There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men…
If you would become followers of the Lord Jesus Christ it will be well for you to count the cost. It was our Lord's custom to bid men consider what his service might involve. His frequent declaration was, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me." If we count upon ease in this warfare we shall be grievously disappointed; we must fight if we would reign. One reason of this is that the world, like Nebuchadnezzar, expects us all to follow its fashions and to obey its rules. The god of this world is the devil, and he claims implicit obedience. Sin in some form or other is the image which Satan sets up and requires us to serve. The tyranny of the world is fierce and cruel, and those who will not worship its image will find that the burning fiery furnace has not yet cooled. The world's flute, harp, sackbut, and psaltery must sound for you in vain. A nobler music must charm your ears and make you bid defiance to the world's threatenings. The true believer's stand must be taken, and he must determine that he will obey God rather than man. The love of the world and the love of God will no more mix than oil and water. To attempt a fusion of these two is to bring confusion into your heart and life. As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to Nebuchadnezzar, so will true believers say to the world: "We will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." Now, if you can refuse to sin, if you can refuse even to parley with iniquity, it is well with you. If you stand out for truth and righteousness, your conscience will approve your position, and this in itself is no small comfort. It will be an ennobling thing for your manhood to have proved its strength, and it will tend to make it stronger. Peradventure some of you may say, "We will not bow before the gods of the world, but we will worship God only; we will follow Christ, and none beside." This is a brave resolve; you will never regret it if you stand to it even to the end. We are glad to hear you speak thus; but is it true? "Is it true?" It is very well to profess, but "Is it true?"
I. Follower of Christ, be ready for the question "Is it true?"
1. Do not reckon to live unnoticed, for a fierce light beats about every Christian. You will be sure to meet with some one or other whom you respect or fear, who will demand of you, "Is it true?" Nebuchadnezzar was a great personage to these three holy men; he was their despotic lord, their employer, their influential friend. In his hands rested their liberties and their lives. He was, moreover, their benefactor, for he had set them in high office in his empire. Many young Christians are tried with this temptation. Many worldly advantages may be gained by currying favour with certain ungodly men who are like little Nebuchadnezzars; and this is a great peril. They are bidden to do wrong by one who is their superior, their employer, their patron. Now comes the test. Will they endure the trial hour? They say that they can endure it, but is it true? Nebuchadnezzar spoke in peremptory tones, as if he could not believe that any mortal upon the earth could have the presumption to dispute his will. He cannot conceive that one employed under his patronage will dare to resist his bidding; he demands indignantly, "Is it true?" He will not believe it! He must have been misinformed! You will meet with persons so accustomed to be obeyed that they think it hard that you do not hasten to carry out their wishes. The infidel father says to his boy, "John, is it true that you go to a place of worship against my wishes? How dare you set up to be better than your father and mother?" Often ungodly men profess that they do not believe in the conversion of their fellow workmen. Is it true, John, that you have become religious? A pretty fellow! Is it true? They insinuate that you are off your head, that your wits have gone wool-gathering, and that you are the dupe of fanatics. You will not be able to go through life without being discovered; a lighted candle cannot be hid. There is a feeling among some good people that it will be wise to be very reticent, and hide their light under a bushel. They intend to lie low all the war time, and come out when the palms are being distributed. They hope to travel to Heaven by the back lanes, and skulk into glory in disguise. How was it Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came up to the front when the king's command was given? They could not consistently keep back. They were public men, set over provinces, and it was needful that they should set an example. Rest assured, my fellow Christians, that at some period or other, in the most quiet lives, there will come a moment for open decision. Days will come when we must speak out or prove traitors to our Lord and to His truth.
2. To be fully prepared to answer the enquiry of opposers, act upon sound reasons. Be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear. Be able to show why you are a believer in God, why you worship the Lord Jesus Christ, why you trust in His atoning sacrifice, and why you make Him the regulator of your life. Ask the Lord to help you to go to work with Bible reasons at your fingers' ends; for those are the best of reasons, and bear a high authority about them; so that when the question is put to you, "Is it true?" you may be able to say, "Yes, it is true, and this is why it is true. At such a time God revealed Himself to me in His grace, and opened my blind eyes to see things in a true light." When the mind is established, the heart is more likely to be firm. Know your duty and the arguments for it, and you are the more likely to be steadfast in the hour of temptation.
3. Next, take care that you always proceed with deep sincerity. Superficial profession soon ends in thorough apostasy. Only heart-work will stand the fire. We need a religion which we can die with.
4. This being done, accustom yourself to act with solemn determination before God on every matter which concerns morals and religion. Many very decent people are not self-contained, but are dependent upon the assistance of others. They are like the houses which our London builders run up so quickly in long rows; if they did not help to keep each other up they would all ramble clown at once, for no one of them could stand alone. How much there is of joint-stock-company religion, wherein hypocrites and formalists keep each other in countenance. Where things are not quite so bad as this, yet there is too little personal establishment in the faith. So many people have a "lean-to" religion. If their minister, or some other leading person were taken away, their back wall would be gone, and they would come to the ground. We have need nowadays to set our face as a flint against sin and error. We must purpose in our own heart what we will do, and then stand to our purpose. Happy he who dares to be in the right with two or three. Happier still is he who will stand in the right, even if the choice two or three should quit it. He who can stand alone is a man indeed; every man of God should be such.
