Be Afraid, Very Afraid
This world is the kingdom of Satan, and we are always in danger of being forced to take a stand for God or compromising our faith.Â Be afraid, very afraid of making the wrong choice.
Â Â One of the secularists moves to compromise the Hebrew youth taken into captivity was to change their Hebrew names that gave honor to Jehovah God to names that honored the gods of the Babylonians.Â Daniel was renamed Belteshazaar, Hananiah to Shadrach, Mishael to Meshach, and Azariah to Abednego. The whole plot of Nebuchadnezzar was brilliant.Â He was in the process of conquering 120 plus countries from India to southern Russia, Africa, Europe, and all places in between. He was going to have hundreds of languages with which to deal, culture clashes out the yazoo, racial conflicts, religious prejudices of every type.Â Â Nebuchadnezzarâ€™s idea was to select several dozen from every culture of the very handsome, athletic, intelligent teenagers, and bring them to the palace and put them in a three year secular school that reoriented them into thinking like a Babylonian, yet still retaining ties to their old culture as go betweens, and make them Babylonian Hebrews, Asians, Crimeanâ€™s, Africans, etc.Â You allow the youth to remain looking like and relating to their old culture, but their minds have been brained-washed and they will be able to direct the old culture with the Babylonian way of doing things, and the Babylonian way of thinking. This is exactly what our public secular education is doing today, and we need to study Daniel to find out how to combat this secularization.Â It worked very well, except for four of the Hebrew youth.Â These guys made a deal about not getting hooked with the ultra rich food of the Babylonians, the intoxicating wines, and the rich food that was so addictive.Â They hung on to their Hebrew culture, and Daniel did for 75 years through four major power and political changes of the government of Babylon and the kingdom. He also remained the go-to man for all the answers when needed by the kings.
Â Â Daniel got to Nebuchadnezzar when he got God to give him the forgotten vision and its meaning. Daniel was made ruler over all Babylon, and his three friends were made administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel remained in the royal court.
Â Â It took about 14 years for trouble to raise its ugly head.Â King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the Babylonian province.Â He then summoned all his government officials and laid down the law.Â â€œThe herald loudly proclaimed, â€˜this is what you are commanded to do, O people, Nations, and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.Â Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.â€™â€Â Remember, last week we wrote about King Neby and his thinking he was absolute power, and answered to no man.Â Well, this set up a serious problem for three of the Hebrew children.Â
Â Â There is always political jealousy, and Babylon was no exception. Some of the â€œAstrologers came forward and denounced the Jews; they told King Neby that three of the Jews were refusing to dance to the rock band, and fall down in the mush pit, and worship the 90 foot tall idol of gold.Â King Neby had a cow, and called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego on the carpet and asked for an explanation.Â The boys told King Neby that they worshipped Jehovah God only and did not bow down to any golden idols.Â King Neby, furious with rage, stood his ground, â€œIf you donâ€™t worship the image of gold that I have set up when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, I will have you thrown into the blazing furnace,Â then what god will be able to rescue you?â€Â Â
Â Â â€œThe boys then responded, â€˜Oh King, we do not need to defend ourselves in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve will be able to save us from it and will rescue us from your hand, O king.â€â€™Â Then they added in total belief and obedience, â€œBut even if he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods, or bow to the image of gold that you have set upâ€Â (Daniel 3:16-18).Â Into the fire they went.Â
Â Â Â King Neby had his soldiers gear up for the toss, and they bound the boys and took them to the super heated furnace. The furnace was so hot, that the soldiers that took the boys to toss them in were killed from the super heated furnace.Â Our boys firmly tied were tossed into the furnace.Â In moments, King Neby leaped to his feet, and exclaimed, â€œWerenâ€™t there three men tossed into the furnace?Â The court replied, â€œCertainly, O king.â€Â King Neby then said, â€œLook! I see four men walking around in the fire unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.â€ Â
Â Â King Neby approached the furnace, and called out, â€œShaddrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here.â€Â Now olâ€™ King Nebuchadnezzar was a believer and said, â€œPraise be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Adednego, who has sent his angelÂ and rescued his servants! They trusted Him and defied the kings order and were willing to give up their lives rather than to serve any god except their own Godâ€¦.anyone that speaks against their God, they shall be cut into pieces, and their house be made a dung heapâ€ (Daniel 3:28, 29).
Â Â I have heard many an adult person, educated and informed in worldly ways, say, â€œThat is just a Bible legend, and not a real story. You canâ€™t live through fire like that.â€Â That just isnâ€™t true. There is a lot of things considered physically impossible that happen all the time in this world. God is an omnipotent God, and when you are omnipotent nothing is more difficult than anything else. God is the creator of all things, and he can reorganize the physical laws of gravity, combustion, make iron axe heads float, and raise the dead. Â Letâ€™s examine why I think that the boys escaped without being burned or the smell of fire on their bodies.Â Were they afraid? I believe they were to the extent that they expressed the possibility that God may chose to take them home rather than rescue them.Â They faced the possibility that God might have a different idea about what he should do than they had. They accepted that possibility and made it plain that no matter what God had in mind, they were not going to bow to that idol of gold.
