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Book of Daniel - Radical Faith
Chapter 3 - Radical Faith in Sovereign God
In Daniel Chapter 3, Daniel and his 3 young friend were given a choice - deny their faith, bow to an idol, and live; otherwise, they will die.
Summoned to worship an idol 3:1-6
1 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. 4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language:
5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.
King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to institute a state religion, a religion to unify the many peoples of his empire, to bind and to keep society together
In the process, he effectively says
o I tell you who you are to worship
o knowingly or unknowingly, King Nebuchadnezzar would also be outlawing the Jewish faith in their One & Only God
o anyone who dared disobey would be burned alive in a giant furnace.
Imagine the scene – it was grand! There was an air of festivity - thousands of people. Everyone standing, waiting for that moment – then the instruments sound, the orchestra plays, and right on cue, the sea of people & officials fall down to worship the image of gold – their knees and heads all hit the ground, except Daniel’s 3 friends - Jews who kept standing; surrounded by thousands who bowed low, these 3 stood out like sore thumbs
If ever there is such a thing as civil disobedience, this is it. Disobeying the direct order of the king! King Nebuchadnezzar was furious – couldn’t believe that anyone would dare to disobey him – the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar - Equal to the gods – what god will be able to rescue you from my hand and put a challenge against their God, and thought maybe they didn’t really understand and he should gave them a second chance
A Radical Faith in a Sovereign God 3:16-18
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter.
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.
1. A Radical Faith
They were willing to sacrifice their own body; to pay the ultimate price for the sake of their faith. They believed in God’s divine power – His ability to save and deliver.
They did not know if God would deliver them or not, but they will trust Him nonetheless. They accepted that God does not always choose to intervene miraculously in such circumstances, but they still chose to trust Him. They believed in God’s sovereignty – He is all-wise, altogether good, He rules & He over-rules.
They declared that their lives were really in God’s hands, not the king’s.
Is this Faith or Foolishness? After all, their very lives were on the line!
It is a Radical Faith
How did they come to have such radical faith and what can we learn?
1. Radical Faith is Rooted in the person of God.
We are inspired by lives of sacrifice and mission; by Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, Mother Theresa, even by this account of the 3 Jews.
How radical do I have to be?" someone asked. "Just how radical is enough? Should I sell my house and car? Is it wrong to take a holiday and rest? Do I need to work with orphans, widows and feed the poor?”
We are wrong if we think that activity and activism equals radical faith.
Matthew 7: 21-2
Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
A radical faith is rooted in (person of) God. A life lived in deep communion with God develops radical faith. To know God and commune with Him at a deep, personal level will lead to radical faith.
How deeply rooted is your faith in God?
Do you know Him well at a personal level?
2. Radical Faith Reveres God & God alone
Deut 6: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.
Ex 20: 3 You shall have no other gods before me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
Though we may not bow down to tangible idols, beware, that we do not set up counterfeit gods in our hearts, and bow down to them.
3. Radical Faith Refuses to obey ungodly commands
Jeremiah 29 – Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles
Vs 4-7 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
5 Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.
We do not know for sure if these 3 Hebrew men have read Jeremiah’s letter
Fit in – be a good citizen – seek the peace.
Tried to fit in – put on their clothes, learned their language, studied under their teachers, served in their civil service and carried out their responsibilities
But now, the king’s order strikes against the core of their faith, to disobey the 1st two commandments (Ex 20)
3 You shall have no other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
Yes, they must fit in, but they must not be swallowed up
Yes, they can even change their names, but they cannot change their God
We too have dual citizenships :
o national and “our citizenship is in heaven” Phil 3:20
o As national citizens, we must do our best to fit in,
- to contribute to the nation,
- to carry out our responsibilities well,
- to seek & pray for its peace and prosperity
But we are first and foremost citizens of heaven, and where God’s laws clash with man’s laws, we must obey God
Civil disobedience is permissible when & only when obeying man’s commands means violating God’s commands. When pushed into a position where we must either obey God or men, then we must obey God and disobey men.
Civil Disobedience – How?
Cool, calm & collected, they defied the king “… we want you to know, O king, …”
They were not ranting/shouting, cursing/swearing, no railing, no violence; not adversarial. Civil disobedience is not revolution; it is not over-throwing the authorities. Humble, respectful, diplomatic and firm. Not arrogant or proud reply but a FIRM reply. Out of deep conviction of their faith in God. And not to issue a “comeback” nor respond to the king’s taunt
There will be times when protecting our faith & our worship compels us to engage in civil disobedience. Express dissent in a non-violent, respectful way and expect to pray a price
4. Radical Faith Rests in God’s sovereignty
The God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us.
Although God rescued them from death in chapter 2, they didn’t know whether God would rescue them this time. But even if he does not, they would still cling on to him, trust in him.
Truly, these 3 men are models of fidelity & it is no wonder that they are included in Hall of Faith in Heb 13.
§Hab 317 Though the fig-tree does not bud & there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails & the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen & no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
God’s Sovereignty is a mighty current that runs through the book of Daniel.
God is sovereign over his servants, kings, kingdoms/empires, human history. He knows what He is doing; nothing escapes Him; He rules & He over-rules!
We can trust Him regardless of our circumstances; we can have a Radical Faith that rests in His sovereignty.
God Most High delivers His servants 3:24-27
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? They replied, Certainly, O king.
25 He said, Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods. 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here! So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
God glorified 3:28-30
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king's command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
· All of the drama, energy & expense to produce worship of a false god was in vain, and the king fell to his knees before the God of Israel.
“What god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” is now answered by the king himself
What is the end result?
If we are anthropocentric, we would focus on the fact that these 3 men were miraculously delivered; that they were promoted and honored.
God is glorified & His people were guaranteed freedom of worship.
It’s all about GOD; His kingdom, His plans, His glory.
In a world hostile to Christianity, in a fast-changing world filled with uncertainties, at a time of escalating costs, anxiety, fear and disasters, we must have Radical Faith in our Sovereign God.