The Party's Over

Scripture: Malachi 4:5, 1 Kings 18:45, Luke 3:1
Date: 09/21/1996 
John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare a people for the first coming of the Lord. Just as Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab's chariot, so John went before Jesus to prepare the way of the Lord. Just as a road was prepared for a traveling king, so the way to our hearts needs to be made clear for Jesus to come into our lives.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Well, I have been blessed thus far. I enjoyed very much John’s trombone. He let me toy with that a little bit earlier. I wanted to see if I could play it. A little bit. Of course that might be a matter of opinion. Really enjoyed that. Looking forward to our study this morning. Looking forward to studying with our friends who are watching on the TV program. Very important subjects that we’re dealing with today.

We’ve been talking in the last few messages about Babylon and things related to final events, prophecies about the last days, and today will be a continuation of that theme. Please turn with me in your Bibles to the book of Daniel, chapter 3. Our study today is one chapter in the book of Daniel, Daniel chapter 3. It’s the experience of the three Hebrews who went through some fiery trials because of their faith. It’s a story about a king of Babylon making a law about how you’re supposed to worship, and I think that similar things are on the horizon for you and me so I thought it’d be a good idea, felt impressed that we should study this. Now I’ll begin with verse one. I may refer to a few different places in scripture, but let’s start with the first verse. Chapter three of Daniel, verse one. Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold. Now in order to know why he’s making this image of gold you have to have a little background.

In chapter two the king has a dream of this great metallic image. It’s actually mineral. Some of it was not metal. Head of gold, arms of silver, belly of bronze, legs of iron, feet of iron and clay and then a stone comes and smashes the whole thing to smithereens and it blows away like dust. And then Daniel tells the king that these different metals and minerals represent the different kingdoms that would rule on earth over God’s people, it wasn’t all their kingdoms, but the ones that would rule over God’s people until Jesus comes and his kingdom fills the earth. Well, the king was flattered by the idea that that head of gold was a symbol of Babylon. Gold the most valuable metal all the minerals after that depreciated in value just as silver and bronze and iron are less valuable. The kingdom of Babylon was a golden kingdom, very precious metal, a lot of splendor in the kingdom of Babylon. There were two of the Seven Wonders of the World, the walls of Babylon, the hanging gardens of the ancient world that Nebuchadnezzar built for his wife Simeramus. He didn’t like the idea that there was going to be another kingdom. He hoped his kingdom would last forever.

Matter of fact, in excavations they have done in the ruins of ancient Babylon they have found tens of thousands of bricks that were stamped with the seal of Nebuchadnezzar and they found some cuneiform tablets and bricks that bore this writing, “This is Babylon that I have built. May it last forever.” Well, his wise men came up with an idea and they went to the king and said, “Well, you know that image that Daniel translated for you. The head of gold was a symbol of Babylon. Maybe you can confound the prophesy and build an image like the one you saw in your dream except make the whole thing gold and that means Babylon will last forever.” And when you cannot unite people of diverse backgrounds and language and culture and race and tradition through common government you can often unite them through common religion, and so that appealed to his ego. He got some artisans together and they planned and plotted and they decided to make a grand event of this.

They would make an image like the one he saw in his dream but it would be spectacular, it would be colossal in its form, ninety feet tall, gold. Even if it was gold plated that represents a priceless idol. Nine feet wide, set it on a pedestal in the plain of Dura because they were going to have a vast assembly to inaugurate this new deity of Babylon that was going to weld the whole world together through common worship. We’ll cover it up, get it all dressed up pretty, cover it with a great big veil, bring everybody out, have a banquet, have some music; anybody who is anybody in the kingdom will be there. The press will be there and just as the sun is beginning to go behind the horizon we’ll drop the veil, we’ll strike up the band and everyone will worship and the last image in their mind as the sun sets will be this new religion. Oh, they had the party planned. They were going to establish Babylon as a kingdom.

They were going to establish a millennial reign on earth with Babylon the capitol of this new government religious institution. He “made an image,” verse one, “of gold, whose height was sixty cubits” ninety feet “six cubits wide” nine feet wide approximately. Now that depends on what cubit they’re using. It could have been a hundred and twenty feet. It could have been twelve feet wide or so we’re just going by assuming it was the Babylonian cubit. “…and he set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the princes, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of this image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” All of the leaders, political and religious throughout his empire were assembled and it was impressive, I’m sure. As the people stepped from their chariots the press was snapping pictures and they were going to appear the next day with all kinds of wild stories in The Enquirer, and The Midnight Globe, and The Star. It was like a major opening of a Hollywood spectacular.

