Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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When Your Faith is Tested (Daniel 3)

Dannah Gresh: True or false? “God wants my life to be smooth and easy at all times.” Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth responds:

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: God hasn’t promised to deliver us from trials, but He has promised to sustain and deliver us through trials. God Himself goes with us into and through our trials.

Dannah: This is the Revive Our Hearts podcast with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, coauthor of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. It’s October 1, 2021. I’m Dannah Gresh.

If you’ve ever felt like God has taken you out of the frying pan and into the fire, like your faith is being tested at a whole new level, that’s surely how Daniel’s three friends felt as the Lord took them into a literal fire.

Song: 

Three good men lived very long ago
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.1

Song: 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Of course, nobody could remember those,
So we took to calling them:
Rack, Shack, and Benny.

I’m Rack. I’m Shack. I’m Benny. 2

Dannah: Nancy’s in a series called “Heaven Rules: Seeing God’s Sovereignty in the Book of Daniel.” And today she comes to Daniel chapter 3, when, interestingly enough, Daniel isn’t in the scene at all. That’s right. God’s word doesn’t tell us why. Maybe I can interview Daniel someday to ask him about it. Well, here’s Nancy with more.

Nancy: Today, as we continue our series in the book of Daniel, we’re going to look at one of the most familiar chapters in all of God’s Word. I’ll just tell you, on some of these programs, including this one, I’ve struggled to reduce it to one day. We’re trying to deal with one chapter each day, and some of these chapters we could spend days or weeks on.

Robert said to me at some point, “Do you need to do it all in one day?”

I said, “Well, I’m going to try,” because we’re going to try to give an overview of Daniel. I just want you to know that there’s so much more that could be said. We’re looking at each of these chapters through just one lens this week, and that is Heaven rules. We’re looking for Heaven rules sightings. 

I hope you’re reading through the book of Daniel with me each day, and as you see an evidence, a sighting of Heaven rules, just mark it in your Bible—maybe HR. We had with us last time somebody who had a career in human resources. Every time I said HR I was thinking of that person who was in the room. HR here means not human resources but Heaven rules (although, God is a great resource for humans to have!). But Heaven rules; just make those notes, and I’ll try to point them out also as we come to them.

Let’s pray as we begin today.

Lord, as Robert reminded me a couple of days ago as we were talking about this passage, we’re living in Babylon today. It’s hard. You sent Daniel and his three Hebrew friends into Babylon at a hard time, in a difficult era. It’s sometimes hard to know what to do, how to do it, how to live right, how to make sense of what’s going on. But You sent these men there to represent You in that culture. So I pray that You’d open our eyes, open our ears, open our hearts. Help us see You. As we see You and are filled with You, I pray that our lives would reflect to this world that heaven really does rule. I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Now, in the last session we looked at Daniel 2. You remember that King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had a dream, and God revealed to Daniel both the dream and the interpretation. The dream was about a great statue that had a head made of gold. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar, “You are the head of gold. You, the king, are the head of gold.”

The other parts of that statue, that body parts that were made of silver, bronze, iron, and clay, each one worth less than the previous part. These inferior parts signified that Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and his kingdom would come to an end and would be replaced by other kingdoms and other kings. That’s what we looked at in the last session. 

Today we come to Daniel chapter 3, and we see another statue. Reading in Daniel 3:1, “King Nebuchadnezzar made . . .” This was a man-made statue. This wasn’t one that God created.

King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue, ninety feet high and nine feet wide.

If you think about that, that’s almost grotesque. It was probably more like an obelisk. I looked it up this morning. Ninety feet is about an eight-story building. So this is very tall, and he set up this obelisk, this tall structure, “on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.”

Let’s just stop there. It’s almost as if Nebuchadnezzar was giddy with the knowledge he had just received that he was the head of gold in the statue in his dream, so he erected a massive statue made of gold. Commentators think that probably it wasn’t pure gold all the way through, that probably it was wood covered in gold. Nonetheless, it was huge; it was expensive. You can’t help but wonder if in building this image entirely of gold (at least on the outside), that Nebuchadnezzar was hoping to extend the longevity of his kingdom, contrary to the message God had given him in his dream.

