FINDING HOPE - Daniel 3 -June 26, 2022
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
PASTOR ROB INRIG'S MESSAGE IS HELPING US IN HOW FIND
AND KEEP OUR HOPE
AS THE SCRIPTURE IS TELLING US
'SET YOUR HOPE FULLY ON THE GRACE THAT WILL BE BROUGHT TO YOU
AT THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD'
1 Pet 1:1-13
In his book, What Keeps You Up At Night? pastor Pete Wilson observes that many years ago there was no universal standard for tuning musical instruments. Each musician sets his
personal preference. So when musicians gathered, the sound was often catastrophic. Today if you attend a formal concert, you’ll observe that once the 1st chair violinist joins others on stage, the oboe will play the A above middle C which is now the universally held tuning note. Every instrument aligns with that – no matter whether it’s Nashville country, the London Philharmonic or BTS. All instruments are calibrated to ensure they are brought into universal tune.
What is true in the musical is far more true in the spiritual where our lives too easily get out of tune because the standards set depend on who and what’s listened to. Where what’s valued is determined by the loudest or most famous.
PASTOR PETE WILSON
And so we tune our lives to these hoping that life will be well if we can have what they have or do what they do. Commenting on these, Wilson observes, We’ve placed ourselves, our challenges, our desires, our hopes, our plans, our anxieties – in the foreground .. and that automatically puts God in the background. And as long as God is in the background, the hope we chase and the meaning we seek will always come up empty.
Scripture tells us, that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding Prov 9:10. That is to say, our meaning and hope can only be found in God. Found as we understand the greatness of who He is. That He is far above any image we imagine and every speculation we can have. So no wonder the things we chase never provide hope that lasts. They were never meant to. Greater than this is that this God who is our hope, knows us and loves us. A God who wants a relationship with us. And it is in this, that we can place our hope. But how do we make sense of that and better yet, stay anchored when everything around us speaks so differently? In a time the Bible characterizes as a time, every man did what was right in his own eyes. Jud 21:25
To explore this, I want us to look at an account in Scripture of a world that, like ours, is calibrated to values and beliefs very different from the tuning God set for us. And in that world, some are completely out of step.
Their reality – was hopeless, the divide between what they’d been commanded to do and the choice they knew they must do. The story is given to us in Dan 3.
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet wide. He set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the rulers of the provinces to attend the dedication of the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps' prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the rulers of the provinces assembled for the dedication of the statue the king had set up. Then they stood before the statue Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
Okay – let’s freeze frame the story here for some background. The 1st thing to note is the power and scope of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. Later in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, we are told that the power and influence of Babylon were unmatched. As to empires, her glory greater, her beauty extraordinary Her wealth extravagant, her power extensive. And the architect of all this - Nebuchadnezzar.
One of Babylon’s conquests was Israel, walls torn down, pillars burned, Temple walls removed - stone upon stone. That was the physical. But the emotions went one step further, looting then destroying, leaving nothing of worth behind. Leaving nothing that spoke of return.
The message was clear – everything counted on, gone. Even if rescue were to occur, where would you go? There’s nothing left to find. That meant futures were dependent on your conqueror. To underscore how hopeless the situation was, he gives captives a demonstration of his power as he slaughters the sons of Israel’s King Zedekiah in front of him and after that, gouges out Zedekiah’s eyes before marching him and other captives to Babylon. Talk about hopelessness.
Doing what hopelessness does, destroying foundations on which we’ve placed our hope, blinding any hope of a future. Stone by stone. And what’s left - just rubble. Captive to circumstances and lost dreams. Captive to things no one saw coming.
Only days before, those in Israel had no idea life would go this way. Life was good. Businesses were profitable. The drinking and celebration - were wild and loud. And then it all went south. Going from a raucous party to a lights-out shutdown. Not much different than rock-solid companies sinking like stones under COVID or a country at peace suddenly ripped apart by war. Who could have known that an enemy would be so evil or a virus so destructive – knocking the props out from under? Because that’s the way hopelessness works.
So that’s something of the emotional context as we come into Daniel 3. For some time, captives have been gradually made to fit in their new home – new food, new language, new customs – frogs in slowly heated water made to assimilate into their new ‘home’. But now the water had been turned to full boil as officials are commanded to bow. Captives were no longer distinct, living among their captors, now they were to look, act and worship exactly as their captors. The message - the God you’ve depended on, is a god of the past. His answers were never given. His protection never comes.
