Recently, two American missionaries in England were stopped from handing out tracks to Muslims in a Muslim area of England. They were accused of a hate crime. In England it has become improper for a Christian to try and convert a Muslim because it will OFFEND THE MUSLIM! So Christians are discouraged to try and lead an ethnic minority to believe in ‘Christianity.’ Part of that is because Christianity is seen as western, white, religion, but also because it is politically incorrect. Our Culture says that no-one has the right to tell you that they have THE truth.
And that alone, challenges Christians to compromise aspects of our belief in God.
Christians are seen as bigoted, or fundamentalist, or unloving, intellectually stupid and even weak for believing in and trusting what scripture has to say and so we step back, and do not say the things we should say or do the things we should do because we are afraid of the consequences or what people will say to us.
If you see someone al getting beaten up, abused or shouted at do you step in between them and stand with the person getting beaten? Or would you just slip by? Hey, wait a minute, you might say, that’s not fair. I could get beaten up – I would lose my reputation – I couldn’t make a difference – but you WOULD be making a difference to that one person and for most of us stepping in is just too much trouble for us.
So, what is it that makes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego NOT worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue?
How easy it would have been to just bow, shout and make believe that they were worshipping the statute.
Yet their action in NOT worshipping it is so noticeable that some of the dudes they work with tell the King that they are not obeying the command to worship the statute.
Now notice something here – they are ratted out by the people they work with. I don’t think Sadrach, Meshach and Abedego were the cool kids on the block – part of the gang. There seems to be some jealousy here. They were looking for a reason to drop the three into something that would get them into trouble. Maybe the three were vocal about their trust in Yahweh. Maybe they were known as the geeks or the egg heads because they did everything to the best of heir ability.
What ever it was they are not liked by their peers.
You know Jesus said something very interesting – he said in John’s gospel, that if the world hated him, its going to hate us. Does the world love you or hate you. Most of the time the world loves us because we really love, or at least like the world – that is not God’s way.
Now, as an aside, why does Neb decide to build this huge statue? It would have looked a little odd – ninety feet high and 9 feet wide – tall and skinny.
Remember the dream Neb has about the big statue with the head of Gold and the body of different metals and the feet of clay that Daniel interpreted?
Daniel’s interpretation of this dream, as we saw a few nights back, was telling Neb of the inevitable future.
Yet Neb here seems to have built this statue in an attempt to unify Babylon. The statue is not of different metals but of all gold – unified, one metal – and he demands that ALL worship it – a monotheistic religion – a one, unified idol to worship.
Yet our three guys refuse – they do not love the world - and they are brought before the King.
I do not know what your greatest fear is. What is the thing that will wake you up in a cold sweat? Disease, death, drowning, burning alive, spiders, snakes.
But imagine being brought face to face with your greatest fear. How would you respond? Would you pray? Would you acknowledge God’s power and love? Or would you break down weeping and crying like a baby, and try to get away?
Sahrach, Meshach and Abedego are faced with certain death.
And yet their answer is one of the most remarkable answers in scipture because it is filled with Faith – a faith that is a Christ based faith – a faith that we need to learn from and begin to live out.
Now V17 in the NIV translation is not that good. But the excellent NET Bible and HCS Bible bring out the real sense; if our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”(NET) …..&… If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.”
Please notice something – these translations leave room for doubt – IF THE GOD WE SERVE EXISTS AND IS ABLE TO DELIVER – I find that so cool. Here are three men who have seen their country destroyed by Babylon, are captive and have, according to their culture, seen their god defeated. They are expressing normal, expected doubts – our God has been silent and so we are not sure he even exists or can save us – AND HERE IS THE AMAZING PART – despite not being sure of all of these things - THEY STILL WILL NOT WORSHIP THE STATUE.