Daniel is often seen as a book of mysterious prophesies. Woven within the story of how these prophesies were revealed are the stories of men who trusted in God in difficult and dangerous times. We find in the life of Daniel, and his friends, the definition of faith. Though their experiences we discover the encouraging message that God is involved in human history and in the lives of individuals.
[Gary Petty] This is the first in a series of Bible studies we’re going to be doing on the book of Daniel. Of course, you know, when we think of the book of Daniel, we think of all the prophecies of the book of Daniel. And the book of Daniel is very, very important in understanding prophecy. It lays the groundwork. In fact, some of the templates for understanding the Olivet Prophecy and the book of Revelation.
I would not, just personally, you know, I look at the book of Revelation, I would have no idea what most of that meant if I didn’t have Daniel. Daniel gives us the template that we lay that on top of. We also, when we look at the book of Daniel, we read the book of Daniel, we find a story flow about the lives of Daniel and three of his friends. And woven into this, all these incredible prophecies, prophecies that reach down through history even to us today, we find the story of these four people. And what we read through Daniel, what I want to look at today, tonight, is I want us to look at not only the prophecies but the story of these four men.
When we look at Daniel, there’s two great overriding themes. And as we go through these studies, and you come to these studies, and we do the series that Darris will be doing, Steve will be doing, I’ll be doing, you’re going to see these two overriding themes over and over again. One is God is the God of history and prophecy. God is involved in human history. Now He’s not predetermining everything that humans do.
We messed this up quite a bit on our own, thank you. Between us and Satan, we’ve made this mess, okay? God hasn’t created the mess. But in order to carry out His plan, He gets involved in human history. And that’s what we will see in the book of Daniel, is this overarching theme that God is involved in human history so that the end result isn’t what we want, it’s not what Satan wants, it’s what He wants. And the primary template for that is the image of Daniel 2, when you think about the image of Daniel 2 and how much of prophecy we understand because of that incredible image, and what God showed it meant through Daniel.
And we have these four empires, He says, “These are four empires.” And He starts with Babylon, which existed at that time. It goes to Persia, which existed during the life of Daniel. So it’s very interesting, is that even though the life of Daniel, we see certain prophecies that were given to him being fulfilled. Then we see that Persia is followed by Greece and Greece by the Roman Empire.
Of course, when we combine that, Daniel 2, Daniel 7, Daniel 8, Daniel 10, we begin to put together a realization that we can now look at from our viewpoint back through history and see where God predicted these events to happen. And these events happened, and there will be, at some time in the future, some kind of revitalization of the Roman Empire. Those two legs and there will be ten toes, and they will exist at the end time in accordance with what Daniel says, and that empire will be destroyed by the Kingdom of God, the coming of Jesus Christ. So just that information that we’re able to put together from Daniel 2. And then looking back through history gives us a remarkable understanding of the book of Revelation.
You know, when I look at the book of Revelation and I think of Revelation 13, this beast power, the second beast coming out of the ocean, and if you didn’t have Daniel, you would have no idea who that could even remotely be. And even today, there are people who take Revelation 13 and apply it to different empires in history. Some people would apply it to the United States. So, you know, all kinds of interpretations. If we start with Daniel 2, we arrive at a different conclusion.
So when we go through the book of Daniel, and as we go through this over the next six months or however long we’re going to be doing it, you’re going to see this overarching theme that, in spite of Satan, in spite of human beings, God is going to carry out His plan. And He is the God of history, He is the God of prophecy. And then when He predicts something, it’s going to happen. The second theme we find in all this is that, in human history, God is not only involved in these huge events, empires coming and going, and kings and reigning, and wars. God is involved in the lives of lowly people, individuals. And that’s the great theme of Daniel we miss sometimes.
One other great theme, the second great theme of Daniel is that God is involved in the lives of individuals. And therefore, people specifically that we see Him involved with that God uses in remarkable ways, even though they have blessings from God, and they also suffer because of God. They suffer because of what God is having them do. They also receive blessings. But God is with them. You and I aren’t… I doubt if anybody here, you know, is ever going to have to appear before some ruler or king or emperor like Daniel. That’s a good thing.
