************ Sermon on Daniel 3:1-23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 13, 2003
"Trust and Obey"
"Trust and Obey." Shortly, we will be singing this song. It's a favorite of many believers. This song reminds us that trust (or faith) and obedience always belong together.
Topic: TrustTheir argument is valid. It is we who have been deceived into thinking that the two can be separated. We falsely imagine that it is possible to trust and believe in God while not obeying Him. To trust or believe is to obey, and to obey is to trust and believe. God has put "trust and obey" together, as the hymn says, "for there's no other way."
Title: Trust and Obey
When our missionaries presented the Gospel to the Tzeltal people of Mexico it was discovered that the Tzeltal use the same word for "trusting" as they do for "obeying." The Tzeltal were surprised that we make a distinction between the two concepts, just as we are surprised that they put the two together in one word. They argue that the words should be the same: "If you trust, don't you obey?"
This evening we meet three young men, like the Tzeltal people of Mexico, who know that to trust is to obey and to obey is to trust. When we participated in the Lord's Supper this morning we said we trusted, but do we also obey? God's challenge to us after we have taken the Lord's Supper and tasted of His grace is to be like those three: to trust and obey, for there really is no other way.
I Forcible Heathen Worship
A Remember Nebuchadnezzar's dream? He dreamt of a statue. As Daniel said,
(Dan 2:31-33) "You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue--an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. (32) The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, (33) its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.
(Dan 2:36-38) "This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. (37) You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; (38) in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
Nebuchadnezzar heard this, he thought about this, and a grandiose idea came to mind: he would now make such a statue for himself, even more beautiful than the one he had dreamed about. His statue would not only have a golden head, it would be made completely of gold. And, everyone in the kingdom must fall down and worship that image.
How quickly Nebuchadnezzar forgot the rest of his dream. If you recall, in his dream Nebuchadnezzar was given a vision of the Kingdom of God. He saw a rock cut out, but not by human hands. This rock struck the statue and the statue was smashed and crushed into thousands of little fragments. The rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth (Dan 2:34,35; cf Dan 2:44,45). But Nebuchadnezzar preferred not to think of such things. All he could think of was the head of gold. As Daniel said, "You, O king ... are that head of gold."
How quickly Nebuchadnezzar also forgot the beautiful words of confession he said: "surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings" (Dan 2:47). But who wants to be held to every statement or promise he has ever made? Nebuchadnezzar was not the first of the earth's powerful figures to revoke an earlier declaration, nor would he be the last.
B The gold statue that Nebuchadnezzar made was colossal: ninety feet high and nine feet wide. It was intended to symbolize Babylon's, and therefore Nebuchadnezzar's, dominion, power, might, and glory.
In the Hebrew language, the dimensions are given as sixty cubits high by six cubits wide. Those who are aware of the thread that runs from Daniel through Revelation recognize the significance of these measurements. The number 6 points to the Antichrist, who also had a great statue made; and it points to the beast whose number is 666. This clearly indicates there is a definite anti-Christ and anti-Christian aim to Nebuchadnezzar's building of the statue. This is further seen in Nebuchadnezzar's command: "you must fall down and worship the image of gold" (Dan 3:5).
C Most of Daniel 3 describes for us all that was done to promote and maintain the worship of the image. To begin with, the king called together the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial officials. There they all were – Babylon's high and mighty, the people with power and authority and influence – and they stood before the image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up (Dan 3:3). No doubt they stood at attention. The flags were flying as all these powerful officials raised their arms in the prescribed salute.
Equally impressive as the sight of all those powerful officials standing at attention before the statue was the sound of all the musical instruments: horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music (Dan 3:5).
How impressive, how wondrous, how beautiful it all was. Imagine, the huge golden statue, the impressive parade of thousands upon thousands of officials marching in step, the beating drums, the blaring horns, an entire parade ground of the high and mighty standing at attention with clenched fists in the air.
However, not everything on the plain of Dura was beautiful, majestic, and splendorous. Tucked away in a corner was something incredibly ugly, twisted, and gruesome. It was a blazing furnace belching out black smoke and the smell of charred flesh.
Why the blazing furnace amidst all the beauty, splendor, and majesty? King Nebuchadnezzar knew all too well that not everyone would want to bow down before and worship his golden image. Thus he had to take steps to make certain that every last citizen kneeled before the statue. That was the purpose of the blazing furnace:
(Dan 3:6) Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.Nebuchadnezzar decided he would use intimidation and terror to make the stubborn ones go down on their knees. Nebuchadnezzar decided to rely on fear to get his way.
D What we see here, congregation, is one of the great similarities and one of the great differences between the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan. The great similarity is that in both the Kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of Satan there is no room for those who do not bow down and worship. The great difference is that in the kingdom of Satan there is a place for those who kneel down because they are forced to. Such compliance can even lead to high office and position. But in the Kingdom of Christ there is a place only for those who kneel down because they want to. You see, in the Kingdom of Christ no one is forced to worship the one true God against their will. Rather, Jesus asks us, He invites us, to come and follow Him. Serving God, you see, must be a labor of love and of free obedience, not a matter of forced service. There may be a place for forced service in the kingdom of Satan but the only thing that counts in the Kingdom of Christ is voluntary consecration.
