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Living with Hope

Hope is something that is very powerful, it can help us keeping going on, when everything else tells us to give up. You listen to anyone who has been a prisoner of war or a hostage and the story is the same, what got them through was hope.  Hope that they would see their families again, hope that one day they would be free, hope of a better time.  The truth is, if we are going to stand firm in this life with all of its difficulties we have to have hope.  Today I want us to take a look at three men and the source of their unbelievable hope.
King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue ninety feet tall and nine feet wide and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then he sent messages to the high officers, officials, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the provincial officials to come to the dedication of the statue he had set up. So all these officials came and stood before the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Then a herald shouted out, “People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king’s command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

So at the sound of the musical instruments, all the people, whatever their race or nation or language, bowed to the ground and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

But some of the astrologers went to the king and informed on the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “Long live the king! You issued a decree requiring all the people to bow down and worship the gold statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments. That decree also states that those who refuse to obey must be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whom you have put in charge of the province of Babylon. They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar flew into a rage and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought before him. When they were brought in, Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you refuse to serve my gods or to worship the gold statue I have set up? I will give you one more chance to bow down and worship the statue I have made when you hear the sound of the musical instruments. But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up”
(Daniel 3:1-18, NLT).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had every reason to bow down to that idol.  They were captives from Israel, their homeland destroyed, the temple of their God was torn down, and the holy and sacred objects of the Temple were stolen.  To some that would have been evidence that their God wasn’t worthy of their devotion and worship.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had everything to lose by not to bowing down.  They had been given power and prestige.  They had risen above being mere slaves, they had become advisors to the king.  By not bowing down they were risking not only their positions but they were also risking their very lives.
In order for these three men to take such a stand of courage they had to have hope.  And their hope came from knowing God of Israel. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew God, and that gave them hope to stand before the King Nebuchadnezzar and say “No. We are not going to bow.”  They knew no matter what happened God was in control of their lives.
There are three realities in the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego which helped them understand that God was in control.

1. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were obedient: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us” (Daniel 3:17a; NLT).  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not bow a knee to just any god.  They already had a God whom they served, and it was by His standards that they lived.  In Daniel 1 we discover that these three men, led by Daniel, decided not to defile themselves with the King Nebuchadnezzer’s food.  They wanted to keep the food standard which God had given them.  This idol that was now before them was also in direct violation of the standards the God had given them, and because God had proved Himself to them in the past they obeyed. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew God’s laws and they set out to obey it.  This faithful obedience made God’s promises real in their lives.

2. Shadrach. Meshach, and Abednego knew God’s power: “He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty” (Daniel 3:17b; NLT) These three men did not fear the power of King Nebuchadnezzar.  They realized that his power was nothing compared to the power of God.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego saw a glimpse of God’s power when He gave Daniel the dream and the interpretation of that dream which King Nebuchadnezzar dreamt.  That was probably just one incident from their experience of obeying God that gave them reason to believe in God’s power. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted the fact that God had the power to save them.  Trusting in God’s power gave them hope.

3. Shadrach. Meshach, and Abednego were committed to God: “But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:18; NLT).  To me this is one of the most amazing verses in the Bible.  Basically what these three men said was, “God has the power to save us, we know that to be true.  If He chooses not to save us from you, we will still serve Him.”  That is so different from how we tend to respond.  We cry out to God to rescue us or to reveal Himself to us, and if He doesn’t we question His goodness or even His existence.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were committed to God.  I wish I could give you a formula for their amazing commitment, but I cannot.  All we know is that they were so committed to God that they were willing to die for Him rather than break His commandments.  It was a commitment that could only come from having a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe.  This commitment gave them a real and powerful hope. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had a hope that allowed them to stand out rather than blend in with the crowd.  They knew God, they served Him, they knew His power, and they were totally committed to Him.  Their hope was a reflection of their lives.

These men knew God.  It was through this relationship that hope was made a reality in their lives.  When we have a relationship with God we can also stand tall during the trials of life.  Whether that trial is a fiery furnace or loneliness, it is our relationship with God, through our risen Savior, that brings hope to our lives. 

Peter wrote; Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,  who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5; ESV).


Stan said…
"To me this is one of the most amazing verses in the Bible."

I couldn't agree more. While so many of us approach God with "If you do right by me, I'll do right by you", these guys would do what was right regardless of the outcome. What an impact we would have on the world if that was our approach.

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