Sermon: Your Steadfast Love is Better Than Life (Daniel 3)

Your Steadfast Love is Better than Life

Daniel 3 (ESV)

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.  [2] Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  [3] Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  [4] And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages,  [5] that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.  [6] And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”  [7] Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. [8] Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews.  [9] They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever!  [10] You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image.  [11] And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace.  [12] There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” [13] Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king.  [14] Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?  [15] Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” [16] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  [17] If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  [18] But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” [19] Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated.  [20] And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.  [21] Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace.  [22] Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  [23] And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. [24] Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”  [25] He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” [26] Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.  [27] And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them.

[28] Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.  [29] Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.”  [30] Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.

It looks as if these three Hebrew teens, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had learned the first commandment very well.  It’s the first commandment that is at the heart of idolatry.

Exodus 20:2-3 (ESV)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

[3] “You shall have no other gods before me.

The commandment doesn’t say, You shall have no other god’s before Me when the coast is clear or when it’s safe or convenient. The commandment is binding for all of mankind.

Do you see the dilemma that Nebuchadnezzar had placed before these three Hebrews?  What do you think went through their minds as the king gave the command to fall down and worship the statue he had built?  What would you do?

We can fast forward a few thousand years and see the same thing happening to the early Christians during the days of the Roman Empire.  In this setting, Christians were commanded to worship the emperor and burn incense in his honor.  The problem in the Roman Empire wasn’t so much the Christians worshipping Jesus as Lord.  The land was full of different deities that were worshipped.  As far as the Romans were concerned Jesus could fall in line with the rest.  The problem came when the Christians took a stand and said, in essence, We can’t worship the Emperor or any other gods.  We will only worship Jesus and no other. That’s when trouble started.

What would you do?

1. The Worth of God

Much can be said about the situation that these Hebrews found themselves.  Many a sermon has had this text as its theme.  If we were to boil it down we would discover that at end of day these young men were fully devoted to the One True God.

[16] Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.  [17] If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  [18] But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

What were they saying to the king?  King, we will not be idolaters even if it costs us our lives.  This is an extremely bold statement and one with much cost.

Luke 14:26 (ESV)

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

What was it that empowered this sort of response?  What makes people stand up for the Lord when they are threatened even with loss of life?  What is it that drives missionaries to go to dangerous remote places with people who are hostile to the name of Christ?

This kind of obedience must come from something other than legalism.  It must come from something even more than disobeying a commandment.  It must come from our affections driven by the Holy Spirit.

I’d love to sit down with these three guys over coffee and ask them what were you thinking?  Literally, what was going on in your mind?  How did you get enough courage to stand for the Lord and say what you said to the King?  I believe that their answers would revolve around the love that God had for them and the love they had for God.  They valued the love of God and His presence with them more than they valued their very lives.  For them, it was the logical choice.  They would rather obey the Lord and enjoy His presence than disobey.

King David knew this sort of relationship with God:

Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Psalm 63:1-3 (ESV)

A Psalm of David, When he was in the wilderness of Judah.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

[2] So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,

beholding your power and glory.

[3] Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

We will always choose what we perceive will bring us the most delight.  In this case David perceived that his greatest delight would be found in God’s steadfast love even over his own life.  In the case of the three Hebrews, they valued God’s steadfast love over all things as well.

2. Lies of Satan

When we sin we never sin by thinking that we want what is evil, we sin because for the moment the sin is more desirable than the steadfast love of God.  For the moment sin is what we desire because it seems good to us.

The will never desireth evil, as evil, but as a carnal or seeming good—Richard Baxter

Genesis 3:6 (ESV)

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

For the moment, sin seemed pleasing, more pleasing, in fact, than God.  When we sin, we break the first commandment; You shall have no other gods before Me.

As we pursue our desires, it’s our job to make sure our desires are in line with God’s will for us as given in Scripture.  It’s Satan’s job to try an get our desires fixed on something besides God.  So we find ourselves in a battle.

Do you think Satan was behind Nebuchadnezzar’s statue?

Satan desires that we worship him instead of God.  He would rather us be caught up in idolatry rather than worship the true God.

[6] And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”  [7] Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Satan desires our worship.  It says here that it was the duty for everyone to fall down and worship the image.  This was sort of a forced worship…you fall down and worship the image or else.

Matthew 4:8-10 (ESV)

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  [9] And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  [10] Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

” ‘You shall worship the Lord your God

and him only shall you serve.’ “

Do you see the common elements in these two passages?  Satan desires our worship.  When we are devoted to something other than God, it very closely approaches the kind of worship Satan is pleased with.

3. Standing with Conviction

I want to look together at some things that gave these three the ability to stand up for their convictions when everyone else caved.  Really, it has everything to do with proper theology being believed and acted upon.

A. They Believed in a Sovereign God

our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.

This is a Holy Spirit implanted conviction.  They knew the God they served.  They knew Him and the fact that God is in charge.  If God wanted them to die in the furnace that’s God’s choice.  If God wanted them to live, that’s God’s choice as well.

Even if God decides not to save us from the furnace, we will still not worship your image.

B. They Believed the Bible

What was so wrong with them bowing down to worship this statue?  In God’s Word, He has commanded all people to not make or worship any images.  Do you see how they knew the Bible and then applied it to their unique circumstance?

The first commandment tells us that we are to not have any other gods, here, this king wants us to worship another god, and we just can’t do it.

Exodus 20:2-3 (ESV)

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

[3] “You shall have no other gods before me.

C. Their Convictions were Strong

They understood the cost involved.  To obey this earthly king meant to disobey their heavenly King.  To worship the image was to not worship the true God.

[3] Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

That day, God’s will was to cause these faithful ones to pass through the fire.  One thing is true.  When we pass through the fires of trials, we don’t pass through them alone and neither did they.  Because of their affection for the Lord and their steadfast faith and trust in Him a miracle took place.

[23] And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. [24] Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”  [25] He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

Most theologians believe that the forth One referred to here is the pre-incarnate Christ.  Isn’t that just like Jesus to save from the fire those who believe and have faith.

We may never come up against something like a threat of death for our faith.  But I pray that the next time we’re tempted to cave in or worship something other than the Lord we would remember what happened when in the midst of thousands of idol worshippers, three Hebrew youth stood up and were numbered among the children of God.

[3] Because your steadfast love is better than life,

my lips will praise you.

2 Comments on “Sermon: Your Steadfast Love is Better Than Life (Daniel 3)

  1. The sermon gave me a new look to the subject of idolatry and sin

    • Thank you for your encouraging comment. May the Lord bless you,
      Pastor Brian

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