(Summary of Sunday Sermon 23 August 2015)
COUNT YOUR SHOVELS
A while ago, some Scottish soldiers were captured by the Japanese. They were forced to work on a jungle rail road. The working conditions were deplorable and pitiable. One day, at a check point the Japanese officer found that a shovel was missing. He was furious. He asked the crew to come clean about the theft or else he threatened to kill them all. After several tense moments, one man stepped up. The officer beat him to death in front of everybody. Shortly thereafter they carried the dead man’s body and proceeded to the next check point. The tools were counted again and guess what? The ‘missing’ shovel was found!
It hadn’t been missing or stolen at all. It was only a mistake in counting!!
Word spread around the camp about how their innocent friend had stepped up to take the blame so that the others would be saved. This incident bound the battalion of prisoners strongly. They stood together and faced the imprisonment. Soon, they were liberated.
Today, we are going to study about the sacrifice that makes God for us when we are in difficult situations.
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”7 So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp,and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.8 Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews.9 They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; 11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Last week, we saw how Daniel purposed in his heart not to defile himself with things of the Babylonian kingdom. His three friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego also stood firmly in their decision to keep themselves pure for their Yahweh.
There might be things that God requires of us to let go of. Often our decisions to obey God might imply that there is a cost to pay.
Here, these three friends found themselves in a dilemma. The King had erected an idol and he demanded that every person on the land bow down to it. They knew that they couldn’t do it. So they refused to bow down before it. Their enemies heard about it and reported them to the king.
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. So they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
Enraged, the king called them and sought an explanation. He demanded that they pay homage to the idol or else risk being cast into a fiery furnace. The three friends bravely replied in one voice to the king that they believed that their God was able to deliver them from the fire, but even if He didn’t they would still NOT worship the idol.
Wow! What courage!
INTO THE FIRE
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
The king was livid. He ordered for the fire to be heated up to seven times more than the normal and the three men to be bound and thrown into it. The fire was so strong that their captors who went to fling them in were burned to death!
Then the king looked up and couldn’t believe his eyes! Instead of seeing them being charred, he saw the men unbound and walking around in the fire along with a fourth man who looked like GOD HIMSELF!
OUT OF THE FIRE
Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace andspoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. 27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them. 28 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! 29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
The king called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego out and set them free. Not only did he do that, he also proclaimed that Jehovah was the only true God!
What a powerful testimony!
CALL TO SACRIFICE
Jesus Christ, the innocent Lamb of God stepped forward and became a sacrifice on our behalf so that we could be set free. How do we respond in gratitude to this sacrifice?
Often, we lead compromised lives. We let the world sway us and let our guard down. But God is calling us to stand up for Him. Every time we face the heat and step up for Him, He shows up. He does not leave us ashamed or hopeless. It might mean saying no to certain attractive schemes or yes to some difficult options. But when we answer the call to sacrifice, God comes alongside us and honors us.
Let me share with you two examples from our midst of how God honors our sacrifices for Him.
A couple of months ago, a lady tailor used to attend our church. Sometime back, she got married and stopped coming because her husband denied her permission. Her husband was cruel to her and one day he beat her to death! Everybody was stunned! Her friends at the tailoring unit couldn’t get over their shock and grief. Recently, we arranged for them to come to church. They came into the presence of God timidly and cried out to Him. They poured their grief and pain out to Him. By the end of the service when they left the church, their countenance had changed. The small step of trusting God with their sorrow had birthed in them hope and joy. They were on their way to being healed emotionally.
Here’s another real life incident. In 2007, our small church was instrumental in organizing a crusade in the Railway grounds. We got several other congregations to come together in this event. We soon realized that we didn’t have enough funds. So we got together and prayed. The Holy Spirit impressed on us to put together our gold, raise money and give that to another ministry which was doing an event on the same day as us!
We obeyed. Would you believe that God miraculously provided for every need after we made that contribution?!
The story is not over. Over the three days of the crusade, the weather was forecasted to be rainy. We were thankful that the first two days went by without any sign of rain. Thousands attended and were blessed. But on the third day rains came crashing down. We were in two minds about the event. Some said that since we’d already had a good two days event it would be alright even if we canceled the last one. But we decided to pray that God would stop the rain.
Guess what happened? The whole area surrounding the railway grounds continued to face heavy rains. But above our venue there was not even the sign of a cloud! 3000 people came that evening and were blessed by God’s ministry.
The Yahweh of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ of the Acts of the Apostles, the true and living God is still alive. Every time we lay down the things that are costly for us, God honors us. He raises us and blesses our sacrifice. Let us glorify Him with our sacrificial lives.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.