Adult Sunday School Lesson for January 14, 2018
To sustain a faith that is not eroded by pressure or crushed by opposition
Background: Daniel 3
Daniel 3:19-23, 26-28 (CEB)
19 Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his face twisted beyond recognition because of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In response he commanded that the furnace be heated to seven times its normal heat. 20 He told some of the strongest men in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of flaming fire. 21 So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were bound, still dressed in all their clothes, and thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. (22 Now the king's command had been rash, and the furnace was heated to such an extreme that the fire's flame killed the very men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to it.) 23 So these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell, bound, into the furnace of flaming fire. . . .
26 Nebuchadnezzar went near the opening of the furnace of flaming fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. 27 The chief administrators, ministers, governors, and the king’s associates crowded around to look at them. The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn't singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire! 28 Nebuchadnezzar declared: “May the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be praised! He sent his messenger to rescue his servants who trusted him. They ignored the king’s order, sacrificing their bodies, because they wouldn’t serve or worship any god but their God.
“May the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be praised! He sent his messenger to rescue his servants who trusted him. They ignored the king’s order, sacrificing their bodies, because they wouldn’t serve or worship any god but their God.” (Daniel 3:28)
Last week we learned about Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, the three Judean friends of Daniel. These three were appointed by Daniel to govern the state called Babylon. Because of their positions they were given Babylonian or Chaldean names hence they became Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
I am going to include the passage from chapter 2 that tells this story. 48 Then the king exalted Daniel and lavished gifts on him, making him ruler over all the province of Babylon and chief minister over all Babylon’s sages. 49 At Daniel’s urging, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to administer the province of Babylon, but Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
Once again I will point out that Daniel was appointed ruler of all the sages in Babylon. Going back to the story of the Wise Men.
For whatever reason our lesson text has omitted the most important verses from Chapter 3 of Daniel. I think the response of the three to Nebuchadnezzar is a lesson we can all use.
For whatever reason Nebuchadnezzar has this gold statue made that is “ninety feet high and nine feet wide.” He then issues an order for everyone to kneel down when the music starts. The statue is not of Nebuchadnezzar, it seems more like a power play, to see if the king has as much power as he thinks.
The three heroes of our story respond to the king's orders in the following verses of chapter 3. “16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar: “We don’t need to answer your question. 17 If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us. 18 But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.”
The other portion left out of this text is the fourth person in the furnace with the three Hebrew children. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in shock and said to his associates, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” They answered the king, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25 He replied, “Look! I see four men, unbound, walking around inside the fire, and they aren’t hurt! And the fourth one looks like one of the gods.” Just reminding us that Jesus is with us, He is Emmanuel.
The bold faith of these three demonstrates what real faith looks like. It would have been easy to go along with the crowd, and justify in their own mind reasons for doing so. They did not bargain with God or Nebuchadnezzar. Their faith was not conditional, whether God saved them or not It had nothing to do with their decision.
This devotion is hard to find today, people are seeming always willing to compromise by justifying their actions through some explanation. God’s goodness and our faithfulness are not bargaining chips. We believe and trust or we don’t. We accept the consequences of our faith, or what we have is not real faith.
My hymn for this week is “I know Whom I Have Believed” and am persuaded that He is able.