Daniel chapter number one, and we’re going to give a little bit of background here.
The message today is from the book of Daniel, and Daniel is one of the greatest prophetical books in the Old Testament. It forecasts the future. In Christian colleges, when they teach the book of Daniel, they always call the class ‘Daniel and Revelation.’ They put them together because they are the major prophecy books.
In Daniel, God’s name is mentioned — one of the only places that’s mentioned this way — He’s called the Ancient of Days. Why? Because our God has always been: Father, Son, Holy Ghost. The Trinity. Three persons, one God. ‘Explain it.’ I can’t, but I believe it.
This book of Daniel takes place during a time of judgment. And a question is asked throughout the book. Here’s what it is: ‘What is real promotion?’
Almost anyone that’s ever had a job has heard that word. How do you get a promotion? Usually, we think of a promotion as the time when someone gets a title, more money, more responsibility. In many of your cases, it’s just more responsibility, no more money and no title.
God is the One Who Promotes
But Daniel makes it clear that God is the one that promotes. He says promotion comes neither from the east or the west or the south. So there’s just one direction — north — and that’s where heaven is. God is the one Who promotes.
But guess what? Here’s how He promotes. He lets us go through a storm or the fire. And then we have the respect and influence of many. That’s how God looks at promotion.
Money comes and goes. Titles come and go. Influence lasts for all eternity. That is real promotion.
Let’s pray. And then we’ll read some of this passage here.
Father, bless the brief time we have. Thanks for the giving spirit, the sweet spirit of Your people. People who are back from out of town, people back who have been ill. We pray that you’ll just meet with us and help us. In Jesus’ name, amen.
One statement and then we’ll read the passage: God may be judging a nation, but he can still bless individuals. So the book of Daniel is a story of Israel. God’s people are being judged much like I think America is God’s people, and we are now being judged. God removed his hand from Israel’s safety and allowed wicked King Nebuchadnezzar to conquer them.
We see in Daniel 1:1:
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.”
So here is what he did to Jerusalem. He took his troops and surrounded the city and he cut off all their supplies. How long could you live in your house if your house was surrounded by troops and you couldn’t go buy anything and no one could bring you anything? How much food do you have in your house right now that you could survive on? For some of you, years. I mean, if you’re a teenager or if you got boys especially, it’s fast food under their beds. I mean, there’s food everywhere. But here the enemy simply just waited it out till Israel’s food ran out. God’s people started eating the animals, and then eating anything left, and then dying and starving.
That was Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the city or the mayor or whatever you want to call him. King Zedekiah tried to escape through the side of a wall. Nebuchadnezzar had him captured, brought him in front of him, set judgment against him, killed his two sons in front of his eyes, and then blinded Zedekiah so that would be the last memory he would ever have, his sons being killed. Nebuchadnezzar, when he got angry at people, the Bible says he cut people in pieces. Sometimes he would hang them on their own house post. He was wicked. He was cruel. He was evil. In the Bible, he’s a symbol of the devil. And so here in Daniel he comes against Jerusalem.
Finally, he conquers the city, and he starts taking captives first. He takes these young people, these who were raised in an upper-class family and were going to be raised up to be the governors and mayors and judges. He takes them, and that was Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He takes them into Babylon 600 miles away.
The Bible says in chapter one — we’re not going to read it all, just trying to give you an overview. Nebuchadnezzar changes their names. Is that not like the devil? The devil likes to take our young people and change them, change what they’ve been taught. It says he wanted to give them the Babylonian knowledge, a different education. He changes their names, he changes their food, he changes their drink, he changes their religion. He wants them to worship idols like he does.
So here are these four boys, and hundreds and thousands were taken. But God, in this book of Daniel, only lists four by name. First, there is Daniel. His name means ‘God is my judge.’ What helped Daniel make it and turn out for God? I believe it is that Daniel was constantly reminded, ‘I’ll be judged for how I live. I won’t be judged how everybody else lives, but I will be judged by God one day for what I do and what I say and where I go and how I behave, how I use this body He’s given me.’
So there’s Daniel and his three buddies, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So those four are mentioned throughout the book of Daniel. So we see here he ends up taking them into captivity.
Making a Decision
Daniel 1:8: “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat…”
World-famous verse there.
So somehow Daniel makes a decision. He says, ‘Now they’re changing my name to Belteshazzar. They’re changing the eating habits. We Jews don’t eat pork; we Jews don’t eat these things. We Jews don’t drink these drinks and food offered to idols. We don’t do this.’