Everybody was there and there were servants on every hand walking around with trays of hors d'oeuvres, snails and all kinds of things that rich people eat… escargot. And everyone was having a good time and the band was playing some introductory music, everybody was circulating fliers that when the band plays we’re all to bow and nobody had a problem with that. I mean you know, the King is the King. He can do what he wants, and if you want to be a good citizen you obey the government. That was probably okay for most of the Babylonians, but there were some people who had come to the party, they obeyed the King’s command to come. Maybe they were not exactly sure what they we’re in for and this was going to be a problem for them. They read in the bulletin that was circulated that at a certain time when the music was played they were to bow down to this idol that was going to be unveiled and they look at each other and were wondering, what we do about this?

We cannot get out of this. After everybody came within the boundaries of the banquet area nobody was allowed to leave. There were three young men who were friends of Daniel who had been set over the provinces of Babylon that were in the category of those invited. Daniel evidently did not come. Look at the last words in the book of Daniel chapter two and it says, verse 49, “Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon but Daniel,” that means Daniel did something different, “but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.” So they by their office were told they must go. Daniel maybe stayed as vice regent of Babylon while they’re having the party. Maybe Daniel knew about the decree and he knew he’d better not go.

For whatever reason, he was not there. Well, the Bible tells us, verse 4, that all the people gathered together, “they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up and a herald cried aloud, ‘To you it is commanded oh, people nations and languages.’” This was a law from the government. You know Revelation chapter 13 tells us that there is going to be a second beast that will come up out of the earth and he will require all, small and great, rich and poor, free and bond to worship an image to the beast. Do you think there’s a connection between Revelation 13 and Daniel 3? There’s some lessons you and I, friends, must learn today or we’re in a heap of trouble in the days ahead. We need to react in the events before us the same way those three young Hebrews reacted.

Now their Babylonian names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. They also had Hebrew names Hananiah, Meshiel, and Azariah. The king renamed them. The government was going to be solidified, strengthened, through common worship. And I’m sure they had a lot of very interesting things printed in the bulletin about how wonderful this was going to be. All the warring factions throughout Babylon will have peace. This new religion is going to bring peace to the society. Maybe there’s a little bit of violence in ancient Babylon. You know all that money there’s probably some problems, all that gold. People were spraying graffiti on the walls of Babylon and stealing fruit from the hanging gardens and they had problems. This religion was going to be the salvation of the whole empire. And even those in the kingdom who began to say, “Well, maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” were jumped on by everybody else and said, “This is the best thing that could ever happen.”

That very same scenario is happening right now. There is a very powerful wave in north America that everybody is riding about how wonderful it will be as the churches in our country unite on the points that we hold in common and force the government, because of our process being democratic we can do that, to enact laws that will require everybody to keep the Ten Commandments. Now how many of you think that it would be good if everybody in the country kept the Ten Commandments? Well that depends. That depends on if people are doing it because the Holy Spirit impresses them or because the government says they will imprison them. Is it possible to keep the Ten Commandments because of government laws? No. Didn’t Jesus say that as far as God is concerned murder is not just the act where you take another life, but when you are angry with your brother in your heart, you’re guilty of murder? The letter of the law the government can enforce. The spirit of the law is especially what the Lord want from you and me, a change of heart. Now don’t miss what I’m about to say. Tell your friends because I’m hearing so many clever things about the government reinstating the Ten Commandments and it sounds really good on the surface. God gave the Ten Commandments in two parts, on two tables, in two categories for a reason, and Jews used to understand this.

The first four commandments were dealing with man’s relationship to God. No government should ever require people to observe those, or you do not have a religious society, you have tyranny. I do not think any society can survive without the government telling people to keep the last six. They’re civil in nature. They deal with our relationship with our fellow man and every government should impress that on its people. What happens to a society when there’s no respect for property? When we can steal from each other? When we can kill each other? What happens to a society when they do not honor the institution for marriage?

I have cable TV and among the things that are on cable they have a program called C-SPAN. You get to listen to the debates that are going on in congress, and they’ve got a bill that they’ve been dealing with now about same-sex marriages and there are some politicians who are saying we need to affirm that marriage is simply an agreement between male and female and it cannot be beyond that, and others are beginning to say that, “Well, if this is really America then marriage can be between whatever you want so we’re all free.” It is unbelievable the debates. It’s unbelievable how politicians can sacrifice the reason that even a kindergartner could refute. You take their logic to its extreme and you can call you and your dog a marriage. It’s pathetic.

I believe the government must honor the last six commandments. The society crumbles when the government does not honor the parents’ authority over their children. I do not want the government raising my children. They need to respect my authority as a father in my family. You go through those last six commandments and it’s clear that they are civil in nature, but I don’t think that some of my pastors in other persuasions realize where their treading when they say the whole Ten Commandments should be honored by the government. The government must impress them upon the people. I don’t want the government telling me what God to worship. You can make a people worship. I don’t want the government telling me whether or not I can make an idol. That must be my choice. I don’t want them telling me not to take God’s name in vain. That means they get to define what God. I don’t want them telling me what day I’m supposed to worship. It’s going to be tough on Muslims who go Friday or Bible Christians and Jews that go Sabbath or Catholics and many Protestants that go Sunday. Whose day is it going to be?

