Bow to Babylon
We’re going to jump into the book of Daniel chapter 3. And if you know anything about Daniel, chances are it’s probably the story found in chapter three or the story of on the chapter six. In chapter three, if you grew up in church, you’ve probably learned that cheesy song as a child. You may even still sing it as adult. “Shadrack Meshack and Abednego, worship the Lord.” Nobody? Okay, that was a song about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego thrown into a fire and then they survived the fire. Great narrative, really inspiring. Daniel, similar story. Thrown into a lion’s den, survives the lions den, and so if you ask somebody anything about Daniel or the book of downs, typically those two stories. Great stories, impactful for life. I don’t think they are the most important chapters in Daniel, but definitely good stories for us to consider.
But the theme of Daniel continues on in chapter three for us as individuals. I think God is encouraging us to continue to be faithful to him in the midst of adversity. And God is showing us when our backs against the wall, it looks like darkness is about the conquer, that God is not finished accomplishing what he desires to do in this world. And God works through his people as his people make himself available to him. As we surrender our lives to God, God makes his glory known in our lives. God’s glory is ultimately known regardless, but God wants to work through his people as we desire to know him and make him known. That’s the theme of Daniel and in the midst of adversity, God is encouraging his people through four primary characters, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And in chapter three today we’re looking specifically at Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
If you followed along, if you’ve been a part of this series, you’ve seen that we’ve discussed how this book lays out. First six chapters are in narrative. Last six chapters are prophetic. And the first six chapters to sort of break down in a very neat fashion. You look at the chapter divisions in your Bible. Those chapter divisions are not inspired of God. Someone came in later in history and included those in there, so that when we gather as God’s people, I can say turn to chapter three and everyone will know where that is. Okay, that’s not inspired. Sometimes when they wrote chapter divisions, they picked horrible places to do it. Other times they wrote chapter divisions they found great places to do it. First three chapters of Daniel, they found great places. The narratives. Daniel chapter one, the narrative of chapter one ends the last verse of chapter one. Narrative chapter two ends the last verse of chapter two. Narrative chapter three ends at the last verse of chapter three. Make great stories.
So if you want to tell a story of Daniel, you can just take each chapter. As a church we like to study God’s word expositionally, if we can. Sometimes we’ll look at it topically, but one of the things you do expositionally as you go through, it’s about going through the Bible verse by verse, so that when we look at God’s word, we can see, is Nathaniel teaching him heresy, or whoever’s teaching, or is it aligning with what God’s word says? All of us together collectively looking at God’s word, can determine that. Take me out with a pitchfork heretic and burn me if you want later, but we have an opportunity expositional teaching to see whether or not that’s happening. That’s important for the life of a believer. But on the same idea related to that, when tells a narrative story, there’s typically one primary theme, one overarching thought of which the narrator wants us to discover within the text of that passage.
And so Daniel, chapter three, just like the other chapters that we’ve looked at is a rather lengthy portion of scripture, one that we can’t go through verse by verse, but the broad topic of what’s being taught in this narrative, we want to gather together as God’s people to make the application to our lives and what God desires for us to know in the book of Daniel. Assuming he wrote it down for us to gather something from it, right? And so for your understanding, if you read Daniel beyond today or if you’re studying Daniel, as we go through this together, just to remind you, it’s chapters one through six, narrative story of how God’s worked in history to encourage God’s people to continue to pursue the Lord that in the midst of darkness, God’s working things out. Chapter 7 to chapter 12 he prophetically lays it out for us to let us see how he’s going to continue to work.
And so when you look at Daniels, it breaks up on those two sections. Chapter one sets the backdrop and then this unique thing happens in the text. Chapter two really mirrors chapter seven. Chapter three mirror’s chapter six, which I just shared with you. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego thrown into a fire, survive. Chapter six, Daniel thrown into the lions then survives. Chapters four and five mirror one another too. And then when you get to chapter seven, it sort of opens the door for understanding the rest of the book of Daniel. And so that is how it lays out for us. But I just want to set the stage for us then and what’s happening in the beginning of chapter three. So as you remember last week, chapter two, we ended with Daniel interpreting this dream for Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar praises the God of Daniel, but Nebuchadnezzar from there continue to be a polytheist.