As this account unfolds, it becomes obvious that Nebuchadnezzar’s goal was to flex his muscles, to display his power, and to get worldwide acclaim for himself and for his kingdom.

King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the rulers of the provinces to attend the dedication of the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So [all these officials] assembled for the dedication of the statue the king had set up. Then they stood before the statue Nebuchadnezzar had set up. (vv. 3–4)

You see three times, “the statue Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” This was his doing, this was his thing, this was his plan, his program. Then verse 4:

A herald loudly proclaimed, "People of every nation and language, you are commanded: When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, you are to fall face down and worship [Mark that word every time it appears in this chapter; I think it’s eleven times. You are to worship] the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up." (vv. 4–5)

Now, this whole thing is grotesque. It’s kind of like naming yourself as Time Person of the Year and then commanding everybody you know to come and congratulate you and to write glowing reviews of all your great achievements. It brings to mind the Tower of Babel. Remember how that was a monument to the power and the wit and the wisdom of mankind? This statue was intended to be a monument to man.

All of Nebuchadnezzar’s subjects were to bow down and swear their allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. It reminds me of other political leaders in history who have sometimes used religion to expand or strengthen their control. They’ve blurred the lines between allegiance to a political system and loyalty to God. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” that is, the government, the officials in charge of your government, “and give to God what belongs to God.” Here we have so many times political leaders—Caesar—demanding for themselves what rightly belongs only to God. We owe worship to God; we don’t owe worship to Caesar.

In this case, anyone who refused to obey the king’s command would be considered guilty of treason and put to death. Verse 6:

Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire.

Now, this was not an empty threat. History tells us that Nebuchadnezzar took seriously any challenges to his sovereign rule, and he dealt with them harshly. This is a battle for worship, which by the way is something you see all through Scripture—from the first pages of Genesis to the end of the book of Revelation. We are in a battle for worship, the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God. The bent of fallen humanity will always be to deify man and to diminish God. It’s a tendency of fallen humanity to demand and give worship to created beings that only belongs to God, the Creator. It’s also a tendency to destroy all those who refuse to bow before these false gods.

In fact, the book of Revelation, chapter 13, describes a similar instance at the end of time when all who refuse to worship the image of the beast will be killed. The whole world, including believers, will face intense pressure to bow the knee to this beast, to the image of that beast.

Therefore, when all the people heard the . . . music [music plays a powerful role in our lives; it does in this story as well], people of every nation and language fell down and worshiped the gold statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up." (v. 7)

As you think about this scene, what’s happening is that people are stealing worship that belongs to God. This king is stealing worship that belongs to God. Psalm 117:1 says, “Praise the Lord, all nations! Glorify Him, all peoples!” But what are all the nations and peoples doing here? They’re falling down and worshipping this statue that King Nebuchadnezzar set up.

This scene is a counterfeit for the worship of heaven. I was reading about it again this morning in Revelation chapters 4 and 5, where you read about how the redeemed of every tribe, language, people, and nation will fall down, not before the monuments to mankind, but will fall down before the throne of God and worship the Lamb. That’s what we’re moving toward, that’s what we’re aiming toward. But King Nebuchadnezzar said, “I want that glory! I want that worship! So all nations, all languages, fall down and worship me.”

The crowd got caught up in the fervor of it all—the emotional fervor, the religious intensity—and they mindlessly obeyed the king’s order. They bought into the lie that Nebuchadnezzar’s authority was absolute. They just did what they were told to do. Some things never change, right? But in this vast throng of worshipers, there were three young men who had pledged allegiance to another King, the King of heaven. As a result, they could not obey the king’s command.

Now, their resistance might have gone unnoticed in this massive crowd had it not been for some Babylonians who pointed them out. As you read this next paragraph, clearly these men had an agenda. Maybe they were jealous that these Jews had been promoted in chapter 2 and had been looking for an opportunity to get them in trouble. They’d been watching them; they’d been scrutinizing their behavior. When they saw in this vast crowd that these men did not bow, they were all on that.

