Stand By Faith – Daniel 3:14, 16-25

“I believe in the ‘golden rule,’” a man told me.  “The one who has the gold rules.”  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not have agreed.  Though displaced and subjugated by the Babylonian Empire, these Hebrew boys still understood that there was One more powerful than Nebuchadnezzar – his gold notwithstanding. 

 Daniel 3 begins with the construction of a giant statue.  We are not told the statue’s likeness but the text leaves the impression that it was of Nebuchadnezzar himself.  What we are told is the substance from which the statue was built – gold.

Dutch theologian, T. Veerkamp, writes that this statue was a “golden monstrosity” symbolizing the economic prosperity of the empire.  Veerkamp continues, “He (Nebuchadnezzar) made an image of it – he established the economy and made from it a cult object – he made a fetish of gold.  The empire established gold as the god of the whole world – that is the meaning of what is being described here.”

Following the erection of the statue, Nebuchadnezzar gathered his top leaders.  He ordered that when his musicians began to play, everyone should bow to worship his cult of gold.  Everything was moving along just fine, except for one problem:  those pesky Jews.

The rebellious nature of the exiled Jewish leaders has always been a fascination.  They were a persecuted minority living subjugated to the whims of an egocentric dictator.  Nevertheless, they defiantly stood by faith refusing to submit to the king’s authority when his dictates infringed on the integrity of their faith.

F. Fanon descried the inward life of the colonialized person as follows:  “He is overpowered but not tamed; he is treated as inferior but is not convinced of his inferiority.”    This describes Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – young men in a position of subordination who refused to surrender the integrity of their faith.

Discovering their insubordination, Nebuchadnezzar flies into a fit of rage.  Ordering the Jewish boys into his presence, he gives them a chance to recant and pledge their allegiance.  If they refuse, Nebuchadnezzar boldly declares that no god will be able to deliver them from his power.  Sometimes those with worldly power believe that their authority has no limits.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego become even more defiant.  They say that God can save them.  Then, in one of the greatest confessions of faith in the Bible, they declare:  “Even if our God chooses not to deliver us, we still will not worship the golden statute.” 

Once again, Nebuchadnezzar flies into a fit of rage.  He made a really ugly face (Daniel 3:19).  Then he fired up the furnace, seven times hotter than usual, and ordered the three to be tossed to a fiery death.  That’s the way the empire deals with dissenters.  If you can’t break spirit, kill them.

As it turns out, God does save these Jewish boys.  An angelic figure stands with them in the furnace protecting them from the fire.  In the end, Nebuchadnezzar is humbled, and the golden statue is viewed as powerless over the faith of the Jews.

The key issue in the book of Daniel, and especially in this passage, is the question of sovereignty.  Who’s in charge?  Because he had created a society of tremendous wealth, Nebuchadnezzar felt he was in charge.  He built a statue of gold and expected everyone to bow and pay homage.  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, however, refused to acknowledge Nebuchadnezzar’s sovereignty.  They refused to bow before the statue.  Even under the threat of death, these three boys stood firm in the conviction that God was more powerful than Nebuchadnezzar, his gold or the fiery furnace.

Christians face similar challenges today.  Unfortunately, the gold statues of our society have corrupted many in the church.  A story is told about a wealthy family receiving an unexpected visit from the preacher.   Wanting to make a good impression, the lady of the house instructed her little daughter, “Please run and get that good book we all love so much and bring it here.”  The daughter tottered off and returned in a minute with triumph on her face and the Sears catalog in her hands!

What’s more important to you – God or gold?

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