Daniel 3:16-28 (NIV) 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[a] 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.” 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.” 25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” 26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.
Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman. What do these all have in common? They are all heroes whose main task is to rescue people from trouble. The other thing they all have in common is that they are all fictional, fake, they do not exist. But there are real heroes who rescue people in trouble. Not long ago the news was filled with the account of Navy Seals in Thailand rescuing 12 boys from a soccer team and their coach from a cave. There are real rescuers like the firefighters we spoke of in the children’s message. Sometimes there are every day heroes who never make the headlines, like my dad who rescued me from a wall burning next to me in our farmhouse when I was two. Great as these real heroes are in our lives, we have one hero who can do it all. He is the ultimate hero. Today we embark on a new season of the church year called “End Times”. We also begin a new series, “The King and Life Forever After”, zeroing in on this sub theme, “The King Comes to Rescue His People.” We have a real life example of just that in the reading from the Old Testament book of Daniel we heard read a moment ago. (Read verses 17, 18, 25, 28) Based on this word of our God what comfort and encouragement we receive in this truth today, CHRIST THE KING IS OUR ULTIMATE HERO/RESCUER. I. He is worthy of total trust. II. He rescues completely. III. He is rightly honored by all.
The year is 605 B.C. The most powerful nation on earth at the time had besieged Jerusalem and carried off to Babylon some of the brightest and best of the young men of God’s people in Judah. Among them were Daniel, the author of this book inspired by the Holy Spirit, and three of his friends who the King of Babylon had renamed, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The king was so impressed with these men that he made them all officials in his kingdom. The time came when heathen King Nebuchadnezzar set up large, gold statue god and ordered all to worship that false god when certain instruments sounded. Daniel and his friends refused to break the very first commandment which says we should have no other gods besides the One True Triune God. Some astrologers, jealous of the positions these four foreigners held, reported this to the king. He called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to him and threatened they would be thrown into a fiery furnace, if they did not obey his edict. This is where we pick up the account written for our benefit.
The three replied to this most powerful man on earth at the time, “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.” The three knew the one true God who had often rescued his people from their enemies over the years. He had also promised return of this people to their land after seventy years so the Savior of the world could be born. He was worthy of their total trust and faith. He could certainly rescue them from this threat of death. But we see that total faith and trust in the Savior God even more in their words that followed, “But even if he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of the god you have set up.” They trusted that if the Lord allowed them to die, it would be for them the gain of heaven’s glory through the coming King. They were in no wise being dishonorable to this one in authority. They indeed addressed him as king. But they faithfully trusted and followed a far greater King, the King of kings and Lord of lords. They knew he was totally worthy of their faith and trust and did as Jesus’ disciples did many years later when the high court of the Jews commanded they stop spreading the name, Jesus, and the disciples replied, “We ought to obey God rather than man.” Oh, what faith these three displayed in Christ, the King.
501. Mean anything to you? Last year we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. So this year is the 501st celebration. And surely this word of God reminds us of Luther’s stand before the powers that be that commanded him to recant of his teaching based on Holy Scripture that we are saved by grace alone, by Scripture alone, and by faith alone, the same kind of faith in the ultimate Hero and Rescuer from sin, death and hell, Christ, the King. You knew the Luther socks would appear again, right, with those awesome words similar to those of three believers in the word before us. “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. God help me.” And he did as some “friends” kidnapped Luther and took him to safety in the Wartburg. As a result we are recipients of the pure and glorious Gospel of the King of kings who went all the way to a cross to rescue us from sin and all its consequences. That is why we take our stand and trust him who is totally worthy of our faith in him even when he does not in his wisdom and love take away the thorn in the flesh as he did not with the apostle Paul. But in his grace he is still worthy of our trust as our ultimate Rescuer. And when he does, he rescues completely.
Well, thrown into the fiery furnace the three were, but only after a furious king had the furnace made seven times hotter. Those who threw them in from the opening at the top left their clothes on them so they would catch deathly fire immediately. (Actually God wanted them left on so when they came out with their clothes untouched it would be one more indicator of how completely he had rescued them.) The ruthless king wanted the pleasure of seeing these disobeyers suffer, so he opened the door toward the bottom of the furnace and along with his cronies peered in. But with startled voice the king asked, “Weren’t there three men?” Then he added, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Yes, the King of kings had sent his angel to rescue his servants from the flames of death. How completely? Bodies intact, no hair singed, robes not scorched, and perhaps most of all, not even the smell of smoke.
The doctor comes into the room with a big smile on his face. He reports, “I can’t believe it. The cancer I said was going to kill you soon is completely gone. It’s almost a miracle.” No, as followers of Christ the King, we trust it was a miracle. I saw the car my nephew was driving when someone drove into him. No one should have walked away alive. But he did and still is. Did Christ the King send one who looks like a son of the gods, we would rightly called them angels sent by God to watch over his people? But ultimately our Hero/Rescuer will rescue us most completely when he comes again to raise up our bodies here subject to pain and death. And in heaven there will not even be the smell of sin smoke, but perfect life and health, body and soul forever. Even, so come, Lord Jesus, Christ the King!
Then we will truly praise and honor him as we want to now, but too often fail. Fascinating, isn’t it, that now this mighty king acknowledged Christ the King as the most High God and the only God who could rescue his people in this manner. Oh, he still believed in other gods, but even as Paul said in his letter to the Philippians, in the end every knee will bow. In addition, the great king ordered that all people should acknowledge and honor the God of these three believers.
Reminds one of the Reformation epistle reading we heard a moment ago, just from a little different perspective. An angel from God proclaiming the eternal Gospel to “every nation, tribe, language, and people.” By God’s great grace in our Savior, Christ the King, that saving Gospel is proclaimed among us. As a result we truly want to worship him and then join him in glory when he comes again and every knee, even of those who rejected him and are destined for the furnace of hell, will acknowledge who he is and what he has done. But we, by God’s grace, will hear, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Receive your heritance…the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” Remember the once popular song, “I need a hero”? We have one. He is Christ the King.