Daniel makes a decision in his heart. He says, ‘I’m not going to do that.’ I personally think he made that decision on the journey from Jerusalem to Babylon.
He’s chained. He’s walking barefoot through the sand. I think he said, ‘I better make some decisions because my parents have now been killed. My temple is no more. I don’t have a pastor or a priest. I have no one to tell me what to do. I’m on my own, and now I’m in a heathen country, a heathen city.’ And Daniel purposed in his heart. He said, ‘I’m making some decisions in advance because when I get there, it’s too late.’
Let me encourage you: the more decisions you make in advance, the better your decision process will be.
The time to decide if you’re going to smoke cigarettes and get cancer is not when someone hands you one. When you’re in a crowd, you better decide long before that, and you’re going to have to learn the ‘no’ word. ‘No.’ The time to decide you’re not going to smoke drugs is long before at a party. Someone says, ‘Try this pill, try this joint, smoke this, snort this up your nose, inject this.’ You better make a decision long before you are put in that position of choice. Before you’re offered pornography to look at, before you’re told a dirty joke, before you’re offered your first beer. You better look at all the temptations in life and learn early on, “No.” Daniel purposed in his heart.
Now we go to the chapter I want to focus on, chapter three. Because Daniel learned to say ‘no’ and made some wise decisions, his three buddies did too. It didn’t say they all purposed in their hearts. Daniel did. So guess what? You’re influencing somebody?
Power of Influence
And I want to say to all the first-born here today… how many would say you’re the first-born in your family? The first one that was born? Okay. How many of you would say you’re the first-born lady or woman or female in your family? First-born male or young man in your family? You have a power that others don’t. You have a power over your siblings. They look up to you. You lead them the wrong path, and all your siblings may follow you down the wrong path. You end up on drugs, you’ll may lead all your siblings to drugs. You become a rebel in the home; all the siblings may rebel as well. You have a power that your parents don’t even have. There’s something about the first-born, and that’s why God in the Bible says, ‘Give me the first-born. If I can get the first-born living for God, he will have an influence on the others.’ (This has nothing to do with the message!)
So now we’re in chapter number three. We already skipped two. So these names are remembered. Thousands were taken captive. Only these four are remembered.
We see in chapter number three, now King Nebuchadnezzar, in just a few years, has changed their names. He’s tried to change their eating habits. Now he sets up an image.
The King’s Command
Daniel 3:1 ‘Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold…’ And he talks about it. It’s 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide. And he keeps saying, ‘The king had set up, the king had set up.’ So somehow in the plan of Dura, King Nebuchadnezzar made this great big old idol. It doesn’t say, but I imagine it’s an idol of him. Don’t you imagine?
But he said, ‘Now the band’s going to play.’ Now, I don’t know if it’s Taylor Swift concert or who was singing at this. I don’t know who it was. But he said, ‘The band’s going to play, and when all these musical instruments play, that’s your cue. Everyone bows down and worships the image.’ And so the band played.
Now, remember it was thousands of Jewish young men who were taken captive. Everyone bows. See, music is always related to worship. When the music played, they all worshipped that idol. The music played, and three of them didn’t bow.
You know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They didn’t bow. I wonder if they thought back and said, ‘Daniel purposed in his heart. Maybe we’re supposed to take a stand.’ They stood when others bowed; they had a backbone. Someone said, ‘In the middle of the road, there are only yellow lines and dead skunks.’
It takes something special to have a backbone in a wicked world like ours to stand for right? You want to be popular? Do right. Everyone will notice you. Want to be popular at your public school this year? Carry your Bible, live for Christ. Everyone will know who you are the first hour of school.
And so they end up not bowing. The king is now upset. They have stood out. They have defied the king’s command. He calls them in, and he says, ‘Now, look, let me give you another chance fellas.’
He said, ‘Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace…’ (Daniel 3:15)
In modern vernacular, ‘You get the pizza oven. We will throw you in the pizza oven and close the door, and there will be not enough of you left to put in the box.’
And I love what they said here. What a bold statement.
‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.’ (Daniel 3:16–17)
What is the Fire?
Now, I just want to remind you right now, every one of us has a fire. Fire is always a symbol of trials in life. God somehow allows the heat to get turned up where we’re uncomfortable. We look at that fire, and we’re fearful.
