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Apr 28, 2013

Faith Under Fire

Passage: Daniel 3:1-30

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Daniel: Overcoming Under Siege

Keywords: idolatry, pressure, conformity, witness, persecution, fire, trust


Idolatry is constantly making demands of people, even God's people. While the world will always try to force us into submission to its god-substitutes, God can use those very pressures to make us stronger and give us a more vibrant witness to the power and mercy of the Living Lord Jesus. This message looks at the way idolatry tries to shape us and how God seeks to use the world's pressures to build our faith and witness.


Faith Under Fire

“Overcoming Under Siege” Series

Daniel 3

April 28, 2013


INTRO:  We just finished singing about both the things God still wants to do in our city and the beauty of God.  That is why we “do church downtown”—we believe there are many beautiful things God wants to do in the heart of our city, one of the most needy and sometimes non-beautiful (ugly?) parts of our city. 

            What is it about beauty that is so attractive?  Yet defining beauty is so illusive.  We all know it when we see it.  Whether it is beauty in a person or in a piece of jewelry, there is an automatic attraction in us as humans to beauty. 

            I think that is a reflection of the image of God.  God, the only perfect and most beautiful being ever, has placed beauty all around us in order to remind us of Himself.  Beauty is to be a God-reminder that draws us to the creator of beauty so that we worship the Creator rather than the created beauty.  But so often our hearts are drawn to the creation beauty rather than the beauty of the Creator.  When we run after wealth or sex or higher lifestyles, we are making idols of the creation instead of worshipping the Creator.

            In today’s text, we’re going to see how that happens and what God wants for us instead.  We’re going to see a man who years earlier (Dan. 2) made a strong profession of faith in the true God but now, some 15-20 years later is chasing the beauty of false gods. 


We’ve all known people who made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ and then either did nothing with it or completely turned away from the faith. 

  • Charles Templeton’s story—a contemporary of Billy Graham, he was as much a rising evangelist as was Billy in his day.  He spoke to large crowds, mostly in Canada, and lead many to Christ.  But his inability to trust God with two questions about God eventually led him to become an international proponent and apologist for atheism/agnosticism.  He could not hold onto his belief in God when confronted with the level of evil and suffering in the world and the doctrine of eternal judgment/punishment of hell for those who reject Christ. 

Then there is the whole business of celebrity conversions.  It seems to be very in-vogue for celebrities to “convert” to some other religion than what they grew up with. 

  • Katie Holmes (Tom Cruise’s wife) went from Roman Catholicism to Scientoligy.
  • Orlando Bloom went from being Anglican to Buddhist.
  • Rapper Snoop Dog went from Baptist upbringing to Nation of Islam convert.
  • Madonna from Roman Catholicism to Kabbalah.

It’s not just modern pop culture celebrities that have this problem.  Politicians and kings seem to be prone to it as well.  At least King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3 did too.  When we left this book last week, this very same guy had loudly proclaimed his faith in the God of Daniel because of the power of God evidenced in the revelation of Neb’s dream to Daniel. 

            But that was some 16-20 years earlier.  Roughly two decades had come and gone, and apparently Neb’s place and kingdom in his dream had really gone to his head.  Babylon, as you remember, was the golden head in that massive and disturbing statue in his dream that foretold the Gentile kingdoms to come.  So Neb decided to build a statue entirely of gold and remind everyone under his command in the government that he was pretty hot stuff.   

            It’s amazing how governments and political leaders love to imagine and try to make themselves into gods! But in our self-elected system of a democratic republic, we’re  the ones always electing and reelecting people who often start out being very committed to the good of the people and policies that will promote that “good” BUT over a few election cycles seem to see their greatest need as being reelected, able to continue to enjoy the power and the perks of public office. 


Power has always been a very corrosive and dangerous commodity.  We need look no farther than this last century to see a nearly unbroken line of dictators and political systems who have viewed God as unnecessary, or worse yet, counterproductive.  So they have done away with God and put themselves up as the ultimate source and user of power.

  • Saddam Hussein destroyed more than 60 villages and gassed some 30,000-60,000 of his own countrymen with mustard and nerve gas…not to mention all the people he had tortured, raped, beheaded, ground up alive, etc.  HE considered himself the ultimate judge of all.
  • Crazy Kim John Il of N. Korea demanded that his people call him “dear leader” while starving an estimated 10% of the nation to death in the 1990s, some 2.5 million people. His son carries on his communist legacy of making the state god.  He lives in unbelievable opulence while children still die in the streets from starvation and some 200,000 people are worked, tortured and starved to death in political prisons.
  • Marxist Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was elected prime minister in 1980 and turned the former African bread basket nation into a starving hell-hole.  Average life expectancy is now 34-37 years, shortest of any nation on earth.  Churches have been bulldozed and the inflation rate of over 11 million percent leads the world.
  • Our favorite trading partner, communist China, has a half a million people in prison who have never been charged or tried.  30-80 million Chinese died in Mao Zedong’s “Cultural Revolution”.  Add another 40-60 million people killed by Soviet communism and well over 100 million people have been killed by communism alone in the last century.

David Kupelian, writing in the book How Evil Works, says this about our own country that is less and less prone to look to God as the basis of government and morality:  “When all is said and done, we elect liars as leaders because we need lies.  And we need lies because we’re funning from the truth.”  [p. 24]

            The fact is, the less God and his truth is a part of government and public life, the more lies we will believe and the more lies leaders will pressure us to accept. 


That’s precisely what was happening in today’s passage in Daniel 3.  King Neb had apparently been drifting from his truth-encounter with God two decades.  And now he’s come to believe that he has the right to not only choose the gods of his country but to tell everyone and anyone that they must worship them, how that worship will look and when they are to worship.  Don’t you love godless governments!


Let’s begin reading in Daniel 3:1.  (Reading from the New Living Translation.)

King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

            Just a word about this rather anorexic statue of gold.  The average body ratio of a person height to width is 5-to-1.  But his image was a 10-to-1 ratio. That makes for a pretty odd looking statue not to mention unstable (kind of like the king’s mind at the time!). 

The text doesn’t tell us whether this image was simply an idol image or whether it was made to represent Neb himself.  If the latter is true, than it is doubly interesting how even when we make ourselves god, we know we’re not up to the task.  We know we’re imperfect, even if we’re a great physical specimen of a person.  We want to recreate ourselves differently even when we’re the ones making idols “in our own image.”

Maybe this is why despots are so despotic.  No matter how much power and control they have, they know deep within how very temporary and tenuous their limited power is.  Being god is a really demanding job…especially if you have to always be shoring up your power base.  J

            Daniel gives us the general guest list categories of Who’s Who in Babylon there in vs. 2.  What’s interesting is that Daniel is completely missing from this particular encounter.  That has led some to believe that he may have been away at the time, perhaps sent by the king himself to perform some official function of state in some other place. Or maybe he was just sick and couldn’t get out of bed.  Or perhaps he simply chose to stay away from this event knowing what was coming.  Whatever the case, he clearly was not present at the party that day.

            It is interesting that, in chapter 2, God chose to work primarily through Daniel.  But here, 20 years later, the pressure is on his 3 Hebrew friends.  For 20 years they had apparently lived faithfully as God’s children in a very pagan society and calling.  As far as they were concerned, they may have thought Daniel was God’s only chosen instrument to do miraculous things through. 

Regardless of how much or little God had done with and through them earlier, they were apparently determined to be Yahweh-followers for as long as God gave them breath.  That commitment and conviction ran into the core of their being.  Though they may not have had a vision from God like Daniel did or have even seen anything of a supernatural nature from God during the past 20 years, they were determined to walk with God in an ungodly world. 

As we will see, presented in the moment, in front of all their peers, with a faith-compromising demand from the king, they chose faith in God rather than favor from the king.  You don’t make those kinds of choices on the spur of the moment.  You make them over a lifetime of day by day choosing God over all other alternatives and promises.  This day’s choice was simply an extension of a lifetime of choices. 

