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Serving God in the Furnace (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
June 8, 2021 4:00 am

Serving God in the Furnace (Part 2 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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June 8, 2021 4:00 am

In today’s world, serving God isn’t exactly popular. The same was true in Daniel’s day, when the pagan culture of Babylon rejected God. Not everyone folded under pressure, though. Hear how they stood firm, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Serving God is not at the top of most people's priority lists today. The same was true in Daniel's day as we read in Daniel chapter 3, the pagan culture in Babylon had rejected God.

But not everyone folded under the pressure to conform. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg examines the faith of three men who took a stand and who refused to bow. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, We really don't need to give you an answer in this. If this be the case, 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. 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.

It's quite striking, isn't it? They could have said, Well, we're not really hurting anybody by doing this. I mean, nobody's harmed by it. All the kind of routine rationalizations of contemporary American evangelicalism would very quickly be brought into play to explain why it was that it really is a bad idea to do anything other than just get with the program and join the group.

But what do they do? No, we're not going to do that. Why not? They obeyed God because they must obey God. You see, when we take our Christian lives into the realm of that which is most suitable, amenable, comfortable, understandable, we largely begin to extract it from the context in which what it means to be a disciple of Jesus actually says. And to the extent that we have done that, we make ourselves peculiarly vulnerable if the day does come when the only thing that will actually hold us to the line is simple, straightforward, unerring obedience to the Word of God. And I resist again, as I said the other morning, the temptation to go down all kinds of rabbit trails in my own mind.

Many of you are filling in the blanks. You're sensible people, and you understand this. When Moses—and I'll just reinforce this for you, because it is so very important—when Moses, in Deuteronomy, is giving to the people the demands and commands of God in relationship to obedience, at the very heart of it is the matter of idolatry. And, loved ones, idolatry is not a problem of ancient civilizations. Idolatry is my problem. And idolatry and immorality go right together. That's the significance of Romans 1. Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, but their foolish minds were darkened, and they began to worship created things rather than the Creator. Then God gave them up to all kinds of immorality, that the idolatry preceded the immorality. And the idolatry of the human heart that exalts my agenda and my goals and my significance is the very idolatry that will bring us into realms that absolutely violate what the Bible has to say. And the irony of this situation, the ultimate irony of this, is that the reason Shadrach and Meshach and Abednego were in exile was because they had been idolatrous, because God had told them, Don't do this.

And they did it. And God, in judgment, sent them into exile. That's the beginning of it. He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar as an expression of his judgment. Now, Deuteronomy chapter 4, this is Moses speaking. He says, When you father children and children's children and have grown old in the land… This is when they're brought into the promised land. If you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you're going over the Jordan to possess.

You won't live long in it but will be utterly destroyed. And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find him, if you search for him with all your heart and with all your soul. And, he says, you should be encouraged to know that this God is a merciful God, and he will not ultimately leave you or destroy you, but he will fulfill his covenant promises and those he always keeps. Now, here you fast forward to the situation that we have before us. And the king executes his judgment, and in his fury he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind them up, and these men, verse 21, were bound in their clothes, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments. You get the picture of the fact that he decided, Let's just get them in here as fast as we can.

Somebody said, Well, what? Those are nice. Those are nice turbines. I could use that. Never mind that. Just throw them in the fire. That'll be fine. The fact is, if they're right, you'll be able to use it afterwards anyway. But never mind.

Just throw them in there. And in they go, seven times hotter, as I say, to make the miracle even better. People would have looked at them and said, So where did your obedience get you? How's your obedience? How's that obedience thing working for you?

God has really blessed you, hasn't he? Yeah. Yeah, I'm obedient. Yeah.

Oh, yeah, it's good. How hot is it in there, boys? And then, of course, this great mystery. Nebuchadnezzar, he's agitated, astonished.

He rises up in haste. He declared to his counselors, Didn't we cast three men into the fire? And they said, Yeah, true, O king. He said, But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt. And the appearance of fourth is like a son of the gods.

Hmm. And you notice that they're walking in the middle of the fire. Yeah, some of us are actually walking in the middle of our own little fire at the moment, aren't we?

