Tested By Fire – Daniel 3

by Dr. Bob Ostenson
transcribed by Roger McCay
27 January 1980
Sermon Passage: Daniel 3
Link to Audio Version

Now, I want to open by asking you a question: What is your price? What is the price for which you would sell out your convictions, and your consecration, and your commitment? The world believes that every man, every woman, has his price, that if the bribe is high enough, the offer enticing enough, or the threat awful enough, every man, every woman, would be willing to sell his soul, and sell his convictions and his consecration. There are many who believe this is a universal truth. And yet, when we turn to the Word of God, we find revealed that there have been men and women down through biblical history that are not for sale—men and women of such commitment, of such devotion and determination to the living God that they would not sell out their convictions nor their consecration. We have this revealed here in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, three young men who were devoted, who were determined, and as a consequence, were delivered.

By way of review, you remember the story that when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon laid siege to Jerusalem and destroyed it. He took away thousands of Jewish people into captivity back to Babylon. And he instructed his officers to pick some of the best young men and young women, in the Jewish city. Four of those young men that were taken back were Daniel, Azariah, Hananiah, and Mishael, but as soon as they arrived in Babylon, they were given the Babylonian names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And the intent was to train them for service in the royal court of Babylon. Do you remember the story in the first chapter, how these three young men refused the diet from the king’s luxurious table, and they thrived on pulse and water? But God also blessed them with great learning and wisdom, and he gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams. And so impressed was King Nebuchadnezzar, with Daniel’s ability to interpret his dream of the great image, that he elevated the four young men to high positions in his government.

But there came a day, when King Nebuchadnezzar, in vanity, in pride, erected on the plains of Dura a large golden statue, probably inspired by his earlier dream of the great image. And on the day of its dedication, he gathered all the leaders of his kingdom, and he issued an edict, “When you hear the sounds of all the music, every single one of you is to get down on his knees and worship this golden image. And if you refuse, you will be cast into the burning fiery furnace.”

And so, at the appointed time, as the music drifted out over the Plain of Dura, everyone fell to his knees and worshipped the golden image. That is, everyone, except three Jewish young men, in whose hearts and whose minds rang the second commandment, which decreed, “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any images. Nor shall thou bow down and worship them.” Three young, Jewish men, who were devoted to the living God.

Now, when their refusal was brought to the attention of the mighty monarch, he was filled with fury, the Bible says. And he called these young men into his presence and demanded to know why they’d disobeyed. But, he says,

“I’ll give you one more chance. If, when you hear the music again, you will get down and worship the golden image, I’ll forgive your previous disobedience. But, if you refuse, you will be cast into the burning fiery furnace. And what god is able to delivery you from that?”

Now, from the human standpoint, there are all kinds of reasons, I am certain, that these young men could have dreamed up to rationalize themselves, so that they would have conformed to the king’s edict. For example: They were not necessarily being forced into a lifetime of idolatry. All they had to do is bend the knee this one time. They didn’t have to give up the worship of the God of Israel. Secondly, as captives of this mighty emperor, they could say they had been coerced. They were forced into it. They had to obey him. Thirdly, after all, the emperor had been their benefactor. He had educated them. He had provided for them. Surely, they could twist conscience just a little bit, in order to please their benefactor. And then, too, they were in a strange country. They were far from home. Couldn’t they roll with the stream when they were away from home? Furthermore, hadn’t their forefathers worshipped images and idols like this way-way back in their past history? And finally, if they would comply, they could retain their positions of prominence. And think of all the good that they would be able to do for the other people that were captive in Babylon. From a human standpoint, all of these seemed logical reasons why they could say, “Let’s conform, let’s bend conscience and conviction just a little bit and go along.”