Back to our story. “Then a herald cried aloud: ‘…at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever…’” Now if they were not being inspired by the law and by the music and by all of the important impressive people who were there, then just a little way off in the distance they could see a column of black smoke rising from the furnace where they had forged the image. And there was a little small print at the bottom of the bulletin that said “And if you do not fall down…” Every law has a penalty, doesn’t it? A law without a penalty is not a law. The penalty if you broke the law not only would be unpopular there at the party, but if you broke the law you were going to be cast alive into that burning fiery furnace. So everybody was highly motivated to cooperate. This is going to happen again. “So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down…”

In the last days when people are worshipping the beast and the mark of the beast will it be the minority or the majority that thinks it’s a good idea? The majority is going think, “This is great.” I am so worried about people even who say they read the Bible who have the idea that the mark of the beast means the devil is going to jump down on the earth slimy green with horns and a pitchfork and a big rubber stamp that says “666” and tell everybody to line up, “You line up, I’m going to stamp you in the forehead 666 and you’ll have the mark of the beast.” This is the concept some people have about what the mark of the beast is. The devil is evil, but he’s smarter than that! He is going to make it desirable. He is going make it attractive. Jesus said the deception in the last days will be so overwhelming that if it were possible even the very elect would be deceived. Brothers and sisters in many persuasions and people who take the name of Christ are going to say, “This is wonderful!” It will come upon the world as an overwhelming surprise because it will be in the name of Christ that the mark of the beast is instituted.

It’s going to look good and the arguments in favor of it will be so clever: “It’ll save our society!” “Will bring a millennial rain here on earth.” “There’ll be peace.” “It’ll save the country!” “The reason that these natural disasters are falling on our world is God is angry with our impotence!” I think it’s true that we are in for trouble because there is a lot of sin in the country and the world right now, but the answer is not to tell people what god to worship because you cannot force people to love God. The government, that is not their realm. The last six commandments, yes. The first four, no. This was dealing with one of the first four. You go to Daniel chapter 6 and the king in Mede-Persia (same area as Babylon) he makes a law that tells you what god to worship. And the Lord humiliates the king and He honors Daniel. God does not want governments telling us how to keep the first four commandments. Jesus said, “Come unto Me.” He does not compel us, He invites us. But this is what’s going to happen because they’re not making a distinction. So at the time when they heard the music, “all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” The religion of Babylon, are you listening to me? The religion of Babylon, “all the people.”

Now what was the one thing that was to be the key that inspired them to fall down? Music. How many of you believe that music is good? Who made music? How many of you believe sex is good? You ask a loaded question, you get shot at. Now you made me forget what I was thinking, dear. Oh, we were talking about sex. Okay. Who invented sex? Can the good things that God invented be perverted by the devil? I know one evangelist who when he’d begin his meeting, big auditorium all these people were talking, he’d walk out and he’d go, “Sex, sex, sex!” And it was absolutely silent after that. Then he said, “Now that I have your attention, can we go on with our meeting?” But people automatically assume when you say sex that it’s in the evil connotation.

Music is something God created, but remember this; every gift that God has given us the devil can pervert and make it a power for evil. Food is something that God intended us to enjoy. In it’s right sphere like sex it’s a blessing of God, but we’re in a country where we become gluttons and that which is designed to become good ends up being our downfall. So the devil can do that with music too, and not every kind of music that comes lilting over the TV or the radio is from God. Now you already knew that, but let me say not all the music you hear in church is from God too. There are angels that stop their ears and wince when they hear a lot of things that are ascending heavenward in the name of Jesus. One of the things that is binding together all of the different religious persuasions in the name of Christ is a similar type of worship where the emphasis is on does it feel good? Am I having a good musical experience? The music there is simply to season the worship, but real worship if there’s no music it won’t make any difference because it’s from the heart. The important thing for a Bible Christian is what does the Word say? Not how did the melody go? The devil once again is going to use music to get people to sacrifice their convictions and bow down because it has a power that is moving. The music will be calculated to make you want to worship. Everything about that event that day was very carefully designed to make everybody there want to bow down.

If you were there that day, if I was on the Plain of Dura that day and when they dropped the sheet and that great golden image began to shine and sparkle almost like it was moving and living in the sunlight and the music began to play and all of these important people were there, it just appealed to every one of their senses. It would make anybody want to fall down. That’s why it’s going to take extraordinary people to stand up in a situation like that. God wants you and I to be extra-ordinary. You and I are going to have to know how to stand up when everyone else is bowing down. Now think about what the consequences might be. Not only might you lose your job, what was going to happen? Who did Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego work for?

They had a good position in the kingdom of Babylon. Now if they stand up at this time, what’s going to happen to their employment? They’ll lose their job. If they choose to obey God instead of the government they’re going to lose their job. That was probably the least of their considerations. They knew they were going to lose their lives. I meet people who say, “Well, I would obey God, but I might lose my job. God understands how important that is.” Phfft! I can’t find a word for it and so that’s what I chose. Where is your faith? There are going to be people in heaven, thousands of them, who lost their lives, who were tortured to death because they stood up when everyone else bowed down, and you’re going to stand next to them and say, “Well, I would have, but I might have lost my job!” Where is our faith? There have been people who have been imprisoned in concentration camps and starved to death and all they had to do was sacrifice a little commandment and they could have been fine.

What should be our attitude about obeying God in these last days? No compromise. Amen? Turn with me in your Bibles. Acts chapter four, Peter said it. Acts 4:19 & 20 The disciples were being commanded not to preach in the name of Jesus anymore. Acts 4:19 & 20 “But Peter and John answered and said to them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.’” We cannot be quiet. Acts 5:29 “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.’” Now I want you to say that with me. We ought to obey God rather than men. Do you believe that? I believe we ought to obey every earthly ordinance as long as it does not require us to break a commandment of God, but if we need to make a choice between making the government happy and making God happy, the answer is simple. You obey God and everybody is going to have to make that choice soon.

Go back to Daniel with me here, Daniel chapter 3. Well, when they played the music everyone fell down (almost) and worshipped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. “Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews.” I have a feeling they were some of the wise men. You remember Nebuchadnezzar in chapter two was going to have all of the wise men killed, and Daniel and his friends saved them by interpreting the king’s dream. I think they really were irritated that now Hananiah, Meshiel, and Azariah were over them as the best of his wise men. Remember, chapter one, Daniel, those three young men were interviewed and Nebuchadnezzar found that they were what? Ten times wiser than all of the other wise men in the kingdom. Do you think that there might have been a little political jealousy? And I think these wise men were watching to see what they would do, just looking for a chance to get them, and sure enough when the music played they stood firm. They ran to the king to tell on them. I want you to keep in mind there were thousands of Jews that were taken captive into Babylon.

I hate to think it, but chances are there were other Jews on the Plain of Dura that day and when the music played the only ones you hear about were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego because the other ones chose that moment to tie their shoe. They thought within themselves, “Well, look, when in Rome do as the Romans, right? When in Babylon do as the Babylonians. This is their party. If we stand up now it’s going to mess up their party. Probably not good for us either.” And so when the music plays, “Oh, look. My sandal is undone. I would never bow to an image, but I would tie my sandal on my knees.” And a lot of their friends that may have been around them, fellow Jews, when the music played and everybody bowed down and those guys stood there! Oh, I just. They stood there! Everyone around them bowing down, the stood out as being different. God wants people like that.

I imagine some of their friends reached over and tugged on their robes and said, “You’re going to get us in trouble! They’re going to persecute us because of you.” You’re going to hear the same thing. Those closest to you, Jesus said, “A man’s foes will be they of his own household.” That could mean church too. They’ll be saying, “Look, they’re going to persecute us because you’re standing firm. You’re stubborn. You think you’re so right about everything.” The loving thing to do, they’ll argue, would be just to all be one, to all be united. Sacrifice your convictions for the sake of unity. That’s a very clever argument. It’s appealing. I’m sure that there was a lot of rationalizations that were being thrown at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego by their friends. “Can’t you just say you tripped? When they played the music you lost your balance. Don’t make a spectacle.” It would have been so easy. You know, we’re clever. We can come up with a thousand rationalizations for sin. Have you noticed that? When you’re trying to excuse sin, we become very creative and I’m sure they could have thought of them, but they decided not to look for an excuse.

They decided when in doubt, do the right thing. When everyone else is bowing down, don’t even look like you’re bowing down. Stand up for God. So they stood there. Sure enough their enemies came along and they spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, verse nine. “O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews” not all of the Jews, but certain Jews, “whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.” Oh, you know, that was not the right thing to say to Nebuchadnezzar.