Some Chaldeans took this occasion to come forward and maliciously accuse the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, "May the king live forever. You as king have issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of . . . the music must fall down and worship the gold statue. Whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire. There are some Jews you have appointed to manage the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men have ignored you, the king; they do not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up." (vv. 8–12)

Notice that these three Hebrews did not stage a protest against the king’s edict. They were responsible, respectful citizens in the empire of Babylon. They served in the king’s administration. But they could not and they would not worship anyone other than God. Apparently, they made no attempt to hide that fact. They were there in the crowd, but they weren’t worshiping the statue. That’s because their goal was not to preserve their lives; their goal was to obey and honor their God.

I’m just reminded here that we’re commanded to be, in God’s Word, good citizens of whatever country we call home. But we have to remember that our ultimate citizenship is not here on this earth. Our loyalty is not to any earthly kingdom, but to the kingdom of God. That’s the position Jesus took in the temptation in the wilderness, where He refused to worship Satan. He said, “You shall worship the Lord your God, no one else.” As servants of the Most High God, we cannot bow before or worship any king but Christ.

Well, the resistance of the three Hebrews didn’t go over so well with King Nebuchadnezzar. Proud people cannot tolerate their demands not being met. They have to have absolute authority, and when they don’t get their way they become angry and ruthless. Look at verse 13.

Then in a furious rage Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to bring in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar asked them, ". . . Is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the . . . music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?" (vv. 16–18)

You see, Nebuchadnezzar believed that he was more powerful than the gods. He believed he was god! He was his own god. So here he lays down the gauntlet, and he dares their God that they claim to worship to rescue them, if He can, from the king’s power. The challenge is on. Nebuchadnezzar says, in effect, “You shall not have any gods other than me.” But the three Hebrews served and worshiped the God of heaven and earth, who said, “You shall not have any other gods before me.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, "Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists [and He does], then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king." (vv. 16–17)

As I’ve been meditating on this passage, I love that it seems there was no sense of terror or panic. Here’s the king, who was outraged, out of control. He’s furious; he’s blowing a gasket because he’s so mad. But there are these calm men who have a quiet confidence. Why? Because they knew God. They knew their God was the true and living God, unlike the gods of Nebuchadnezzar. They knew that their God was more powerful than the king who thought he was all-powerful and was threatening to kill them. They knew their God could save them from the king’s wrath.

In verse 17 you read it twice. “He can rescue us. Our God can rescue us.” They repeat it for emphasis. But look at verse 18: “But even if He does not . . .” He can rescue us, but we don’t know if He will. “Even if He does not . . .”

Let me just pause there. These men did not see God as their servant who was obligated to do what they wanted Him to do. They were God’s servants, and they were committed to do His will, wherever that took them, whatever that cost them. Verse 18:

Even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.

They knew their God was able to rescue them; they didn’t know if He would choose to do so, but they were willing to leave their fate in God’s hands.

It reminds me of what Job says in Job 13:15: “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.” If you believe in a resurrection, you can afford to talk that way. If you believe He’s the God of the living, if you believe this life is not it, then you can say, “Even if He kills me, I will hope in Him.” And even if their God did not rescue them, they still would not serve the gods of King Nebuchadnezzar, they would not worship his image. They refused to give to any human being the worship that belonged to God alone, and they would do what was right regardless of how it affected them.

This was a statement of submission to their God. This was a statement of faith that Heaven rules. As you read this, there’s no suggestion or implication that they tried to “go with the flow,” that they tried to justify, to find a way to justify obeying the king’s order. There is not suggestion that they tried to negotiate a compromise or that they tried to accommodate to the Babylonians. “We’ll just worship God in our hearts. We’ll just be bowing physically, but in our hearts, we’ll be worshiping our God.” None of that. This was a clear-cut matter of worship to them. They were not going to do physically that would communicate something they didn’t mean in their hearts.