I really hope that none of us have to do that. None of us are going to experience some of the things that they did. But the principles are the same. We tend to think, “Well, God used Daniel, Daniel was special, God is not involved in my life the same way He was with Daniel.” God is not involved in my life or your life in the same way He was with Daniel in that we’re not in the same circumstance. But here is one of the great lessons of this book.
In all of this prophecy, God is always working through some people. And some of those people are put into remarkable circumstances like Daniel, and some of them live their lives quietly, their whole lives simply following God. But His involvement, and those who are quietly simply following God and the great people like Daniel, God is concerned for each one. God’s involvement for each one, God’s desire for each of us to be His child is exactly the same. God isn’t going to ask of any of us here to do what Daniel did. But His involvement with us on His end is just as personal.
What do you think about that? “Oh, wow, Daniel, I wish I could be like him.” Well, when you think about it, “No, thank you, God. I’m, you know, I’m not like him.” Like, people say they want to be prophets, I go, “What idiot wants to be a prophet?” You know, lie on your side, marry a prostitute. Think of what the prophets were asked to do. “Eat food cooked on dung.” Man alive. Thrown in a cistern, that’s right.
Who wants to do that? We have it pretty easy. But realize that God’s personal involvement with you is the same. And when we go through this book and we see God’s personal involvement in their lives, the principles still apply to us. We can’t get clouded by, “Oh, well, those were great people, and I’m not like them, and God really doesn’t care.” No, actually, the principles apply. And the test, they’re the same but they’re different. What I mean is you may not be asked to do what they did, but the test in our lives has to produce the same results that they’re tested.
Now when we understand what happened to Daniel, we understand a little bit about the test he and his three friends faced. The Babylonians invaded Judah in 605, around 605 B.C. They didn’t destroy it. The Babylonians did not want to destroy Judah, they wanted taxes. They wanted them to pay them taxes.
They wanted them to take care of themselves, not be a problem, send troops when they needed troops, you know, be an ally. “We conquer you. You’re our ally. You send us taxes and…” But, you know, they wouldn’t do that. The Jews wouldn’t do that. So when they invaded them that first time, they didn’t destroy them. What they did was they took plunder away from Jerusalem.
They even took some of the things from the temple, but not everything. They left some things there. They didn’t do a mass deportation of people, they only took a few people. It’s who they took that’s very important and understanding because there was a purpose in this. And this comes down to the great issues that Daniel was going to face his whole life. They took young people, basically teenagers to Babylon. Jewish tradition says he was probably… Daniel was probably 15.
Now, why would you take teenagers? Well, they took, first of all, they took really smart ones, okay? They tried to take the best and brightest Jews and they took them to Babylon. They didn’t take them as ransom. You know, in ancient times, you’ll see… the Assyrians, you know, Assyrians would take people for ransom.
“Okay, we’ll let you have your kids back if you pay us money.” They would take people and use them as slaves. Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego weren’t taken as slaves. They were taken to go to the seat of power to participate in the wealth and power of Babylon and to be taught Babylonian ways. They were taken to Babylon to become Babylonians. This is really interesting.
Of course, you know, if you want to subjugate a people, you don’t want to have to destroy them. Best thing to do is you start with one generation. Within a couple of generations, they have the power. They wanted to create Jewish Babylonians or Babylonian Jewish people, you know, Babylonians had to come first. They were brought there and they were taught a different language. They were brought there and they were taught mathematics, astrology.
They were taught certain science that was foreign to Jews, they were taught a whole new world of literature that they would have not known before. They were taught a whole new culture that they would have not known before, and this culture is presented to them in a very positive way because they’re not living in poverty, they’re not slaves chained up and, you know, working in the salt mines. They’re in the palaces. They’re living the good life. They’re presented with, “This is the best, and let us show you why Babylon is superior to Judah. Let us show you why our gods are superior to your gods.”
What they faced, the second issue, you know, we have the prophetic issue, but the second great theme of this book is a group of people faced with losing their identity. All the trials you see Daniel and his three friends go through all have to do with will they maintain their identity as the people of God? Because it was the purpose of the Babylonians not to kill them but to turn them into Babylonians. It was to have them lose their identity and bring into Babylon the wisdom of Judah.
In others words, “Okay, we’ll take your culture. Come with us, we’ll take the best of your culture and teach you about ours, and ours is superior.” “So, okay, you can teach us certain things about your gods, and your culture, and your way.” You know, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t deny God, He was just one of many gods. The God of Judah was just one of many gods. “Must not have been a very strong God because I beat him.”
When you think of that mindset, we get into Nebuchadnezzar at some point, you’ll see why he was so shocked with what God did to him. Because he’s like, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, my god beat your god!” And then he actually writes part of the book of Daniel and basically says, “No, no, that’s God. That’s God.” It was a shock to him because he thought he was… Yahweh was a lesser God. He had conquered him.
So if this is about maintaining your identity as a person of God. This lesson is just as real today. Because although none of us have been captured and dragged off to a foreign nation, you and I live in a culture that is anti-God. And we are constantly being propagandized by this culture to become Babylonian, to become something else than what we’re supposed to be. And we will face the same, not necessarily the same stress, I mean, no one’s trying to kill us right now.
Well, they face death sometimes, but it’s the same thought process. “Well, let me reason this out and what does God really want? Surely He doesn’t mean this.” And I’ll show you what we mean as we go through this because it comes down to our identity and our faith, our identity and our faith. Remember, faith is only as real as what you have faith in, right?
Faith is only as real as what you have faith in. If I have faith in the U.S. Government to take care of me, I’m probably going to be a very unhappy person. What do we actually have faith in? You know, how many times have you seen movies where they were, “You just have to have faith.” What does that mean? I get really frustrated when I see movies like that.
Somebody’s in the hospital, “Just have faith.” And the person who’s out and says, “Well, I got better because I had faith.” Faith in what? “I just had faith.” Like faith of itself is an object or something. It’s what you have faith in that’s important.
If what you have faith in isn’t real, what you get back isn’t going to be real. And so they were going to be tested in what is my faith in and what is my identity. If I have true faith in God, my identity is a follower of God. I’m a person of God. I am one of His people. I am called by Him and he is in my life. And that story’s woven through all these prophecies.
Let’s look at a couple instances of this. Daniel 1:8 Daniel 1:8But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
American King James Version×, now, you know these stories. Now, when we go through Daniel like in a series like this, “Oh, let’s get also the prophecies!” Because we really want to get into that but we know the story. Daniel in a lions’ den, probably most eight-year-olds can tell us about that, right? But we forget why these are here. These are bedtime stories. These were real people.
We got to think about what went on in their heads, what their emotions were like as they faced these issues because all these issues come down to, “Who do I have faith in, and who am I?” It always comes down to that. “Who is my faith in, and who am I? What’s my identity here? Because, you know, if I’m half Babylonian, half Jewish or half a person of God, I can make half my decisions one way and half the other way.” And this is the same problem you and I face every day.
Oh, we might not be facing the lions’ den, but we’re faced with, “Am I am sort of half-worldly and half-godly? What is my identity?” In that way, we’re just like them. In fact, we’re facing much more subtle, much more subtle attacks. Many of our tests are much more subtle than what theirs were. But day by day, their trials would have been the same.
You know, we look at the big ones. But what was the day by day? Day by day, how much do we become Babylonian? Back in July, the B.T. Crew went to the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. And we filmed in front of those walls that come from ancient Babylon from the time of Nebuchadnezzar. Their massive walls are amazing.
The colors, the beauty of them, impressive. And then you realize those were the low walls. Behind them were the big walls. And how massive that entire city was, how impressive it was, and the wealth that was coming in there. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon as described in ancient literature is one of the great wonders of the ancient world. And this is where Daniel went.
He went to where everything was happening. You know, he went from the guy down on the farm to the penthouse in the most expensive place in Manhattan. This is where everything was happening. You could get whatever you wanted, be wherever you wanted, and he is in the seat of power. Look at verse 8. Here’s how far they took, this changing them into Babylonians.
“To them,” this is talking about the Daniel and his three friends, “To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: to Daniel, the name was Belteshazzar. To Hananiah, Shadrach. To Mishael, Meshach. And to Azariah, Abed-Nego.”
How much does your life change when you’re in a different culture, your parents are gone. Remember, these are teenage boys. All your friends are gone except a few of you that are there, you’re with a whole other group of people, and no one even calls you by your name anymore. “You’re going to have to learn our language now. Daniel, you know, we don’t we don’t speak that language here. We’re going to change your name to something else.”
Even their names are changing. You know what it reminds me of, is, you know, in the Holocaust, when you went into a work camp, they tattooed… you lost your name. They tattooed a number on you. But this was different. It wasn’t such degrading, it’s “You’re better now.”
So that you weren’t degraded, it’s the opposite. “You’re better now. We’re giving a better name because you’re in a better culture. It’s a better place. And you’re going to have a better life.” Now we know what happens here is that they offer them all the food and wine of Babylon.
Now that would have included a lot of unclean meat and a lot of wine. Now, what would a 15-year-old boy think? “No, wait a minute, let’s think this through. Okay, I know God exists, but surely God wants me to give honor. I mean, I was taught all my life to give honor to people of authority. He doesn’t want me to disobey these adults. I mean, they’re telling me to eat this stuff. They’re telling me to…”
It wasn’t just the unclean meat, it was just all kinds of these delicacies, these foods. You know, It would be like sitting down and, “Here, have some, you know, pork and all this other stuff.” And then, “You ought to see the dessert table. This is what you’re going to get three times a day. And you’re going to get wine all the time every meal.”
He came from a society where they drank wine, he was against wine, but wine was a food. It wasn’t something you drank in the way that they did in Babylon. Also, the wine probably had been part of offerings to pagan gods. There’s a lot of reasons here, he has problems. But it would have been easy to say, “Look, God wants me to be law-abiding. They’re telling me to eat this. That’s not my responsibility, it’s theirs. So I’ll go and eat it.” I can see a 15-year-old thinking that, right?
But he didn’t. But it would have been easy to think that. He may have thought that. He may have struggled with that. I mean, clean and unclean meat laws, those apply in Jerusalem, they don’t apply here. I mean, “We know God wants us to do those things in His land, but we’re not in His land anymore. We’re in the land of all these foreign gods.”
They had never seen all these statues at some before. They’re probably horrified by all this. They’re looking at all these statues and saying, “You know, we’re not in God’s land anymore. Clean, unclean meats are probably aren’t important here. God probably doesn’t care in this situation.”
They might have said, “You know what, after God allowed this to happen to us, God allowed such a bad thing to happen to me, why should I honor God over pork of all things, right? I mean, come on. I’m not going to kill anybody. I’m not going to steal.” But this is ridiculous because, remember, clean, unclean meats wasn’t given to ancient Israel for health reasons.
It was given to ancient Israel as a holiness issue. “I didn’t make those things to eat, and it’s so disgusting the people eat those. And you’re holy so I’m telling you not to eat them.” It was a holiness issue. They didn’t know, you know, pork wasn’t good for them. And he didn’t say, “Don’t eat it because it’s not good for you.” He said, “Don’t eat it because I didn’t make it to be eaten. And you’re a holy people so don’t eat that stuff.”
It’s a bit easy for him to say, “Look, holiness doesn’t apply anymore here. I mean, and God has been really mean to us, guys. Come on. Let’s talk about this. God has been really mean to us. A little pork isn’t going to hurt us. What could it do worse? We’ve lost our families. We’ve lost our home. We’ve lost everything that we knew. It’s not going to hurt us.”
He could’ve thought, “You know, God doesn’t expect me to be punished for something as stupid as eating a little bit of rabbit. Come on. It’s not that important to God. How about, I tell you what, let’s just pray over it and it won’t be unclean anymore.” You think a 15-year-old can come… I think 25, 35, 45, I think anybody faced with this could come up with these things, right?
The point is, why didn’t they do it? There’s only two reasons why. His faith in God gave him an identity as a child of God. If God said, “Don’t do it. I didn’t make it for that, and I want you to be holy by not eating that, I want you to be special to Me.” Daniel said, “I will be special to God.” His faith was in God, it wasn’t in, by the way, “My faith is if I eat pork, it’ll make me sick.” He was liable to eat that pork and it didn’t make him sick at all. I know people eat pork all their lives and they don’t get sick from it. It’s not good for you, but, you know I mean?
His faith was in God. “If God tells me not to do that because I am special to Him, I’m not going to do it.” It was his identity because of where his faith was. And you’re going to see Daniel and his friends tested over and over again with, who are you, and who is your God? And this is what you and I are faced with every day: who are you, and who is your God? How we answer those two questions are going to determine an awful lot of our decisions.
And we know what happens. Let’s look at verse 9. Well, verse 8. I read verse 7 before verse 8. “But Daniel proposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies,” defile himself. Now it wasn’t like, “Oh, I don’t want to eat that because it’s not good for me.” No. “I am holy. To eat that is an unholy thing.” It’s unholy.
You know, we don’t think about holiness too much in our lives. And I think we need to more. How we dress and present ourselves in terms of modesty. Because you are holy, you represent God. How we keep the Sabbath because it is holy time. So much of what we do does have to do with holiness.
And your holiness and my holiness isn’t something we make up ourselves, it is given to us by God. Only God can make something holy. You can’t make yourself holy. Holy means to be set apart for God. How can you set yourself apart for God? So when God says, “You are holy,” holiness is supposed to be then how we live and what we do.
He says, “I’m not going to be defiled this way.” This is a teenage boy who’s been ripped from his home, probably told, “You know, you mess up here, we’ll go back and kill your parents too. We’ll go back to your country, the second time we go back, it won’t be as nice.” And the second time they went back, it wasn’t as nice. He says, “I will not defile myself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank.” So, you know, how he asked them to not have them eat that but give them a different diet.
First line is very important. When you and I face these holiness decisions, you know, you’re asked to cheat at work and you say, “Well, a holy person does not cheat. You’re asking me to do something dishonest and I can’t do that.” Who is my God, and who am I? “But I may lose the job.”
Yes, and you might. And you might spend the next three months worrying how to pay every bill, and having some anxiety before you get your next job. Yes, that may be what happens to you. That still doesn’t erase the important questions. Who am I, and who is my God?
Verse 9 says, “Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.” When you are facing these holiness issues, ask God to bring you into the favor. Now He may not do that, there’s cases where He didn’t do this. I mean, He didn’t give Daniel favor when He had him thrown in the lions’ dens. I mean, He gave him favor with the lions but not with the king, right?
God may not. But, you know, sometimes He does. A boss will change his mind. A person will soften their heart. I’ve seen marriages changed because someone stopped praying that God punished their mate, “And God, please help me to change and help me to find favor in the heart of my mate.” And God answered the prayer. “Help me to find favor in the heart of my mate,” “No, I’d rather have my mate punished.” That’s fascinating.
The person in charge of Daniel said, “You know, son, you make a good point.” And he let him do what he asked to do. And the result, of course, was Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were much healthier. It all worked out. Sometimes it doesn’t work out.