- Sometimes the fire is failing health.
- Sometimes it’s a divorce.
- Sometimes it’s homelessness.
- Sometimes it’s the loss of a job.
- Sometimes it’s your reputation has been tarnished.
- Sometimes it’s a broken heart.
- It’s a betrayal.
- Sometimes it’s a rejected relationship.
- Sometimes it’s grief.
- It’s a death. Someone we hold dear has died.
And all of a sudden we feel like I’m in the fire. The Christian life is like that. There’s calm, and then the storm. Then the storm ends, and then it’s calm again. It’s all these cycles.
No one lives in the fire their whole life. It’s a time of fire, then a time of coolness… and then the fires come back. It’s just a part of life.
So the king threatens them, and they said, ‘Our God is able to deliver us, our God is able to keep us from being thrown into the fire.’ And I want to say this, your God is the same God that they had. You never go on the fire.
But if not…
I love what they said: ‘But if not…’ (Daniel 3:18)
If he decides not to keep us from the fire and we go into the fire, he says, ‘We will not bow down and worship your idol.’ In Greek, here’s what they said (sticks tongue out) or maybe that’s Hebrew. I don’t know what that is. I love what he said: ‘He will deliver us out of thine hand o king… ‘But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.’ (Daniel 3:18) We’re not bowing down to that thing.
Thousands of their peers were bowing. Don’t you think their friends said, ‘Look, man, just bow down. We know you still love God, just bow down. You’re going to get thrown in the pizza oven. It’s not going to hurt you to bow down. Stop causing waves.’
‘We’re not bowing down. It’s idolatry.’ Well, the king gets mad. You know the story.
‘Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.’ (Daniel 3:19)
The Bible says it was so hot when they opened the door, when the soldiers threw them in, it was so hot that they burned up and died.
He’s Still in the Fire
I want to speak on this subject for a few moments that we have left: He’s still in the fire.
We have these Old Testament appearances of Jesus Christ. You do know Jesus’ existence didn’t start in Bethlehem. That’s when He took on our earthly body. Jesus has always been. Father, Son, Holy Ghost. He is eternal. Jesus says, ‘I created the heavens and the earth. In the beginning, I was there. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ He’s always been.
So a few times you see Jesus showing up in the Old Testament. He shows up to Abraham. He shows up here in this story. He shows up and wrestles with Jacob. He’s always been.
And we see here he makes an appearance. Notice what it says.
‘And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.’ (Daniel 3:23)
I think they screamed all the way in. I do not think they had the peace that passeth all understanding. I don’t think they said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, It’s going to be all right. You watch, God’s going to do a miracle.’
You ever been waiting on a miracle and it didn’t come? ‘If God’s going to do a miracle, we’ll be fine.’ Yeah, I think they all screamed bloody murder like little girls all the way in there. I think once they landed inside, they were still screaming for half an hour. And then finally one said, ‘Shut up, we’re not burning.’ I just love it.
‘Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellers, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’ (Daniel 3:24–25)
Wicked king Nebuchadnezzar didn’t watch television that night. He watched the three Hebrews burn. I mean, that was his entertainment. Sit down a while. Let’s just watch the guys burn. They threw them in, and all of a sudden he looks up and he says, ‘I see four, and the fourth looks like the Son of God.’ Hey, it didn’t just look like him. It was Him. It was Him.
Jesus is in the Fiery Furnace
What I want to say for a few moments is this: Jesus is always in the fiery furnace. He’s always in the fire.
By the way, going on the cross, taking our Hell fire for us, paying for our sins, rising from the dead — He knows what the furnace is about. It’s called the ‘furnace of affliction’ in Exodus. He says, ‘I’ve been there. I know what pain is about. I know what fear is about, and I’ll be here waiting when you get thrown in.’
What’s that mean? You’re not alone this morning. Those of you who are going through the fires, some people don’t know because it’s not a public fire. It’s not like a lot of people knew about this, but your furnace — maybe it’s a private thing. You know, about the doctor, you know about the broken heart, you know about family issues, and it’s not a public thing. It hasn’t been posted on media yet. But Jesus says, ‘I’m here. You’re not alone.’
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Hopewell Baptist Church is an Independent Baptist Church in Napa, California pastored by Mike Ray. It is Bible-based with a warm, friendly atmosphere. Hopewell is dedicated to bringing the water of life to the Napa Valley and beyond.