Â Â I learned a long time ago a certain amount of fear was the beginning of wisdom, and the beginning of wisdom was the fear of God. A healthy respect or fear of a situation keeps you alert and sharp as you handle a situation. When you get complacent, when you get over confident, when you get careless, you get into trouble.Â
Â Â Dr. Sharon Watkins of the Disciple Christian Churches preached the Inaugural sermon for President Obama at the Washington D.C. Cathedral the day after he was sworn in as President.Â In that message she told of an old Cherokee legend about a grandfather telling his grandson about two wolves that lived within him, and they were fighting to control his life.Â One wolf was full of fear and one wolf was full of faith.Â At that point, grandfather stopped telling his story and folded his hands and closed his eyes.Â The grandson watched for a few minutes, then shook grandfather and asked, â€œWhich wolf wins?â€Â Grandfather quietly said, â€œThe one you feed the most.â€Â Â
Â Â The truth is, we, each one of us, have fear and faith residing in us.Â The fear keeps us alert, and the faith gives us courage to do that which we know we should do.Â Being brave is doing the right thing even when we are afraid, and we do the right thing regardless of the consequences.Â
Â Â The boys in Babylon knew it was the right thing to eat the God prescribed diet. The first way that Satan gets you on the wrong road is with food and drink choices.Â If he can get us side-tracked in the small things, he can waylay us in the larger things.Â Daniel spoke for the four of them in Daniel 1:8ff, â€œDaniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wineâ€¦.Daniel spokeâ€¦Please test your servants for ten days: give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with the other young men who eat the royal food and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.â€ A divine challenge to see if God was right or not. Of course he was.Â Now this did not mean that they did not eat meat again. It was a test to keep them from being sucked into fancy diet of Babylon, and in that way not to be addicted to the rich culture of Babylon.Â They won the first battle, and in the rest of the battles, it was easier to hold the line.Â
Â Â They knew the first commandment of the decalogue, â€œNo Other Gods.â€Â When the 90 foot statue of gold appeared and the rock band began to play, it was â€œno way, Jose!â€Â Then the tattle tails stepped in and a very angry, nose bent guy, because his wise men were not obeying his commands, king Neby, had to keep the law.Â Just like Peter and John in Acts three and four, they broke the law and spoke about Jesus Christ. They expected no reprieve from the punishment; they took their beating and praised God they were counted worthy to suffer affliction for the name of Christ.Â If you are going to take a stand for Jesus and that stand is against the law, expect that you will be punished by the law. The boys were ready to be thrown into the furnace. They saw two possibilities; God would miraculously deliver them, or he would burn them up and take them home to heaven.Â They were ready to accept either and understood that they were breaking a national law when they chose to obey God rather than the king.Â Â God chose to build a fire shield around them.Â It is interesting that we can do this and no one doubts.
Â Â The Hughes family took a day long adventure to Alamogordo last week, and took in the space museum.Â Jessica was especially enthralled with the science and the stories of space travel. An astronaut was present that day, and gave them a personal tour of all the stations of space travel (pretty little blonde girls with lots of curiosity gets attention).Â Jessica came home with freeze dried space food, and one of the things that really interested her was the astronaut heating a tile from the outside of the space ship and heating it with a gas torch to white hot, and then having her touch the reverse side that was still finger touching temperature.Â Â Â All of this to protect the space ship from the heat of re-entry.Â We are created in the image of God; if we can do it, surely God can; but back to our boys in Babylon.
Â Â The third chapter of Daniel ends with the boys getting promoted. It does not always happen that way. God will always cause things that happen to work out for our best interests according to Romans 8:28, â€œAnd we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.â€Â Â One of the reasons that we feed the inner wolf of fear an over abundance of doubt food at times is that we really do not believe that God will do the best for us.Â Â The almighty sovereign God that sees the beginning from the end just might be in a better position to determine the best for the overall situation than we that are personally involved are. Let me give you an example out of Acts 12.
Â Â By the time of the recording of Acts twelve, the church had grown to many thousands, some suggest as high as 40 or 50 thousand believers.Â They had grown to where they were not only a worry and real problem for the Jewish religious sects, but also to Rome.Â Herod was still king and Romeâ€™s puppet.Â I am sure that the orders came down to put the brakes on this religious sect.Â So Herod â€œarrested some that belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James (one of the 12 inner group of Apostles), the brother of John, put to death with the sword.Â When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This happened during the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passoverâ€ (verses 1-4).
Â Â James and others were put to death, then Peter was arrested, now the timing was not right for a trial, or just to put him to death. The Jews were busy with their religious festivals, and Herod obviously wanted the most political clout possible in the trail and death of Peter with both Jews and Rome. So, he locked him up till he could get the most press.Â You know the account; God sent an angel to rescue Peter.Â
Â Â I am interested here in making a point that God made a decision to allow James to be brought home via the sword, and to rescue Peter via an angel. Now we know that the church was praying for both and all the others taken prisoner (Acts 12:12), so the church was busy for both, actually all their prisoners. Â In some way that we do not understand, God was ready for James to be promoted to heaven, and Peter to continue to fight the good fight.
