Wednesday, April 17, 2013

3 Men and a King

Lesson: Daniel 3:1-30

A few thousand years ago three Hebrews had to either obey an earthly despot or the ruler of heaven and earth. Daniel recorded it and it comes down to us as what most of call the 3 Hebrew children and the fiery furnace.

From Exodus 20:1-5 And God spake...Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them
Daniel 3:5 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up

Nebuchaddnezzar, king of Babylon and most powerful ruler of his time, required his subjects to worship a golden image that he made. Eternal God Jehovah, creator of heaven and earth,  required having no other gods and not bowing down before any image. The 3 Hebrew children -- called Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego by the Babylonians -- were subjects of Nebuchadnezzar and servants of the most High God. They knew God's law and instinctively knew they ought to obey God rather than a man; that when in conflict God's law must be preferred over man's.

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were not careful to answer the king -- meaning not that they lacked precision, as we might use the word most often, but that they were not full of care, were not afraid, and did not quake before King Nebuchaddnezzar. They gave a simple, honest and unflinching answer, "We will not serve thy gods. We will not bow before thine image." Their answer was founded in two principles. God is more powerful than Nebuchaddnezzar, and God has more rights over them than Nebuchaddnezzar. It might not be their highest desire to be cast into a furnace of fire. It was their highest desire to obey God. Though Nebuchaddnezzar had rights over their bodies as his subjects, God had more rights over their bodies and souls as creator, lawgiver and universal king. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were convinced of the power of God. He was able to deliver them. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were convinced of the providence of God. He would deliver them. Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego were convinced of the wisdom of God. Whether He would deliver them was not the basis of their act of defiance of Nebuchaddnezzar. They acted and stood upon what was right -- we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image.

Daniel 3:26b-28 Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

The preceding example of a firm resolution for the truth of God is glorious and exhilarating  We might well stop there. But consider briefly the work of God in delivering the 3 Hebrew children. This devotion is a bright testimony of God's regard for His servants, a wonderful reminder of the words of Peter, "He careth for you." God was with them in the fire. This display is an awesome revelation of God's power over the fire. Fire in all its rage is a devastating foe of man. It is a mere flicker in the mind of God. That which by nature would have quickly consumed His children was made impotent before them. Finally, this deliverance is an enduring reminder that God is omnipotent and that the greatest powers on earth must bend before His will.  The only damage the fire discharged was to kill Nebuchadnezzar's men and destroy Nebuchadnezzar's bonds.God "changed the king's word," an act which none on earth had either the fortitude or the ability to do.

Praise God whose mighty hand, saved His children and changed the man, Who o'er their bodies ruled, he thought; Whose plans by God were brought to naught. How are the mighty fallen, before the sovereign Lord; And poor servants lifted up, by His gracious Word!

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