The King wants blind obedience vs. a heart for God
The King gives no choice vs. freedom of decision
The King motivates by fear vs. faith in God
The King threatens those who disobey vs. God who promises deliverance
A basic principle when views of the world collide: When those in authority command what God forbids, or forbid what God commands, obey God rather than man. It will take bravery to stand firm for Christ. Challenges are here in todays world and more are coming. This is why you need to be able to see what is happening in our world. Our secular world is attempting to remove God from society. God is the enemy. The secular world views history and salvation so different from God and the Bible. The secular world does not recognize sin. Just like the King of Babylon. He sets up a giant golden image and expects everyone to worship it. The secular world does not think we need a savior, we just need to live up to our potential innate wonderfulness. We just need to get rid of the greedy people at the top. We just need to stop all wars…. And whatever other wishful thinking thoughts that will never be anymore than a good theory. No thanks. I’ll put my trust in the Lord Jesus Christ that loves me and forgives my sins. It’s two ways of thinking. When the Beatles sang, “All We need is Love” that would work if it were not for the little problem we call sin, but sin is real, and we also need forgiveness.
Evolution***, the idea that animals/species evolve from one thing to another over eons is one example of something important to a secular world because it is part of their innate belief system that there is no god. There is no beginning. It feeds into the idea that we are progressing. The teaching of evolution is that someday we will advance enough as a society that we will be living in bliss…. Creation is a threat because creation gives credit to God. Oppose evolution and you are belittled, considered backwards, quant, ignorant…. Scientists are held up as the gods of secular society, even if we don’t have a clue as to what they are saying, even if the facts keep changing of what we are supposed to accept as true. If I were putting my purpose of life in the idea of evolution, I’d wonder how any facts could be relied upon as true.
We are headed for days when you will be challenged to be faithful to God going against the secular world’s teachings. There is no question in my mind but that the goal of our secular world is a godless society. Get God out of schools, government, the public square, lets marginalize churches, Christianity, faith in God.
The King of Babylon is looking to do the same thing when he sets up a ridiculous golden image. Thousands of leaders are ordered to worship this strange image, but more than the leaders, also…: READ Dan. 3:4. The obvious thought is to create unity by common worship of a giant pencil ~ did you catch the dimensions of this creation? Sixty cubits high and six cubits wide or about 90’ X 9’…. It’s not really a giant pencil (but I’m going to call it that anyway!) because it also says it is an image, some sort of figure and not just a pole. What’s the image?
I’m with those that guess the image is the King himself. In Daniel 2, Daniel reveals to the King that in a dream the King of Babylon corresponds to the golden head of an statue that will eventually crumble and be taken over by other empires. This image of Daniel 3 is the King’s response: I’ll make an image of myself that is entirely of Gold and everyone will worship me…. Even if the giant golden image is not the King, clearly this is all about him. When the King faces Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who refused to bow down he threatens to throw them into a blazing hot furnace and pompously boasts in Dan. 3:15, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand.” It’s all about him. His power. His demands. Him! True worship, even respect, can’t be demanded, can it? Yet that is what the King I is doing….
I think this strange goofy elongated golden image is something like tower of Babel! In Genesis 11, the people attempted to build a tower to reach heaven so they could be unified, so they could be one people living in harmony. It was an attempt to find peace and unity apart from God (See Gen. 11:1-9). But God scattered them. The Bible teaches something so different: God has a plan that we must follow in order to find salvation, security, redemption. God does not want forced obedience, he wants our heart, he wants to rescue us. The world is still trying to bi-pass God so we don’t have to deal with sin, corruption, and admit that we are helpless apart from God. The King of Babylon attempted to set up a golden image of himself and demand everyone worship him. And if they don’t, they will be destroyed in a hot oven. What a great plan! Hey, I got an idea, let’s egg all houses in Sumas that don’t come to our church. Let’s punish those that don’t bow down to our God!
God is amazing. He is able to take a symbol of fear and oppression, an instrument of punishment and destruction, and turn it into hope and faith. This week and next week, the Fiery Furnace of Daniel 3 is meant to be a huge threat to force all the people to worship a golden god, but God delivers three faithful men from the fiery furnace, demonstrating his superior power and might. The story could easily illustrate the truth of Genesis 50:20: “God turned into good what you intended for evil.”
