Daniel 3:1-18 (Part 2) – God of Crisis vs. God of Relationship

Posted: May 28, 2016 in Book of Daniel

Daniel 3:1-18

Nebuchadnezzar’s Gold Statue

There are times in our lives where we have negotiated with God, or at least we think we are.  Many can remember swearing to God at the porcelain throne that we will never drink again if God will heal our stomach. Many can remember swearing to God that we will go to church more regularly if He will get us out of a jam. Many can remember negotiating with God to get us into any kind of relationship with opposite sex during the depths of loneliness. There have been many soldiers who tell God that they will be better people if He just lets them survive the battle. Many can remember some impending legal trouble where we have looked up to the heavens and begged God to save us from it. Many can remember those promises that we make to God to get us out of something, into something or safely through something. Even those that are far from a relationship with God will recognize His existence in times of great stress or trouble. Most of the time, Hollywood portrays people as shaking their fist at God most of the time and glorifying it as good. However, just about every disaster movie ever made shows a scene where one or more of the characters cry out to God for His assistance. It is a universal experience of man that we cry out to God when we need Him to save us from something bad that is about to happen or to deliver us from a dark situation. We all have negotiated with God in some way or another, particularly before we come to know Christ as our Savior. We think of God as the god of last resort. When nothing else is working we resort to God. After the crisis is over, though, we return to our old behaviors where we are far from God. Look at the spike in church attendance after the events of September 11, 2001.

 

By some estimates, on the Sunday following the terror attacks roughly half of the adult population in the United States attended a religious service. But the attendance dropped off starting in November 2001. According to Barna Research, a polling firm that specializes in religious data, confirmed these assumptions in a poll 6 months after the attacks. When life levels back out for us and we have not made fundamental changes in our life patterns, we will drift back to our normal behavior.

 

Noticing Nebuchadnezzar’s actions in this passage compared to his reaction to Daniel’s description of and interpretation of his dream just a few short verses ago in Daniel 2:46-47 is what is amazing to me. When I read here in Daniel 3:1-18 today, I remembered all the times I have negotiated with God in the past only to return to my normal behavior within days after being delivered from the jam I was in. When I read of Nebuchadnezzar’s returning to his idol worship compared to His prostate worshiping of Daniel’s God in 2:46-47 reminded me of how people flocked to churches during the first few weeks after 09/11 and how attendance was back to normal within two months. Let’s read this passage one more time this morning:

 

3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide,[a] and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.

 

4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

 

7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

 

8 At this time some astrologers[b] came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

 

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar just a short time earlier had laid prostrate before Daniel for having identified and interpreted his dream. Because Daniel had stated that his abilities had come from the one true God, Nebuchadnezzar said, in Daniel 2:46-47:

 

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

 

Nebuchadnezzar had been deeply troubled by his vivid dream, his vision from God. He was “all in a tizzy” as we say in the South. When Daniel was able, through God’s power, to show him what it all meant, he was extremely thankful. However, here we are a short time later, and Nebuchadnezzar has seemingly forgotten all that he had said to Daniel previously. His glory given to God was now replaced with his normal behavior of idol worship much of which was because he was considered a god himself. He was worshipped as the supreme ruler of the great Babylonian Empire. So, to give credit to a God of great power far above his, was too much for him to take. Nebuchadnezzar reminds us of the cycles of obedience and disobedience of God’s chosen people Israel. They would cry out to God in times of trouble and then would descend into worshiping themselves when times were good. Does this remind you of 21st century man today? Nebuchadnezzar here is quite symbolic of who we are today in our own age.

 

We only give God credit when there is a crisis. Then, we return to our old ways. We return to our culture of friends in our usual playgrounds with our usual playmates. We are not willing to give up our idols of self-indulgence, our idols of greed, our idols of lust, our idols of self-defined morality. We only need God when there is a crisis. Otherwise, we are our own gods. We determine what is right and what is wrong. We determine what is best for us. We redraw the lines of right and wrong to encompass our desires being on this side of what is right. We rationalize our behavior as self-actualization. We rationalize away our sins because we love them. We define what was sin as no longer sin. We leave God out of the equation just so we can hang on to the lifestyle that we want to live. Admitting that there really is a God means that there is something beyond ourselves and that we are not in control of our own destiny. Admitting that there is a God means that there are moral absolutes. Admitting that there is a God means that there is an eternity and that there is judgment for our relationship with Him. Admitting that there is a God means admitting that there is sin and that there is a need for Jesus Christ. We would rather go back to our old ways and ignore God, until, of course, the next crisis. We seek fulfillment in our own desires always coming up empty. We seek fulfillment in people, in relationships, in sex, in alcohol, in drugs, in behaviors that are destructive for us. We see God as restricting our lives and we don’t want to give up our merry-go-round. We can’t see that running from God and the behaviors that we embrace in doing so are the very things that lead to the crisis lifestyle. One crisis to another. Poor choices. Ungodly choices. Bad results. Crisis. Cry out to God. Crisis averted. Repeat cycle.

 

That was my life before I met Jesus Christ at the cross and handed control of my life over to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is in the submitting of my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ that I found peace. Having a relationship with God through Jesus Christ did not restrict my life, it began to open my eyes to the fact that we are intended to worship Him. Through our obedience to Him and His Word, we actually gain the freedom and the peace that we have been searching for all through our lives. We are no longer on the merry-go-round. We are no longer on the roller coaster of coming close to God when we need Him to fix our messes and drifting away when we avert damage. When we submit our will to His, He helps us see that He is actually protecting us from destruction through our obedience to Him. He is a Father who wants what is best for us. When we submit our will to His and are reclaimed from our life of sin through the grace of Jesus Christ, we gladly align our will with His. We obey Him out of thanksgiving not out of a checklist religious mentality. We love God and want to please Him for what He has done for us through Jesus Christ. Until we truly meet Jesus and give it up to Him, we will see a relationship with God as having to give something up rather than the beginning of new life. Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t willing to give up control of his life to God because that would have meant giving up what he loved – his lifestyle of adulation, power, authority. How closely does your life align with Nebuchadnezzar? Do you see having a relationship with God as having to give things up and as some kind restriction on who you are? I was there once and it did not work out well. How’s it working for you?

 

Are you tired of the roller coaster? Are you tired of the crisis management lifestyle? Are you tired of being your own god and it not working so well? Are you tired of being Nebuchadnezzar? Come to the cross and get to know a relationship with Jesus Christ not religion? Come to know relationship rather than checklist religion? None of us can sustain checklist religion, but we can be sustained through a real relationship with Jesus Christ? Give your soul’s control over to Him. He will end the roller coaster ride. He will give you peace. He will free you from the crisis lifestyle. You will no longer have to cry out to Him because you know that He is there with you at all times. He waits for you at the cross. He loves you and wants a day-to-day relationship with you not some checklist you have to keep as if you are trying to please some remote, unapproachable god. Come in from the rollercoaster. Set your feet on the solid ground of Jesus Christ. He waits for you…Amen and Amen.

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