Many times it does and we’re not aware of it. We’re not acutely aware of how God is involved in our lives. So we keep saying. “Why doesn’t God do anything good in my life?” And He’s doing good things all the time, we just don’t notice it. I mean, let’s face it, you know, after going to watching the latest Marvel movie, you know, action movie, you come out and take… God would have to open the Red Sea just to get your attention. We’re so overstimulated that we don’t see what God’s doing.
So here we have, at the very beginning, part of the story. But remember, who is their faith in? There’s an old story. I told this story before because I just think it’s such a great story. And it’s supposed to be true. Some historians say they’re not sure it’s totally true. It’s about a time when remember when people used to… Well, not do you remember. None of us were alive then.
But if you know a little bit about history, there was a time when the biggest thrill was for people to go to Niagara Falls and watch people walk, a man would cross it on tightropes. I mean, sometimes that tightrope would swing out 20 feet. And they’d be up over Niagara Falls with these real long poles. Well, you know, after the people would go see that a few times, they’d have to do more and more stunts. So pretty soon, they’re doing all kinds of stunts on this tightrope, in which their lives are at stake.
And one man who had done it many times was named Zumbrady. And according to, you know, stories at the time, Zumbrady one time, he started to cross, get out in the middle, and the winds were so bad he couldn’t go back. He couldn’t go forward. It was horrible. And he was stuck out there trying to stay on this tightrope hanging over Niagara Falls, and he got to the other side… barely got to the other side. And people were coming up and saying, “Wow, that was fantastic.”
The people were saying things, “I bet you could do that, you know, doing this.” In other words, they wanted him to do it again with stunts, doing a stunt. Not realizing, you know, he kept trying to tell them, “I almost died out there. I almost didn’t make it.”
And then a man actually brought up a wheelbarrow and said, “I bet you could cross that, instead of the pole, using a wheelbarrow to balance.” And Zumbrady said, “No, I can’t.” And the man was persistent, kept saying, “Yes, you can. I bet you can. I know you can.”
And finally, Zumbrady looked at him, said, “Okay, you really believe I can do that?” And he said, “Yes.” And he says, “Good, I’ll do it. You get in the wheelbarrow.” If it’s not true I wish it was. This is life, folks. Our faith in God and who we are. We believe God can get us there. God says, “Fine, Christ is going to push the wheelbarrow.” And He tells us, “Get in it.”
Daniel had to get in the wheelbarrow over and over and over again. Faith isn’t real until you face the impossible, and you do it anyways. See, it’s easy to have faith when you’re not facing the impossible. Faith is real when you’re facing the impossible and you believe God can do it. And there’s times God says, “Oh, yeah. Christ can walk across on a wheelbarrow standing on His head. Do you believe me?”
We go, “Sure.” “Good, get in the wheelbarrow.” And He tells us to get in. And we have to go across. It is, like, “Oh, yeah, I believe. Man, do it now. You don’t have to prove it to me.” No, God says, “No. If you really believe it, get in the wheelbarrow.” And this is what these people had to do, and it’s what you and I do. Fortunately, God has never asked us to do it at this level of stress. The level of stress you and I have is quite not near that bad, okay?
But it’s more subtle and it wears us out, it wears us out. Sometimes you have this moment where you have great faith in face of a great trial, and three days later, you have no faith at all. Because it wears us out, and sometimes it’s chipping away who are you and who do you believe in. And society chips us away. One day we wake up and we’re a Babylonian. We just changed into something else. And Daniel helps us understand it, the book of Daniel.
Let’s go to… well, there’s one thing here, verse 17. Verse 17 is interesting. It says, “As for these young men,” this is after they had, “Okay, we’re going to stick to this diet,” and they actually were healthier, and they were rewarded for it, and they continued to be able to keep their diet and not have to eat unclean meats and the things that were set before them. “Then the four young men, God gave them,” this is important, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.”
So Daniel had a special gift given to him by God, but notice all four of them received something from God. They had to study mathematics in a way that they never studied in a Jewish culture. There was certain concepts of science that would have been common in Babylon that was not in Judah. Literature, they had to read pagan stuff. They had to do all this stuff but it says, “God gave them wisdom.”