He had been sitting back on his throne reveling in the success of this occasion. He saw when they dropped the veil and all of a sudden the golden image began to glimmer in the sunlight and he heard that moving music in symphony and his heart was thrilled with the visual and auditory senses and everybody is bowing down to his god that he made, and all of a sudden there’s an interruption and they find out that somebody decided not to follow along and be party poopers. They are messing up the whole thing for everybody. And the whole feast was put on hold. They were going to break out the potluck and the banquet, and the king said “Stop everything!” and everybody was interrupted and everything was thrown out of whack and the whole agenda was arrested because three guys stood up. They were just wrecking the whole party. That’s how you and I are going to look. We’re going to be the cause for all of the problems because we stand up when everyone else is bowing down because we’re being “fanatics,” “legalistic”. There are protestant preachers today who will tell you “that was good for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego then, but we’re not under the law now.

We don’t need to keep the Ten Commandments now.” Today they would say the right thing to do would be to bow down because after all we don’t need to keep the Ten Commandments anymore so what difference does it make? Whether it’s the second commandment or the first commandment or the forth commandment let’s not be, you know, let’s not be extreme. We’re not under the law, it doesn’t matter. Can you imagine that there are Christian preachers today who would tell modern Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego bow down with everybody else? Because that’s what they’re saying when they’re telling you the law doesn’t matter. These young men had seen the temple in its glory before it was destroyed as children. They knew the Ten Commandments were there. They knew what God had said and they resolved within themselves to obey God rather than men. Now the good news is, Jesus said, “Those that honor Me, I will honor. Those that don’t honor Me will be lightly esteemed.” God is looking for people that will stand up for Him when everybody else is bowing down. They’re so rare these days.

There are certain Jews… “Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego…’” He knew them. They were his trusted wise men. He loved these young men. They had elastic in their step and they were bright and they were honest. He thought, I don’t want to lose them. Maybe they didn’t hear. I knew they were very religious about their God, but they can give in this one time. How many times I have heard someone say, “Well, I believe that Saturday is the Sabbath and I’m going to try and do God’s will, but I just need to work a couple more weeks on God’s holy day.” If the devil can get you to compromise a little bit, he can get you to do it anytime he wants. In other words, what you’re telling God is, “As long as it’s inconvenient to obey God, I’m not going to do it. When it’s convenient I’ll do it.” Well, how stupid do you think the devil is? He’ll make sure it’s inconvenient to obey. It’s inconvenient to go to a furnace. So the king thought, “I’ll give you another chance.

Just do it this once and I won’t bother you anymore.” That’s how the devil works. Make little compromises. “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? Now if you are ready…” Maybe you weren’t ready. I’m going to give you another chance. Isn’t that merciful? I mean, who would want to after you’re standing in the presence of the king and all of these important people watching and the cameras are rolling and everybody is looking at you and the king says, “I’m going to have mercy on you. I’m going to give you grace. I’m going to give you another chance because I’m just a loving guy. We’ll do it one more time.” I mean, after he goes to all of those extremes to try and save you, you ought to compromise a little bit, right? Say, “I’ll meet you half-way.” Should you compromise? The same reason they stood up the first time is the same reason they’re not going to bow down the second time.

If it’s right, it’s right. It’s right and that’s all there is to it. “Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute…” He’s going to do it all over again just for them! “…in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” Oh, be careful about what you’re ready to say, Nebuchadnezzar. Don’t say this. “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” Oh, don’t ever say that to God! He’s getting ready to show him who He was. And who is that god? He knew that they worshipped a different God and he said, “You’re going to trust your God over me? I’ve got my soldiers all around me. My soldiers will lay down their lives for me. Everybody here is with me except you. Do you think God is going to deliver you?” And “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar,’ (they were respectful) ‘we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…’” Our God is able to deliver us. That’s good news.

He is able to keep you from the furnace. He is able to keep you from sin. He is able to keep you from folly. “…our God that we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.” If you underline in your Bible, underline this for me. “But if not,” even if He doesn’t is what’s implied there. Even if He doesn’t, I’m going to serve Him. Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. One time Jacob came to the Lord and he said, “Lord, I’ll tell You what, if You bring me safely back, if You watch over my family, then I’ll serve You.” Well, that’s conditional, isn’t it? Another person came to Jesus one time and in his heart he was thinking, “If He heals my son, then I’ll believe in Him.” And Jesus said to his unspoken thought, “Except you see signs and wonders you won’t believe.” His faith was going to be conditional on getting what he wants. These men said, “But if not, even if we die, we’re going to obey God.”

That’s the only attitude that’s going to make it, friends. I knew a friend who was facing terminal disease. He said, “Doug, I prayed that God will heal me, but I read in the Bible where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego said, ‘But if not, I’m still going to serve You.’” Do you know how many martyrs went to their grave because they said, “But if not, I still believe. I’m still going to die for God.” He is able, “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods,” they are not backing down, “nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Oh, that really bothered him. “Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury,” you know Revelation 12:17 tells us “the dragon was wroth” (full of fury) “with the woman, and goes to make war with the remnant of her seed” her descendants, and what are their characteristics? They “keep the commandments of God.” Not because the government tells them to, but because God tells them to. And how can Christians say the Ten Commandments don’t matter when prophecy is saying the very same thing is going to be an issue? The dragon is not wroth with the ones who compromise.