He recognized the authority of Daniel’s God, but acknowledge that he believed that this was one of many gods. And some time had passed since the interpretation of Daniel’s dream to what leads to the events of chapter three. So much so, that Daniel’s God sorta takes a background to what Nebuchadnezzar wants to accomplish in chapter three. Now, what leads up to these events is Nebuchadnezzar had a rebellion that took place within his kingdom. And the concern of a king is to find loyalty from his people. So he does what anyone would do in the midst of a circumstance where he thinks his friends aren’t being loyal or the rulers of the people under him. He builds a 90 foot statue of gold, right?
I mean, it’s nowhere in the realm of our possibility. Babylon is the modern day, bigger than America, it’s just conquers the world. It owns everything. Babylon is it. When you think about civilizations dominating, Babylon is what comes to mind during the time of Nebuchadnezzar. And so Nebuchadnezzar builds this statue of gold and he calls all of the leaders to this statue that helps him rule in Babylon and he wants them to declare their loyalty to him as they bow before the statue. And so Daniel chapter three starts off this way, Nebuchadnezzar, the king made an image of gold, the height of which was 60 cubits and it’s width six cubits. So if you want to mathematically figure that out, 60 cubits by 18 inches, 90 feet, okay? 90 feet tall. He set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar, the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar, the king had set up.
So this is like Hollywood rolled out the red carpet and whoever’s who who in the empire, that’s who arrived to this dedication. All of the prominent people gathered in these moments. And the king looking for loyalty in the midst of the rebellion. And in verse seven, then it starts to lay out what takes place. The king tells everyone when the music plays, I want you to bow. And in verse seven it says, “Therefore, at that time when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, the flute, the lyre, the trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all the kinds of music and on all the peoples and nations and men, every tongue,” blah, blah, blah. “They fell down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
When you read in the book of Daniel, and it’s in Aramaic at this point, but when it outlines the first seven verses, it mentions the satraps, the prefects, the governors, the magistrates, several times within the context of that verse. And really what the narrator is trying to do is sort of poke fun of the actions of the people in this circumstance. It’s painting the picture of their sort of mind numbingly walking as zombies in obedience to what the king wants. So here they come in, here they’re told what to do, here they bow. And that’s the tone of the context of this story. And so it’s acknowledging in chapter three, verse seven, that they did exactly what the people did, not questioning anything. It’s just we’re born, we’re in Babylon, that’s what we’re supposed to do. They know what they are to do, they just really can never define why. “I don’t know, just what I always have done. Kinda like that mindnumbing attitude and approach.
And then in verse eight, we find out in the story that Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, they do not bow. And so it says this, for this reason. At that time, certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. The Aramaic texts literally said they ate pieces of the Jews. They’re so frustrated by these individuals that were conquered, brought in the Babylon that continue to capture the kings eye and get raised into position that they’re jealous of them. And they didn’t do what the king says and they want their position, so they’ve come before the king and they tell him, “Hey, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, they didn’t bow like you told everyone else. We want to eat them!” Or we hate them. Right? More or less. And so Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, they’re brought before the king and they’re told to give a defense for their decision not to bow. I love their answer. Says in Verse 16, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, oh King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter.
But then in verse 17 they go on anyway. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire. And I should tell you by the way, the king said, if you do not bow Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego or people, I’m going to throw you into this furnace. And Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego are brought before the king and the king says, listen, I’m going to give you one more opportunity. If you do not bow, I’m going to throw you in this furnace. And so they say in verse 17, Yeah, we’re not going to bow. God can deliver us from this furnace of blazing fire and he will deliver us out of your hand, oh King. But verse 18, “but even if he does not let it be known to you, oh king, we’re not gonna serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
Then in verse 19 look at the king’s reaction, “And the king was so happy and he called them his best friends, right?” That’s not what happens. It says, “Thinking Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath and his facial expression was altered to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.” I’m just curious, have you ever seen this reaction from your parents? Like they tell you to do something and you don’t. And all of a sudden their face gets so contorted with like frustration, upset and hurt all at the same time? That’s Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzar, he’s going to blame Shadrach, Meshach, and the Bendigo later in life for all the wrinkles that they gave him. “I had to contort my face with such anger. All of these wrinkles and gray hairs are your fault.” That’s kind of what’s happening in this story. And then it says verse 20, “He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.
I want to pause here for a second and just consider the context of the story so far. I want to tell you, I’m gonna make some illustrations to today, but this isn’t the primary conclusion of what this narrative story is about. You have to think, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, how incredibly isolating and lonely this moment would have been. Here they are in this authority, in this position before the king, they’re brought to serve the king. And now in the midst of all of these people gathered around bowing down to the king, they stand out. And one of the reasons they stand out is people are already jealous of them, people already hate them. They want to eat them.
In the midst of these moments, it would be completely rational as a human being to try to justify behavior that would choose not to stand for their God, but they still choose to stand. Something along the lines of let’s just not raise a stink or fuss, let’s bow to Babylon and then later we’ll follow our God. In this circumstance it’s easy not to. So let’s just do what we’re told and then continue to pursue the Lord after this. But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, in the midst of this lonely, isolated activity from the rest of the culture chooses to run counter intuitive to what the rest of the individuals are mindlessly behaving in. I think the illustration for us comes to the fact of recognizing that Babylon then and Babylon now is no different.
Every culture has a statute to bow down to. As a matter of fact, every culture probably has multiple statutes in which we’re called to bow down to. And Sunday is sort of the isolated place where we find protection maybe from the circumstances. Provided you weren’t already arguing before you came to church today or gathered as God’s people, I should say, has the church. But tomorrow you’ll be called to bow to something. Something’s going to tempt your heart. Pull at your heart.
In the story, Nebuchadnezzar represents a particular kind of strength. A certain amount of influence. You think in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, here there is no greater authority of temptation of which they could buck against than the power of Nebuchadnezzar. But Nebuchadnezzar becomes a representation of any strength that we might face that would call our heart to worship anything other than God. And you know, the battle isn’t so much over the statue. Rather it what is taking place in the heart of Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego. They’re not the only Jews that are probably at this gathering. The story tells us they’re the only ones that didn’t bow. What would lead a heart to bow? What leads our heart to bow?
It’s not the statue itself, but maybe the temptation, the driving force that provokes our heart to bow. For Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, it could have been anything. Could have been they want to be ahead in the popularity contest, right? They feel the peer pressure. I mean for us culturally today, what might cause her heart to bow is we give in to certain things that we know aren’t healthy for us because of of sadness, loneliness, depression, anger, stress.
Nebuchadnezzar becomes a picture of some sort of strength that influences our heart to bow to whatever the cultural statue is that you face on Monday. When you read the story of Daniel, and we’ve seen this together, Daniel 1:10 you remember how this story unfolds. Daniel and his friends carried up from Jerusalem or the southern tribes of Judah into Babylon. And they’re given all of the great things from the king. Education, servants, clothes, food. And Daniel says, I’m not eating the food. He’d already resolved, chapter one verse nine, “Resolved in his heart to honor God in the midst of any circumstance he faced.” And so he’s, “I’m not eating the food. The food will defile me. I have certain laws I follow as a Jew, I’m not eating it.
And then in verse 10 the one that was told to help take care of Daniel, when Daniel says he’s not eating the food, and he responds, and it says this in verse 10, “The commander of the officials said to Daniel, I’m afraid of the king.” Meaning the reason that I mindlessly come before the statue and I bow is because the thing I revere in my life is the king. The king dictates what I do. However, in the story in chapter three, these three individuals, these Jews, they don’t bow. Why? Well, for the same reason. They fear the king. But in this story it’s not the King Nebuchadnezzar. Rather the Lord who is King.
In Acts chapter five there’s this story that unfolds of the early churches, they are going around and sharing about Christ. And in the story in chapter five they all acknowledged that even then, there are certain things in which they’re commanded to bow to. Certain statues in their life and they refused. And Peter sort of lays it out like this, he says in verse 29, “But Peter said that Peter and the apostles answered as they’re talking to the leaders, the rulers,” they say this, “We must obey God rather than men.” And so there is this battle for our hearts as to what takes authority in our lives. And I just want to throw out the thought that the theme of Daniel three, Daniel one, two and three for us, is really circulating over the idea of fear.
What do you fear? The king of Babylon or the Lord. The reason one compromises and the other one doesn’t in this story is fear. Well, what exactly does fear mean? Because anytime you talk about fear, I find it becomes a very contentious word. For me especially, because when I talk about fear, I just want to tell you guys and puff out my chest and say I ain’t afraid of nothin’. Right? And if you don’t believe me, I’m just kidding. I want to talk a bit game. When you talk about I not afraid. You know who I am? Man, I’m a New England Patriots fan about the kill the Denver Broncos today. You can not stop it. No fear. What does it mean to fear the Lord then?
What is the Bible talking about when it says fear? And then when you consider certain scriptures that relates to fear. Proverbs 9:10 says this, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Oh man, that kind of puts me in a difficult position because I ain’t afraid of nothing, but it says here, if I don’t fear the Lord, then I’m an idiot. Right? I mean fear the Lord is wisdom. I don’t want to be dumb. And then when you consider other passages of scripture as it relates to fear, what is it talking about? Looking at Psalm 40:3, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and will trust in the Lord.”
I love my wife and sometimes in our relationship, a new song comes out, a new whatever love song. I love to just grab her and force her to dance with me as I play whatever song off iTunes on my phone. And she tries to run away and I will not let her, but the love song provokes you to sing, right? “I can be your hero.” Love inspires my heart to sing. But it’s saying in this passage, Psalm 40:3, that this individual singing on the backdrop of the fear of the Lord. I have never sung a song because I’m afraid. Maybe like some kind of Boogie man song while I’m walking, “Please don’t hurt me, please…” Something like that. But I’m not singing any song of praise out of fear. And then it says in Psalm 130:4, “But there is forgiveness with you that you may be feared. “That is insane to me.
You think about this. I fear you because you forgive me? What about like this? I fear you because you don’t forgive me, right? What are you going to do? So when it talks about fear in scripture, there might be maybe just a misunderstanding or miscommunication in my mind is exactly what God is saying to us about what fear of the Lord means and what’s happening in the life of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is you consider the fear of these individuals have over Nebuchadnezzar versus the fear, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego express towards their gods. So what does fear mean? Because I think it’s the fear of the Lord that led them in this decision to pursue, to honor God in the midst of a circumstance that isolated them from the rest of the culture. What does fear mean?
When you consider fear in the context of these verses that I shared, I think there’s multiple verses I could have used it. I think it’s worth acknowledging that when we talk about fear of the Lord, it’s dealing in connection to relationship with him. I mean forgiveness. Psalm 130:4, forgiveness deals with relationship and the fear of the Lord. There’s something about the phrasing of the fear with forgiveness that connects to God in relationships. So, so how do you tie those thoughts? When you start talking about fear and connection to relationships, I don’t think that fear necessitates that you are scared of. Because someone that forgives me, I’m not necessarily afraid of them. So what does fear mean?
