A Fiery Trial, A Vindicated Faith (Daniel Sermon 6 of 17)

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A Fiery Trial, A Vindicated Faith (Daniel Sermon 6 of 17)

January 14, 2001 | Andrew Davis
Daniel 3
Persecution, Courage

I. The History of Persecution: Government Gone Berserk

Would and open to Daniel 3. We're going to look at a thrilling story this morning and very familiar to all of you, especially children, the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace. And I was thinking this morning about this message and an odd thought came to me, and I don't know if you can track this, but I'm going to give it a try.

I find in our story today and just thinking about church history, a strange relationship between fire and government. You wonder "what in the world does fire have to do with government?" Not much usually. But look at it this way, both fire and government are good gifts from God, if they stay in their proper boundaries, but if they start to go over where they don't belong, then there's problems. And we see that in our story today, with the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and we see it throughout church history.

God gave government to be a gift to us, did He not? Romans 13 says so, government is a gift from God, and the authorities that institute are instituted by God. What would our life in America be like if there were absolutely no government authorities, think about that. The effect that it has on transportation, on restraining evil, on restraining crime, for example, what would your life be like? Government is a good gift from God. It gives a matrix for the advance of the kingdom of God, a restraining of sin nature and it is a good thing, Romans 13.

But what happens if it flows over, beyond the boundaries God set up into areas it should not go. Then you get the beast of Revelation 13. Romans 13, Revelation 13. Romans 13, good gift from God, Revelation 13, the beast step out of the ocean, and that's what you get I think in Daniel 3, where someone stands up in front of you, and compels you to worship something contrary to your convictions, and we've seen that. And Jesus himself said in John 15, that if they persecuted him, if they attacked him, they're going to attack his followers, and so, they did.

The Martyrdom of Polycarp

Now, many of you were in our church history seminar. And for those of you who haven't signed up, it's not too late, just come, you don't need to sign up, just come. But we're studying church history, and in the first section we talked about the persecution of the Early Church under the Roman emperors. And we went over one of my favorite stories from that part of history, and that's the Martyrdom of Polycarp. And I like to read a fourth century account of this.

Polycarp was a Christian, he was a bishop in the city of Smyrna in Asia Minor. And he was accused of being a Christian, which he was, he was 86 years old. And he was brought into the amphitheater and the procurator, the proconsul, the governor began to accuse him. And this is what it says, Polycarp stepped forward and he was asked by the proconsul if he really was Polycarp. When he said yes, the proconsul urged him to deny the charge. "Respect your years", he exclaimed, adding similar appeals regularly made on such occasions, "swear by Caesar's fortune, change your attitude and say, away with the godless."

Interestingly, in Asia Minor, they called Christians godless, because we didn't worship all their gods. It seemed like we had no gods and so they called us atheists, or godless. Well, "say away with the godless" and Polycarp with his face set looked up at the crowd, and waved his hand and said, "away with the godless. I'm not godless you are. You don't know the true God, the Creator God."

The governor pressed him further, "swear and I will set you free." See, that's the temptation isn't it? If you just deny Christ, I'll let you go free. Execrate Christ, he said curse Christ. And at that Polycarp said, "for 86 years I have been his servant and he has never done me wrong. How can I blasphemy my King who saved me?" what a courageous answer. "I have wild beasts" said the proconsul, "I shall throw you to them if you don't change your attitude." "Call them" he said, the old man.

"We cannot change our attitude, if it means a change from better to worse. But it is a splendid thing to change from cruelty to justice." "If you make light with the beasts," retorted the governor, "I'll have you destroyed by fire unless you change your attitude." Now, listen to Polycarp's response. Polycarp answered, "the fire you threaten burns for a little while, and then is extinguished. There is a fire you know nothing about, the fire of judgment to come and of eternal punishment. The fire reserved for the ungodly. But why do you hesitate? Do what you want"

The proconsul was amazed and sent the Herald to stand in the middle of the arena and announce three times, "Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian." Then the shout went up from every throat that Polycarp must be burned alive, the rest followed in less time than it takes to describe. The crowd rushed to gather logs and kindling from workshops and public baths, and when the fire was ready Polycarp prayed.

"Oh, Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to know thee, the God of angels and powers and all creation and of the whole family of the righteous who live in thy presence, I bless thee, for counting me worthy of this day and hour that I may in the number of the martyrs partake of Christ's cup, to the resurrection of eternal life, of both soul and body, in the imperishability that is the gift of the Holy Spirit." What a prayer! The ancient defender of our faith Tertullian said, "The blood of martyrs is seed for the Church."

Polycarp dies, hundreds of new Christians spring up from his blood. And after he prayed that prayer, when he had offered up the Amen and completed his prayer, the men in charge, lit the fire and a great flame shot up. Now, it could be that Polycarp gained courage for his trial from the story we're going to look at today, Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

II. Nebuchadnezzar’s Defiant Statue (3:1-7)

Now, in order to understand this story, we have to set the context. The context of Daniel 3 is Daniel 2. In order to understand Daniel 3, properly I think you have to understand what just happened in Chapter 2, and what just happened. Remember that Nebuchadnezzar was thinking about the future. He was laying on his bed, and he had a dream. And in his dream, he saw an awesome statue, tall and dazzling in a plain. And the statue was interesting in that it had a gold head, and chest and arms of silver, and a belly and thighs of bronze. And legs of iron and then feet partly iron and partly clay. We went through that over the last number of weeks, and we've come to understand it. Well, now, here in Chapter 3, what do we have? We have a statue but what do you notice about the statue? It's gold from top to bottom. Could it be that Nebuchadnezzar is rebelling against the thing that God has told him that there will be an end to the Babylonian empire? "You O king are that head of gold." Alright, then I'm going to be the whole statue, top to bottom. There's not going to be an end, there's not going to be any chest and arms of silver, or belly and thighs of bronze. I am the Eternal kingdom.

Was he really that prideful? Oh, absolutely. I think that's the context here. And so, he sets up his statue. Now we're going to go through this passage, it's narrative, it's familiar to all of you, and I think as we move through it, we're going to see some fascinating things.

"Now King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So, the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image the King Nebuchadnezzar, had set up and they stood before it. Then the herald loudly proclaimed 'This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language. As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, the flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down, and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up and whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.' Therefore as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, Zither, lyre, Harps and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshipped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up."

Now the statue is described as of immense size, 90 feet high, that's the height of a nine-story building. Can you imagine that? And he... I would imagine, did not make it out of pure gold, he could not have had that much gold in the kingdom, probably it was overlaid with gold, but it was dazzling. It was tall. It had an odd proportion, it was a 10-1 ratio, as you look at it, 90 feet high, nine feet wide. So, really probably wasn't the statue of a human being, although it may have been capped with a head of gold or something like that. But it was a statue none the less and the people were summoned. And here we have the tyrant's lust for power. He wants total control over the people in his realm, he wants to see them on their faces before the statue just because he gives the order. Total compliance. And so the command goes out with the herald, the music's going to play. It's some kind of perhaps some sultry music or something that entices them into this false worship. And behind it all, are the consequences, and what are the consequences?

Verse 6, that furnace. It's the power of the state you see, the power of execution, the power of the sword. But it's used for a wrong reason. See according to Romans 13, the power of the sword is to compel you to do right, not wrong. And so he uses it wrongly, death by burning and so this is a tyrant's greatest weapon, it's intimidation, fear, you'd be afraid of what's going to happen to you. And so they say religion is the opiate of the masses. The Marxist said that. What that means is that it takes away people's desire to rebel. They don't want to rebel because they're placated with thinking about the next world. That's how it works. I think fear is the opiate of the masses, in this case. They're afraid to rebel, they're not going to overthrow this tyrant because they don't want to be thrown in the fiery furnace and so they bow down and they worship.

And so in this case, the state uses the religion, the unholy marriage of state and religion we see here. Power of the sword compelling conviction in worship. And they do it in verse 7. The Fear does its work. And what is being worshipped here? It's not a 90-foot high statue that's being worshipped here. It's people's own comfort, it's their own lives, that's being worship, it's the fact that they don't want to lose what they have. They don't want to lose their lives, their family they don't want to lose their possessions and so, they bow down and they worship. What's being worshipped here is earthly comfort and life. And so they bow down.

III. The Chaldeans’ Jealous Accusation (3:8-12)

Now in Verses 8-12, we see the Chaldeans’ jealous accusation. At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews, they said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "O king, live forever. You have issued a degree O king that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, Zither, lyre, Harp, pipes and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who pay no attention to you, O king, they neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold that you have set up."

Now, what is the motive of the Chaldeans? Well, there are a couple of possibilities. I think the first and most obvious one is jealousy. They are jealous. And we're going to see this again in Daniel 6, when Daniel's accused by during the time of Darius the Mede and he is thrown into the lion’s den. It's jealousy. And by the way, you may be wondering, where's Daniel in all this, you can bet he didn't bow down and worship that statue. So we have no idea where Daniel was. We can't even answer. We have to assume that perhaps the king sent him away on business and did his dirty work while Daniel was a way. I really have no idea. But there's no way that Daniel would have bowed down and worship that statue. But at any rate, the motive here is jealousy. They're jealous over Daniel's promotion and they're jealous over Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their promotion.

You see some, what we have today in terms of office politics. You want to get ahead, you have to slander your enemy. There are certain rules to how you do this. And so they use this accusation. It could also be not just jealousy, but maybe conviction. Imagine the scene. We've got this whole valley, maybe, or a plain, and then there's this idolatrous statue set up and everyone, I mean people of all nations and tribes and languages, they're all flat on their face except these three Jews. It's kind of disproportionate, isn't it? Everyone's doing it, and these three aren't. And it's clear they're doing it, or not doing it, they're not bowing down out of personal conviction. And I think when you have somebody who's willing to stand up like that, in this case literally to stand up and not bow down, it creates a kind of a prick in the heart, a conviction, a nick. Something's not right here. Now remember what we learned in the book of Romans, that they know in their hearts God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death.

They know it, and yet they bow down anyway. And so it could be they're also feeling conviction, and instead of saying, "Tell us about your God, tell us the source of your strength and your courage," they want to kill them. It's the old Cain and Abel thing. Why did Cain want to kill his brother Abel? Because Abel's actions were righteous and his brothers were evil. And so they flatter the king and they denounce God's people in verse 8 and 9. They use flattery first. "O King, live forever." And then they denounce the Jews, they attack them and they make the accusation. And in order to do that, they recount the decree and its penalty and they make a three-fold accusation. Number one, they say they "pay no attention to you, O King." Number two, "they neither serve your gods." And number three, "nor worship the image of gold that you have set up."

Now, of those three, only two were true. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, like Daniel were good administrators, they were good officials. They had every desire to pay attention to the king, and they'll prove that by obeying his command to come out of the fire. We'll talk about that in a minute. They are submissive to his authority, but they are not going to follow him when he goes beyond the boundary set by God. And it's interesting that Nebuchadnezzar knows that, because he doesn't even repeat that charge. When he brings the Jews in and their trial by fire occurs, look at verse 13 and following, "Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king. And Nebuchadnezzar said to them, 'Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold that I have set up?'" So you can see he drops the first charge. It's not true that they pay no attention to the king. They pay attention to the king every day in those matters that it's appropriate to obey the king in. But they do not worship his gods, he knows that, and they do not bow down and worship that idol that he has set up.

IV. The Jews’ Trial by Fire (3:13-23)

And so now we must have the trial of faith. Faith must be tested to be proved genuine. Now who does the testing? Well, it's God that does the testing. He wants to prove your faith. You can't see faith. You can claim to have faith, but until the time for deeds occurs, we have no way of knowing. No one has any way of knowing whether your faith is genuine or counterfeit.

Faith must be proved by action. This is the message of the Book of James. That's why, and this is the verse that Laura quoted earlier, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you'll be mature and complete, not lacking anything." We've got to test the faith to bring it to full completion. Peter picks up on the same thing in 1 Peter 1. He says, "In this, you greatly rejoice. Though now, for a little while, you may have had to suffer grief and all kinds of trials, these have come so that your faith, of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire, may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." You put fire on gold and it's hot enough, the gold is destroyed. But if you put fire on faith, it only purifies it and makes it beautiful. That's what happens to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God puts the fire on that faith to test it and prove it to be true.