You and I have to let God prepare us for our faith issues. God doesn’t make you face a faith issue without preparing you for it. We just don’t do the preparation. You know, and I’ve said this before, too, sometimes we’re like a boxer and God says, “Okay, here’s six weeks of preparation. You got to get in the ring.” And the night before we say, “I guess I should start training.” It’s a little late. You’re probably going to lose. Now get in the wheelbarrow, are you prepared for that?
It’s very interesting that Ezra if you read the story of Ezra, you know, he shows on the scene and changes the history of Judah. Because they’d come out of captivity, they’d built a temple. But as a society, they were going backwards. They were marrying people outside.
They were pagans, they were just deteriorating immorality. They were heading back to the very state they were before that God sent them into captivity, years before. And Ezra shows up it makes this huge impact. But when you read the book of Ezra, there’s two things. One is there’s a place that says that he was a skilled scribe. A skilled scribe took years, years to train. Skilled scribe in the law of God. So he could teach people. He could teach people because he had spent years being trained by God.
And also, another point, it says “he prepared his heart” and his motivations and his thought processes, in his emotions. He was prepared for what God sent him to do. Daniel didn’t show up as a teenager simply because God… it was an accident. God was, “Oh, I wonder what that boy will do?” God prepared him to be there. God is preparing you to meet the challenges He’s putting before you.
The question is are we letting Him prepare us? Daniel did. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did. So we look at them and we say, “Oh, man, these were just remarkable people.” No, these were people prepared by God. And they had submitted to that preparation, and that’s why they were where they were.
And if you’re just as important to God, He’s preparing you for our, you know, looks like little trials compared to this. But they’re real to us, aren’t they? Because we’re going to be asked the same question. Who do you believe in, and who are you? On a little issue, big issue, it’s the same questions, and they cause stress.
One more situation. This is Daniel 3. You know, this one. They were told that there was this huge image. And when these musicians played, they were to bow before this image. And Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to do that. So they’re brought before the king. Now I’m sure they’re praying, “God, give us favor with the king. I mean, he’s liked us so far. We’ve been around a while.”
He really likes Daniel because he revealed the image, you know, the dream he had. He really likes Daniel because Daniel… and he says, “Daniel speaks for a god. Oh, that’s a special god. He knows my dreams. Nobody else knew my dreams.” So they’ve got some favor here that’s been given them in the side of Nebuchadnezzar. But Nebuchadnezzar, of course, was an incredibly vain man, an arrogant man, and an angry man. Most truly vain men are angry.
Verse 13, “Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So that they brought them before the king.” And he says, “Is it true, that you won’t do this simple command?” And they said, “Yes.” Now, you know, I think could think of some reasons not to do that that would make sense. I mean, you know, it’s just a stupid image. I know it’s not real.
If I pretend, they won’t know, and God will just sort of wink and say, “Ha, ha, ha! We fooled them.” I could come up with that. Here’s what I could really come up with. I will kneel down and pray to the real God. In fact, I’ll pray for Him to bring down their image. There you go. I’ll show you. While you’re all praying in front of this, I’ll be kneeling down and say, “God, please bring down fire or something.” I’ll pray to the real God. Now everybody else will think I’m praying to this God, but I won’t be.
I could come up with… same thing with the clean, unclean meats. Surely, God wouldn’t want me punished for something this silly. Hey, this is pretty stupid. All these people worshipping some, you know. I know that’s not a God. God doesn’t want me punished for something that’s stupid.
So, yeah, I’ll do it. He knows. He’ll show me mercy. How can I disobey the king? Well, God has given us favor in the side of the king. In fact, think of this. We’re doing a special work here. Daniel has been used by God to reveal prophecies to the king. If we get killed, maybe he’ll turn on Daniel, “How can we do our work for God if we die?”
