Monumental Asks & Staggering Surrender
Topic: Sunday Sermons Passage: Daniel 3:16–3:19, Isaiah 43:1–43:2, John 16:33
Monumental Asks & Staggering Surrender
Good morning, please turn in your Bible to Daniel chapter 3
As we are coming to a close in our series on prayer, I want to make sure that we have a bit of an understanding of where we've been in our Series so far.
A few weeks ago when Aaron opened the series he reminded us that;
“Prayer is God's invitation to commune with him and know his heart.”
Since then we've covered a range of subjects including instruction from Jesus on how to pray, that prayer is a part of our relationship with God, that prayer is influenced by - and - should influence our relationship with others and how to pray in the midst of suffering.
Yet, when it comes to the subject of prayer, we've really only scratched the surface. There’s much we’ll touch on even today in our passage; Themes that I would encourage everyone to spend more time in study on such as convictions, God's sovereignty (he reigns over all) and God's Providence (he governs this world), steadfastness and even the fascinating archeological aspects of findings from this era that confirm these account for us - these are worthwhile things to give our time and energy to understanding.
Perhaps this is a helpful, brief illustration of what I mean: recently, we received news of a dearly loved family member in the northern midwest contracting COVID - to the point of being hospitalized with it. We prayed as a family… a bit later we received an update that there was now a diagnosis of a form of cancer that was potentially discovered during testing and treatments for COVID. It was rattling to the core, we were gathered with some of our local extended family and we took time to pray together.
God is Sovereign over COVID and in His Providence this potential of cancer was discovered. His sovereignty and providence don’t negate or work against one another… they are always at work because of the consistency of his character.
But I want us today to focus on how this account can shape our own prayer life and the ways we pray for one another.
As Aron and I have been talking through this series we were discussing how the last few weeks have really built on one another that prayer, strengthened by our relationship with God, with a passion for others at times may still go unanswered.
In the close of his message last Sunday Aron referenced that unanswered prayers remind us that it is the furnace that removes the dross in our lives - and - that unanswered prayer tests and strengthens our faith.
There’s actually a Biblical example that we can look to this week to continue to help us understand these two concepts without relegating our prayers to something that is optional in our walk with God.
Today, we want to look at the account captured for us in Daniel 3, and we will pick it up in verse 16 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are responding to the King. We're going to use three verses to guide our understanding of what they're walking through and how that informs our prayer moving forward.
Daniel 3:16  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
God’s People Will Be Confronted with the Idols of This World.
Daniel chapter 3 verse 16 begs the question what is the scene that we are dropping into that these three men, three friends and Friends of Daniel the book’s namesake are responding to the king directly.
The end of chapter 2 show us that King Nebuchadnezzar has had a dream about a statue and he has now, in
chapter 3, actually acted on that dream and made the Statue. It was 60 cubits tall and 6 cubits wide now that's about 90 ft tall and 9 ft wide.
If you want to visualize the statue and how it was really representative of an obelisk, simply think of Chris Larson or Marcus Kester or Cagen Stafford at right around… 90 ft tall.
It was a unique structure, it was tall and lanky.
Not only was this built and covered in gold, there was this huge Gathering of the representatives of this nation, those who had been put in charge of different areas of Babylon. Babylon was a culture where there was a Melting Pot of religious ideas and a wide variety of faiths and Nebuchadnezzar was not just about the growth of the Kingdom from the standpoint of land and wealth and amassing more and more power in that day.
He was also about a form of cultural renewal and we see this as a few different points throughout the Book of Daniel.
Daniel and these three friends are consistently interacting with this and having to make choices based on the society there and this answer that they are beginning to give is their faith-filled response to the king making a cultural Proclamation about worship and who they will serve.
God’s People Will Be Criticized by the People of This World
Certainly one of the dangers of this type of society was to bow to the cultural norms of the day, in verse 8 we're shown that Chaldeans were coming forward to maliciously accuse these three men. they repeat this phrase O King, O King, O King and they talked to him along with the band and all of this Fanfare that's been gathered.
What they're doing is building up this image of Nebuchadnezzar that he clearly already has in his own head.
We know this because he creates this statue, this obelisk out of gold, we know from reading in chapter 2 that gold in his dreams was representative of his own reign and he wants to Proclaim his own rule lasting and Lasting and Lasting, etc. Today, we know that that's not true because there is an appointed time for leaders to rise and fall from what we see elsewhere in scripture.
These three friends have this accusation come against them they are not obeying the king's commands that they are not serving the idol that Nebuchadnezzar himself has set up
Pressure of Pluralism
Tim Keller, in helping us understand the pluralistic society we see in Babylon at the time and the pressures that that brings, talks about what was happening here was an attempt for these men's Faith to be pushed into the private places of their lives. There was a different public faith that they were supposed to live out and a private faith that was acceptable. “You do you” at home but out here, conform.
All of a sudden we realize that that's a pressure we still face today there’s no difference, today we understand that Christ came to redeem and reign over our private and public lives, but these men were facing this challenge by this accusation coming against them because their private life had become very public in this moment when they did not kneel.
Commenting on the pressure of this pluralistic society Keller says this:
if you don't feel the bloody punch of the world against you, it's possible you've already been giving in to the pressures of the culture around and "privatizing your faith"
While we let that quote sink in a bit let’s turn our attention to how these three men responded...
Just imagine with me the assurance that these men needed - a surety of their faith to respond to the king publicly like this in front of all of these gathered leaders in front of all of the Fanfare in front of the moment where the nation was supposed to bow down. they choose to stand.
I've been thinking about this scene this week. I couldn't get out of my head a scene from the Avengers, when Loki comes in and he tells people to KNEEL and it's kind of his first time on the scene here on Earth. He's kind of coming on the scene and setting the tone for what he hopes will be his Reign here on Earth. An elderly gentleman kneels initially and then stands before him - and - it's a powerful scene to be sure. one that you can kind of cheer for the older gentleman when he says hey there will always be men like you and I'm not going to kneel to you but here's the challenge of that scene; he had to stand up from a kneeling posture to say that.
In our Biblical account today we realize Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego never knelt they made a decision about their private faith going very public in that moment and they did not kneel
We've talked around this concept of needing to have a really clear conviction about our faith and how that will be lived out in public. The Book of Daniel captures for us men who fought to be steadfast. men who fought to have their faith remain in the Public Square no matter what they were walking through that they had an assurance because they knew who their God is. they knew who they would kneel before.
It’s important for us to realize that there are many things that we are facing today that certainly can bristle against our experiences, patriotism or preferences but what these men chose to stand for were the things of God, found throughout His word. We, as Christ’s followers must be able to distinguish between the chaos of the world in order to truly withstand the pressures it will bring.
There were moments that Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did the things that the King commanded as a part of their position in the land, they were loyal in the government when it didn’t oppose their faith, they chose rightly in the face of adversity.
It's not captured for us but I’m going to make the assumption this kind of public stand didn't come without a ton of time on their knees in prayer in communion with God long before this happened.
I would go so far as to say that they were regularly asking God for wisdom in the small things of life before it ever came to this big moment in their life.
What came to my mind this week in considering this was the numerous ways in my house that we ask devices in our home like Alexa or others questions that come to mind… it covers everything that we’re wondering like weights and measurements or even random questions and games - but - how much are we asking God our Father in our prayers? How much are we, not questioning him, or simply asking for a positive outcome but asking him for direction, wisdom or guidance?
Can I just ask it this way - Do Alexa, Siri, your search history or other devices know more about the things you are longing for in life than God does?
May the Holy Spirit grant us the power to change from asking devices for things and tuning our hearts to ask our Heavenly Father...
See for these men, Not only did their private faith become very public in that moment they made a bold decoration How they would, or in this case would not, surrender. Let's continue in verse 17
Daniel 3:17  If this be so, 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.
God’s People Will Be Challenged to Worship the Gods of This World.
We just looked at how God's people will consistently be challenged to worship the gods of this world and now Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego make a bold declaration before men.
But, in doing so there is this staggering surrender to the will of God that's happening here. These men are saying; if it's true that you have to throw us into the fiery furnace, if that’s what you're going to do to punish us for not bowing and kneeling before this Idol that you set up... we're going to accept those consequences because we have a confidence in our God that He can save - and - He will save.
We realize that God’s People Must Be Courageous in the Face of Danger in This World, perhaps this point alone should inform our prayers more… praying for others for this type of Courage, asking God for this type of Courage for ourselves, crying out for the strength to surrender no matter the circumstances.
We also realize that true Faith requires a precision for the moment we’re in.
Hebrews 11 helps us understand that
faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
This chapter in Hebrews goes on to chronicle many heroes of the faith who were also surrendered individuals
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s faith was expressed as a declaration of friends saying this to the king: we serve, love and trust God for Himself... not for what He gives us
how often is our faith more shaped by the blessings that God gives us then the gift that God is - and the relationship with him is in-and-of itself?
Tim Keller in commenting on this passage reminds us that:
God can sometimes rescue you from death but He will always rescue you through death
Death is not ultimately what these men experience but they didn't know that at the time that they were saying this. There was a surrender that was happening here which we will see more in verse 19 but we come to understand that they were spiritually fireproof before they were physically fireproof
this helps us understand the Confidence that they had - when they use the phrase like “I believe” it was not only genuine but it was backed up by action
Paul, throughout the New Testament, almost acting as a composer weaving a motif in and out of this master composition used this phrase; “the righteous shall live by faith.”
RC Sproul in his book “What is Faith” goes on to help us understand that
God is pleased when his people live by trusting him
So, we wrestle with this question ourselves today:
Are we living a life that shows that we trust him?
Daniel 3:18  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.”
Three. Powerful. Words are captured here; “but if not”
“but if not” does not represent these three men hedging their bets, some small crack or weakness in their faith, these are the three words that show us the truly staggering nature of their surrender.
Their main goal was not their own protection, their main goal was not their own best end in mind, their main goal was standing rightly in obedience. No matter the suffering that may come their way this goal never wavered or faltered.
We have an interesting, well it appears to be a juxtaposition but it’s something that we have to understand rightly as it relates to faith and submission working together - certainly not opposed to each other.
