In this series of messages, we’re exploring what the Bible has to say about living godly in a non-Christian, even antagonistic, society through the book of Daniel. This particular week we examine an amazing story of confrontation and rescue from Daniel 3 and answer the question: Are there idols in our modern world and how do we deal with them in a life-filled way?
For a lot of reasons, the king of Babylon at the time, Nebuchadnezzar, set up a huge statue in a prominent place in Babylon. That might have been okay, but instead of a place to visit on vacation or send school field trips to, he required that everyone bow down to this image and worship it, complete with worship music and fanfare. We don’t exactly know why Daniel wasn’t a part of this particular story, there are lots of theories, but it focuses on Daniel’s colleagues – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, as they are called in Babylon. They were Hebrews, Jews, who lived for God but were employed by the government.
Daniel 3:13-18 “Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “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? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, 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. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.””
Have you ever made a stand and paid a price for it?
Well, here’s the price that these three had to pay and the results.
Daniel 3:19-23 “Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 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. 21 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. 22 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. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.”
But the real God came through for them.
Daniel 3:24-27 “Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; 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.”25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” 26 Then 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 here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, 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.”
Wow. What a wild story. You have to agree that they handled that just right. They wouldn’t bow down and worship, even though it meant certain death if the Son of God hadn’t shown up. What would’ve happened if they just went along with this? No pressure, just accolades and a fitting in with everyone else. Talk about taking the easy way or the hard way!
Good thing there’s no idols or demands to worship them today, eh?
Oh wait a minute.
What is an idol? An idol is something you can see, hear or otherwise experience with your senses, that you give priority to above God Himself. It’s a matter of supremacy. When push comes to shove, who gets the priority? The Boss, the family, the crowd of friends, yourself, what’s pleasing to your senses; or God.
What can be an idol today? Think in terms of what you can see or feel, even if it’s not physical; it’s neither good nor bad in itself. For example, the approval of your parents and extended family; your job or time; food, sex; buying stuff; opinions of friends, colleagues, other students; who you think about and admire; your girlfriend or boyfriend; your spouse, children, car, boat, house or vacation house; your bank accounts and investments; even media. In and of themselves, these things are neither good nor bad. But they become idols when they take supremacy over God, what He says in His Word, and His will in general.
Here’s one we might not think of immediately – your image of what God is like, even though it’s different than His described character and nature in the Bible.
People convince themselves that God is ok with certain issues and ideals. For example, God is behind gay marriage; He doesn’t mind you telling white lies or talking bad about your neighbor; or living with your girlfriend/boyfriend, that’s just what everyone does and He knows you love each other. However, scripture is clear these things are wrong.
So I might be an idolater, even though I’m a Christian and come to church and do a lot of good things? Um, yes.
Why are idols a temptation to people? Because we are drawn to what we can sense, what we can feel, what pleases us and comforts us. The people of Israel, while waiting for Moses to come down from the mountain, made a golden statue of a calf to worship; instead of the Living God who had brought them out of Egypt and demonstrated His Presence regularly. The calf was a temptation because it was easier. It was appealing, it was visible, they could move it around and set it up where they wanted and it didn’t have a lot of demands on the surface. We like things like that, they appeal to us and we give them supremacy.
But what about average good things? Food? Television? Sex? Money? Are we supposed to never have any of those? No.
1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”
James says that every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Lights.
It’s a matter of Who you believe is the Source of all good things, Who determines the use of all good things and the amount of all good things. Something or someone becomes an idol when it gains a supremacy with regards to God.
Remember the car commercials around Christmas time? The red bow on top of a new car and the reaction of the people receiving them? How do you react when something comes into your life and you’re thrilled with it or them?
Colossians 3:5 “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Idolatry is a current, very real temptation and God hates it. He warns us that it will mess up our lives and relationship with Him. Idols are demanding, ruthless taskmasters. The only thing is we can’t be legalistic about it or we run the risk of squeezing the life of God out of everything we do. The life-giving path is to put good things in their place and give God our highest priority. So what do we do about it?