In His place a symbol of a new god, immense - 30 metres high, 3 wide, 9 storeys high – this god declaring the might and glory of Babylon. In scope – impressive. As told, not gold in colour but real gold conveying an empire of incomparable wealth – led by a man of incomparable power
Verses 1-3 tell us people of influence and power are called to gather and bow before this statue. We aren’t told the identity of the statue but several possibilities exist, one, given the dream in Dan 2, an image of Nebuchadnezzar. Another, Babylonian’s chief god, Marduk, is considered the ‘god of gold’ or possibly a representation of all of Babylon’s gods symbolized in this one.
The statue is erected on the plains of Dura – a location likely chosen to stand large, signifying the authority ruling the empire. Her power over all, her glory surpassed by none. Immense making small all those who think themselves great.
These images tell us a lot about hopelessness the things that steal hope are often immense things that come into our life. Standing front and center, large. Things that can’t be wished away. Greater than any power we can bring to defeat. A pain too intense to bear; a loss too heavy to carry; a disappointment too painful to admit. And even in our attempts to look away, they shine large – gigantic spotlights during the day and ever-present silhouettes at night. Always present. Always demanding attention. Reminding you and me, we’ve got no answer for these. And the truth is, you and I know it.
Specifically in the situation just read, the once famous and powerful in other lands, are now servants of another. :4 tells us they are people of every nation and language now in the service of Nebuchadnezzar who kept the beautiful and the best for his kingdom. That beautiful and that best now feeling like a curse. Now as servants they were re-educated and re-cultured, with new customs, new habits and new gods. Which meant everything of the old that was treasured as valued and important, was now dead.
Now the mandate was to become like all those around. Israel was good at that, which is to say, nothing good. They’d been living that way for a long time - faith more ritual than reality.
God treated us as a ‘go through the motions’ symbol. They had what 2 Tim 3:5 says, a form of godliness, living as if all were well, believing the things in which they’d invested were working but in truth, they were a people ‘without hope’. And despite God’s numerous warnings to repent, they refused to listen, that choice taking them into a dark place.
Sometimes, God allows the dark places so we finally see and admit that other gods are where we’ve placed our trust. There’s Jesus we privately worship – but our worn in public God, little different than those around. Our behaviours are no different. Our definitions of worth and success are no different.
Our morality is no different – a recent study revealed that the percentage of young adults engaging in pre-marital sex is statistically identical for those professing belief in Jesus and those with no religious affiliation. Christians living with the selective belief – a little bit of Jesus and a whole lot of other gods. Our business practices were not much different than our colleagues in the next cubicle. Our up charges just what the industry does. The under charge on our bill was not reported just like our friends would’ve done. Compromised faith living captive under foreign gods and foreign powers.
In the scene before us, a people ripped from everything known, everything valued, everything loved.
Among these, were a select few who refused to go where others were going. :12 tells us, that Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego were rulers over a prominent part of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, meaning they enjoyed favour and influence greater than most. But here, in the seeming protection of power and privilege, they are called to decide – bow to the world around or remain true to the Lord God Almighty.
4 A herald loudly proclaimed, “People of every nation and language, you are commanded: When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, you are to fall facedown and worship the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. But whoever does not fall and worship will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.”
Imagine being 1 of the 3 - the pressure immense; the fate ahead – abundantly clear. And at 1st note, peers hitting the turf and you and 2 friends still standing. Perhaps 1 or 2 tugging at your clothes, Just bow, then carry on as you want. Give them the public and in private hang on to what you want as yours. Justifying that would be easy. Hadn’t they been through enough? Tested enough? Proven themselves to God enough? Faithful when others weren’t?
But God’s call is for faithfulness - to put our hope in the One who promises His presence despite what is seen and understood. To trust and step even when we don’t know where that step might lead. Holding to this, these 3 stood, knowing that doing what others would do wasn’t an option. Bowing to other gods had led to the captivity they were now in. Now God allowing them to experience physically where spiritually Israel had lived for a long time. Rebellious hearts and now, captive bodies. But not these 3. And in that place – God kept and God blessed. It sure didn’t look that way but they chose to live for God despite what came.
They understand that helpless and hopeless are not the same. Helpless is the absence of hope for a time but hopeless is the resignation that nothing better will ever come. These 3 held to the better even when the better might be something very different from what they might like.
God’s better heard in the stories told to young Jews of a baby’s basket deliverance in the waters of the Nile and miraculous water-parting deliverance from Egyptian swords. And the impossible victories of Joshua and a crumbling wall or Elijah and his fiery answer from heaven to rescue from the fiery rage of fire? But rescue in the fire? Never heard of that. But answer or not, they knew of a better in Whom they believed.