I have to ask you, young people, boys and girls, congregation, if you have given your life to Christ? Have you invited Jesus into your heart? Do you serve God willingly, cheerfully, gladly? No other service is acknowledged by the Lord. No other service counts for anything. You may be or may become an elder or a deacon in the church or perhaps even a minister, but if you kneel before Christ only because others do or because your parents taught you to, this means nothing. So I ask you again, "Have you invited Jesus into your heart? Have you given Him your life? Do you serve Him willingly, cheerfully, gladly?"
II Refusal to Compromise
A What happened after Nebuchadnezzar gave his command to "fall down and worship the image of gold" (Dan 3:5). We are told that
(Dan 3:7) ... as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.How could all of these people from all these nations fall down and worship the image of gold? They all had their own gods that they worshiped. How could they so easily deny and forsake their own gods?
An important principle is at work here, congregation. It was believed by the pagans that the country of the strongest god won the battles and had the empires. Since Babylon, under Nebuchadnezzar, had defeated all the other nations, everyone could only conclude that the Babylonian god was the strongest god and the god most worthy of worship. So it was quite easy for any pagan to bow down and worship the image. It was no big deal for any pagan to compromise his faith and belief in his own god.
B Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had problems with this kind of compromise. They could not bow down and worship the image. Their God had said, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex 20:3) and, "You shall not make for yourself an idol ... You shall not bow down to them or worship them ..." (Ex 20:4-5). For the three Jews there was only one God, not a number of gods. For them there was only one God worthy of worship: the Lord God almighty. For them to worship the image would be a complete denial of everything they believed. For them no compromise was possible. So they refused to bow down and worship the golden image.
When King Nebuchadnezzar heard of this he flew into a furious rage (Dan 3:13). He summoned the three and gave them an ultimatum: "fall down and worship [or] be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace" (Dan 3:15).
What did the three do? They refused to bow down. They did not even consider this option. They chose to remain obedient to God. "The God we serve is able to save us," they said (Dan 3:17). The God they served, the same God that we serve – as the Lord's Supper shows us – is the saving God. In fact, He is the only saving God. And, to bow down to any other god or image is to endanger salvation. So, by the grace and power of God these three men refused to compromise their faith. They insisted on being obedient to God even if it meant a fiery death. They trusted and obeyed.
Compromise could have been easy. They could have bowed down, like all the other Jewish youths did, and said to themselves, "we are only pretending to worship." But they refused any and all compromise here.
By refusing to compromise the three men were bucking the tide, they were going against the stream, they were sticking out like sore thumbs. Everyone else bowed down and worshiped. Only they remained standing. They trusted and obeyed.
Every parent eventually hears the cry, "But everyone is doing it ..." That's because of the "herd instinct." No one wants to be different. No one wants to stick out. It is always a great temptation to do what everyone else does. If everyone falls to his knees when the music sounds, it requires much faith and courage to stand there alone, tall and strong and sticking out.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not scared to be different. They knew they would suffer because of this. But they refused to compromise on their faith. They knew that God's people cannot compromise on faith and religion. They trusted and obeyed.
C On this Lord's Supper evening I want to ask how we measure against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? Like them we cannot compromise on matters of faith and religion. Like them we have to realize that the ways of the world are not the ways of the church. Like them we have to realize that something isn't right just because "everyone is doing it." Like them we have to resolve to be one of the Lord's holy and different people. Like them we have to trust and obey.
The world presses us on every side, nibbling away, getting us to compromise a little bit here, a little bit there, until eventually there is nothing left to compromise and we are no different from the man, woman, or child of the world. But unless we stand up for Jesus, unless we dare to be different, unless we buck the tide and row against the stream, we can only end up hurting ourselves.
Let me mention some areas where it is so easy to compromise, to go the ways of the world, to not stand up for Jesus. Let's talk about life's goals. What are your goals? The world's advice: go for big bucks with free weekends. The Lord's will: choose a career, a job, an occupation in which you can serve the Lord and advance the Kingdom. Or, what about dating and marriage. Like the world, you can choose to date and marry only the best-looking and the most popular and the richest or, in obedience to the Lord, you can choose to date and marry only a fellow believer.
Like many in the world, you can abuse alcohol, drugs, tobacco or you can be a fit temple for the Holy Spirit. You can listen to the worst of the world's music, watch the worst of what is on TV or on videos. Or, we can do what God commands in Philippians 4: think of, listen to, and watch only what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Phil 4:8).
We can compromise in beliefs and convictions too. The world tells us there is no almighty Creator of heaven and earth. They deny Him and teach evolution. It is so easy to begin the process of compromise by denying there was a real Garden of Eden and a real snake talking to a real Eve. We can begin the process of compromise here by saying Scripture is filled with errors and inconsistencies. The world also tells us all paths, all faiths, and all religions lead to God and heaven. We can go along with this or we can say Jesus alone is the way, the truth, and the life.
The world wants us to compromise on morals and morality. It tells us same sex marriages and homosexual relationships are not to be condemned – in fact, they are to be encouraged. The world permits pre-marital and extra-marital sex. The world wants us to accept the concept of starter marriages – a marriage you start off with until something better comes along. The world wants us to deny that the family is the foundation of society. All it takes to compromise ourselves in these areas is to be silent bystanders, to remain silent to and about those who engage in such practices.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego loved the Lord and willingly served and worshiped Him. They both trusted and obeyed the Lord. They refused to compromise their faith in the saving God.
Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego we also are to love and willing serve and worship the Lord. This morning in the Lord's Supper we said we trust the Lord, but we are also to obey the Lord. We too are not to compromise our faith in the saving God. Instead, no matter what the cost, we are to trust and obey.
Let me ask you, do you trust and obey?
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