July 25, 2014

3. Supporting example 

Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and their Courageous Choice:

The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, begins with the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, making an image of gold and demanding that all his court officials, royal administrators, and governors, bow down in worship to it or suffer certain death in a fiery oven (“furnace of blazing fire” -Daniel 3:1-6).

This act of government religious interference was a problem for these men. As Jews, they were expressly forbidden to worship any other God but Yahweh, the One True God (Exodus 20:3-6). They were, therefore, caught on the horns of a dilemma. Should they give allegiance, publically, to the new, official image, created and demanded by their King, the “federal” head of the government, and avoid death? Or, should they comply with their religious beliefs (core value “Principle”) and suffer the consequences?

Interestingly, they didn’t need to linger over the question of compromise, whether to “go along to get along”, or not. No, when confronted and threatened by the king (v13-15) they responded, immediately, that they would not bow to cultural, governmental or occupational pressure to deny their most closely held beliefs. They would not deny God, they would rather suffer the consequences of disobeying despotic governing authorities rather than God. Note how they put it…

Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  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.” (v16-18)

Well, what happened next might surprise you – there was no immediate miracle. The king didn’t relent or change his mind, or give them a more acceptable alternative. No, Nebuchadnezzar simply got angry to a rage and cast them into the super-heated oven. No, no miracle then. Instead the men had to stand their ground and accept the consequences – they went into the fire (v19-23)!

The miracle came afterward. After they were in the consequences of disobeying the king, God made himself known and seen. He showed up in the fiery oven with them (v24-25). In they went and in they stayed, walking around with God!

When the Nebuchadnezzar saw this display of Divine intervention, he summonsed the 3 men, “servants of the Most High God”, to come out. They did. They did not mock nor challenge him, as I might have – you know, basketball court style, a little “trash talk” like, “Yo, king, why don’t you come in, big shot, the fire’s fine!” No sir, they obeyed, respecting his governing authority. That authority was never in doubt. They were humble, not arrogant about their faith and that led to a testimony.

The problem in this narrative is the contravention of a religious right by the assumption of authority by one who hasn’t the right – in this case a king, the head of the government, assuming the authority of God.

By now, through this miracle of God’s protective grace – a fire so hot it killed the officers who bound and threw Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into it, 3 Jewish court officials were supernaturally spared from its affects. As a result, when Nebuchadnezzar saw the miracle and acknowledged his mistake, he repudiated his original edict. In its stead, he ordered a new one, one that exalted the God of the Jews; Yahweh, (v28, 29). And the king honored the men with prosperity (v30).

Wow three normal men who became heroes of the faith! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were really just normal guys, like you and me. What was special about them was that they were dedicated guys. If you read the narrative of Daniel from the first chapter to this you find that Daniel is the leader and main character of this book. These men are his colleagues and friends, who follow his lead. They were not the “headliners”, Daniel was. They were, simply, part of the supporting cast.

Without Daniels lead and decisiveness, they would not have even been invited to the kings idol party on the Dura (plain) of Babylon. Daniel was the mastermind of the dietary restriction victory in chapter 1 (v8-13) and Daniel was the man who orchestrated the prayer retreat whereby he was given the ability to interpret the kings dream in chapter 2 (v17-23). And it was Daniel who asked Nebuchadnezzar to install his 3 amigos to court appointments in the kings administration, after the kings favorable response to Daniel’s dream interpretation session (v49).

I say again, these 3 men were ordinary guys who became heroes. How? They became heroes because they stood on “Principle” not convenience. What made them heroes was the willingness to suffer loss with character rather than enjoy gain by lowering their spiritual convictions. They knew when to fight for “Principle” even when they assumed it was a fight they would lose – unless God supernaturally intervened.

It all reminds me of the Alamo. Remember the story of how over 180 men died, while defending the mission church compound from Mexican general Santa Anna’s army of over 2500 men? There were only a 3 famous men, Daniel type big shots, at the Alamo – James Bowie, William Travis – co-commanders and the famous U. S. Congressman, David Crockett of Tennessee. The rest were Texas volunteers, regular guys, merchants, farmers, etc.

Why did they defend a cause in the face of certain death? They were willing to give their lives to defend their God given liberty, for starters. They were willing to hold the line, in order to give the Texas Army General, Sam Houston more time to enlist men into a larger fighting force, north of San Antonio. And third they were willing to fight and die, to secure the freedom and protection every man wants for his family.

That is what Heroes do; they fight for “Principle”, casting personal safety and personal desire aside. This is who heroes are; they are normal guys who step up to the moment when the moment calls upon them.

No one sets out to be a hero for even if you did, you can’t manufacture the moment where heroism is called for. Evil and its sinister companion, danger, persist in life and occasionally they confront us personally. It is at the moment we must make the decision of our lives – to step forward to confront evil with its danger or step back and let it rule the day and our lives henceforth. This decision is always an act of faith, of who is the greater authority and power in your life – circumstances or God!

The men at the Alamo stepped up, so did the 3 companions of Daniel -. As a result they all live forever in infamy, in the annals of history and in the case of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, they live on as heroes of our faith, in Holy Scripture!

Serious three step process for success: So, what is the 3 step process for living with “Principle”, not pragmatic convenience, in an hour of severe trial?

  1. Know your faith, your undeniable, incontrovertible value principle upon which you will stand or willing suffer loss, even of life, to defend!
  2. Know your enemy and how impotent, ultimately he is, before your God, who called you into your faith and commands you to live by His value principle – truth!
  3. Step into the conflict by faith, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did. Tell your enemy and hear yourself say, “O Adversary, I do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, my God whom I serve is able to deliver me from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver me out of your hand, O adversary. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O adversary, that I am not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” I am going to live by the value principle God gave me!  Amen.

It’s so easy to say, to preach; to hear. But this is HARD to do. So what say we, you and me, will we live by faith (Hebrews 11:1, 6) and will we be willing to suffer for our faith?

In Texas, we have a motto, which is meant to inspire valor and courage, “remember the Alamo”. Perhaps we Christians should repeat regularly this motto of truth – “It is better to die for a Godly cause than live with in ungodly compromise!

Jim Cote’
President, Master’s Men