APP:  Ever get to thinking that your life and holiness in Christ isn’t as important as someone else’s?  Maybe you’ve never experienced God in as dramatic a fashion as someone you look up to?  Never had the dreams or visions?  Never had the spiritual insight they have?  Life just seems to march along steadily with no indication that your day-after-day choices to serve God first and always are making much of a dent in anyone’s life. 

But we never know what is around the corner.  We never know the crisis or test or suffering or persecution that may be awaiting us.  All those years of faithfully walking with God may be exactly the kind of preparation needed for God to count on us and make us his star kids in some defining moment of history.  Never underestimate the power of a quiet, steady, faithful life.


So Neb sets up this statue, 6 cubits wide and 60 cubits high.  Interesting, too, how in Scripture the number for man is 6.  This statue was all about the glory of man.  But it was a rather shallow glory.  The statue was probably made of wood overlaid with gold.  That’s the way man-centered life is:  outwardly impressive but inwardly inferior.  How many of man’s great projects and accomplishments are simply dead, temporary wood on the inside? 

What Nebuchadnezzar is probably trying to do is unite his kingdom spiritually/religiously.  Isn’t that interesting!  Why are human dictators and power-mongers always so bent upon demanding that everyone believe spiritually the same thing?  If it’s communism, you have to embrace atheism.  If it’s Middle Eastern countries, you have to embrace Islam alone.  If it’s western culture, you have to embrace secularism and humanism.  Even in many dominantly Roman Catholic countries, there has been a lot of pressure to force other branches of even Christianity out of the way. 

In the last days that is precisely what the Antichrist will try and do too.  Only Jesus Christ will have the authority and power to call all peoples of the world to worship Him.  Until then, demanding universal conformity to one spiritual viewpoint is not a place even God forces this world to go.


Vss. 4-7--Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.


What a weird bunch of musicians this motley crew was…and that wasn’t even their band name.  Everything from strings to wind instruments were to play.  Notice it wasn’t necessarily a symphonic sound that came out; it was “noise” of instruments.  I don’t think it even sounded as good as the Orchestra & Band Spectacular Spokane has in the Arena every spring for all their 3,000 or so beginning (and I emphasize “beginning”) string and band students.  Now that’s a “noise!” 

            NOTE:  It’s interesting again how much false worship seeks to borrow from the truth.  Music is truly one of the best languages of worship.  That’s why it has so often, throughout history, been hijacked by Satan for his own purposes, for the wrong purposes. 

  • Dark and self-destructive music has played a huge role in suicides in our culture.
  • Music has played a huge role in shaping our cultures values about sex and sexual expression. 
  • How many concerts look an awful lot like worship services with people shouting someone else’s praise?


So here are these three 30-40 something Hebrew men who are confronted with the dominant culture’s demands of idolatry.  Idolatry makes its demands on every generation of God’s people.  There has not been a generation of God’s people who have not had to face down the all-consuming demands of spiritual idolatry.  Look at what idolatry demands.


#1.  Idolatry demands that you do what the majority of the people around you are doing.  How many times have parents heard from their teenage kids, “But Dad, everybody does it that way!” or “Everybody wears those clothes,” or “Everyone is going to that party.” 

            Whether you are a teenager or an adult, the peer pressure is always on you to worship at the altar of the gods of this world.  When you are younger it may be all about clothes or parties or music or movies or games or drugs and alcohol.  When you are a working adult, it may be some of those same things plus business ethics or sacrificing for the company or the kind of house or standard of living your peers are chasing after…or hobbies or material things or…or…etc.  But it’s still all about the pressure from people who are not surrendered to Christ to live like them and serve the gods they bow down to. 

            Oh, they may even tell you, “Hey, I don’t really believe in this stuff either.  But it sure makes life a lot easier to just go with the flow at times.  This isn’t worth making a big deal out of.  Just go along this once.  Besides, doesn’t God see your heart and isn’t that what matters most?” 