He is wroth with the ones who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. Revelation 14 says they keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus. They’re keeping the commandments because they have the faith of Jesus, amen? Not to be saved. For someone to say that doesn’t matter, they don’t know their Bibles very well. They’re preaching the doctrine of Babylon. “Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury,” with the ones that obeyed God’s commandments. King of Babylon mad at the ones that obey God’s commandments. Are you getting it, friends? It’s going to be the same way soon. “…and the expression on his face changed…” He did like them before, now he’s in fury. “Therefore he spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.” You know you don’t have to get a furnace as hot for gold as you do for iron. Now they’re going to heat it hot enough to melt iron. “And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore, because the king's command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.” The very thing that’s sometimes used to destroy God’s people ends up being evidence of God’s deliverance. When Daniel went to the lion’s den skeptics said the reason the lions did not eat Daniel is they were not hungry. Well they were hungry enough to eat the ones who had Daniel thrown in, right? And when Pilate said, “put a seal and a hundred Roman soldiers there to keep Jesus from rising” the very thing that was intended to keep it from happening was proof it did happen, that it was a miracle. And if you don’t think the fire was hot, it was hot enough to kill the man who threw them in.

You know what else I still marvel at? I think those soldiers knew they were going to die. I heard one time that Alexander the Great approached the mighty city and he appealed to the leaders to come to the wall. He spoke to them, he said, “I am telling you to surrender.” They said, “Surrender? We’ve got walls that will withstand any siege. We’ve got enough food and water in the city to last for years and we have a bigger army than you have.” Alexander said, “Okay,” and he gave an order. Not far away was a bluff with a long drop, and he told his soldiers to line up and they began to walk and march right off the bluff and crash down to their death. He let five or six of them march right off to their death and then told them to stop. Then he said, “Now I’m telling you again to surrender.” And they surrendered. They realized that Alexander’s soldiers were so loyal they would obey their king even to death, and any army with that kind of resolve would conquer them.

Why is it that the children of the devil are more obedient to their king than the children of God? Nebuchadnezzar’s soldiers were willing to obey to the point of death. We need to have that kind of dedication, friends. I think that a real Christian, a real Christian, you know what Christian perfection is? It doesn’t mean you’re a robot, it means you love God so much you’d rather die than hurt Him. You love God so much you’d rather die than sin. That’s what it means. Do you want me to lie and tell you something less? I’d be lying. It means when you see Him on the cross, He loved you enough to die for you. He wants you to love Him that way back, and you can’t do it by yourself, but He can give you that kind of love. Soldiers died that threw them in, and the Bible says that “these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” You know, the Bible says they were bound with their royal garments on. What is clothing a symbol of? Righteousness. They went in the fire with their righteousness.

You know I don’t think I told you what their names are. Hananiah, Meshiel, and Azariah. You know what it means? Hananiah, God is gracious. Meshiel, who is like God? It’s a derivative of Michael. Azariah, God is helped. God is gracious, who is like God? God has helped. And He was getting ready to do all of those things, wasn’t He? The Bible says they “fell down bound.” Then the Bible tells us, verse 24, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished…” I bet he was! “…and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ ‘Look!’ he answered, ‘I see four men loose,’” you know one thing about when you persecute the church, it grows.

They threw three into the furnace then there were four all of a sudden. Persecution makes the church grow. I think we ought to have a prayer meeting and pray for persecution. All that live godly will suffer persecution. If we’re not being persecuted we’re probably not living godly. Amen? You’re not sure you want to pray for that. He said that’s true, “Look! I see four men loose, walking in the midst…” not only are they alive, they’re free and there’s more than there were before; “and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Larry brought something to my attention a minute ago. How do you think Nebuchadnezzar knew who the forth was? Could it be that the Son of God had spoken to him before? God is the one who gave him that dream in chapter two. He was acquainted with the Messiah of the Israelites.

Do you know what the wonderful part of the story is here? You might go to the furnace for your faith, but if you do, and Jesus may allow you to go, you don’t go alone. He goes through the furnace with you. Another thing about this that I’ve just got to make clear for everyone listening, God never tells us He’s going to rapture the saints away before the tribulation. The Bible tells us that we are witnesses through tribulation. When God saves His people from tribulation He destroys the opportunity to witness. He did not save Noah from the flood, but through it. He did not save Joseph from slavery and imprisonment, but through it. He saved Daniel through the lions’ den and these guys through the furnace and He will bring us through the tribulation in the last days. We’re not going to be snapped away before it comes and there’re going to be a lot of Christians that are shocked when it does come.