It’s what allowed them to stand, strengthened with a friend standing beside them. Knowing what standing meant whether a spectacular rescue would come or not. Sweat pouring down their face, not from the sun but the intense heat ahead.
Therefore, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, and every kind of music, people of every nation and language fell and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 Some Chaldeans took this occasion to come forward and maliciously accuse the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever. You as king have issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music must fall and worship the gold statue. Whoever does not fall and worship will be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are some Jews you have appointed to manage the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men have ignored you, the king; they do not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up. Then in a furious rage, Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to bring in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the God who can rescue you from my power?”
The king thinks well of these men who he has placed in prominent positions, the evidence - his change from white-hot rage to calmed down, second chance reason as he offers a ‘do over’ so a death sentence won’t have to be delivered. But for the 3, the stakes are clear, this is a question of worship that will be a fire-tested battle of the gods not unlike Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Understanding that we have one of the greatest faith-filled, hope-directed statements found in Scripture, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need an answer to give you concerning this matter. Our God we serve can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire; He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods nor worship the golden statue that you have set up Dan 3:16-18.
It an amazing, we won’t do it in confrontation with the king. Their standing on faith in the ‘better’. Helpless – perhaps; hopeless – not in the least. Their faith is not in how God must answer, but faith in the God of all answers – the LORD, who Rom 15:13 tells us is the God of hope. The Lord even when His answers are different than we understand.
Their response? - whatever answer comes, HE is the God we serve. Not your gods. Not your statue. Not you! Our hope isn’t in any of these things. It’s in the LORD.
That statement was made in the face of the terrifying, re-igniting the king’s anger. His rule was challenged. His pride attacked. Anything rational about the king is now gone. Reminds us that obeying God doesn’t mean smooth paths and understandable answers.
:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary, and he commanded some of the best soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So these men, in their trousers, robes, head coverings, and other clothes, were tied up and thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. Since the king’s command was so urgent and the furnace extremely hot, the raging flames killed those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire
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These men acknowledged his positional authority – you are king but they wouldn’t acknowledge his spiritual authority. Earthly king? – yes. Spiritual king? - that belonged to another. And in that, their declaration to Nebuchadnezzar - there is a greater power than you. A greater power than circumstance. A greater power than the things that overwhelm.
Said while roped up by Babylon’s best. Ropes are inescapably tight. A fire-heated 7 times hotter. No one going into that fire was coming out. 7 times hotter tells me Nebuchadnezzar wanted this rebellion behind him now. His power would not be challenged – by man or God. But the LORD had other plans.
I have no idea where this finds you today but I do know there are times when hope is hard to find.
The things we walk through make no sense at all. Instead, just one big mess. Nothing redemptive? Nothing to be learned; nothing that can be changed. And in the middle of that mess – God’s promise that He is present. To hold. To carry. To transform. Sometimes to change but not always. In what you are facing – undeniably helpless but hopeless? Never! And in these times, His call – stand with your hope in Me. Remain faithful.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm. He said to his advisers, “Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?” “Yes, of course, Your Majesty,” they replied to the king. He exclaimed, “Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Highest God—come out!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. When the satraps, prefects, governors, and the king’s advisers gathered around, they saw that the fire did not affect the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
Therefore I issue a decree that anyone of any people, nation, or language who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump. For there is no other god who can deliver like this.” Then the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
So as Christians what is our hope? Hope that stands secure. Hope that will never disappoint. Hope that as Eph 1:18 states, the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance.
The 1st is this, in Jesus Christ, we have the certain hope we can be forgiven of all our sins. That’s not what the enemy wants us to believe. He wants us to think we are inescapably captive, hopelessly overwhelmed. And the response of the Cross – you’ve been made completely new. Forgiven. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Rom 8:1
The 2nd is our certain hope that God’s love not only redeems but also draws near. His love is always with us. My current situation is not my forever situation: Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the LORD, and he answers me from his holy mountain. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the LORD sustains me.
I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side. Ps 3:2-6 or Isaiah 43:1 Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine." CSB
The 3rd is that God’s promises are true – He is the provider of our needs; He is our ever-present help in times of trouble; He is our peace that passes all understanding.
The 4th our certain hope for all eternity, Set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ 1 Pet 1:13. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord 1 Thess 4:16,17. Jesus is coming again and the difficulties we now face will be forgotten in the overwhelming joy of what He has prepared for us. The hope for every life that’s been re-calibrated, set in tune by the saving, redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. Your hope and mine as born again children of God.
Tough decisions ahead? Temptation shouting incredibly loud? Stand tall and stand true because Nebuchadnezzar was right - There is no god able to deliver like this - only a risen and soon returning Jesus – what a Saviour!
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are mine."