What Is There To Fear?
Scripture reading: Daniel 3:1-19
Our Scripture reading is a marvelous study of the fearless believer. As we meditate on this portion of God’s Word and carefully examine the behavior of three godly men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we learn much about what keeps a child of God free of fear even during times of extreme danger.
What is the profile of one of God’s children who walks through life a stranger to fear? It is important to keep in mind that everything, anything, and all things that a child of God seeks after in this life are to be for the glorification of his God. There is to be holy priority in the life of the Christian. The normal Christian life—not the average Christian life—is not one which pursues comfort and ease and safety, but pursues God. It is a life that even during times of great affliction and hardship seeks help and deliverance not for its own sake but for God’s sake.
Said the psalmist, "Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name and deliver us and purge away our sins for thy name’s sake" (Psalm 79:9). Our very salvation was given us for His sake, not ours. We are on this planet for one reason, and that is, for the glory of His name.
There can be no question that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in our Scripture reading brought glory to their God by the way they conducted themselves before Nebuchadnezzar the king. One of the ways that the true child of God glorifies his God, the true God, is by refusing to worship false gods. This is obvious in verse 18. They said, "…we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image…"
We need always to be examined by the truth of God’s holy Word. Are there any gods in my life that I serve as much or possibly even more than the Lord God Jehovah? Examine yourself with me, saint. How about the god of money, or possessions or success or recognition even in our service for the true God? What about the gods of family or friends? Could it be we are actually placing creatures in front of the Creator?
Isaiah 26:13 reads, "O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us;…" Something is going to have the power or the right of governing and controlling us. Something will always have sovereign authority in my life. "O Lord our God…" that is, "O Lord, the one and only true God, the sovereign God, the God Who should have complete and sovereign control in my life—other lords," (small "l") "besides thee have had sovereign authority in my life! And I don’t want it that way!" One of the evidences that you belong to God is the fact that in the deepest recesses of your heart you want God, you long for Him to have that place!
Reaction to Threat of Death
In our Scripture, the reaction of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to King Nebuchadnezzar’s threat of death by fire is that they were hardly fazed by the prospect. Notice that immediately after the king’s question in verse 15, "…who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?" without a moment’s hesitation their response is, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter." There is a delightful nonchalance in their reaction to King Nebuchadnezzar’s threatening question. It is a nonchalance born of deep-seated confidence in Jehovah God.
"For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken" (Proverbs 3:26). Their nonchalance reveals so much about how the fearless believer, the courageous saint, thinks. "O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter." In modern vernacular we might read it, "Mr. Nebuchadnezzar, it really isn’t that big a deal with us. All we know is that we serve the true and living God Who is able to deliver us if He so chooses…or not deliver us. We are His, ready to live or die as He chooses for us." "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s" (Romans 14:8).
The fearless Christian is not concerned about consequences or outcomes. His only concern is to obey and glorify his God. These three Hebrew children of God had such a great fear of God that they had no fear of a man of such great power as the king. "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of" (Isaiah 2:22)? The greater our fear of God, the less will be our fear of man. The more we are overwhelmed with the presence of God, the less we will be overwhelmed with the presence of man. You cannot be overwhelmed with God and overwhelmed with man at the same time! "…he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Hebrews 13:5b-6).
The fearless saint does not fear man. And that Christian is not deliberately a threat to others. Observe that even under the threat of death, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not exhibit the slightest counterthreat of God’s judgment upon the king. We don’t hear them say, "Listen, King, do you know Who our God is? You’d better not send us to that furnace or you’ll get yours! We will call our God’s judgment down upon you!"
We don’t hear that, do we? "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). That verse of course refers to our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus. His response to unjust treatment at the hands of man is the same we see displayed by the three Hebrew children in the time of their jeopardy and need. They did not respond aggressively to the king’s aggression. They simply committed themselves "unto him that judgeth righteously," the Lord their God Jehovah.
There is something else here about the behavior of these three godly Hebrews in the face of great danger of which we want to make note. Are these men brave and courageous because all three of them happen to be of that disposition, that temperament? Are we seeing here simply a coincidence of three people who are naturally of a courageous bent?
