2nd Sunday of Easter LSB #’s 461, 930, 475
Text – Daniel 3:11
And whoever does not fall down & worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace.
The Fiery Furnace
How happy are you with the way things are going in our nation today? Aside from all the politics & economics, of which there’s plenty to argue about, we are in God’s house & the spiritual state of our nation should be a chief concern. It’s what Daniel is concerned about as he makes his contribution to the OT.
Each of the 1st six chapters narrate an historical event that occurred during the Babylonian captivity of God’s remaining people. Chapter three brings us a conspiracy against three of those children of God. From many years of Sunday School lessons, we know them by the names given to them by the Babylonians – Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego.
The OT reading skipped the first seven verses of the chapter, but it’s there that king Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of gold. At the dedication ceremony, he orders that whenever anyone by the statue hears the sound of any musical instrument, they are to fall down & worship the statue. Whoever does not will immediately be thrown into the fiery furnace.
All the officials of the government, under the king, had been invited to this ceremony. Not a single one of them is reported to object. They are reported as flat, colorless, mindless characters who have no individual loyalty, but blindly follow the pagan religion of their king.
Thus, Daniel sets up a powerful contrast to the uncompromising loyalty of Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego to the one true God. It’s in that context that some people come forward trying to “cancel” the three followers of Yahweh. They use their words well, making this out to be an issue of politics by describing the behavior of the Jews as an affront to the king.
However, with these words of verse 8, Daniel reveals the true heart of their accusers:
“…maliciously accused the Jews.” The people bringing the charges are not simply out to protect the interests of the king. They are trying to cancel the Jews out of jealousy: “These men, O king, pay no attention to you…” (Daniel 3:12b ESV) The words of the accusers played beautifully into the pride & arrogance of the king. Nebuchadnezzar is furious.
In a rage, he commands that Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego be brought before him. Still, Nebuchadnezzar knows them personally &, even in his rage, has enough respect for them that he allows them to make their case before him. When they arrive, he warns them by saying, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15c ESV)
In his way of thinking, he had defeated the nation of Judah so his gods must be superior to the god of the Jews. He could not even begin to imagine that they would not want to fall down & worship the statue he had made. Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had wiped out the city of Jerusalem. They were so clearly the losers here.
That attitude describes quite well how the politics in our nation play out today. In any given election, the side that wins, cannot even imagine that the losing side would not want to bow down & obey the winning side’s every wish & command. And win or lose, some people in our nation cannot even imagine that others would think that a fetus could be a child of God.
So, Nebuchadnezzar gives Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego a chance to explain themselves & this is the 1st thing they say, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.” They don’t call him stupid. They don’t insult his ancestry. They simply stand on the faith given to them by the true God. They do not compromise at all with a false religion:
“…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, & He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 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.” (Daniel 3:17-18 ESV) They know their very lives & eternal future are on the line & they will not bow to what is false. People who are opposed to abortion know where God stands on that issue & they will not bow to what is false. However, we can take our stand while not calling the other side stupid, & we can love them as much as we love the unborn child. Does the pro choice side do the same?
When the three foreigners, who’ve been given really cushy jobs by the king, defy him, it blows his mind. He orders the furnace to be heated 7 times more than normal. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego were bound & thrown into the furnace. It was so hot that the men throwing them in were killed by the heat.
If you remember, the king had asked, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15c ESV) He now has his answer. Looking into the furnace, he sees “…four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, & they are not hurt; & the appearance of the 4th is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25 ESV)
In the struggles of our lives, we often do not see one like a son of the gods. Yet Jesus has certainly promised to be with us even when we cannot see Him. Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego did not see Jesus until after they were thrown into the furnace, yet they trusted in Yahweh all the same. They trusted Him whether He would save them in the furnace or not.
In some respects the things that are going on in our nation today are like that furnace. You & I are being challenged by the kings of this world, “And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15c ESV)
Our culture, our world, our government & schools, even our own sinful hearts are asking us that question every day. That is the challenge of living in a sinful & broken world. Faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is the only answer. The words of the Introit this morning describe that life of faith: “I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength & my song; He has become my salvation. I shall not die, but I shall live, & recount the deeds of the LORD. The LORD has disciplined me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”
This event in the lives of Shadrach, Meshack & Abednego is meant to encourage us & to give us hope, not just in the heaven to come, but already in the here & now. They were convinced of life after death, in a paradise of perfection. Daniel wants us to be convinced as well, & Jesus died & rose from the dead, to convince us.
Whether God spares us from suffering in this life or whether He chooses to strengthen us through it, we belong to Him & He is always good & His love endures forever. Even the politics & economics of this life cannot separate us from our Creator. His children can never be cancelled, because even death cannot hold us. Amen.
Come, humanity, sing along, sing, you people of God a song; priests & servants, your Lord now bless, join, you spirits & souls at rest: Bless the Lord, all you pure of heart; all you humble, His praise impart; God the Father & Son adore, bless the Spirit forevermore! Raise your voices high, praise & magnify, all you works of God, bless the Lord! Amen. LSB 930:5-6.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet