Profiles in Courage

 

Profiles in Courage
Daniel 3:1-12
 
This story is probably familiar to most of you who have been going to church for any period of time. It is the familiar account in the Old Testament of the three Hebrew young people, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were thrown into the fiery furnace.
 
I heard about a preacher who was preaching on this subject and was having a hard time remembering the names of those three Hebrew young people. He decided he would write their names on a card and put it on the inside of his coat pocket. Sure enough as he was preaching along he couldn't remember the names. He looked in his coat and said, "I want to talk to you about the three Hebrew young people, Hart, Schaffner and Marx." Three Hebrew people to be sure, but not the ones mentioned in the Word of God.
 
This is one of the most thrilling stories in all of the Bible. It pulsates with drama, and it is a thrilling example of courage and non-compromise. It could indeed be titled, "Profiles in Courage."
 
You will recall in the second chapter that God revealed a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar about a magnificent image and the head of that image was gold. Daniel said to the king that the head of gold represents you. Toward the conclusion of this second chapter, verse 47, it says that the king said, "Of a truth, your God is a God of God, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets." A magnificent statement about the greatness of our God!
 
Evidently his respect for the truth about God was short lived. Now he has decided, in chapter 3, to construct an image of gold. As we look at this image of gold, there is a message for our hearts. And there is a challenge for all of us to stand true to the Lord and be courageous in our faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
I want to talk about this image of gold.
 
I.       The Construction of the Image.
 
Verse 1 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar the king makes an image of gold. There seemed to be several reasons why King Nebuchadnezzar decided to build this image of gold.
 
First of all, it seems to be in order to glorify himself. It is an image of gold. The entire image is gold. Now, God had said to King Nebuchadnezzar, you are the head of gold. Now he has decided he will build an entire image of gold.
 
You have to remember that Nebuchadnezzar was a mighty monarch. He ruled for 40 years. He was also a brilliant general. He never lost a battle. Archeologists have uncovered the fact that he was also a magnificent builder. He had a number of building projects all around the land of Babylon. When you discover what the archeologists say about him, you will find out that everything he did, he did lavishly and with a flare. He would build these mighty buildings. This seems to have been one of the greatest construction projects of them all.
 
 
 
I was thinking about Nebuchadnezzar and his image that was to be worshipped. I was thinking that sometimes the world does things far more lavishly and with more grandeur than the people of God do. Sometimes God's people want to be very small and miserly in what they do for the Lord.
 
Personally, I believe that what we do for God should be done in a magnificent manner. I believe the most beautiful buildings in a city ought to be the places where the people of God come to worship the God of heaven.
 
So here is this image of gold, and it seems to be intended to deify himself. Not content to be the head of gold, he wants to be the entire image. That's so much like many of the leaders of the world. Not content to take their niche in history, but they want to dominate the whole thing.
 
God had revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom was a limited kingdom. It was to be replaced by another kingdom. What he seems to be doing here is declaring the infinity of his kingdom. He has decided that he is not going to admit that his kingdom will not be forever. So he builds this image to deify himself. His song seems to be "for to me is the kingdom, for mine is the kingdom and the power and glory."
 
That seems to be the first reason he is doing this. The second reason seems to be not only to glorify himself, but also he seems to be intending to deify man.
 
 
 
I want to call your attention to the dimensions of the image of gold. In verse 1 it says it was 60 cubits high and 6 cubits wide. That's 90 feet high and 9 feet wide.  That’s about the height of the high-rise downtown.
 
It is a magnificent image, but it is an image of a man. You will notice that it is stamped with the number 6. Sixty cubits high. Six cubits wide. Six is the number of man. It represents man's idea that he is sufficient to every problem.
 
We are living in a day when there is a great deal of humanism. A great many people have the idea that man can solve all of his problems. We are living in days of such scientific advance and such technological skill that people have the idea that they can solve any problem. That they can handle anything that comes up. Pseudo scientists and unbelieving sociologists of this day think that man can solve his own problems. It is the philosophy of humanism. It is an attempt to deify man.
 
The number which is stamped upon this image of gold, this image to a man, is the number six. In the Bible numbers have symbolic significance. The number seven is the number of perfection or completion. The number six is the number of man. It is the number of human failure. Here is an image, and it is stamped with the number of human failure. Any way you want to figure it out, man always comes up a six.
 
Nebuchadnezzar may not have realized it, but he provides a vivid illustration of humanity’s need to deify itself.
 
This image is also an Old Testament preview of what the Bible talks about a final image erected to a man.
 
We are told in the book of The Revelation that in the days of the Great Tribulation there is going to be an image to a man.
 
Turn to Revelation 13, and I want to point out something to you. In the days of the Great Tribulation the Bible tells us there is going to be an antichrist, a man of sin.
 
Verse 14-15, 18
 
666! Here is going to be the epitome of what man is able to produce. It is going to be a trinity of failure himself. It's going to be Mr. 666.
 
In the Old Testament we have this image of gold. It is intended, first of all, to glorify the king himself. Number two, it is intended to deify humanity. I think there is a third reason for the construction of this image of gold. I think the third reason is to unify religion.
 
Keep in mind that Nebuchadnezzar was a skillful politician. He was a brilliant man. He knew how to rule and how to keep things together. He understood the importance of unity in religions. Later on he is going to send a command that everybody is to worship this image of gold.
 
So this image of gold, made to a man, made to deify himself, was also intended to combine and bring religions together. It was an attempt to establish one state religion.
 
That's why our forefathers, when they wrote our Constitution, understood the importance of not allowing there to be a state religion. We do not believe that there should be a one state religion. We do not believe that any religion should dominate and that all the people of the nation should worship the same way or adhere to that same religion.
 