            Yes, our hearts matter far more to God than mere external actions.  But what must begin as an internal desire to live a holy and righteous life must move on to external actions demonstrating that kind of God-centered life.  That is why God throughout life brings our way various “tests” that enable us to be strengthened in our righteousness and choose in action what He has put by His Spirit in our desires.  What Satan, the world and the flesh bring to us as temptation to evil, God can turn into a test for righteousness that actually makes us more holy—more distinct and separate from this evil world and more like Christ. 

            ILL:  The first temptation of Adam and Eve was both a temptation by Satan and a test by God.  They were still sinless at that point.  But they were untested.  They were untried.  They were unconfirmed in righteousness.  Had they not taken the bate and chosen obedience to God, that test would have confirmed them once more into righteousness.  Instead, that test failed drew them into sin. 

            Hebrews 5:8-9 tells us that “Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” 

Standing up to sin, to temptation, to Satan, to false gods and the ways of this world is how we grow in Christ.  The battles will never go away.  They will, in fact, simply become hotter, more fierce, more difficult, and more challenging.  God only allows the battles at any stage in life which he knows we are able to stand tall in.  That doesn’t mean we always will.  But it does mean there will never be a temptation or trial that God has let come our way for which He has not also provided a righteous way of escape and the strength of character to make the righteous choice. 

Idolatry demands that you do what the majority of the people around you are doing. 


#2.  Idolatry demands that you move your trust from God to the source of idolatry.  In the case of this story, these 3 men either had to trust that God was going to deliver them (whether by life or by death) OR they had to trust in the king, his power over them and his spiritual leadership and pronouncements.  Trust the invisible, all-powerful, wise and loving God OR trust in this visible, temporarily-powerful, not-so-wise man. 

            Scripture repeatedly puts these two options in opposition when it comes to God and idols.

Psalm 31:6—“I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord.”

Psalm 9:10—“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”

            When God commanded the Israelites not to have any other gods before Him, he was essentially saying, “When I look out over the camp of the Israelites, I don’t want to see any gods, not hidden in your tents, or under your blankets, or in your jewelry.  I don’t want to see you trusting in anything or anyone else for your security, happiness, provision, or fulfillment.  Because if you do, you will be enslaved to something or someone SO inferior to the life I’ve designed you to lead as a person and as a nation.” 

            TRUST is a very big thing in life, isn’t it.  It is the cornerstone of any relationship.  Life is such that we must trust in someone or something.  Some people only trust themselves.  It makes for a very small world.  Others learn to trust trustworthy people.  That makes for a very rich life. 

            But the ground and source of healthy trust is always God himself.  The more we learn to trust Him for all we need, the richer life will be. 

  • Where have you and I placed our trust for the future?  Our retirement accounts?  Our investments?  Our Social Security?  A political system?  Even a caring, loving spouse?
  • Where have we placed our trust for happiness?  Marriage?  A friend?  Family members?  Popularity?  Social or economic status?  Our Christian friends?  The house or cars or toys we have?  The entertainment we can access?
  • Where have we placed our trust for health?  Obamacare? J Our insurance company?  J Our diet?  (Oh boy, we’re in trouble.)  Our exercise regimen?  Our food supplement?  Our doctor?
  • Where have we placed our trust for our identity?  Our career or occupation?  Our friends?  Our grandchildren? Our hobbies?  Our intelligence or wisdom? 

Whatever we trust which is not God has, in fact, become our idol.  To worship is to serve.  When we put our trust in something other than God, we always end up serving it above God. 

That is why we place such a big emphasis on serving here at Mosaic.  Serving can be a barometer of worship.  Lack of it can demonstrate that there are other gods in our lives that actually have our hearts and are consuming our time and energies.

It’s not that those “things” are bad in and of themselves either.  Think of what was involved in worship of this false god here in chapter 3.

  • Gold can be used to worship the Living God…or it can become an object of worship.  Put in contemporary terms, suppose you have an IRA or 401 or pension account you are trusting to take care of you in your old age.  During your working years, you are socking a set amount or percentage away there every month.  You arrange for automatic withdrawals from your paycheck every pay period.  But the reality is that far less than 5% of church-going Christians actually do that with their giving to Kingdom ministries.  The very suggestion that we might arrange for automatic withdrawals from our paycheck for tithing meets with charges of legalism at best and outright anger by many.
  • Music can be used to worship our heavenly Father…or it can become a tool to turn us away from Him.  It’s not just the professional musician who faces challenges of whether he/she will do gigs every weekend that pull them away from weekend worship with the church.  It can just be the music we listen to day after day with the lyrics that constantly pound the world’s views and values into our brain that steals our passion for Christ.
  • Or consider your work.  Neb was basically calling for a company policy change from the top down here.  If you wanted to keep your job (not to mention your head), then you had to go with the flow and bow with the best.  Businesses these days are demanding more and more service from their employees.  If you want a raise, you may have to sacrifice by working more hours, being home with the family less, have less time to be in a Bible study or Family Home Group with other believers.  Weekends you may be gone from time to time.  Little by little we end up serving work more and more and worshiping God less and less.

All this can apply to anything from hobbies to home maintenance.  Anything so easily becomes a god that demands our service.


The work place is not always a God-friendly place.  Beginning with vs. 8, we come to a part of the story with not a little professional jealousy

But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! 10 You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. 11 That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”


See the jealousy?  These 3 Hebrews weren’t assigned to some distant no-name outpost in the Babylonian empire.  They were right there in Babylon at the heart of the action.  Kind of the difference between working in the White House and being a postal employee in George, WA.  J 

            But the charges had the desired effect on King Neb.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, 14 Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? 15 I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”


Now we come to one of the greatest statements of faith in the Bible—the response of these 3 God-fearing men.  

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”


This is what the world is in desperate need of:  men and women, boys and girls, who have conviction of heart and who do not change their convictions on the basis of their circumstances.  These guys knew what God wanted them to do and refused to give into fear of what the consequences might be.  They knew God could and would “rescue” them from the king’s power.  But they honestly admitted that whether that rescue happened by a miraculous divine intervention that spared them from the fire OR by the consuming fire itself that killed them but took them to God in death, it didn’t matter.  Life was not worth living in this world if it meant cutting themselves off from God.  God was their life, whether living or dying.

            This tension has always been with God’s people.  It appears that more often than not, God does NOT choose to deliver his children from martyrdom but frequently through martyrdom.  However, for the hundreds of Christians killed for their faith in Jesus Christ each year, there are probably thousands or tens of thousands who God protected from death.  Those are not the stories that make it into today’s news headlines.  But they may well be just as miraculous as this situation here in Daniel 3.


Perhaps it is time that we as American Christians begin to develop a theology of persecution.  It may not be long before we truly need it. 

ILL:  I remember reading about the persecuted Chinese church in communist People’s Republic of China.  Some of their conferences for church leaders include seminars on what to do when the police raid your house church…or how to endure pain while being tortured…or how to escape from a second story room without breaking your leg when your house church is raided.


It is not just the dramatic deliverances of God’s people that God designs to teach and encourage his children.  It is also the cruel, painful and torturous sufferings for faith in Jesus Christ that God wants to use to grow his children as well. 


Ill:       Athanasius was one of the early church fathers.  We are indebted to him for the purity of the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ.  The story is told that someone came to him and said, “Athanasius, don’t you know that the emperor is against you, the bishops are against you, the church is against you, and the whole world is against you?”  Athanasius answered, “Then I am against the whole world.”  A phrase was coined from his life that became famous in the early church as a statement of conviction:  Athanasius against the whole world.


ILLStuddard Kennedy was a chaplain during WWII.  He was often thrust into the frontlines of battle, ministering in places of great danger.  One day as he was going through France, he wrote a letter to his son, who was about 10 years old.  This is what he wrote to his boy:

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 him 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 kind of attitude will always drive the world bent upon forcing us into its mold crazy!  It had the same effect on King Neb.  Look at vs. 19

19 Nebuchadnezzar was so furious with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face became distorted with rage. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual. 20 Then he ordered some of the strongest men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So they tied them up and threw them into the furnace, fully dressed in their pants, turbans, robes, and other garments. 22 And because the king, in his anger, had demanded such a hot fire in the furnace, the flames killed the soldiers as they threw the three men in. 23 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, securely tied, fell into the roaring flames.

            Threats of being burned alive have frequently been used against the people of God in attempts to get them to deny their allegiance to Yahweh. This is the first account of such a fiery threat in the Bible. But since the coming of Christ, the threat of a fiery death has often been used against Christians.    

  • Roman Emperor Nero burned Christians covered with tar as torches in his garden at night and rode around in his chariot enjoying the scene.
  • Jerome of Prague, persecuted as a heretic by the Roman Catholic church in the early 1400’s for preaching the Reformation teachings of John Wycliffe, was burned at the stake on May 30, 1416.  That came after being held in a lightless, stinking, disease-ridden dungeon in chains and stocks for nearly a year. He died singing to Jesus as the flames engulfed him.

Our devotion, not our deliverance, is the most critical component in persecution.  There is a depth of love and an ever-unfolding demonstration of the sacrificial life of Christ that happens whenever God chooses not to deliver from persecution but through persecution.  That is why our brethren all over the world are suffering.  God doesn’t want us to look away in horror at what is happening to them.  He wants us to look good and hard at them and what is happening to them.  Because the trying of their faith through death and martyrdom is not only changing them deeply; it is meant to change US too

The writer of Hebrews charged every one of us this way in Hebrews 13:3—Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

            Next Sunday is Bloomsday.  So we won’t be having our regular Sunday morning services.  But we will be meeting together at 4:00pm for a church “Love Feast”—a potluck and time of sharing the Lord’s Supper in a more fellowship-rich environment.  But we are going to reach beyond our own comfortable meal together and enter in just a little bit to the sufferings of our brothers and sisters around the world.  For the second time we will be having a representative of The Voice of the Martyrs with us to educate us further about how we can do some very practical things to help our persecuted brethren.

            One of the things I know we will be doing is writing letters directly to prisoners and their families who are suffering for their faith. You’ll hear stories of the difference this simple act of kindness of writing a letter has changed life for both those in prison and their families on the outside. 

ILL:  One story I read recently told of how one of the children of a prisoner had only know that her father had been arrested by the police and taken away.  Because the wife did not want to give the children any information that might be used against their father, they had only been told by state teachers and authorities that their father was a criminal.  The truth is, he is a hero of the faith. It was not until the family began receiving hundreds of letters from all over the world that this daughter realized that her dad was a hero, not a criminal. 


This story in Daniel 3 ends with this amazing deliverance of these 2 men through the fires of pagan persecution. 

24 But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?”

“Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied.

25 “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!”

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came as close as he could to the door of the flaming furnace and shouted: “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. 27 Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke!

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!”

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.


While I cannot guarantee that God will deliver every one of us from the fires of persecution, God’s word does guarantee us that God will always be with us in the furnaces of persecution in this life.  Whether he meets us there as we let go of this life through death and embrace the next which is immortal OR whether he delivers us miraculously from death, God is always in the furnaces of persecution. 

            And there is one more small yet, I think, significant reality from this chapter.  Notice that the only thing that really changed for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was that the chords used to bind them prior to throwing them into the fire were gone.  Their clothes weren’t burned.  Their hair wasn’t singed.  But those chords were gone!  Do you suppose God made it so that those cords vaporized with the extreme heat while God totally and completely protected every other atom associated with these 3 men? 

            Furnaces of persecution are sometimes God’s way of delivering us from the powers, forces and gods of this world.  Persecution is not to be feared; it is to be embraced both in our lives and the lives of our brethren in Christ as the very thing that will free us from so very much in this world that seeks to hold us captive.