would not have had to suffer the judgment that was to come but they chose to suffer death rather than compromise what they believed. Most often you can know that you face an attack of the enemy when there is a push to compromise the truth of the gospel and what you believe.
The fact is the enemy always wants us to compromise what we believe and what we stand for but in this story faith and trust in God prevailed. Rather than compromising they stood strong in their faith. The goal of compromise is to get us to diminish our faith and to begin to trust in everything but God. They refused to compromise because they had an unmovable faith in God. This is witnessed in the statement they made before being thrown into the fiery furnace. “God is able to deliver us. He will deliver us. And if He doesn’t we will not worship your gods.” That is the faith we need. We know God can deliver us but even if he doesn’t we will not stop serving him or believing in him. That is true faith.
The words of the Hebrew children are reminiscent of Paul’s words in Corinthians when he made the following observation. For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:8-11).
The third tool used by the enemy is intimidation! The King did two things to create an atmosphere of intimidation. First of all, he had his men turn the heat up seven times the normal heat. Have you ever noticed how the heat is turned up when you are walking through difficult times? There is great pressure and the heat of the problems you face cause you to take a step back. Secondly, the king ordered his mighty men to bind them before they were thrown into the furnace. The point of the intimidation was to cause them to give up and surrender their belief. Think about this. We have three young teenage boys being obedient to God and He sends them some of the biggest and most powerful men in his army to bind them. It seems like overkill but that is what the enemy does. He tends to do overkill in every aspect of our life to force us to become depressed or discouraged.
As we read the story while we see the tools used by the enemy we also see God’s intervention. The three Hebrew children I am sure would have desired that God would have intervened and kept them from the furnace but instead God allows the Babylonians to throw them into the fiery furnace. Being thrown into the furnace was not the end of the story because even in the furnace God chose to deliver them in a big way! We see at the end of this that God had a greater plan. The plan was to reach those in Babylon.
As we review the story we see that God did so much more than just intervene. Notice what the King and his men witnessed what they returned to the furnace the next day. They saw four men who were unbound and they were walking around in the fire. The miracle was that they were not hurt in anyway. In fact, they saw a fourth person in the furnace that looked a whole lot like God. In fact, we know now that it was the Son of God. He had intervened and made a way of enduring the fiery furnace at all cost. I can promise you today that God will intervene and make a way of escape for you. Sometimes it means that we are able to endure the trouble we face. You see the three Hebrew children were not delivered from the furnace but they were delivered in the furnace. How powerful that is and how encouraging it is when we face all kinds of difficulty in our life that God will deliver us?
Here is what we know. God was present with them. God’s presence in the furnace made all of the difference in the world. He was with them and He protected them. He guarded them. His presence brought comfort, protection, and deliverance in the midst of their greatest difficulty. It is noteworthy that God did not keep them from the furnace but He certainly met them in the furnace. That is God’s mode of operation. He either delivers us from the furnace or He meets us in the furnace. We will not know His plan until we encounter the events of our life that require an intervention. As promised in Joshua, God will never leave us or forsake us. God is always there.
We also know that God delivered them from the effects of the fiery furnace. They were in the furnace but they were not effected by the fiery furnace. Look at this, the fire had no power over them. Their hair was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and there was no smell of smoke on them. God had delivered them from the effects of the furnace and He wants to deliver us from the effects of the accusations and intimidation offered to us by the enemy of our souls. How many of us are effected by past events that have shaped and formed who we are today. Notice that physically they were not negatively effected. The lesson is the issues we face do not have to define us. We can navigate the issues of our lives without being harmed by the power of the test. As Paul stated in Romans “If God is for us who or what can be against us.”
Finally and most important, God brings redemption. In this story, we see the redemption of the King. Through this amazing story Nebuchadnezzar honors God and acknowledges God as God. In fact Nebuchadnezzar is so moved by this event, he declares that God is the one God and that He is worthy of praise. The purpose of trials is for us to honor God and then to assist others in honoring God. It is noteworthy that Nebuchadnezzar is not changed immediately, but God uses this and other opportunities to reveal Himself. I am so glad for the redemption that comes from God and how He uses the trials of our lives to touch others and to bring them to a point where they recognize the power of God. If God can turn the heart of a wicked King He can touch every person around us for His glory.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom