Daniel 3:1-30 - Faith in the Furnace

Steve Viars March 6, 1999 Daniel 3:1-30

- [on overhead] - “The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls, who have conviction of heart, and who not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances.”
- That’s a quote from David Jeremiah in his book “The Handwriting on the Wall.”

- let me ask you this morning --- do you agree with those words? 
- though the book was written seven years ago now, could it just as easily apply to last year, or least month, or last week?
- REPEAT QUOTE

- please think with me about ways in which that’s true.....
1) Does the world need people of conviction when it comes to race relations....
- After the gruesome murder of James Byrd, Jr., and the trial of John King, and the horrible comments of radio shock jock Doug Tracht, who said after playing a song performed by a African American singer, “No wonder people drag them behind trucks.”
- Does the world need people of conviction, who will stand with God Himself and say.....  “I will not be a respector of persons.....I will not judge people by the color of their skin, but I will dedicate myself to showing love to people of all races regardless of how others around me may live”?

2) Does the world need people of conviction when it comes to financial integrity?
- when the International Olympic Committee is rocked with scandal over bribes from city officials hoping to be selected as the host site of the next Olympic games?
- does the world need people of conviction, who will stand for God and say, “I will not lie, I will not cheat, I will not give or receive bribes....regardless of the personal advantage it may bring.”

3) Does the world need people of conviction when it comes to sexual integrity?
- a couple of weeks ago I used a fictional illustration about tolerance that contained a fictional woman named Monica.....
- people told me later that they were unable to concentrate on the rest of the illustration because of the strong images the word “Monica” conjured up in their minds.
- what does it say about the state of our society when a pastor has to cleanse his illustrations of certain names because of immoral images that some names conjure up?
- does the world need people of conviction, who will stand up and say....I will only use my body in a way that pleases my God...because I recognize that my body belongs to Him?
4) Does the world need people of conviction when it comes to religious integrity?
- when a pastor of a Baptist church is convicted along with his extra-marital lover of extortion in federal court during the week and is back preaching at his church the following Sunday morning.....
- does the world need people of conviction who will say, “We will operate the church according to the Word of God, and when His Word is violated, responsibility will be taken and consequences will be accepted.”
- Friends, this quote is true..... “The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls, who have conviction of heart, and who not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances.”
- and the question is --- Are you a person of conviction.....are you a person of integrity?
- and I trust that I’m speaking to a group of people this morning who would say --- I certainly want to be.
- this morning, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to Daniel chapter 3.
- We’re not discussing this matter because of contemporary events, although the freshness and relevance of the Scriptures takes your breathe away.
- we’re studying this issue because it’s the next topic in the text.
- we’re been studying the book of Daniel, verse by verse and chapter by chapter.
- you can find the location of the book of Daniel by looking in the Table of contents in the front of your Bible or by finding the big books of Psalms and Proverbs and then continuing to turn to the right through the book of Ecclesiates, Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
- for those who are new to this book --- Daniel was a Jewish teenager....who was deported to the country of Babylon along with some other choice young people by King Nebuchanezzar around 605 BC.
- This book is all about how Daniel and his friends were able to faithfully live for God, even though they were in a pagan culture, far away from home, and far away from parental authority and influence.
- our goal this morning is to study all of chapter 3, and in the process learn three principles to help us be people of integrity.....the kind of people that God wants, and the kind of people our world so desperately needs.
- read Daniel 3:1-7
- in these verses we’re looking for three principles to help us be people of integrity.


I. The Pressure to Bow to Other Gods is Great.


- In each of the four illustrations I mentioned in the introduction this mroning, each person did what they did in part because they were worshipping the wrong god.
- Fundamentally speaking, integrity is an issue of worship.
- Thats why Daniel 3 can be such a help to us.
- Every person in this room faces that issue every day....who am I going to worship....who’s going to be my God?
- now please remember....this event is not recorded in the Bible as a bedtime story....
- its here to help us understand the kind of pressure we’re going to face, and how to overcome it victoriously.... I. The Pressure to Bow to Other Gods is Great.
- now the passage says Nebuchadnezzar set up a large image of gold.....
- it might be helpful to make a note in your Bible that these events took place 15-20 years after the events of chapter 2....- so there’s a significant time lapse here....
- if you were last week, you know that we studied about Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in chapter 2....of this image that had four parts --- [do you remember what they were?]
- a head of gold, and breast and arms of silver, and belly and thigh of bronze, and legs and feet of iron mixed with clay.
- and you know that God allowed his servant Daniel to interpret the dream....and Daniel explained to Nebuchanezzar that he [Nebuchadnezzar] was the head of gold because God had so richly blessed him with wealth and power....
- but that subsequent kingdoms would overthrow his...each one being of decreasing quality or value....until God would send His Stone, cut without hands...the Lord Jesus Christ....to establish His kingdom on this earth.
- you also remember that at the end of chapter 2, Nebuchanezzar made some sort of profession of faith, saying that everyone should worship Daniel’s God.
- but like many professions of faith --- time proved that it wasn’t genuine, because 15-20 years later....in Daniel chapter 3, Nebuchanezzar is setting up this 90 foot image of himself, overlaid with gold, and commanding everyone to worship him.

- John Whitcomb, who has written an excellent commentary on the book of Daniel, said, “It is entirely possible that Nebuchaddnezzar, remembering the spectacular image he saw in his dream more than 15 years earlier, attempted to duplicate it in material form.  Daniel had told him that he would be the head of gold (2:38) but that he would be followed by “another kingdom inferior to you” (2:39) made of silver.  Rejecting now the idea that any kingdom could follow his own, he may have determined to show the permanence of his golden kingdom by having the entire image covered with gold.  Thus, he clung to the more flattering aspects of the dream interpretation but dropped the rest.  The fact that he was no longer honoring the God of the Jews is clear from his statement to the three friends of Daniel: “What God is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (3:15).

- now, I think it would be wise for all of us to try to picture all of this in our minds....
- Nebucahnezzar has this huge image built, and then he calls all the leaders together, and assembles a large orchestra.....
- and then he says at the end of verse 5 --- as soon as you hear the music, “you are to fall down and worship the image that Nebuchanezzar the king has set up.”

- the principle that flows out of the passage is this.... I. The Pressure to Bow to Other Gods is Great.
- now, I’d like to ask you a question....are you aware of that pressure?
- are you on guard for the pressure that you face to worship other gods?

- for example, you walk into the mall.....and what’s the message that comes screaming out?
- you need this, and this, and this, and this.
- you don’t have to pay for it now.....we’ll bill you later.....
- but bow and worship at the god of self-fulfillment and immediate gratification.
- and how many families find themselves under extreme pressure because they’ve bowed to that god?
- then you go to work......and the variety of possible idols to worship can be staggering.....
- you may have a boss who wants you to worship your work.....
- and maybe he doesn’t have much of a life, or much of a family.....so he worships work, and he wants you to as well.....
- and there’s that pressure to bow at the idol of the company......and the almighty god of the praise of men.....
- or someone else at work wants you to be deceptive.....
- everyone else in the group is padding their expense account....and it will look bad if yours is so low....and after all, the bonus they gave us this year was way too small.....
- bow at the idol of greed.....
- and someone else at work speaks to you in a suggestive way.....
- and pretty soon your mind is racing...and your heart is lusting.....
- and though no one has erected a 90 foot golden image in the office....the potential idolatry is the same.....
- bow at the idol of sexual sin.
- so the pressure to bow to other gods is great, and while we may not have had anyone suggest this week that we bow down to a statue that was 90 feet tall....we would be very shortsighted to think that we haven’t faced this same pressure in our lives this week.
- see, did you recognize the pressure to bow to other gods, and did you handle it appropriately?

- now, at this point in the discussion, I’d like to mention 3 quick things that actually complicates this issue---and makes the pressure to bow down to other gods even greater:
1) One is --- the existence of our adversary the devil.
- all through the Bible, Satan’s goal is to promote the worship of false gods.
- that’s why he fell out of heaven himself---because he didn’t want to worship the true God anymore, he wanted to elevate himself above God.
- that’s the approach he took with Adam and Eve --- you don’t have to listen to God’s commands ---- you can be your own god.
- that was part of the temptation he used with Christ in the wilderness....taking him to a high mountain and saying --- All these things will I give you, if you fall down and worship me.
- and our adversary is using the same method with the church ---- that’s why Paul said in II Cor. 11:3 - But I am afraid, lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity  of devotion to Christ.
- so when we read about the pressure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego were under, we ought to remember that that’s exactly the kind of pressure our adversary places on God’s children today.
- we are not wrestling against flesh and blood, but against principalities, and powers, and rulers of darkness....and we would be wise to understand the nature of that struggle.
2) Another complicating factor is our own past ---- none of us could hear what we’re studying and say --- boy, this temptation to worship other gods is real....I better not ever let that start.
- its too late --- it already started......ever person is born in sin....born alienated from God...
- we are idol worshippers from the womb.
- that’s why Paul could say of the Thessalonian church, that they had turned TO GOD FROM IDOLS.
- that phrase could be used of any person who has come to Christ.
- so we bring into the Christian life a propensity to worship false gods.

- for the third complicating factor, let me ask you to turn one book back to the book of Ezekiel.
- chapter 14 gives a chilling explanation of what idol worship can look like --- this is not simply a matter of the body.....its a matter of the heart.
3) Read Ezekiel 14:1-5
- this issue of standing for God --- of being a person of integrity --- of who/what we’re going to worship....
- its doesn’t begin with the hands.....it begins with the heart.
- it is possible that men and women will walk into the doors of this church, all dressed up with Bibles in hand.....when their hearts are crammed full of idolatry.
- and the truth is --- I can’t know that about you, and you can’t know that about me.

- the lesson from Daniel 3 about integrity first and foremost is --- I. The Pressure to Bow to Other Gods is Great.
- friend, can I ask you -- how are you handling that pressure?
- now, for the second principle, we need to read a little further in Daniel 3 -- READ 3:8-18.
[point out that Daniel apparently was not present --- perhaps away doing the king’s business]

II. The Price of Integrity May Be High.


- We can’t say from this text that if you do choose to be a person of integrity, a person who stays faithful to your God, that you always will have to pay this kind of price.....
- But God always practices full disclosure with His children regarding what it means to follow Him....the price for this kind of integrity may be every high.
- now what are some observations we can make about what happened when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendgo chose not to bow down to other gods?
- several important things happen here --- let me mention 5.

1) Please note the jealousy of others.
- the Chaldeans in verse 8 couldn’t stand the fact that these Jewish men were not worshipping the idol......
- it angered them that they were standing out from the crowd.....
- I’m not saying that will be the universal response to a person of integrity, but if you live like these three men....you’ll probably have some folks in your life who don't like it.
2) Notice also the anger and rage they had to endure --- verse 13 speaks about Nebuchadnezzar’s rage at these three men ---- you may have faced that this week --- where someone became incensed because you would not worship their god.

3) Notice also the additional pressure in verse 15 --- we’ve seen all the way through this book ---- you can’t think --- I’ll stand up once and then it will be over....
- Nebuchadnezzar stops the band, and says --- I’ll give you another chance....this time when the music starts, you better bow....can you imagine the pressure they were under?

4) Fourth, note the threats --- at the end of verse 15 --- If you don't do it, you’ll immediately be cast into the fire.....
- not after a long protracted court process.....- not when your appeal process runs out....
- this is going to happen immediately....
- if you won’t worship my gods by choice, then you’ll worship them by force...

5) and fifth, be ready for ridicule of your God --- you can hear the sarcasm at the end of verse 15 as Nebuchanezzar says ---- “and what God is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”

- what’s the message in all of this?
- these men were having to pay a huge price for their faithfulness to God.
- and the key issue here is --- they were willing to pay the price.
- whatever integrity in that situation cost, they were willing to pay the bill.

- we started with a quote from Dave Jeremiah this morning --- let me read the complete quote... “The world is crying out for men and women, boys and girls, who have conviction of heart, and who not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances.  These three men knew what God wanted them to do, and they weren’t afraid of the consequences.”
- now, let me ask you this --- why wouldn’t these three men bow down to the image?
- what was so bad about that?
- why didn’t they say --- everybody else is doing it.
- or, God will surely understand in light of the jam He’s gotten us in
- or, the folks back home will never know.....
- or, I’ll sacrifice my convictions here for the greater good.....
- or, you have to pick your battles wisely.....

- and some of those statements are true....but the bottom line is --- these men couldn’t do this, because it would have been a violation of the Word of God.
- that’s why they said in verse 16, “we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.” (or, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter”)...
- they weren’t being disrespectful --- the point was --- their minds were made up....
- they didn’t have to think about it.....they didn’t have to pray about it....they didn’t have to get counsel from others.....
- God’s Word says --- Thou shalt not have any other gods before me....end of story.
- so king, with all due respect, we’re not bowing down to your image!
- and whatever price comes with that --- we’re ready to pay the bill.