And why does he do it? He does it because his reputation is at stake. And we're going to talk about that more in a moment, but God's reputation is at stake. Now, Nebuchadnezzar provides the furnace, doesn't he? Physically, literally. He's the only that supply... Alright, the faith must be tested, I'll supply the furnace, okay? The Jews will supply the faith, that's how it works. And so we see the tyrant's rage. And look what he says, furious with rage. Well, he was angry before, but now he's angry and he's going to get even angrier. It's like this guy has no end to his anger. Tyrant's rage, and like most tyrants, his rage is connected with pride. It's "moral filth," it says in James 1, this kind of human anger and rage. Proverbs 20 verse 2 says, "A king's wrath is like the roar of a lion. He who angers him forfeits his life." Well, it's just a statement of fact. If you get a king angry in a setting like this, you're going to be killed. And so they summon the Jews. And can you imagine what it was like? I just want you to put yourself in their place. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew this was coming, and they're summoned to appear before Nebuchadnezzar.

What, maybe he had another dream he wants interpreting. Uh-uh, no, no, it's time for testing. They knew what was coming. What would it have been like to make that walk surrounded by armed guards? What would have been going through your stomach? Would you be up to it? Are you ready? It may be coming, brothers and sisters. We've had a vacation here in the US for 225 years, but it may be coming. Get ready, prepare yourself. So they're walking, surrounded by guards, and on they come, alright. And then comes this inquisition. And imagine as you come into the throne room and there's all these counselors and everyone. Do you think there's a sense of friendliness there? "Well, it's good to see you, let's talk something through." They hated these people You could feel it, a palpable anger down on them. Could you stand under that cauldron? That's like a furnace itself. The looks, the anger, the persecution, you could feel it. And they move in and the king says, "Is it true?" in probably his deepest voice. "Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not worship my gods or bow down at the golden idol that I have set up?"

The emphasis here is on intimidation. So he's got to dominate. That's what it is with tyrants. They've got to dominate, they've got to get you to bow down before them. And here is the real test, and this is called the second chance. Oh, this is diabolical. You don't have to say just once, but maybe several times, what your conviction is. He said, "Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good." Do you see what very good means? I will set you free. This was the emperor Trajan's policy, from the early part of the second century. If anyone is accused of being a Christian and they deny it, and they burn that pinch of incense to the emperor, we'll set them free. No fine, no incarceration, no problems. That is diabolical because it pulls on you to deny Christ, you see? It pulls on you to give in.

He said, "If you'll do it, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace." This is the threat. Nebuchadnezzar's oven is raging hot and he can see it from his throne, remember? Later on in the account, he's looking in and he can see them in there. So it's right there. They could probably feel the heat. This is not an idle threat. This guy really did this kind of thing. But I think at this moment their faith really kicks in. This is what saves them, because they see a yet further and future accounting before a greater king, God himself. And that's what enables you to survive.

"Do not fear those who kill the body and after that can do nothing to you. I'll tell you the one to fear, [said Jesus] fear the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." And they did. How would they feel on Judgment Day, if the King of the universe said, "Is it true, oh, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that in a time of testing you crumbled and you fell down and worshipped an idol contrary to my clear command, is that true?" "Yes, Lord." Hmm, may it never be. They're willing to pay with their lives for their conviction.

Polycarp had that mind, remember? He said, "The fire you threaten burns for a little while and it's out, but there's a fire that never stops for the godless." And then comes the one line that saves their life and I love it. What did Nebuchadnezzar say next? He said, "you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?"

Oh, alright, alright, we're going to draw up the battle lines here. And we're going to see, we're going to make this an open contest between Nebuchadnezzar and God, who's going to win? That line, I think saved their lives that day, okay. It's going to be that clear. God is going to honor his own name. He's going to exalt His own name. I love that line. Nebuchadnezzar at this point is an open rebellion against God, and I really think that... I really love this story. If Nebuchadnezzar is in heaven, and he may well be, this is the darkest part of the night before the light comes in chapter 4. He's so prideful.

V. God’s Vindication by Faith (3:16-18, 24-30)

And then the Jews gave one of those incredible answers. Verse 16: "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king: 'Oh, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, oh, king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, oh king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.""

Oh, what an answer. And you wonder where do these kind of answers come from? I never get to say great things like that. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10 that when they bring you before their kings, do not worry ahead of time what to say, at that time it will be given you what to say for the spirit of my Father will tell you what to say. And so it happens. What a line! Oh, he's able to do it, but even if he doesn't, we're not going to disobey him.