Â Â God allowed very spiritual missionaries at Palm Beach in the upper tribs. of the Amazon to be speared to death, and as a result a whole tribe is shaking the back woods of the world with the gospel, dental aid, and so much more.Â Â Â Â Â Â He allowed a sweet teen girl to look down the business end of a shotgun, and calmly affirm her faith, a bloody blast, and hundreds (maybe thousands) of teens around the world have been brought to the throne of grace by her simple affirmation.Â I believe that in the way that Jesus cried for Mary and Martha for the pain he had caused them as he walked to the brotherâ€™s grave in Bethany, he still cries for the wives and children of speared missionaries, and parents of a teen girl taken home to heaven in the disaster of Columbine.Â But He knows what He is doing.
Â Â Â The boys in Babylon trusted Him, and the nation was rocked by the power of God for a few days. Martyrs around the world have made just as historic a stand in faith, the fire has burned, the sword has come crashing down, the bullet raced through the brain, the spear struck home; yet God had heard, faith was just as real, and God rocked the whole world by their blood. Â Be afraid, be very afraid; we are heading into far worse times.Â Our earth continues to fall apart geologically. Oklahoma is having tornados in early February; our cultures continue to disintegrate morally; the church continues to withdraw from the great commission assignment; things are going to get worse. Â I know that people in the congregation that want to pray for peace in the world have not been reading their Bible.Â I only know we are alien foot soldiers for Jesus in a world ran by Satan and his hordes, and our only assignment is to make disciples of as many of the enemy as we can until the trumpet blows and we are out of here.Â
Â Â It looks to me like in a very short time I will have to stand before the Â authorities in decisions such as allowing the governmentâ€™s directions about what I can say in the classroom or be jailed on hate crimes. Then will I refuse to marry a couple of guys or a covey of girls into holy homosexual matrimony; or agree to marry them if they will attend ten weeks of marriage counseling from the Bible. Either way, I will most likely end up in court and in jail.Â Thank you, all of you that voted for change.Â However, I am kind of looking forward to it; it will be a change from just having to deal with mentally challenged flip-flop folks, and contented Christians that want to coast into eternity without making any waves.
Â Â But each and everyone of you, Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid in making these decisions; think long and hard over the following scripture that the boys in Babylon did not have to quote, but knew it instinctively.
Â Jesus is speaking in Matthew 10:28ff, â€œDo not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.Â Are not sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So donâ€™t be afraid: you are worth more than many sparrows. Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heavenâ€¦Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.â€Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â To the boys in Babylon it was a no brainer, Nebuchadnezzarâ€™s fire was a no big deal; living eternally without God was.Â To Cassy, a shot gun was nothing compared to a Christ-less eternity.Â To Pilot Saint and crew at Palm Beach, the spears were a logical choice even when they were armed with guns.Â For James and John the baptizer, the sword was just the express train home.Â What worries me the most are the folks for whom I have poured out my life today at church and with my musings on paper; my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren, what choices will they make in the next decade, two decades, and three decades if the Lord tarries.Â
Â Â As I preached about instant gratification last Sunday, and as I talk about it to folks here at church, I got these strange remarks like, â€œI know, but I was so bored.â€Â I also got those looks, â€œLike arenâ€™t we supposed to get whatever we want right now?â€Â You see, this essay is about having learned the advantage of not living with instant gratification, as well as the results at times when you seek the high road, the way of faith, and it is not instant gratification that you get, but instant death of the body; then comes the question that must be asked, â€œAm I more in love with this worn out body that is flesh and is dying and becoming more and more useless; or with my spirit that is young, fresh, and will live forever somewhere?Â
Â Â Instant gratification will always bow before the 90 foot golden idol,
will always cross his fingers behind his back, smile and agree with the gun trigger man.Â Instant gratification will always stay at home watching TV rather than visiting a nursing home and bringing a bit of sunshine to a church member that is sitting alone worrying about his cancer tests.
Â Â Perhaps to prepare for the days to come, we can take a page out of Daniel and the boyâ€™s play book.Â We can begin to build a strong defense by making the right small choices.Â Remember where the four teen guys began to make the right decisions, decisions that strengthened their relationship with God, and allowed them to â€œworkoutâ€ their salvation. That is to exercise it in such a way they were strengthened to stand in the tough days with tough decisions that were ahead.Â Remember the boys began by making the right decision about what they would eat. They chose to do the right thing when there was no lionâ€™s den, or blazing furnace.Â They just ate their veggies when they had a simple choice to make.
Â Â Do you want to make a â€œveggiesâ€ decision this next week, so when the blazing furnace comes up, you will be ready. Then do the following.Â Turn off the TV and go see Richard Steele in the nursing home. Miss an afternoon or evening snooze and go see Susie Weinstein.Â Start calling on one member that should be in your Sunday School class each week. Decide to get over being so deadly ill and get to church for Bible School and Evening r-12 study as well.Â Take time to give out an Epistle to a friend each week, or better yet, go by a shut-in and read it to them.Â Donâ€™t be afraid of blowing the big decisions; make the small ones now, the big ones will be a snap.