That’s why Peter says, I Peter 4:12 “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened…” My pastor said this wouldn’t happen! “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings…” Have you ever thought that maybe we should pray that we are worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake? The Bible says the greatest blessing, the greatest benediction God gives His people is the privilege of suffering for Him. I’m not saying we should be masochistic, but to be able to suffer for Christ’s sake he says rejoice and be exceeding glad to suffer for righteousness “that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” I Peter 1:7 “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold…” What kind of furnace did they get thrown in? A gold furnace. Isn’t that what the Bible says? “…the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ…” Peter is making it very clear here, there’s a trial before the appearing of Jesus. Amen?

After all of this happened Daniel chapter 3, “he went near the mouth,” verse 26. “Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come hither…’” The king is still giving orders. You know they were willing to obey the king’s orders as long as they didn’t violate God’s commands. They were good subjects to have in the kingdom, but you just don’t tell them to break their God’s commands.

I think as Christians we should be the most obedient people in a society as long as it means you don’t have to drive fifty-five, as long as it means it does not require us to violate one of God’s commandments. And they “came forth out of the midst of the fire. And the princes, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.” You ever stand by a campfire for a minute and then come away? You smell like fire. The only thing that fire burned was the ropes that bound them. It did not burn their clothing. You and I might go through fiery trials and God allows that to burn the things that bind us, but you can come out intact with your righteousness. Nebuchadnezzar spoke saying, “Blessed be the God…”

Oh, you know one more thing? The ones who threw them in were destroyed. What is the fire of Christ’s coming going to do to those who persecute us? You read in II Thessalonians 1:8 Jesus is coming in flaming fire to take “vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” II Thessalonians 2:8 “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.” The wicked will be consumed in the furnace and we are saved through the furnace. So then Nebuchadnezzar makes a decree.

In essence their coming out of the fire was really nothing less than a resurrection, was it? What if they had died in the fire? Had they made the wrong decision? You know if you die for your faith the next thing you’re aware of is the resurrection and a new body so you win either way. So the best thing to do no matter what is to stand for your faith.

I also think God was good to them. I’ve got so much to say to you and I’m out of time. God was good to them because they never went through it alone. It’s so much easier to have friends when you’re going through a struggle to hold you up and support you. We need to support one another in the days ahead, friends. We need each other. We need to pray for one another. When a person is struggling with sin, don’t say, “Oh, well. Nobody is perfect.” Hold them up and say, “Yes, you can gain the victory through the Lord.” We need to encourage one another onto righteousness.

I was reading just this morning about three martyrs, Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer great reformers. Left the Catholic church, became protestants and they were all burned to death for of their faith. To one of them, they said, “You sign this document” that condones certain doctrines that were not biblical, “and we’ll let you go free.” Now if you had the choice between writing your name and being free or not writing your name and burning to death… They actually tied bags of gunpowder around their necks that would explode before the flames killed them to intensify the pain. This was done by the church, supposed to be Christians, “love your enemies”. Well, Cranmer got scared and he signed the document, but he was so ashamed of himself after Ridley and Latimer were burnt at the stake that he went back and he recanted his recanting. He said, “I changed my mind. I’m sorry I ever signed it.”

A year later he was burned, and he said, “Would you please burn my hand first, the hand with which I signed away my faith.” These things that happened before are going to happen again, and the faith they had then, we need now. We need that kind of faith that was once delivered unto the saints. The Bible says because these guys stood up, God stood up for them. They were able to witness to the whole world and angels because of their faith. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God…” verse 28 “…of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies…” You know Paul says that you and I should yield our bodies a living sacrifice.

Who “yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.” “Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in the province of Babylon.” That day everybody turned towards the furnace and they turned their back on the golden image, and the band put down their instruments and the party was over because God stood up. They were exalted because they stood up.

I want to read a quote to you. “The greatest want of the world is the want of men, men who will not be bought or sold, men who in their inmost souls are true and honest, men who do not fear to call sin by its right name, men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole, men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall…” and everyone else bows down. God is looking for people like that. The promise is, you may go through fiery trials. I’d be lying to you if I told you everything is going to be just fine. There are going to be struggles ahead. Turn with me, Isaiah 43:1 “But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob…” this is a message to you. You are spiritual Israel. “…He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.’” Your name is not Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. Your name is Hananiah, Meshiel, and Azariah “…you are Mine.”

You don’t belong to Babylon. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” That’s a promise (It’s underlined in my Bible) that God keeps His word because you know what there is a time of trouble ahead. There’s a storm coming, but the good news is Jesus was with them in the furnace. He said when you walk through the fire, if you know that you’re His, if you stand up for Him, I will go through the fire with you.

