Thursday, March 6, 2008

“The Heat Is ON” Daniel 3:13-18

S-1037 2/27/08 5SMIL/3A. Hymns: (S)#427 vv 1, 5, 7; # 516 ; (C) #552 vv 1, 4, 8

Texts: Psalm 48; Joshua, 3:1-4; 2 Corinthians 4:6-11; Matthew 27:11-31

Theme: “The Heat Is ON” Daniel 3:13-18

Armour, SD. SOLI DEO GLORIA (5th sermon in series on “Singing the Songs of Zion)

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us ...” Dan. 3:17

In July of 1989, I, along with my wife and two sons headed to St. Louis, MO., to begin my seminary training. Our apartment was on the third floor and the temperature was very hot; and we had no air-conditioner. It’s sweltering and sizzling, suffocating and sticky; it’s a scorcher for sure! The sun is out, the temperature is up and the sweat is rolling’ down. It feels like a five-alarm fire and it’s as hot as hell! All because the heat is on!

But this heat is not as bad as others have faced. You don’t believe me; just ask Hannaniah, Misheal and Azariah. Don't know who they are? Perhaps you know them by their Babylonian names—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Well whatever you call them they are standing in the heat. They are Hebrews in exile. Remember God had the Babylonians sweep over their homeland and take the people into exile because they failed to keep the God of their Fathers as their God. Instead they worshipped every other god they could get their hands on. These three, although they were faithful to God, were swept away with everyone else. Now they are in a hot spot as they are trying to hold on to their faithfulness to the God of their Father’s Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They are three in the midst of 300, 000 people. They had better blend in, bow down and sell out because King Nebuchnezzar has made a golden statue that is 12½ feet wide 125 feet high and issued this decree, “At the sound of music everybody must to bow down and worship my statue or else in the same hour they will know, first hand, that the heat is on!”

As they sweat bullets we can imagine these three Hebrews conversing, Shach: “What does it matter if we bow down to a statue just this once?” Meshach: “Besides, what a great opportunity we have to be a part of this stadium event!” Azariah, (speaking like a seminarian): And besides, I’d rather cooperate and assimilate and tolerate and then graduate rather than hyperventilate!”

When the heat is on us and we are the three in the midst of the 300,000 – when we’re called to “not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe” – when we’re called to “not be conformed to this present evil age” – when we’re called to “confess the Son of Man before men with the promise that He will then confess us before the Father in heaven” all too often we shrink back like cowards, not wanting to be known or stand out or bow down. We would rather compromise and be comfortable, rather stand up, or stand out. There’s a part of us that soaks up the “air conditioned Christian life” where there is no sweat, no perspiration with plenty of ice tea and Pepsi to go around for everybody!

When faced with moral compromise – like internet pornography … when faced with ecclesiastical compromise – like character assassination … when faced with doctrinal compromise like “anything goes” … we say, “It won’t hurt if I DO IT JUST THIS ONCE. Besides, it’s fashionable to be “undecided” these days. Besides no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. And besides, I’ve seen what happens to marshmallows at campfires – hamburgers at barbeques – and yesterday’s leftovers in today’s ill-timed microwave ovens, they all burn up when the heat is on!”

In spite of these temptations Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are ready to take the heat: Listen to their bold witness and the words that will put them to death: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us.” At this point our heroes appear to be hanging on for dear life, for all of the cards are stacked up against them. It appears that they are falling fast from the favor of the King. Everything around them is crumbling fast and they are surrounded by those who want to devour them. It’s that bad because Nebuchadnezzar is filled with rage and orders the furnace to be heated seven times hotter. This death chamber even has a window on the side through which spectators can watch the baking, the broiling and the burning when the heat is on!

Refusing to blend in, bow down or sell out Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are tied up and thrown into this blazing heat. And get this; the fire is so hot that it kills the men who take them up to the opening of the furnace!

Now what happens when just a few stand up against so many? What happens when people take a radical stand and turn neither to the right nor to the left? What happens when believers say, “Enough is enough! I will not sell out! I will not bow down! I will not bend!” I’ll let Nebuchadnezzar answer that for us: “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth one looks like a Son of God.”

Amazing! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are saved by the same Son of God whose kingdom Daniel earlier describes as, “… a kingdom that will never be destroyed …. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.” This is the same Son Daniel sees in chapter seven, “… coming with the clouds of Heaven, approaching the Ancient of Days and led into His presence. He is given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and people of every language worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” And this is the same Son of God whom Daniel says in chapter 12 writes our names in His book so that He will completely deliver us on the day when our bodies awake from the dust of the earth and enter the fullness of everlasting life!

And the result of their bold stand? The hair on their head isn’t singed, their clothing is unaffected, and they don’t even smell like smoke! I can’t even leave a bowling alley without smelling like smoke, but the Son of God’s protection is so thorough, so complete they don’t even smell like smoke!

This same Son of God climactically entered the furnace once again – only this time it was one against the world. Look. The heat is on; it’s sweltering and sizzling, suffocating and sticky, it’s a scorcher for sure because the Palestinian sun is out, the temperature is up and the sweat is rolling down His bleeding, battered and butchered body. It’s as hot as hell literally because Jesus Christ is taking the heat for your sins and mine. His cracked lips and parched throat cry out one word in John 19:28 – DIPSO – in Greek – in English two words, “I thirst!”

Three days later this Jesus came out of the fire alive – forever unbound – to make this promise from Isaiah 43, straight from His heart to yours – “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego speak before a king and they are not put to shame. They not only say: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us ...” But also – as true theologians of the cross – they say, “But even if God does not save us now, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Today God is calling and empowering us to make this same bold confession – that Jesus Christ is Lord, that there is new life in Him, and that we refuse to blend in, bow down or sell out to any person or system that would rob us of this Gospel! All to the end … that along with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego…. we are confident to sing this song all the days of our life …

“Great is thy faithfulness. Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed, thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me” (LSB # 810. refrain).

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