God can take your fears, your worries, doubts and turn them around to a reason for praising him and celebrating his grace. See God through the lens of the Word of God: we are sinners that need God to save us. When we face a secular world, we fear being different, being set apart. We fear not fitting in. God is able to deliver us! Deliver from our fears. God wants our hearts, not coerced worship. God gives us the freedom of choice in how we respond to him, so that when we choose to give him our lives there is a strength and a confidence.
In our secular world there will be times you will need to resist thinking like the world thinks. Parents and grandparents, you will need to teaching your children about God instead of what the world teaches, we may not be threatened with death as were the three friends of Daniel, but we will be threatened with being thought of as different, peculiar, unfriended (I’ve been unfriended about half a dozen times for my beliefs on FB the past 2-3 months!)…. But hold on till next week, because for the three friends of Daniel everything turns around… the end of the story is significant. Here is a preview of next week’s message: Read the rest of the chapter and ask who is the forth man?
When the secular world contradicts your faith in God, compromise is not an option. The secular world thinks we just need to get better and better. Dare to stand firm like Daniels friends. Dare to be disobedient if what you are being asked to do flies in the face of God. No human authority has the right to demand you go against God.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego chose to not comply with the forced worship, but as far as I can tell they did not make a show of it either. They simply disobeyed. Sometimes a public protest is the way to disobey, other times, like Daniels friends, a silent resistance. I can’t give exact rules… Right at this moment, as the Pastor of the Sumas A.C. Church, I believe my calling generally is to stand firm for the ways and values of God. Sin is not going to disappear, and many people will come to the realization that the way of the world is hollow, and the deepest need is the forgiveness and redemption that can only be found in Jesus Christ. We need to be a community where people can find love, acceptance and forgiveness. We need to keep preaching and living the truth that the way to salvation is through God alone who is able to deliver.
The three friends probably would not have been noticed for their lack of participation of worshipping the great giant golden pencil, because there were thousands of leaders, but guess what. Somebody ratted them out: READ Dan. 3:8, 12. Why do they care? because we are in a clash of world views… is the world getting better and better or is sin prevalent and we need a savior to deliver us… If the world is getting better and better, why does that view need to be forced? Why a demand for a superficial allegiance? The secular world has an uneasy time with Christianity because Christians are different. God wants people’s hearts.
It is so fascinating to me that when the King finds out the three did not bow down to the golden pencil, the King is furious, but then he gives them one more chance. The order in Dan. 3:6 is absolute: READ. Yet when the King confronts the three friends he waffles and gives them one more chance… The King is like the parent that is counting to three for the misbehaving child. “If I get to three you will go to your room: One…two…(pause)…two and a half…” The King hiccups because he doesn’t really want to punish the three friends. I know it’s because the King is intrigued about the God of the Jews…The king is showing a lack of confidence in his own system … The world sees something intriguing about Christianity even if they are trying to tell us we are wrong. They want the Billy Grahams even if they don’t get him… I’ll put the story of Herb Killam and his confident faith up as an example to anybody…
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are in a weak position, but they are strong in God. “we have no need to defend ourselves” they proclaim with confidence as they point to God. Stay faithful to God knowing that we are sinners and he will deliver those who call on his name. I love the way the three friends don’t dictate what God will do, but they leave their lives up to God. The World is becoming challenging as we are moving away from the priorities and values of God. Live your life according the the Word of God. When the world contradicts God, be faithful to Him who is able to rescue you. Amen.
*** NOTE: one of the hard parts for me in talking about some issues is the time factor and my fear of over-explaining an issue. I could talk about science and evolution for a long time, but I am limited. I do believe there is very real place for science, but I believe science would be vastly improved if we would admit in our schools and presentation of science that there are limits to what science can tell us. The general impression is given that science can answer all questions. That is simply not true. I firmly believe in the principle that "All truth is God's truth," which means that if science does uncover something that is true, then we do need to embrace it. As far as evolution goes, I do believe there is such a thing as adaption, but that is quite different from evolution. Species and plants will adapt to an environment over time, but they are still the same basic creation as they always were.