But Even If He Does Not

Series: Strong When Weak

Link to sermon video: But Even If He Does Not - T Siverd


Sermon By Terry Siverd / December 12,, 2021 / Cortland  Church of Christ  - -

Welcome to those joining us online - - we're grateful for your interest in the study of God's word. 

When we think of the three wise men we typically of the story of the birth of Jesus.  Among the stories accompanying Jesus' birth, Matthew's gospel refers to the arrival in Jerusalem of Magi from the east. Our sermon next Sunday will address the Lord's birth.

For this morning, please turn to Daniel chapter three.  Put a marker there and we'll return in a few minutes.

Read from Daniel 1:1-4

In the sixth century BC Babylon conquered Jerusalem.  In this overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, the king's forces brought home some “booty”.   e.g. gold and silver vessels (Dan.5:4).  They also brought home “booty” in the form of choice human specimens.  The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding, and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

This indoctrination process began immediately and it featured a three-year educational curriculum along with a special prescription diet - - daily rations from the king's choice food (Dan.1:5) The goal was assimilation - - the mixing and melding of foreign peoples into the Babylonian culture.  Dan.1:6 notes that among the Hebrews chosen for induction into the world of Babylon were young men named Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.   These young men refused the king's food.  Although their supervisor feared for his own head, he agreed to permit a ten-day trial period that featured veggies & water (1:12). After 10 days the veggie diet delivered results ten times better (1:20), so the overseer allowed them to continue.  Dan.1:17 notes, And as for these four youths, God gave them knowledge...intelligence...and wisdom.

In chapter two we read how no one could reveal the meaning of the king's dream (2:10) … except Daniel (2:19).  As a result of his interpretive skills Daniel is promoted.  In turn, Daniel's influence brought promotions for his three friends:  Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah.  

Our sermon for this morning comes from Daniel chapter three.  King Nebuchadnezzar authorized a statue to be made in his image (90' tall and 9' wide).  It was followed by a decree that all must bow down and worship the statue, whenever they heard the music (3:5).  No doubt driven by envy (due to the promotions given to the Hebrews), some Chaldeans brought charges against the three Hebrew youths, who had subsequently been given new names:  Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.  Note 3:6 / whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the fiery furnace.  The three Hebrew youths refused to worship the image.

When the king heard of their unwillingness to cooperate and realized that he was publicly “dissed”, he became enraged.  Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego were called on the carpet to stand before the king.   The King offered them a chance to  push the re-set  button - - a “do over”, but they basically told him politely, “Thanks, but no thanks!  We're standing firm.”  The king became irate and ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter.  In sticking to the text let's read exactly what transpired (Dan.3:16-18) - - O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.  If it be so, our God whom  we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of 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 or worship the golden image that you have set up.

I am so impressed with the words and deeds of these three young wise men.  I would be impressed even if verse 18 was included.  OUR GOD IS ABLE TO DELIVER US!!  But adding to this mix their words recorded in vs.18 makes this story even more impressive.  Many of us work hard at learning to pray.  We realize that prayer often demands persistence (like the widow in Lk.18:1-8).  

I have harnessed this morning's lesson together with my two previous sermons on purpose.  Two weeks ago we spoke (A Wide Door For Effective Service) about Paul's many adversaries.  He prayed three times asking that God would remove his thorn in the flesh.  God responded by telling him, (2Cor.12:9) - - My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.  Paul learned one of life's most important lessons:  when I am weak, then I am strong (2Cor.12:10).  Last week our sermon was titled, On Being A Sheep.  Being called sheep reminds us all again that the source of our strength is not in ourselves, but in our Shepherd!!  Now, in this lesson, we are hearing a similar refrain:  we're not in charge!  We can pray to the Almighty One, but we do not always get “our” way.  In fact, sometimes in retrospect we realize that our way would not have been the better way.  As sheep who are not strong ourselves, one of life's great lessons is learning to trust our Shepherd.

What a superb sermon from these three young wise men.  Stand up for what is right.  Don't bow down to idols.  And, even if and when, our lives are threatened, trust God to do what He deems best.  

Even if today didn't go as planned, lord, and if it's not all what we hoped, and if we're not yet quite what we hoped, and if life's not unfolding to our plan A, and if it's not even close to plan B, and if the diagnosis is not great, and if the forecast is not good, and if not, and if not, and if not, YOU still are!  You still are good, and You still are God.  And we will be the people who will still … the people who will still rest in it and sing it into the dark:  and if not – He is still good.  He is still God … so we can still and be and be at rest / (author unknown).

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