When you consider the word “fear” scripturally, it carries the overtones of awe, respect, revere. It’s this knowledge in your heart that there is something that you are honoring above all else. This reverence place forth in your life. So when we talk about fear, it’s not saying, “afraid of,” though being afraid could be a reaction of why you choose to bow to something. As they did to King Nebuchadnezzar. But when it talks about fear of the Lord, I think there’s this awe and reverence and respect that protrudes from God’s people.
So when you consider what the fear of the Lord is, I think the fear of the Lord for us, because it deals with relationship, because it deals with awe and respect. The fear of the Lord is this overwhelming sensation of the soul to respond to God because of who he is. So when you consider the songs of praise, Psalm 40:3. When you consider Psalm 130. And both of these songs, these individuals are acknowledging a gloriously powerful God. One in which their soul cannot even begin to comprehend or fathom the magnitude of his strength, his grace, his mercy, his authority, his justice. And in all of that, God, there is this reverence from the soul that sings forth praise and stands in awe of forgiveness.
The only way to acknowledge that overwhelming power is just to be in fear. To revere. I’ve often compared it to my life at a time when I was, the fear of the Lord at a time in my life when I was a young guy living on the Gulf of Mexico. In high school, ninth grade. I remember, that year there was a series of hurricanes that came through that area. It’s called Hurricane Alley for a reason, right? A series of hurricanes came through the area and one particular hurricane that came through that year, the eye of the hurricane passed right over our city. And I remember, in seeing this hurricane, my dad was and is still is an adrenaline junkie. He’ll do things I wouldn’t., He doesn’t fear anything. I fear things in comparison, but he does things that are crazy.
And one is, you put your 15 year old son in a Camaro and you drive in the middle of a hurricane around town just to see what happens. And I remember going around town and trees were just blowing down everywhere. And finally he gets a little concerned, probably more for me than him and drives back. And we stopped at the house and we’d go inside and we hunkered down for the rest of the hurricane. And we know the backside of a hurricane’s worse than the front side anyway. And we’re right through the middle of this thing. And at the time, we didn’t know the eye of the hurricane was going to pass over town, but the power of this hurricane was incredible. Incredible. And I remember we’re sitting inside or listening to this, we’re staying away from the windows and all of a sudden just eerie calmness.
What in the world happened? Like you think, in my mind, if you go through a hurricane, it should take some time for the storm to dissipate. Like slowly the wind goes down, not just abruptly, just end. And then I go outside just to see, and I remember looking down the street and seeing trees fallen on neighbors garages and limbs down everywhere and just a mess. But you look up at the sky and it’s blue as could be, there’s not a cloud in the air. Sun Is just radiating in all of its glory. Beautiful. But, but one of the things I started to notice as I’m sitting in the midst of this beautiful moment is there’s birds everywhere. What in the world’s going on? Go back inside to tell my family, this is insane. This hurricane just disappears. Like God removed it. And you go inside and you turn on the TV and you find out you are right in the middle of the eye.
The calmest place in the storm is in the middle of the eye. And the reason there’s so many birds there, is because the birds know that if they try to outrun the storm, they could lose their life in the battle. The storm will beat them to death. But if they fly straight into the eye of the storm, they will find protection in the solace of that authority and power. You could just sit in those moments and just stand in awe. I did it for like 30 minutes. Unbelievable. I think it’s the picture that Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego are creating here of their God.
Fear the Lord. His strength is unimaginable. And so is his forgiveness. And you can fight against it all day long, but you’ll lose. But he calls you to him to His grace and forgiveness. So while his power may be overwhelming, his justice, his grace is just as equally freeing. In the middle of the storm, rhere’s protection for his people. When calling on the name of God, as we think about the fear of the Lord, it’s not to run from him, afraid. But go into the eye of the storm, find yourself protected in his wings. Like Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego, verses 16-17, “King, we will not bow to your statue, but rather we recognize our God can save us. And even if he does not, we choose him. Because what governs their heart is the fear of the Lord.