When it comes to the things of the Spirit, personality traits have nothing to do with the absence or presence of fear in the life of the child of God! The fearless, godly believer is not fearless because of himself, or his temperament. His fearlessness is not of himself, not of his "personality trait." The spiritual man does not find courage by looking in but by looking up! The godly, Christ-centered man is not strong but weak! The godly saint is aware that his strength in all of life’s trials is not his.
On the contrary, he knows that he has no strength and no courage within self. And knowing this, he casts himself upon his all-powerful, omnipotent God! "He shall cover thee with his feathers and under his wings shalt thou trust" (Psalm 91:4).
When Moses was commissioning Joshua to take his place as leader of the Israelites to take them over the Jordan River into Canaan, the Promised Land, he said to him, "Be strong and of a good courage." And when we think of the task set before Joshua one almost wants to shout out to Moses, "Moses! Why should Joshua be of good courage?"
Because "…the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed" (Deuteronomy 31:7-8). Joshua’s strength and his courage was in his Lord, not in Joshua! The basis for a Christian being fearless has nothing to do with the Christian himself but all to do with the fact of his God and the fact that he simply rests in Him! The saint who is totally weak in himself, dead to self, who attempts to do nothing in his own defense, as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrate in our text, and simply casts himself upon his faithful God, is the fearless believer!
There is no question that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, humanly speaking, were in serious trouble. As the king’s anger heated up, so did the furnace! At this point, again humanly speaking, these three Hebrew children didn’t know how everything would turn out. They didn’t know if everything would be all right. It certainly appeared quite the opposite. But they don’t have to know if everything will turn out all right! Do you know why?
"Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength…" (Habakkuk 3:17-19).
This same truth is conveyed in Psalm 50:15: "Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me." We glorify Him first…even before the request for and the actual deliverance.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were God’s children and they loved Him. Clearly, the thing that gave them unflinching courage in facing the prospect of going to a fiery grave was that their eyes were fixed on him…not on themselves, not on the basis of their "perfect" lives (for we know that no man was ever perfect save our blessed Savior), not on the grounds that Daniel was at this very time great in the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar and could possibly dissuade the king from his intentions. None of these things were the reason for their courage! But it was rather that their eyes were fixed on the God Whom they served, "…our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us…," verse 17. No fear! No flinching! Only trust!
I am convinced that God was always on their minds. They didn’t decide to sit down and have a prayer meeting and ask God to make His presence known to them in this crisis. "O, Lord, hear our prayer and we plead with Thee come into our midst and manifest Yourself to us in this crisis situation…" There was no time for that! There was no need for that! God was real to them, not just during a threatening time, a time of danger…but always. It is recorded that there were those among the Christian martyrs of past centuries who, as the flames began to engulf the stake to which they were fastened and to consume their bodies, were heard to cry out, "I feel no pain! I only see the face of my dear Savior into Whose presence I go!"
O saint, how can God’s child, you and I, ever be fearful so long as our gaze is fixed upon Jesus? We cannot fix our gaze upon Him and be fearful at the same time. These are two mutually exclusive exercises…looking on Jesus and experiencing carnal fear.
The Peace God Gives
Peace that prevails only because peaceful circumstances prevail is not the peace that God gives. That is the kind of peace that the world gives, a peace that exists only so far as peaceful conditions exist, as long as all of one’s physical needs are being provided for, as long as health abounds, as long as danger doesn’t threaten, as long as another war is not on the horizon, as long as all the bills are paid, etc. But let God in His sovereignty withdraw those favorable circumstances and the worldling immediately falls into a pit of fear and consternation and apprehension and anxiety.
But this ought not be the case with the Christian! Jesus said it clearly: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you" (John 14:27). The peace that the world gives is one thing. The peace that God gives is something entirely different!
I would not for a moment want to take away from you as a believer the true peace and joy that is often ours because our God chooses to bless us with both peaceful circumstances and with material things. All of it is of Him! God’s blessings can contain both peaceful circumstances and material possessions.
But the message for us is first, that none of these blessings would become lords, false gods in our lives. And second, that we would be so enraptured with our Savior, so thirsty after Him always, so fixed upon Him, that when the crisis arrives, the presence of Christ is so real that the crisis will be received as from the hand of a faithful God without fear. David said, "…I will praise thy name, O Lord…he hath delivered me out of all trouble…I will praise thee forever, because thou hast done it" (Extracted from Psalm 54:6-7 and 52:9, in that order).
– J. N. J.