So God would want us to die here, you know. So not over something this is silly, this small. So I’m not going to die for this because then God can’t use me anymore. I can’t fulfill God’s will in my life if I die here. Oh, if you give me some time, I could come up with a hundred reasons why. Oh, I’m good at it. Me and God had a lot of conversations, okay? I’m real good at this. “Oh God, have you thought of this?”
God’s answer, in this case, was, “Do you know who I am?” “You are God.” “Get in the wheelbarrow.” They had no idea what was going to happen. See, we look at this and say, “Yeah, God was going to save them.” They did not know. These young men were just as scared as you and I would be. They were terrified that they were going to die in a strange land. Their parents, their family, their brothers and sisters, and uncles and aunts, no one would even know what happened to them.
They were taken off to Babylon and they died. And they’d never go back, this would be it. This would be the end of their lives. And what they say is, in verse 16, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.’” He says, “You know what, you don’t have to think about this. In fact, we don’t even have to give you an answer.”
Now that’s a pretty strong thing to say to the most powerful man in the world, “We don’t have to answer you.” “If that is the case,” because he said, “I’m going to throw you into this fire. I’m going to kill you. I’m going to burn you up.” They said, “If that is the case, that we die,” in other words, “our God who we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.”
In other words, “He has the power to do this, we believe He’ll do it.” But the next statement is what’s so incredible. “But if not…” “If not well, maybe we should think this through. Tell you what, throw Shadrach in, and we’ll see what God’s going to do here. And if he burns up, the two of us will say, ‘Okay.’ Because God is not going to deliver us.”
See, we think the answer always has to be deliverance. That’s what I always want. I always expect deliverance. And I’m always shocked when I don’t get it all the time. But I don’t want to get into the wheelbarrow. I just don’t want to.
They said, “But if he doesn’t, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your God’s, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Who am I, and who do I have faith in? And their answer was, “I worship that God. This is nothing and it would destroy who I am. I might as well die.”
And you think about how deep is our Christianity, that we actually would say, “I would rather die than stop being who I am. I would rather die than not be a Christian. Because life would not be worth living if I betrayed my God.” Wow, I can see why God doesn’t give us these trials. I’m not ready for them. This whole book is full of trials like this.
Who do you believe in, who do you have faith in, and who are you? And these people decided. And we see it over and over again. These people decided that it was better to die than give up who they were. To not be a child of God, to not be a follower of God made life unattractive to even living. That’s why God let them do all this. That’s why God worked through them. He had prepared them for this but they still had to make the decisions.
As we continue this series now over the next few months, we’re going to go through two basic themes we’re going to see over and over again. God is the ruler of history and prophecy. You’re going to see that. And that’s going to be very exciting. But we also need to remember, as we go through this, that God has involved the lives of the individuals who are involved in history and prophecy. You know, 100 years from now, you and I will have lived in history.
None of us will be alive to remember, at least physically, right? People will read about us. They won’t know our names, we’re not that important. We’re not like Daniels. No one’s going to change our names like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. We’re not that important.
And we’re not going to be remembered in any history book except as the people of God. That’s all we’ll be remembered as and that’ll be enough. Because that has to be our identity. We have faith in God and in Christ who pushes the wheelbarrow. And that’s our deputy. We believe in that, we followed that. We get in the wheelbarrow. That’s what our lives will be.
And so this second theme is just as important to us. It’s the one we ignore the book. They’re just stories. They’re stories we tell our kids. No, they’re not. These are real people who face these real things and had real emotions, real thoughts, and always came to the conclusion about who God was and who they were.
So as we go through these themes now over the next couple of months, remember, the prophecies encourage us to have faith. That’s the purpose of the prophecies. It isn’t so that you and I could have special knowledge and escape all the bad things are going to happen. The reasons for the prophecies is to encourage us to have faith, that even though God is the God of all these big things, that in your little life that you think is insignificant, the Almighty God is personally and actively involved. I want everybody to have a good safe trip home, and hopefully, it’s not too wet out there.