I think within our culture today, what does that look like? I’m not saying go around and be a punk for the sake of being a punk and then use Jesus’s name as a cover up. 1 Timothy 2, Paul said this to Timothy, “First of all, I urge you that the entreaties and prayers and petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” We want to pray, that God uses his influence upon the leaders to give us the freedom to follow God as we desire. It’s not always the case. And you may not always like your king. But God’s got you in a place to make a difference, right?
And so Paul is saying to Timothy, we’re not going out here just to be a group of people that people don’t like, but rather want to influence the culture. So he’s saying, listen, pray and petition with thanksgiving be made for all men, for the kings and all on authority. So you may lead a tranquil and quiet life and godliness and dignity. Then he tells us why. He says this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, our Savior. So this is pleasing the Lord and they says, who desires for all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth? So God’s got a plan. He’s working it out in history and in the midst of darkness, he’s calling people to him. You are the light that he’s created in this moment to stand for God, to allow your heart to revere and fear him above all else.
Then the results. What lead your heart? Verse 23 then shows the results of this story, because this narrative again is supposed to be an encouragement to us in our pursuit of God. And I like what it does here in verse 23 of Daniel because he slows down the narrative. He’s kind of telling the story, telling the story, and he’s like, let me just pause here and just show you how impactful this was. And I’m going to let you see this narrative unfold through the eyes of the king. And I want you to know when we talk about Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, yes, at this point, they’ve been placed to a position of prominence within society. But remember who they were? Slaves. They were slaves, drug off, in exile from their hometown into Babylon. Whatever the king wanted to do with them, they were subject to this. They were nobodies. And so when you consider what God can do through you in this world, if he can use a group of teenagers that were conquered by another civilization, in a civilization of which they do not belong to, to make a difference, God can use you.
So he slows this narrative down and he shares it through the eyes of the king. And so it says in verse 23 and 24, Then Nebuchadnezzar, the king was astounded and stood up in haste. They threw them into the fire. The king sees this, he’s astounded and stands up in haste. He said to his high officials, was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire? And they replied to the king, certainly oh king. And he said, look, I see four men loose and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm and the appearance of the fourth is like the son of the gods. And then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door, the furnace of the blazing fire and he responded and said, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego come out. You’re servants of the most high God and come here. Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the midst of the fire.
Through the eyes of the king, you learn that shows up in the midst of the darkness. Now, some people argue, who was this fourth person that came in the story, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Some say it’s a Christophany or an appearance of Christ before Christ becomes flesh. I don’t think there’s enough in the text to prove otherwise or any different. It could be an angelic being, it could be Christ. I don’t know. Pick what you want. It doesn’t matter, but, but God shows up. Okay? God shows up. However God wants to work here, God shows up. In the midst of the darkness. They choose not to bow their heart. God is there.
What does this mean? You see that in the theme of the story. It ends there encouraging God’s people. That’s the narrative. That’s the context of Daniel chapter three. The beauty of this story is that the church continued to refer back to this as an illustration of what our lives represent before God. And so I want you to think about the story for a minute, and if you want, you can look in Revelation chapter 17. Because I want to show you how God uses Babylon as a theme that continues to be painted, so that God now takes the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and what happens in Babylon and makes their story your story. And it starts to unfold in Revelation. When you get to Revelation 17:4, it starts to describe a woman. And this is what it says about her. It says, the woman was dressed in purple and scarlet and was glittering with gold like a beautiful 90 foot statue, right? Precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things, and the filth of her adulteries. The name written on her forehead was a mystery. Look at this name, Babylon, the great. Mother of prostitutes.
Here we find in Revelation, John referring back to Babylon. Why? Babylon has been destroyed for hundreds of years, We’re a handful of civilizations passed them. The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans. Why talk about Babylon? Babylon becomes an illustration of what God’s people have experienced throughout history.
