Topic: Fire. God’s Protection. Category: Know God> Truth>
Listen to the full sermon.
Today we are going to do something a little different. We are going to experience a real life drama from thousands of years ago. The players of this drama are, a king, his servants, three Hebrew men who were in exile and of course God.
So let us go back in time and begin.
Recently the king had dreamt that his kingdom would be overthrown by another world power. He was greatly troubled and disturbed. So he said in his heart. ‘I must show my greatness, wealth and power. For generation to generation shall know my name and the greatness of my kingdom. I will build an image of gold that is so big, it will be the tallest structure throughout the lands. It will reach into the heavens and be seen for miles. I will set it up on the plains. As the lights of the day sky shine, it will glisten and look spectacular. People will be in awe and wonder, as the statue reflects the light of the heavens. It will unite my empire for all the people shall bow down and worship this image of gold that I shall set up.’
So it was that king instructed his best craftsmen to build this image of gold on the plains of his kingdom for all to see. An image so big that it would reflect his kingdom, power and greatness. It would last from generation to generation. It would be a statue of great splendour that all the world would see and remember him.
the statue of gold
His kingdom was the golden age of the Babylonian empire and the king’s name was Nebuchadnezzar.
His name means ‘may nebo protect the crown.’ He attributes his own greatest to himself and to the gods of his people’s creation. There were so many gods to appease and worship yet nebo was considered the god of the scribes and the learned. The craftsman have laboured, giving their skill to serve the king and his gods. Nothing was spared in the creation of this great statue, as it had been crafted with the finest of gold.
The statue of gold is now complete.
In the kings eyes, today was to be one of his finest moments. It was the day to reflect the great majesty and splendour of his kingdom, power and wealth, as the statue of gold is about to have its dedication.
The invitations or shall we say the command to attend this kings’ spectacular event had been issued. It was compulsory to attend. Not one person could refuse the king’s invitation.
So all the government officials and important people have gathered on the plains. Towering over them all was the golden statue that the king had set up. It was so big it appeared to reach into the heavens. As it glistened in the sun, it looked mysteriously majestic.
Everyone is watching, waiting and listening.
Fear and dread ruled the silence.
the blazing hot furnace of fire
The herald broke through and shouted for all to hear. ‘All the people of the nations and languages hear and obey this decree of the king. At the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, you must bow down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Anyone who fails to bow down and worship the golden image will be thrown into the ring of the blazing hot furnace of fire.’
It was at that moment, when the herald had completed shouting the kings’ decree that the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music was heard throughout the land. Instantly the people bowed down and worshipped the statue of gold.
Now a certain group of Chaldean leaders who had envy and resentment in their hearts came to the king and said. ‘O king, live forever! You, O king have made a decree that at the time of the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, everyone must bow down and worship the golden image. Anyone who fails to bow down and worship the golden image that you set up will be thrown into the ring of the blazing hot furnace of fire.
O king you must be told that there are three young Hebrew men, whom you, O king, appointed to be governors over your province of Babylon. They refused to bow down and serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up. Their names are: Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego.
the one true God
The king remembered them. They were gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand. He had placed them in his palace to teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans. He even promoted them to be governors of his province.
Their names were changed to reflect his power over them and their new destiny in his courts. Hananiah whose Hebrew name meant, ‘God has favoured’ was changed to Shadrach which meant ‘the royal scribe.’ Mishael’s Hebrew name which meant ‘who is what God is’ was changed to Meshach, which meant ‘guest of the king’ and Azariah whose name meant ‘the Eternal One has helped’ was changed to Abed-Nego, which meant ‘servant of Nebo.’ Nebo being the Babylonian god of scribes and in the kings eyes would preserve his kingdom.
Yet little did the king know that the gods of human creation that he attributed everything to were about to be exposed. The true God, the unknown God, the Eternal One whose kingdom is eternal is about to break through humanity’s darkness.