Just to take a moment as an aside. It's really too bad when, as Christians, we suggest that obedience to Jesus means that you skip the fire, that you don't face the rain, when, in actual fact, in Romans 8, what does Paul say? We know that in all these things we are more than conquerors. In the middle of the fire, God shows himself strong. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, his grace all sufficient shall be thy supply, for he will be with thee in trouble to bless and sanctify to thee your deepest distress.

And some of us are able to testify to the fact that the most progress that we've made in our Christian life has not come through success and laughter but through disappointment and failure and tears, so that when we shun trials, we miss blessings—the things that God brings into our lives, both to prove us and to reprove us. Well, Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace and shouted out, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High, God, come out and come here. And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire.

I love this. And who are the witnesses? The same jokers from before. Some of the Chaldeans. There are some Jews here who are not bowing down.

I think, I mean, you said, and so, therefore. Here come Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so that the witnesses to the faithfulness of the three, which gave rise to their experience in the furnace—the same witnesses, apparently, now are giving testimony to the faithfulness of the three, and the testimony to the faithfulness of God, who has preserved his people in the midst of it all. Well, remember Jesus, when he said to his disciples in Matthew—or Luke, I think it is.

I'm just going to check and see. You know, when he sends them out, he says, I'm going to send you out, and there will be nations rising against nations, and I will give you, and you'll be hated for my name's sake, but not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance, you will gain your lives. And the detail, again—and this is quite striking, isn't it? It says that not only were they not burned, their hair wasn't singed, and they didn't even smell of smoke. Well, you say, well, that's ridiculous.

No, it's not. It's miraculous. So the satraps are the ones who testify to what God has done.

Well, it's just a reminder, isn't it? And with this, we'll move to a close, that God is the God who delivers. That God is a God who delivers. He delivered his people from the bondage of Egypt, brought them out with an outstretched hand.

He has delivered his people into the custody of Nebuchadnezzar in the experience of exile. And here, in this event, there is an indication of the fact that his people who are in exile can trust him that he will actually do what he said and bring them out of the furnace of their own experience. Which, of course, runs the whole way through the Bible, doesn't it? That the story of the Bible is salvation belongs to the Lord. That God is the God who delivers.

Let not your hearts be troubled, said Jesus. You believe in God. Believe also in me.

In my Father's house store many rooms and mansions. If it weren't so, I would have told you, I'm going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

I'm going to deliver you. Now, you say here, this one, this fourth individual who is identified, and some of us have concluded very quickly that this is a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ, which it may be. But that's not what it says. It says that his appearance of the fourth was like a son of the gods or like an angel. Certainly, if that is the case, then the angel saved these three men, but they died again. When Jesus saves, he saves, and we will never die again. Even though he die, yet shall he live.

And whoever lives and believes in me will never die. John chapter 11. The angel joined them in the furnace, but did not, as Jesus did, give his life to save them. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are standing out in this drama. Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. You see, the emphasis is on God.

It's not on the three of them. And this God, says Nebuchadnezzar—and I'm in verse 28 now, which means we're close to the end—this 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. This is an amazing summary of what these characters have done. They have refused to bow down to this statue representative of the Babylonian deities. They have trusted in God that whether he delivers them or not, they will serve him. They have yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own god.

Can I say to you young people for just a moment, that is what it actually takes. You're gonna have to yield up your own body. But we're not mystics. We don't believe that somehow the soul is trapped in a body, that the body doesn't really matter, and what you do with your body doesn't really matter. No, what you do with your body matters.

It really, really, really, really, really matters. That's why we sang in Sunday school, so be careful little eyes what you see, and be careful little hands what you touch, and be careful little feet where you go, because there's a Father up above, and he's looking down in love—the very love that gave the commands not to thwart their lives but to keep them in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. It is his love that executes his justice and his judgment. So that, as Paul says, I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.

It's the only reasonable and sensible spiritual thing to do. And that's what these characters had done. And Nebuchadnezzar, despite all of his rage and all of his malevolent disposition, he recognizes this to be the case. Therefore I make a decree. Any people, nation, 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.

You remember how he had started? Well, I've got a big fiery furnace here for you guys. And do you know of any god that could rescue you? The inference being, no, you don't.