Nebuchadnezzar understands that it is easier to control an empire if you can control the religions of that empire. It is an attempt to bring about a unification of religion.
 
That is something that is current in our day also. The ecumenical movement is an attempt to put all religions together. It is an attempt to unify religions.
 
I'm a little bit dubious about these attempts to unify all religions. Every person is to worship God according to the dictates of his own heart, according to the teachings of the Word of God. If you know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you are a brother of all who know Him. There is tremendous unity among believers.
 
Psalm 119, verse 63, says this. This is the verse which establishes the terms of unity among believers. "I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts." He is saying that if you love Jesus and if you believe His Word, then there is a basis for unity. You do not have to affiliate in order to associate.
 
I thank God for my brothers and sisters in Christ, whatever their denomination affiliation may be. If you are born again, you are my brother in Jesus Christ. We don't have to go to the same church.
We don't have to worship in the same way. But if you love Jesus and I love Jesus and you believe the Bible and I believe the Bible, then you and I can have unity in the Lord.
 
This is going to be a very different kind of unity. It is going to be a union. It is going to be a one nation religion.
 
The construction of the image.
 
II.     The Dedication of the Image.
 
We don't know how long it took to construct this image. Probably it was made of wood. Maybe it was put on a pedestal. It is out there in the plains of Dura. Archeologists think that they have discovered the remnants of this very image. It is located about six miles southeast of ancient Babylon. Evidently, out there in the open, away from all the other images, away from all the other temples so they would have unfettered access and the king could bring them all together, he has constructed this image of gold.
 
Now it is time for the dedication of the image. There is a powerful order that goes out. In verse 2 the king sends out the order. His order is to come to the dedication of the image. Then it names all these different officials. These are the officials of the nation of Babylon. These are the people who are over all of the provinces and are over various segments of the government. He sends the order that they are all to come out there to the plains of Dura for the dedication of this image.
 
In those days, when the king said, come, everybody came. You can imagine!
Here are all the officials and the entire empire of Babylon. They are all dressed in their official gear. You can see them milling around by the thousands around that image of gold. They are being interviewed by Good Morning Babylon. It must have been a magnificent occasion.
 
Notice what verse 4 says.
 
A herald was an official representative of the king. It was the job of the herald to say what the king wanted said. He's what we might call a White House press secretary. 
 
He says in verse 4. "To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image."
 
Do you see that combination of words? It is commanded fall down and worship. You can't do that can you? You can't command people to worship.
 
Now, you can bring people to the services. You can get people here. Parents can bring their children and young people here, but you can't force people to worship. Worship is something which comes from the heart. Worship is something that goes on in the inside. Jesus said, "God is a Spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." You can't force people to worship.
 
Notice that he has an orchestra here. It mentions it four times in this chapter. It names all of the different instruments. Every kind of musical instrument is represented in this orchestra.
I've been doing a little archeological research, and I have found out the title of the tune they were playing that day. They were playing "It's Going to be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." The paid orator said, "When you hear the sound of the music, fall down and worship."
 
The paid orator says, "Oh, by the way, in order to help you make up your mind we've added a little incentive. The king has a burning fiery furnace and if you don't fall down and worship, you are going into that fiery furnace."
 
They cut their eyes over there and they saw the fire leaping and they heard the fuel popping and the furnace threatening. It really did help them make up their minds.
 
We have a few every so often who are "Almost Persuaded" to come; they had a few "Almost Cremated" and everybody came. So when the music begins to play, everybody is to fall down and worship.
 
The music comes and there are thousands of people on the plains of Dura. Thousands of them fall in the dust. Everybody is on their knees before the image of gold. That is, everybody but three.
 
This brings me to the repudiation of the image.
 
III.    The Repudiation of the Image.
 
There must have been thousands of people there, but somewhere in that crowd there were three young Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
 
While everybody else was in the dirt, there were three boys who were standing alone.
 
That is not easy to do. It is not easy to stand when everybody else is on their knees.
 
Look at verse 8 and following.
 
The accusation is that they accused the Jews. That word, "accused," literally means to chew the pieces of. It means malicious accusation. Here were some officials and they see that these three Hebrew young people are not going along with the crowd, and it really bugs them.
 
There must have been some jealousy involved. We don't know all that was going on. Then, is there not this tendency to try to get people to conform? Isn't there something on the part of people that makes us want everybody to go along and everybody do the same thing? Doesn't it bother people when folks don't go along? The attitude today is, if you want to get along, go along.
 
What is it about conviction, what is it about people who dare to be different that bugs other people? What is it about that Christian on the job who while everybody else is gambling on the ballgame, they don't gamble? While everybody else is laughing at the dirty jokes, they aren't laughing. What is it about that one who is different that bothers everybody?
 
What is it about that young person at school? When everybody else is going to the rock dance? When everybody else is experimenting with drugs? When everybody else is wearing indecent clothing? What is it about that one teenager who dares to be different?
There is tremendous pressure put on people today to go along.
 
I heard about a guy who was pushing a big grandfather clock in a wheelbarrow to get it repaired. A guy looked at him and said, "Why can't you wear a wrist watch like the rest of us?" We want everybody to be the same, don't we?
 
Here is a little group, three people, and they bother the majority.
 
There were three young men who dared to be different. That's what I want to give a call for tonight. I want to call on some people to dare to be different. I want to call on some Christian young people and Christian boys and girls and Christian businessmen and ladies to dare to be different, dare to stand alone, and have the courage of your convictions and to be unwilling to compromise those convictions.
 
Romans 12, verse 2, says, "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
 
You are living your life either one of two ways. You are living your life by being conformed by pressure from the outside or being transformed by convictions on the inside.
 
Three young men! They dare to be different! They dare to refuse to go along with the crowd! It's going to create a major crisis.
 
Let's bow our heads in prayer.
 
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