In fact, when you go on and continue to read in Revelation, you get to 17 and verse nine it talks about this woman sitting on a city of seven hills. And during the time that John’s writing this, the city that sat on seven hills, that ruled was Rome. So now for God’s people in this story, Rome becomes an illustration of Babylon and calling people to bow. And so just like Daniel’s story, John is using this to encourage God’s people in his century to then encourage us as God’s people in this century about what Babylon represents. As you think in the story of Babylon as it unfolds, all this pressure coming from Nebuchadnezzar on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow to this god. At any moment Babylon could crush God’s people. And you look at the story of the early church as it unfolds in history, that at any moment, Rome could have crushed God’s people. They’re going to ask the question, “God, where are you?” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego asking the question, Lord, where are you? John in his day seeing what’s happening to the church? God, where are you? Your people are being crushed.
Maybe you ask the question of adversity. God, where are you? You get to chapter 18. As John turns around, scripture start to unfold of what’s going to happen through the strength of Babylon. It says this, “After these things, I saw another angel coming down from heaven having great authority. And the Earth was eliminated with his glory. This angel cried with a mighty voice saying, fallen, fallen is Babylon the great.” What John hears in Revelation chapter 18 is a funeral dirge. A song of God’s saints, being sung at the destruction of Babylon.
When you start to look at the context of Revelation chapter 17 to chapter 21, you see within the context of this story, two cities being told about. It’s the tale of two cities and two women being represented within the context of the tale of these two cities. In revelation 21, this is what it says, “Then I saw, after the destruction of Babylon, I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea, and I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride, beautifully dressed for her husband. There was the prostitute of Babylon and the bride of God’s people.
The beauty of the story is that starts to tell about these two cities is if you read further in chapter 21 it starts to describe the beauty of this new heaven. In Revelation chapter 17 you see the great prostitute of Babylon wearing gold and pearl and drinking from a golden cop and beautifully adorned. Here in this story you see in Chapter 21 God’s people, the bride and heaven coming down and the streets laid with gold. Rather than the prostitute wearing the ornate figures to attract people to pursue it, you see, the glory of heaven being made known in the streets of gold and the gates of pearls. The story of Babylon continues to be told. Why? Because it’s your story too.
When you see how Babylon unfolds in the history of scripture, what you find is that within the city that will fall, that is Babylon, there is a story being written of another city. On that as a rock that will crush Babylon. You see within the context of this story, this call to bow to the images of Babylon. The story becomes a reflection of you. Will your heart stand for God. Or Babylon, the prostitute? You know, when I read a phrase like that or just pose that question, here becomes my fear in saying it, is that the story of Daniel and his friends and bowing to statue was a very bold moment. There was this moment where they were called to rise and they rose, right? A very defining place. But I think it’s important to recognize that the decision in that moment to stay in a, in such adversity didn’t begin in that moment.
It began way back in chapter one. When they resolved in their heart and they first started to fight the smaller battles of society. What I mean is this, being people that make a difference in life may not lead us to a place where we stand before a statue and have a decision to bow. But I think the battles that we win begin first with an attitude of complacency. Of indifference, tolerance, sweeping under a rug. I’ve half dabbling with the world, half dabbling with Jesus. I’m not looking to walk out of this facility and gathering as God’s people as his church and saying, okay, where is this giant statue? I want to just declare, I’m not going to bow but rather recognize in my life there are going to be many, mini idols. Many, mini idols, of which beg at my heart.
What do I fear? I think sometimes it’s far easier to stand against the big statue. Such a defining place. What about in the quietness of my life? What about when no one else is watching? What then? I think the only thing that drives our heart in those moments is the fear of the Lord. The message of God through Daniel’s friends: don’t bow. The message and revelation to John in the early church: don’t bow. God’s able. The message to you: don’t bow. The reason: Don’t bow to Babylon, because Babylon is going to bow to God. Don’t live for those things that won’t matter. But let your heart walk in the fear of the Lord. It is overwhelming.s