I love that. Just like Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him." I'm not going to disobey even if I do die. And Polycarp did die, didn't he? God does not always do the amazing rescue like he does for Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. And what effect did this have on the court? I heard a story once about an oriental king. I don't know if it was Genghis Khan, it may have been. But he was trying to take a city, the city would not give into his military power and so he called emissaries from the city and they came and stood before this tyrant, this oriental king, and he ordered three of his strongest men to stand forward. And he said, "Observe." And he said, and he gave the order, and those men drew their swords and killed themselves right in front of these emissaries. He said, "All the soldiers in my army are like this. Every one of them, they'll die from me." They opened the doors of the city that day. Said, "We can't stand up against that kind of commitment."

And in effect, isn't that what Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah did? They're willing to die rather than disobey God. Let me tell you something, Jesus when he said, "I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not stand up against it." Those gates have to open before that kind of commitment, willingness to die rather than disobey. This kind of soldiers. It says that his troops, Jesus' troops will be ready in the day of battle. Are we that ready? Are you that ready? Do you have that kind of commitment?

Well, at this point, this did not mollify and say, "Wow, boy, what faith! I'd like to know more about your God, will you tell me something?" No, it just enrages him more. He is almost berserk at this point. He was angry before, now his face changes. Verse 19, "Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego." What was he before? I guess it's just different levels of purple on his face. "And his attitude towards them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times harder than the usual, and he commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace."

Now, this shows you the insanity of anger. If he really wanted to hurt them, he would have cooled the fire off. Do you understand? Get it just enough to torment, but not enough to kill. Instead, he says, "Seven times hotter," and poof they're gone. Just like that. What happened to the men that threw them in? Well, look what happens. So these men wearing their robes, trousers, turbans, and other clothes were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king's command was so urgent, and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and these three men firmly tied fell into the blazing furnace. That was a hot fire.

And here we have God's vindication by faith. Now, God's reputation is at stake. Remember what Nebuchadnezzar said "what God will be able to rescue you from my hand" and realize that it's his reputation is at stake because Nebuchadnezzar has conquered Jerusalem in the Promised Land. And so he's already saying, "Hey I've already beaten you on the battlefield. He wasn't able to rescue you from exile. Why is he going to rescue you from the furnace?" So God's reputation is at stake, and he says so, in Ezekiel, he says, "you defiled my name by the countries I sent you to." Because they're saying "Look at what... God couldn't keep you safe in your own Promised Land", so he has to do something to vindicate His name, and he does these miracles I think, for that reason. To vindicate His name, and his faith, the faith vindicates God. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego's loyalty to God vindicated him. I'd rather have God's pleasure, than life itself. Then God vindicates the faithful, not only did the Jews vindicate God, but God vindicated the Jews.

He's supernaturally protected these three from the fire and heat. How? I have absolutely no idea. Now I could get technical with you right here and tell you what fire is and what heat is and about heat and mass transfer, and how air molecules move and all that. I have no idea how it is that they felt no heat. All I know is that God is able to control atoms and molecules, even down to the minutest level. And they felt nothing. It was like a... Maybe it was even cool for them. Maybe he orchestrated some air conditioning feeling around them. I don't really have any idea, but they obviously were not having any distress. Their turbines, their hair. I mean nothing. There was not... Nothing was touching them. The men were consumed as soon as they got near it, but they are free.

And they're walking around what happened to their bands around them. I don't know, they just dropped off, they got burned, I guess. But these men are free. And oh, the freedom of walking with Jesus in the middle of a trial. And why do you say with Jesus? Well, look what happens. Verse 24, "Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisors, 'weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire.' They replied 'certainly O King.' He said, 'Look, I see four men walking around in the fire unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.'" Wow! Imagine walking with Jesus in the middle of that trial. Now, I don't know if it was Jesus, some commentator say it was... Maybe it was just an angel, I don't know. I love to think it was a pre-incarnate Christ coming down to just be with them. And lo, I will be with you always even to the very end of the age, He's with us in the middle of the trial, a son of the gods, he says in Isaiah 43:2, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And when you passed through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned." Isaiah 43:2, write that one down. "The flames will not set you ablaze." That's a literal fulfillment of a prediction. I will be with you when you walk through the fire.