Nobody does. And now, he says, there is only one god who could have done that, and that is the living God himself. Well, the issues of idolatry, as I say, are contemporary issues as well. If you've read David Brooks's new book, I commend it to you, The Road to Character. It starts with what he refers to as the big me and the small me. He says, We spend the majority of our lives on what he refers to as resume virtues, putting together our resume in such a way that everyone will know who we are, what we are, how well we've done, where we're going, what we've achieved, and everything else. And he says, But the real you will not be found in your resume virtues but will be found in your eulogy virtues. For those, then, will not be the superficial issues of your life, but they will be the core issues of your life. They will be the affairs of your heart, he says. These things are the things that will be remembered by your children and your grandchildren—not where you went to university, not your bank balance. They even don't care about it already.

They will not exalt in it then. But he says, Our society is preoccupied with the big me. Or, quoting a Jewish scholar, Adam 1, as opposed to Adam 2. I'm just teasing you into purchasing the book. I'm not an agent or anything, but it is the best book that I've read in the last two months, and I read a lot of books. But it is wonderfully helpful, and I think he hits the nail absolutely on the head. I spoke at the baccalaureate for Grove City College, and not knowing what to do, I just decided I'll go a little against the grain, because baccalaureate addresses are by and large—by and large. And so I spoke on, Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, or the strong man boast in his strength, or the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he knows me, the living God. Because the idolatries of our contemporary life have bled, let us be honest, into the church.

The me-ism of evangelicalism is a travesty. How good it is to think of these young people being trained in this environment and saying right at the very heart of it, we've begun to discover from the outset that the key to leadership is in service. For Jesus said, I came among you as one who serves. And the idolatry of money and power and possessions and so on is a great snare, and I think Daniel 3 can help us in that regard.

Where did we begin? We began by saying that the great need for the people as they read this was to realize that God was able to rescue and to rescue them even through the trials. And whether he did rescue them out of or in and through, still they said they were going to serve him. When Peter is writing his letters, I have a sneaking suspicion that he has that seen in his mind when he says to his readers, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you as though something strange were happening to you, but rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also be rejoicing and glad when his glory is revealed. And in chapter 3, he says, You know, the great rescue is this, that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promises, some count slowness, but he is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. For the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done in it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what kind of people ought you to be? Surely he remembers the words of Jesus, who, as he speaks to his disciples in Matthew 13, says to them, The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all lawbreakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

That's the ultimate rescue. You see, we've reached the point where we don't actually believe that there is any notion of a fiery furnace, that somehow or another God is just going to overlook everything in the end. Well, I think only our Bibles can save us from that. Think of how Paul put it so clearly when, in speaking to the Corinthians of the problems that existed among them, where they were just absolutely in chaos despite the fact that they had been loved and saved by God. Remember when he said, Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus paid it all, and all to him I owe.

Sin had left a crimson stain, and he washed it white as snow. That's the message that God is the God who delivers from the darkest and from the deepest implications of our own rebellious hearts and brings us safely home. What a great story.

What a wonderful truth. Our God is a God who delivers. You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. If you're enjoying Alistair's current series from the book of Daniel, you can own the Faith Under Fire study on USB.

It's available in our online store for just five dollars. Visit truthforlife.org slash store. We've just heard a challenging message about refusing to bow to idols and serving God, even if defeat seems likely. The question for each one of us is, who will we worship or obey when we face that moment of choice? We found an excellent book to help you think through that question.

We didn't have to look very far for it. The book is called Brave by Faith, God-Sized Confidence in a Post-Christian World. It's a brand new release from Alistair. As we've learned today, idolatry isn't something that was simply a problem in ancient civilizations, and though our idols may not come to us in the form of statues, they still keep us from worshiping the true God. Alistair helps us recognize the gods of today's culture and teaches us how to say, I will not bow even when the idols seem impressive or popular with everyone around us. The book Brave by Faith is quick and easy to read. It's about 130 pages. You'll find yourself rereading this book, highlighting the rich truths in each chapter. You can request your copy when you donate. Just tap the image on the app or visit our website, truthforlife.org slash donate.

I'm Bob Lapeen. Over the past year or so, have you wondered where is God in the midst of all of this? Listen tomorrow to learn why God is more in control than we think. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-07 15:29:51 / 2023-11-07 15:38:54 / 9

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