These men, remember, had been tested previously in smaller matters. Remember in chapter 1 where they resolved not to violate their consciences by eating the king’s food? Now that they were facing a bigger test—way bigger—they were able to stand firm, because they had passed the previous tests.

God’s testing some of us today in little things, and what we do with those tests—how we obey God, how we refuse to compromise, how we honor Him—is paving a way for how we will obey Him when the bigger tests come later on. So here they are. They laid everything on the line: their jobs, their reputations, their lives.

Well, this response only further enraged the king. So much was at stake for him if he lost this contest. He had to save face. He was determined he was going to win this power struggle.

Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than was customary, and he commanded some of the best soldiers in his army to tie up [the men] and throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So these men, in their trousers, robes, head coverings, and other clothes, were tied up and thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. 

Since the king’s command was so urgent and the furnace extremely hot, the raging flames killed those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell, bound, into the furnace of blazing fire. (vv. 19–23)

I just want to say, if we had been there watching that day, along with the rest of that crowd, there would have been zero doubt that these men were going to be incinerated in that furnace. We know the end of the story; they didn’t know the end of the story. These men didn’t know the end of the story; the people watching didn’t know the end of the story; Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know the end of the story. They would be incinerated just like the men who had gotten close enough to throw them into this blazing hot furnace. In that moment, it had to seem clear that Nebuchadnezzar had won the contest against the Hebrews’ God. 

Just like it might have seemed that way when Jesus died on the cross. One for the enemy. One for Satan. One for the foreign king and his false gods who want to be worshiped.

But, Heaven rules. Heaven always rules, no matter what it looks like here on earth. Look at verse 24.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in alarm.

This strikes me as a little funny, because the ones who should have been alarmed were the guys he threw into the furnace. King Nebuchadnezzar is in charge; he’s in control. He just won, right? But now he’s scared; he’s alarmed; he’s terrified.

He said to his advisers, "Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire?"

"Yes, of course, Your Majesty,’"they replied to the king.

He exclaimed, "Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and called, "Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God—come out!" So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out of the fire. (vv. 24–26)

I hope you haven’t heard this story so many times since you were a little munchkin that you kind of lose the wonder and the amazement and the miracle of it all.

When the . . . king’s [officials] gathered around, they saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men: not a hair of their heads was singed, their robes were unaffected, and there was no smell of fire on them. (v. 27)

Heaven rules. The Most High God, who’s the main character of the book of Daniel, He came down to earth to rescue His servants. Not only that, He went into the fire with them. Theologians believe that the fourth man was likely what they call a Christophany—a preincarnate appearance of Christ here on earth, paving the way, letting us know that when Christ came to this earth, He would be coming into our furnace, into our judgment, into our condemnation, into our broken, fallen, diseased, condemned world, to be with us in the fire. He goes into the fire with His servants. He freed them from their bonds. He supernaturally delivered them from the fire, which had no effect on them.

Now, let me just remind you that God has not promised to deliver us from trials. He doesn’t always rescue His servants from physical danger or death. There are countless martyrs over the centuries who have given their lives, paid the ultimate price, for worshiping and serving the King of heaven. There are people in prison today who have not been let loose yet. There are people who will be killed this week, this month for their faith, that God doesn’t rescue them in the immediate way that He did these men.

God hasn’t promised to deliver us from trials, but He has promised to sustain and deliver us through trials. God Himself goes with us into and through our trials.

Psalm 34:19 says it this way, “One who is righteous has many adversities . . .” Not a verse you want to hear preached on very often. People who honor God, people who love God, people who are righteous, they have many adversities. But the rest of that verse says, “The Lord [in time, in His time, in His way] rescues him from them all.” In God’s time, He will rescue His servants from every trial, from every fire, from every furnace, from every hot and hard place. He will rescue His servants.

Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, "Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel and rescued his servants who trusted in him. [You can never go wrong trusting God.] They violated the king’s command and risked their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God." (v. 28)

Listen, God delivered His servants in that moment in such a dramatic, visible way that King Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t help but acknowledge that Jehovah was real, He was powerful, and He was worthy to be praised. So he said in verse 29,

"Therefore I issue a decree that anyone . . . who says anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego will be torn limb from limb and his house made a garbage dump."