I think often we have this idea of having faith as this kind of spiritual superhero standing at the top of the mountain with chest puffed out and Cape flapping in the Wind.
Only then, when thinking about submission, we think about it as this submissive weakling, cowering in fear to circumstances
Neither of these are the biblical image of faith or surrender - certainly not the combination of the two.
We talked about it in our series that as believers, those who follow Christ and have submitted Our Lives to him, there is not a promise of prosperity and health and wealth here on Earth but there is something that's guaranteed - it is a promise of Suffering while we wait for Eternity with him.
You may wonder why emphasize a point of suffering here when the rest of the story goes on to show such a wonderful victory and we will certainly look at that more closely in just a moment.
I bring suffering up because throughout scripture; furnaces, fires and things of the like are a metaphor for trouble or suffering and we need to understand this in our Christian walk. My goal today is not to focus on suffering, we've covered that in the prayer series, remember we are looking back and summarizing some of what we've looked at as well as looking ahead through this example in the Old Testament of how our private faith our private time and God's word private time in prayer should lead to something very public.
In God's word we learn a few things about suffering:
1) suffering is inevitable, this is addressed throughout scripture and Jesus spoke, warned and equipped us for it
 But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
2) suffering will relate to our character like fire relates to gold
This account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before the king reveals their character, the King was trying to build something of gold in order to further his kingdom for decades to come.
Our King is refining us and our faith like gold through the circumstances that we walk in
There are times that I wonder less about the large furnaces we may face in life and more about the small moments of heat that we will face where small compromises are made because we haven't been spending time in the word and prayer.
We haven't made it a habit to ask first, we've just gone along with what is going on around us. Then, we turn around and look back in our lives and wonder: HOW DID WE GET HERE?!” - only to realize we never really asked along the way!
Where are the opportunities for you today? Work, schedules, travel ball, activities trying to better set-up your family for years to come building a beautiful facade with a terrible foundation in your home, guilt as parents, guilt in your relationships, the number small ways that we can compromise on a daily basis should lead us to pause and wonder;
- why do I make the decisions that I do?
- Am I asking God what he wants from me or just going along with the culture?
The last thing that we learn about suffering is great news for whatever circumstance we are walking through today...
3) we know that God is walking with us in the furnace
What a moment it must have been when Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges in verse 25 that he sees four men, Unbound, walking in the midst of the fire not hurt and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the Gods.
Some translations capture this Proclamation from Nebuchadnezzar as Son of God and we actually believe that this was a sighting of Christ in the Old Testament, not just metaphorically but actually a vision of him in the fire with these three men. I share that not just to be an interesting theological point, no!
I share it to be comfort for those who are walking through things today and not sure how to pray, be comforted that Christ is in the fire with you. He has prevailed through the cross on our behalf and he will prevail for the eternity we’re called to be with him.
The word in Aramaic here is the proper noun for Elohim, imagine this with me: The Son of the God of Israel is who Nebuchadnezzar sees and calls out by name here - this is the pre-incarnate-Christ on the scene, walking with them! We have the post-resurrection Christ comforting us and walking with us, helping us through the Holy Spirit and that can bring comfort to us today...
It's interesting as we continue on in chapter 3 when we read that the only thing that came out harmed in any way were the shackles that the king tried to put on Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - these Servants of the most high as first 26 goes on to say - all of the leaders gather around and acknowledge and confirm that not a hair on their head nothing on their clothes was harmed not even the smell of fire on them and then the king said something very interesting in verse 29 at the end of the verse he acknowledges there is no other God who is able to rescue in this way.
if we remember that Jesus was thrown into the ultimate furnace on our behalf it will cause us to sense his presence in our cooler, smaller furnaces that we walk through in this life and it will ultimately 'turn our faith to gold' - Tim Keller
This is what causes such a great Hope - the ability to both say; “I trust” and... actually live that way!
The rest of chapter 3 goes on to tell us that we Can Be Confident the Lord Is with us, No Matter What Happens in This World.
Do we live that way? Do we live in the good of that? That there is no other God who is able to rescue us in any way? There's no other God who is able to send his son to redeem all of us and call us by name to follow him.
Informing our personal prayer
Daniel 3 is a powerful chapter in the life of the believer covering themes like:
How we will be Confronted with the Idols of This World (3:1-7).
- Criticized by the People of This World (3:8-12).
- Challenged to Worship the Gods of This World (3:13-15).
As well as how we Must Be Courageous in the Face of Danger in This World (3:16-18).
And we Can Be Confident the Lord Is with Us, No Matter What Happens in This World (3:19-30).
How should considering this chapter in Daniel inform our prayers? Not only for ourselves but when we pray with or for others and know it’s the right thing to do in that moment but aren’t quite sure what to say?
Perhaps we can start here… pray that:
- Our faith is firm in public.
- We learn how to simply ask well (and often!) & surrender fully.
- We rightly live out a ‘surrendered faith’.
- We trust God more than our circumstances.
- We experience the good of Jesus in the fire with us!
Benediction: Ephesians 3:14-21
For this reason I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.