- friend, did you have any opportunities this week to think those kinds of thoughts.....
- did you have any opportunities this week to say those kinds of words?....
- do you have the kind of courage and bravery and love for God that would cause you to stand up and do what’s right?

- Stoddard Kennedy was a chaplain during World War II....
- he was often thrust in the frontlines of battle, where his ministry to the troops endangered his life.
- one day while he and the armies were moving through France.....Chaplain Kennedy wrote this letter to his 10 year old son.....
The first prayer I want my son to learn to say for me is not “God, keep daddy safe,” but “God, make daddy brave.  And if he has hard things to do, make his strong to do them.”
Son, life and death don't matter.  But right and wrong do.  Daddy dead is daddy still, but daddy dishonored before God is something too awful for words.  I suppose you would like to put in a bit about safety, too, and Mother would like that, I’m sure.  Well, put it in afterwards, for it really doesn’t matter nearly as much as doing what is right.”

- That’s a willingness to pay the price for integrity.
- I wonder if believers in Jesus Christ today were called upon to pay a price for their commitment to the Scriptures, how many would be willing to pay?

- [develop survey about mainline denominations beliefs......]


- the point here is --- there’s a direct relationship to one’s fidelity to the Scriptures, and their willingness to stand out from the crowd even when there’s a price to be paid.
- I recently came across another survey that compared the beliefs and actions of people who said they were born-again Christians to those who said they weren’t.
- [review survey]

- see, all of this speaks to the issue the unwillingness of many people to pay the price that comes with integrity.
- and by the way, I wouldn’t expect any of us to sell out our integrity in a wholesale fashion..... - - but it usually happens in a few key areas at a time.

- I’ve shared this quote with you from Martin Luther before, but I’d like to use it again because of the way its fits what we’re studying.....
- If I profess with the loudest voice and with the clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not professing Christ, however boldly I proclaim I am professing Christ.  Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved.  No matter how steady on all fronts beside, it is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that vital point.”

- Friend, if there’s a price to be paid for integrity, are you willing to pay the bill?

[could develop the issue of the church missing opportunities to stand out because of worship of cultural idols --- racism, homosexuality [from both perspectives]

- you know, some might have to say --- Pastor Viars, I know I couldn’t have stood out like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego....because I don’t have the kind of personal relationship with God that would give me the strength to take such a stand.
- you know, a passage like this could be used of God to show a person their need of a personal relationship with God.
- the good news is --- God sent His Son Jesus Christ, to die in our place, making it possible for us to be reconciled to God, and to be in a position where we can begin living lives of integrity.
- Jesus Christ did that for us.

[cf. the story of the little boy giving the blood transfusion for his sister.]

- we smile at the little boy who thought what he was doing for his sister would take his life....but Jesus Christ died such a death knowingly.

- now, you might say --- PV, I have a personal relationship with Christ....but the pressure to bow down to other gods is great.....
- and the price I would have to pay for integrity is high.....
- I find myself bowing down far too often.....

- listen, passages like this ought to drive believers in Christ to the cross....
- it ought to give us greater understanding that it is only through Christ that we could live such a life.
- we ought to look to the cross and be ready to crucify our sinful desires in the matter.....to mortify the lusts and deeds of the flesh.....
- we ought to take up our crosses and follow Him.....

- so what happens to the person that refuses to bow down to false gods?
- READ Daniel 3:19-30.


- the third principle we find in this text is.....


III. The Protection for Those Who Stand for God is Sure.


- there was no question in these men’s minds that God could take care of them.
- Nebuchadnezzar was wrong when he asked - “what god can deliver you out of my hands?”

- that’s why they said in verse 17 ---  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.

- now let me ask you a question --- was what they said at the beginning of verse 18 a sign of lack of faith?
- no, it was just the opposite.....faith is not believing that God will.....faith is believing that God CAN...and then leaving the decision of whether He will or not to Him.
- [could use the Leuphold quote from Whitcomb, p. 58]

- Isaiah 43:2 - When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.

- Revelation 2:10 - Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

- Romans 8:17 - and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.

- now you might say --- well, PV, if its true that God is so powerful, then why didn’t He just keep his children out of the fire to begin with?  [we’d like it that way, wouldn’t we?]
- here’s why --- because people can see in us in the fire.

- Nebuchadnezzar and the many people in that country would have never had a glimpse of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ had it not been for the three men being thrown in the fire.

- could end with Jeff Baker illus....[don’t forget the salad bar illus].

- could end with Whitcomb’s quote on p. 63
- need to decide how to wrap up.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video