This is a man who liked punitive action. Why?

"For there is no other god who is able to deliver like this."

It’s true. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know God the way we do, he didn’t have God’s Word the way we do, but he spoke right here when he said, “There is no other god who is able to deliver like our God.”

Then the king rewarded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon. (v. 30)

When we worship and serve God alone, when we refuse to bow to earthly kings and powers and ideologies and systems that would usurp God’s rule; when we say, “I can’t worship you; I can’t serve you; I have to worship and serve God alone,” we set the stage for God to show up, for God’s power and His glory to be displayed here on earth as it is in heaven. We set the stage for God to be worshiped and feared by those who have formerly rejected Him.

As we gripe and complain and whine about all the stuff that’s going on in our world today, I wonder if maybe the bigger problem isn’t what’s going on in the church today.

  • Are people seeing such an evidence of our trust and faith in God?
  • Are they seeing God deliver His people?
  • Are they seeing His people trust and worship and serve Him above all other gods of this earth?
  • Are we setting the stage for God to be glorified, for His power to be demonstrated?

We come to the end of the story in Revelation 12; it says, “The saints conquered the dragon, the devil, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not love their lives to the point of death.” “If it kills me, I will trust Him.” If this world kills us, we will trust Him.

Now, most of us aren’t literally faced today with the choice to fall down and worship a big statue or be thrown in a furnace. We can’t really imagine those circumstances. But in a lot of smaller ways, day after day, we’re called to worship God and not man, worship God and not money, worship God and not at our jobs, worship God and not our government, worship God and not any political party. Worship God. As we do, God will be glorified, and I believe we will see even pagan, ruthless, angry kings humbled, brought down, acknowledging He is God, and He’s worthy of praise. May our lives show that. Amen.

Dannah: That’s our host, Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, teaching from the third chapter of Daniel. For many of us, that story is familiar, but when we couch it in terms of worship, and not bowing down to our own idols of the heart, whatever they may be, it takes on a whole new meaning. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to trust God in a seemingly impossible situation. They knew His script for their lives might very well include complete incineration. But they trusted Him to write their story exactly the way it needed to be. Amazing things can happen when we trust Him completely.

That’s something Nancy and her husband, Robert, write about in their recent book You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. And I love the subtitle of this book. It’s: Embracing the Mysteries of Providence. We can’t tell what the next chapter, even the next page of our stories will say. It’s a mystery. But we know the Author of our stories, and He’s trustworthy.

We’d love to send you a copy of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. It’s our gift to you as a way to thank you for your donation to the work of Revive Our Hearts. To make a donation, just visit ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Ask about Robert and Nancy’s book when you make your donation.

Next week on Revive Our Hearts, Nancy takes us to Daniel chapter 4 to make this point: Heaven rules, even over proud, arrogant hearts. You might read through Daniel 4 before the program on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Don’t forget to register for Revive '21, starting just a week from today. All the information is at Revive21.com. And please be back for Revive Our Hearts. 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds you: Heaven Rules when your faith is tested. We’re calling you to greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ.

All Scripture is taken from the CSB.

1Gaithers "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego." The Bill Gaither Trio.

2VeggieTales: "Rack, Shack and Benny." (Full 1998 Lyrick Studios VHS, 60fps).

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.

About the Host

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

When Dannah Gresh was eight years old, she began praying that God would use her as a Bible teacher for “the nations.” When she sees the flags of many countries waving at a Revive Our Hearts event, it feels like an answer to her prayer.

Dannah is the founder of True Girl which provides tools for moms and grandmothers to disciple their 7–12 year-old girls. On Monday nights, you’ll find Dannah hosting them in her online Bible study. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including Ruth: Becoming a Girl of Loyalty, Lies Girls Believe, and a Bible study for adult women based on the book of Habakkuk. She and her husband, Bob, live on a hobby farm in central Pennsylvania.