5. Once more, when your determination is formed act in the light of eternity. Do not judge the situation by the king's threat and by the heat of the burning fiery furnace, but by the everlasting God and the eternal life which awaits you. Let not flute, harp, and sackbut fascinate you, but hearken to the music of the glorified. Men frown at you, but you can see God smiling on you, and so you are not moved. It may be that you all be discharged from your situation unless you can wink at wrong and be the instrument of injustice. Be content to lose place rather than to lose peace. Now I am sure that these good men believed in immortality, or they would never have dared the violence of the flames. These brave men dared the rage of an infuriated tyrant because they saw Him who is invisible, and bad respect unto the recompense of the reward. You also must come to live a great deal in the future, or else you will miss the chief fountain of holy strength. God make us champions of His holy cause! Heroism can only be wrought in us by the Holy Ghost. Humbly yielding your whole nature to the power of the Divine Sanctifier, you will be true to your Lord even to the end.
II. But now, secondly, IF YOU CANNOT SAY THAT IT IS TRUE, WHAT THEN? If, standing before the heart-searching God at this time, you cannot say, "It is true," how should you act? If you cannot say that you take Christ's cross, and are willing to follow Him at all hazards, then hearken to me and learn the truth.
1. Do not make a profession at all. If it be not true that you renounce the world's idols, do not profess that it is so. It is unnecessary that a man should profess to be what he is not; it is a sin of supererogation, a superfluity of naughtiness.
2. If you have made a profession, and yet it is not true, be honest enough to quit it; for it can never be right to keep up a fraud. A false profession is a crime, and to persevere in it is a presumptuous sin. Will you, then, go back to your old ways?
3. I am sure you will if you cannot answer the question of my text; but remember, that in so doing you will have to belie your consciences. Many of you who are not firm in your resolves yet know the right. You will never be able to get that light out of your eyes which has shone into them from God's word. You can never again sin so cheaply as others; it will be wilfulness and obstinacy in your case.
4. Remember also that by yielding to the fear of man you are demeaning yourself. There shall come a day when the man that was ashamed of Christ will himself be ashamed; he will wonder where he can hide his guilty head.
5. If your avowal of faith in Jesus and opposition to sin is not true you had better withdraw it and be silent; for by a groundless pretence you will dishonour the cause of God, and cause the enemy to take up a reproach against His people. If Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had stood before Nebuchadnezzar and had made a compromise, it would have dishonoured the name of the Lord. Suppose they had said, "O king, we believe in Jehovah, but we hardly know what to do in our peculiar circumstances. We desire to please thee, and we also dread the thought of the burning fiery furnace, and therefore we must yield, though it greatly grieves us." Why, they would have cast shame upon the name of Israel. O, do not talk about principle, and then pocket your principles because they are unfashionable, or will cost you loss and disrepute. If you do this you will be the enemies of the King of kings.
6. I want you to remember also that if you renounce Christ, if you quit Him in obedience to the world's commands, you are renouncing eternal life and everlasting bliss. You may think little of that to-night, because of your present madness; but you will think differently before long. Soon you may lie on a sick bed gazing into eternity, and then your estimate of most things will undergo a great change.
III. But now, thirdly, let us consider what follows IF IT BE TRUE. I hope that many here can lay their hands upon their hearts, and quietly say, "Yes, it is true; we are determined not to bow before sin, come what may."
1. Well, then, if it is true, I have this much to say to you: state this when it is demanded of you. Declare your resolve. This will strengthen it in yourself and be the means of supporting it in others. Is it true?
2. Then joyfully accept the trial which comes of it. Shrink not from the flames. Settle it in your minds that, by Divine grace, no loss, nor cross, nor shame, nor suffering, shall make you play the coward. Say, like the holy children, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter." They did not cringe before the king, and cry, "We beseech thee, de not throw us into the fiery furnace. Let us have a consultation with thee, O king, that we may arrange terms. There may be some method by which we can please thee, and yet keep our religion." No; they said, "We are not careful to answer thee in this matter." You may lose a great deal for Christ, but you will never lose anything by Christ. You may lose for time, but you will gain for eternity; the loss is transient, but the gain is everlasting.
3. If it be true that you are willing thus to follow Christ, reckon upon deliverance. Nebuchadnezzar may put you into the fire, but he cannot keep you there, nor can he make the fire burn you. The enemy casts you in bound, but the fire will loosen your bonds, and you will walk at liberty amid the glowing coals. You shall gain by your losses, you shall rise by your down-castings. Many prosperous men owe their present position to the fact that they were faithful when they were in humble employments. Do right for Christ's sake, without considering any consequences, and the consequences will be right enough. If you take care of God's cause, God will take care for you.
4. If you will stand up for Jesus, and the right, and the true, and the pure, and the temperate, and the good, not only will you be delivered, but you will do great good. This Nebuchadnezzar was a poor piece of goods; yet he was compelled to acknowledge the power of these three decided and holy men. The man who can hide his principles, and conceal his beliefs, and do a little wrong, is a nobody. He is a chip in the porridge; he will flavour nothing. But he who does what he believes to be right; and cannot be driven from it — that is the man. You cannot shake the world if you let the world shake you; but when the world finds that you have grit in you, they will let you alone. Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to feel the influence of these men.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
WEB: There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not respected you. They don't serve your gods, nor worship the golden image which you have set up.