Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where is the fourth man?

Daniel 3.25
“He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”

Where is the fourth man?

Daniel 3.19-26
19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
22 Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that 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 Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire.

Where is the fourth man?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego

These were the names given them by the Babylonians. They mean:
Shadrach – Servant of sin (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)
Meshach – Shadow of the prince
Abednego – servant of Nebo (god of science and literature)

Their Hebrew names and meaning are:
Hananiah – Jah has favored
Mishael – Who is what God is
Azariah – Jah has helped

Refusal to eat of the king’s meat was not a point of being obstinate. The Children of Israel were commanded not to partake of the blood of the animal. The king’s meat of that time was not slain as Israelites would do. The Israelites would cut the throat of the animal and the blood would drain out. The meat of the king of Babylon was previously offered to idols as a sacrifice. They had been strangled. The blood stayed in the meat. This was anathema to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Their refusal was a refusal to lose their identity as Israelites. They maintained, in a captive, sometimes hostile, environment, their identity. There is an old gospel song which states, “they wouldn’t bend they wouldn’t bow, they wouldn’t burn.” They were not the only princes of Israel that were taken, but they were the only ones that refused to be amalgamated into the Babylonian lifestyle.

There are Christians today that are having identity crises. The Bible says that we are in the world, but we are not of the world.

We have all heard the stories of wild animals, raised in captivity, that attack their handlers. I have a ball python. We handle her often to keep her accustomed to being handled. We reach into her terrarium and remover her without fear. She coils around my neck for the warmth my skin offers. We have had her in public places where she is content to be so wrapped. Others around have asked if they could touch her. One question usually comes to the forefront. “Does she bite?” I answer that question thusly: “She is a snake. She does not generally bite, but for all our handling, all our trust, all our confidence, she is still a snake. I have changed her environment, but I have not changed that fact that she is still a snake. If I could put her on a leash, it would not make her a puppy. She would still be a snake.” Knowing this, they may or may not touch her, as is their choice.

We may be in the same place as nonbelievers, but we are to retain our identity and our heritage. We are to be as lambs among the wolves. We are to hold to a higher standard. We are to be Children of God no matter where we are or who is around us.

The world tries daily to strip Christians of their identity. Satan has tried to change the meaning of a couple words. The secular world tries to preach what they call ‘tolerance.’ However, what they claim as tolerance is not tolerance, but ‘acceptance.’ I am tolerant of other lifestyles. I am tolerant of the sins of others. I can be tolerant without being accepting. It is a thin line, but the line is there. Anyone, of any lifestyle or persuasion, can stand beside me in a church service, and worship God. I can stand with them in praise of God. This is the meaning of tolerance.

Acceptance has a different meaning. Sin is still sin. Wrong is still wrong. Jesus loved sinners while hating the sin. While I can be tolerant of a sinner, and love their souls, I cannot accept their sin into my life. I must maintain my identity as a Child of God.

Compromise is the watch word of the day. We must be wary of a water religion. If I pour 16 ounces of water into a coke bottle, it takes the shape of that coke bottle. If I take the same 16 ounces of water and pour in into a bowl, it takes the shape of that bowl. There are those trying to serve God the same way. They try to conform their beliefs to match the circumstances. Someone said once, “If we do not stand for something, we will fall for anything.”

Ephesians 4:14
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine , by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

We, as mature Christians, are to be rooted and grounded in our beliefs. This is not to say that we do not grow in the truth, but our core belief must remain true.

Heb 6:1
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,

In the original text, it clarifies, launching from the principles, let us go on to completion.

Sadly, there are times that Christians take on the identity of the world.

A young Christian boy was hired to work in a lumber camp with many seasoned lumberjacks over a summer. His mother, as mothers do, worried about him. She worried for his health and well being. She also worried how these men would treat him, being a Christian.

When the longest summer of her life ended, she went to retrieve her son at the train station. She was greeted by a taller, more muscular young man. The boy that left at the start of the summer returned as a young man. After the hugs and the ‘missed you’ greetings, she asks the question that plagued her over the summer.

“Son, how did the men of the camp treat you, being a Christian?”

He beamed as if he had gotten away with something and said, “Mom, they never knew.”

If your friends, neighbors, and coworkers don’t know you are a Christian, you may not be one.

God does not have undercover agents.

Psalms 107:2
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;

If you have been redeemed, God expects you to say so. God expects you to tell someone the good news.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. He gathered his wise men and asked them to tell him the meaning of the dream. They told him to tell them the dream. He says he cannot because he does not remember the dream.

Let me get this straight, you want me to tell you the meaning of a dream that you cannot remember, and if I cannot tell you the meaning, I will be cut to pieces and my house destroyed?

The kings magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans, could not tell him the dream or the interpretation, but they knew someone that could. They knew about a Hebrew that refused to compromise. They knew about a Hebrew that was still in touch with his God. They knew about a Hebrew that maintained his identity.

The king’s men came to Daniel. Daniel went to Hananiah (Shadrach,) Mishael (Meshach,) and Azariah (Abednego.) They began to fast and pray. God revealed the dream to Daniel in the night. Daniel went into the king and told him his dream and the meaning. The dream contained the great image that represented several kingdoms in the future.

The king wanted to see part of the dream happen, specifically the great image. He commissioned to have the image created. When it was finished, he gathered the princes, the governors, the captains, the judges, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the providences of the nation.

Daniel 3:1-7
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up

Everyone is going to bow. What would be wrong with bowing? Everyone else is going to bow.

If you are going to do what everyone else is going to do, you will lose your identity.

You will not be identified with God anymore.

The time comes. The crowd is assembled. The musicians are ready. You may not have been able to pick Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the crowd, but once the music sounded, they were not hard to find.

The choice is the same today. You will either bow to the image the world has or you will stand for God. There is no compromise. There is no half bowing. There is no half standing. You will be identified with the world or you will be identified with God.

The king was alerted. He called the three Hebrew boys to him. He told them he was going to give them another chance. Perhaps they didn’t understand. Perhaps they were confused. Now that they knew what was expected, surely they would bow.

Daniel 3:16-18
16 …O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

We must refuse to be changed by the world and its ideas. There are some things that are just non-negotiable. There are too many that have given their all, for us to step down from the word of God.

Three went in. The king looked in. He saw four. He called to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. The three Hebrew boys came out.

Where is the fourth man?

He is still waiting in the fire.

When you have to go through fiery trials, He is there. When you refuse to lose your identity, the fourth man is in the fire. When you refuse to compromise to this world, and they put you through the fire, He is there.

The fourth man is still there and he is waiting.

Ephesians 6.13
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

When you have done all you can do; stand.

He is a very present help in time of trouble.

When you are in trouble, the fourth man is there.

When you are in a trial, the fourth man is there.

We have more in us than the world has in it.

“Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world”

When we walk through the dry places, He will be with us.

When we are tested and tried, He will be with us.

When the devil rants and raves, He will still be there.

When the furnace is hotter than ever, He is still there.

In the book of Luke, it says the Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert. There are times that the Spirit will lead us to places we may not want to go. Rest assured, the Spirit will never lead you where the Spirit cannot keep you.

If you convictions lead you the furnace, the fourth man is there.

When you refuse to compromise your identity; when you refuse to follow the vain traditions of man; when you refuse to bow to the image; God will be there.

“I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”

The fourth man is there.

In the middle of the night, He is there.

In the midst of the trial, He is there.

The fourth man is there.

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