I’d rather have Jesus with me and the world against me in the furnace than to be riding along in air conditioning with the world and lost. But if you want to be able to follow Him when this time of trial comes then, if we’re giving up our convictions now in all of these little things, if we’re failing all of the quizzes that God gives us now from day to day, what will happen in the final exam? Now we need to develop a consistent faith by His grace. Now we need to follow the Lamb wherever He goes if we want to follow Him there then. If that’s your prayer then reach for your hymnal, turn to 554 “O Let Me Walk with Thee” my God. But it talks about following the Savior. Let’s stand up. 554.

O let me walk with Thee, my God, As Enoch walked in days of old; Place Thou my trembling hand in Thine, And sweet communion with me hold; E’en though the path I may not see, Yet, Jesus, let me walk with Thee.

We all have our fiery furnaces that we go through. There is a general one coming in the last days, great time of trouble. Some of us are going through a furnace right now. You might be wrestling with physical affliction, spiritual discouragement, problems with people you work with or your family very common, but whatever your trials might be you don’t have to go alone. You can know that Jesus is with you. Even when you don’t feel good if Jesus is with you it makes a world of difference. If you don’t have that assurance that Jesus is with you and you want to have it before you leave today, we’d like to pray with and for you. We invite you to come to the front for prayer as we sing the second verse.

I cannot, dare not walk alone; The tempest rages in the sky, A thousand snares beset my feet, A thousand foes are lurking nigh. Still Thou the raging of the sea, O Master! Let me walk with Thee.

Before we sing the last verse I’d like to extend the appeal. There are some here who have been in a furnace maybe of temptation. You struggle with a rollercoaster experience. You want to be consistent and stand up for Jesus in the last days, but you feel like you’re falling down and giving in so often right now. We want to pray for you that the Lord will help you have the experience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Hananiah, Meshiel, and Azariah (I like those names better). They were not aliens from another world. They were people just like you and me who learned the lessons of faith and love that lead to surrender and obedience. If that’s what you want then let’s come and pray together as we sing the last verse.

If I may rest my hand in Thine, I’ll count the joys of earth but loss, And firmly, bravely journey on; I’ll bear the banner of the cross Till Zion’s glorious gates I see; Yet, Savior, let me walk with Thee.

Oh, friends, this is music! “And firmly, bravely journey on; I’ll bear the banner of the cross till Zion’s glorious gates I see; Yet Savior, let me walk with Thee.” That’s music! That thrills my soul. That’s what we need to be listening to, things that will fortify us, help us seal our convictions to truth not giddy entertainment.

Father in heaven, I know You’ve been here today, Lord. We thank You for meeting us here today, and we know, Lord, that if You’ve been here today, You’ll be with us when the furnace comes. Please bless us with Your Spirit. Lord, we are sinners. We struggle day to day, we struggle with temptation; we struggle with sin. We often fall and fail, but we know that You are greater than the enemy. We know that it’s possible to have the experience of a Daniel, of a Hananiah, Meshiel, and Azariah where we can have a consistent faith, where we can stand though the heavens fall, but we know it’s only possible through Christ. Help us to make a complete surrender. Help us to be emptied of self that You might completely fill us. Help each one of us, Lord, by Your grace to do for us what we are not able to do for ourselves to present ourselves as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable. Lord, we’re asking for an outpouring of Your Spirit.

We need a double portion. We believe we are living in the last days. We can see the final events rolling on with ever increasing speed around us. Many of us have been asleep and indifferent. Help us to focus our eyes on Jesus, on His love, on His sacrifice and then that transforming vision will help us reflect Him in our lives. Lord, some of us are in a furnace right now. Some here are struggling with physical problems. We pray that You’ll heal them. We know You are able, but if not help us to trust You. Some here are struggling in our families. Sometimes there’s division, sometimes there’s strife. We ask that you’ll heal those relationships, but even if the struggle continues we will serve You. Lord, some of us are struggling with financial problems, with emotional problems and discouragement and we feel the clouds of darkness about us. We pray that the angels will flutter their wings and help the light to shine through.

Whatever the furnace might be, Lord, help us know by faith we’re not alone but You’re there with us. When we pass through the fire, when we go through the water, You’ll be there with us. Now, Lord, we’re a church. We’re getting ready to leave and go on and meet the trials of another week. I pray that we’ll not think that we’re leaving You behind. I pray we’ll remember You’ve promised to be with us wherever we go even to the end and help us to be ready when Jesus comes through the clouds is our prayer in His name. Amen.

God bless you. Those who have not made a decision to accept Jesus we’d like you to meet with the pastors or the elders who have responded. If you would like to make a decision to be part of our church family we would welcome you…

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