Now, what is it that made that fourth figure look like a son of the gods. Remember when the angels appeared to the shepherds what happened? The glory of the Lord shown all around them. God usually uses light, to display His glory. Could it be that this figure was brighter than the furnace fire? Brighter than the furnace fire? Yeah, and still not full brightness folks, we couldn't survive it. The glory of God.

And then he gives what I think is the funniest command in the Bible. Now, you may not think it's funny, but I think it's incredibly funny. "Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here!" They could have said, "No, King, you come in and get us." Well but see they're not being sassy like I just was a second ago. They're submissive to His authority, you know? Alright, we'll come out. That doesn't contradict any command of God, we'll come out of the fire. And so, they did come out of the fire and they get around them, verse 27, "The satraps, prefects, governors, royal advisors, crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies nor was a hair of their head singed, their robes was not scorched and there was no smell of fire on them." Miracle, nothing else, just a miracle.

And then Nebuchadnezzar, its reward time. Let's lavish out our rewards. Okay, this is amazing, I mean it really is amazing. And so he's going to give rewards. Its like, "For God we’ll give some praise, and we'll make an edict a decree about him, and for the Jews, we'll give them a promotion." So we see his rewards for whatever they're worth. Verse 28, Nebuchadnezzar said, "Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants, they trusted in Him and defied the King's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God."

And then verse 29 here, we make a mistake, we make a mistake and it's like, he doesn't... He does not learn his lesson. It takes the Baptist to teach the world on this issue. Separation of church and state. We're the ones that have to bring this message to the world. Verse 29, "Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other God can save in this way." Does that decree help the building of God's kingdom? No, you can't compel people to fear the Lord. They fear the Lord, when they believe His word, that's all. When you hear these things and believe that's when you fear the Lord, not because some King says by means of a decree.

VI. Applications

Now, what applications can we take from this? I want to just ask some questions here. The first question printed in your bulletin, it's simple. Is the world a friend to your faith or we could rephrase it. Has the world become a friend to your faith? No, and it never will be. Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. Do not expect the world to embrace your faith. Secondly, is your faith genuine? Is it real? It's not a matter of signing a card, walking an isle, praying a prayer, even getting baptized, it's not that, it's saving faith in Jesus Christ. The kind discussed in Romans 4, "Abraham believed God and was credited him as righteousness", real faith, is a gift from God. Do you have real faith? Their courage was a mark of real faith.

God is in the business of testing faith to see if it's real or not, and it's a good thing he does, because there are counterfeits out there. Oh, that you may not have a counterfeit, it will not save you. Is your faith genuine? And if you have a genuine faith, is your faith pure? Well, if not and none of us has a perfectly pure faith. What is it that purifies faith? Trials, like this. Do not run from them. Rejoice in them. In a moment, we're going to sing how firm a foundation, listen to one of the verses. "When through fiery trials, thy pathway shall lie, my grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply. The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine." Is your faith pure, if not pray that God would bring trials to you, so that your faith will get stronger and more pure. A tone of pure joy when he does, says James.

Do you love your life too much? How could we possibly love life too much? This is the sanctity of human life Sunday, can we love life too much? Yes, if it causes us to deny our Lord, Revelation 12-11, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

Next question, will you speak for God? Will you stand up in this culture and make an unpopular argument? We talked about one earlier today, will you be willing to stand up for God and take the slings and arrows of persecution that come our way? It's not physical not yet, but it may be but you may be rejected by friends, and even family. Are you willing to stand up and speak for God? And then most importantly, will, God save you from the final fire. Remember of what I spoke to you about the righteousness of Jesus Christ being like an Asbestos robe that enables you to pass through the fire of judgment day.

If you have Christ's righteousness imputed to you about faith, you will survive that fiery trial, but if you don't, you will not. Do you have true saving faith, the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ? Remember Nebuchadnezzar's final statement. "No other God can save this way," only God can save you from that fire to come, trust in Christ. And if you do have that kind of saving faith ask that question to a neighbor, a co-worker, a relative if they might have a faith that will enable them to survive the final judgment. Please close with me now in prayer.

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