The names of the young Hebrew men were changed. But their witness and testimony of God the Eternal One, who promised to always be with them, even in captivity, could never be changed. The Eternal One who is the ultimate power full of grace and truth reveals Himself in a way that the prideful king would understand.
the witness of the Eternal One
So back to the king. Hearing that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did not bow down and worship the golden statue that he set up caused great anger to rise up within him. This was the ultimate insult and shame. The king reasoned, ‘Surely it could not be true as everyone is fearful of me.’
He therefore commanded his servants to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego before him and he will speak to them directly. So the kings men did as the king commanded and brought Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego before him.
King Nebuchadnezzar said to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, ‘Is it true that you will not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? I will give the opportunity to obey and answer me. So at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, bow down and worship the golden image which I have set up. Now make yourself ready Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.
But know this, that if you refuse to bow down and worship the golden image which I have set up, you will be thrown into the ring of the blazing hot furnace of fire. For it is I who has ultimate power over you and hold your destiny in my hands. So I boldly and pridefully declare to you, who is the god who will be able to rescue you from my hands?’
the God who saves
They replied, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. For if we are thrown into the blazing hot furnace of fire, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power O king. But even if He doesn’t rescue us from the blazing, hot furnace of fire, let it be known O king that we do not and will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’
Everyone turns to the king in fear and dread. Watching, waiting, listening.
The king’s face is consumed with rage directed toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego. Immediately he commanded his servants of the court to heat up the blazing hot furnace of fire to seven times its normal temperature! The fire is now a raging fury. The heat is so intense that anyone who comes anywhere near the fire will be instantly burnt and ultimately meet their death.
The king commanded his finest soldiers, ‘Tie up these three rebellious men who bring great shame and throw them into the raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire. And do this at once!’
So the kings soldiers did just that. And so it was. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were tied up in their coats, trousers, turbans and other garments and thrown into the raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire!
The soldiers of the king who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego into the fire were instantly killed by the intense heat of the flames.
But what about, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego? Where were they in the fire? They could not be seen as when they were thrown into the raging, blazing, volcanically hot, furnace of fire, they fell down into the midst of it.
the eternal one in the midst of the fire
Then it happened! In stunned amazement, King Nebuchadnezzar rose in haste and turned to his counsellors and questioned, ‘Did we not cast three men who were tied up into the midst of the raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire?”
They answered and said to the king, ‘Yes O king, this is true.’
The king shouted, ‘But look! I see four men loose and free, walking around in the midst of the raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire. They are not hurt or have a single burn on them. And behold the fourth one looks like the Son of God!
The king got up and went nearer to the raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire. He shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here at once.’
Then at that very moment, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire. What they just saw amazed everyone.
The raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire had no power over Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. There was not one hair on their head or a thread of their clothes that was affected by the fire. Their was not even a smell of smoke or any burn marks on their skin or clothes.
How could this be?
So it was that Nebuchadnezzar declared, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Who delivered His servants from the midst of the raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire. His mighty power is the greatest power of all. For the one like the Son of God was in the raging, blazing, volcanically hot furnace of fire with them.
deliverance and freedom
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego have trusted in the Most High God and chose to serve and worship only Him. It is therefore true that there is no other God who can deliver like this.’ The God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.
Time passed. King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom came and went. Just like in his dream that God had shown him and warned him how it would be. His kingdom was overthrown by another world power. The king’s statue of gold faded away.
In complete contrast, the witness and testimony of God’s deliverance and fulfilment of promises is forever. They live on in His word and in the very essence of Himself, because that is who He is. He is the deliverer who is faithful and true. The Eternal One, who promises He will never leave nor forsake us. No matter the circumstances or situations of this world that is wearing out like a garment, He is with us. There in the midst of it all.
So heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s deliverance, eternal life and freedom can never be taken from us. He has written our destiny in His book of life and His name on our hearts. The Son of God, the Prince of Peace, the Strong Deliverer. Our Defender, Righteous Judge, King of Kings and Lord of lords. Justice and truth, the Eternal Word of God who with us until the end of the age. Come Lord Jesus come.