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Evan Earwicker: A Better Way In Babylon, Daniel 3:8-38

July 11, 2022

Audio Recording

We will fall into the trap of Babylon if we declare the supremacy of God without the self-sacrifice and love for our enemies that Jesus demonstrated on the cross.

Evan Earwicker: A Better Way In Babylon, Daniel 3:8-38

Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. If you're new to Westside, if you're, if you're kind of checking us out, I wanna let you know, kind of some of our values here. You know, we're constantly asking a question and this is not the question. how can we win the culture at war? we're also not asking the question, how can we grow a giant church? And let's just fill up this room in all of our rooms and, and have the biggest church in town. We're not trying to do that. The question we're asking is how can we embody and walk out and live the way of Jesus? How can we take the ethic, the ethos of Jesus, and actually make it our own and walking away like he did so that we can see what he saw, which was redemption in mercy.

00:47 The kingdom he came to set up, we are told in the pages of the new Testament was one of righteousness, peace and joy by the holy spirit. And so all of our efforts should represent and result in those three things happening, wherever we go, righteousness, peace and joy. And sometimes it is difficult for us in our modern first world, Western society to embrace this lens, this idea of seeing God and humanity and the story that got us riding through the lens of an exile. for most of us, we are home. And so it can be difficult to understand the context in which these stories that we've heard so many times were written. And one of the reasons it's difficult is because in our society and many Western societies, we have a layer of civic religion that is on top of all of our institutions, in Europe, many times, still to this day, if there's a coronation of a king or a queen, where do they do that?

01:44 They do that in a church and it's usually a Christian Church. And for us in America, we have on our money written on the back in who we trust in God. And we assume that that's a ju Christian God, you know, I, I've never heard anyone ask like now, which, which God are we trusting in? You know, is this, is this day gone? God of the Philistines, no, one's asking that cuz it's assumed. And so for all the, the maybe good that comes with that idea of, of this layer of civic religion, what it can do is it can Lu us into a sense of thinking that that's all we need. And the truth is that following Jesus has very little to do with embracing a civic, religion, following Jesus, costs a lot more following Jesus stands out a lot more in the society that we live in following Jesus involves things like love for enemies that just isn't really included in our allegiance to a civic religion.

02:40 And so part of embracing the way of Jesus is to understand the obstacles that stand in our way to understand what that way really is. And that's what we're gonna kind of go into today. in the book of Daniel, we're gonna be in Daniel chapter three, we've been talking primarily about the Babylonian exile. It happened in 5 86 BC when the, Babylons came, they invaded Judah destroyed the capital. and they took off, to Babylon with hundreds or thousands of the best and brightest young people. And not just young people, but especially young people, taken from Judah into Babylon. And in this group, there was these four guys that were part of the, the palace court, that Royal connections. They were well educated. They were very intelligent. and so they were kind of a prize of Babylon. And so often to Babylon go Daniel and three of his friends, I wanna read their names correctly, Hannah and IA Mishael and a Zaria L and Azari.

03:36 So these four are part of the group that are taken away from their homes by force and resettled in Babylon, scriptures. would've been taught to these guys in Judah before they were taken into captivity. They would've grown up, as literate, you know, educated young men learning the Hebrew Bible and one of the passages they, they for sure would have learned if not memorized. Would've been written 150 years before by the prophet, Isaiah. And here's what Isaiah said in, in Isaiah 43. And, and I want you to kind of put yourself in the position of these young guys growing up in Judah, around the palace. They're, they're learning, they're being tutored and they're learning, passages from the prophet, Isaiah like this one, when you pass through the waters, Isaiah says, I will be with you. And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.

04:27 When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The flames will not set you a blaze, do not be afraid for, I am with you. So as they learned these scriptures, surely they would've come to mind as the Babylonians swept into the city, besieged it, and eventually carried them off as plunder of war. They would've had these scriptures ringing in their ears. I want you to remember that. Well, we get to Daniel chapter three, these guys, who there was no guarantee that Babylon would treat them well. And yet they begin to thrive in Babylon. As we learned over the last couple of weeks, the prophet Jeremiah speaks to the exiles and he says, you know, instead of fighting and protesting, here's what I want you to do. I want you to pray for the piece of the place that you've been taken to.

05:15 I want you to settle in. I want you to plant gardens. I want you to get married. I want you to multiply don't don't, wither and die off, actually thrive in exile. And so these guys take on that ethic and they begin to rise in the ranks of the Babylonian empire until finally they become these very powerful, influential figures in the Babylonian government structure. And with this they're given new jobs, new culture and also new Babylonian names. You might recognize their names. They go from Hannah and I Misha and Azari, and they become Shadrock Meshack and Abednego. So Daniel chapter three, we get to this story where the king ne Kezer sets up this giant golden idol, this giant golden statue on the plane, on the edge of the kingdom, so that anyone coming into the kingdom would see the greatness and the power and the spirit of Babylon.

06:06 And he calls all his officials and all the Royals and all the, the people of influence to come to this idol set up on the plane. And he commands that as they play the music that they're gonna, require everybody present to fall down and worship the image of Babylon. Now, Babylon is a pluralistic society, many gods, and much like the Greco Roman world that Jesus was born into. They were actually pretty cool with worshiping the God of the Israelites yawe they were fine with that, as long as it wasn't exclusive. So yeah, go off and do your rituals and have your feast and worship that God whom you serve. That's fine. But please, please, please do not make that an exclusive thing where you say that're God is the only guy cuz if you do that, we're gonna have to kill you. And so this is, this is the, the, the environment in empires that the God of the Jews faces.

07:05 We're cool with you, but please don't say you're the only one on the block, cuz we're not cool with that. And likewise, we live in a pluralistic society where maybe people are cool with our faith in Jesus, but please, please don't go around saying that Jesus is the only thing on the block. And so we have also, American gods and sure other religions, you know, we can name religious gods that are named, but also we have these isms, like humanism, individualism entertainment. I didn't yeah, politics, consumerism, sexuality technology. And we could stand here and I could ask for for more and we could go on and on and on and fill page after page of the things that are lifted up and required of us to worship. And so we stand in this place in modern day, Western society in a pluralistic society where we are expected to be tolerant of all views and all, all things.

08:14 And not only be tolerant, but hold off from saying things like, oh God is the only God. So when this image in Babylon is raised, it represents the spirit of Babylon, the spirit of Babylon. And so these guys, Shara, Meshach and Abednego, they have done what Jeremiah has asked. They've settled in they've, planted gardens, metaphorically they've they've, they've embraced praying for the Shalom, the piece of the place that they've been taken to. But then they get to this point where the king says you, now you need to worship the spirit of Babylon. And these guys say, this is a line we cannot cross. And so quite literally, as everyone bows to worship, they stand out, they stand out. And I wanna tell you this, that, that Christianity practice in this ancient way should stand out today, much as it stood out in Babylon. So many years ago that when our, our faith no longer stands out, that maybe it's not the same faith as we read about in these stories, that faith should still stand out in societies like ours.

09:18 Even when we have in God, we trust on the back of our money. Listen, following Jesus beyond a, some kind of civic, religion will always stand out and seem like a radical choice. And this has been the way from the beginning of the church, because, from the very beginning of the, of the church, a yes to following Jesus has always meant a no to other gods and other Kings. When the early church declares Jesus' Lord, they were also saying Cesar is not. And it wasn't this that got them in trouble. It was what it meant that Cesar was not. And this is always what will make Christianity so subversive and so dangerous in any pluralistic society. Not when we say we believe in Jesus, we follow Jesus. But when we say, and that means that we are saying no to lesser isms and lesser gods, and it's that mechanism that should still shake the status quo even today in 2022, this stirs up a lot of trouble for the elite church.

10:13 And it creates problems for Shadrock Meach and Bendigo as well. So as they're standing and everyone else is worshiping some of the other King's advisors, they see this is happening. They're like, this is great. We can tat on them and then maybe the king will get rid of them and then we'll take their spots. This is cool. So they go and they tell on Shara shack and Bendigo to the king and the king is furious. So he call SHA me shack and Bendigo. And he says, I'll give you one more shot. We'll play the music and you can bow. But if you don't bow what God will be able to rescue from my power. And I love their response to the king. I can read this it. So shed rack Meach and Bengo replied ohne Neer. We do not need to defend ourselves before you, if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us.

11:02 He will rescue us from your power, your majesty, but even if he doesn't, we want to make clear to you your majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up. I love this attitude that says we have confidence that our faith in God is well placed. We have a confidence that God will do what we believe. He said in Isaiah chapter 43, that though we walk through the fire, it will not burn us for, he is with us. We have confidence in that, but even if he doesn't come through king, you gotta know, we will go to our deaths believing in trusting in the God of the Israelites of these relies. And it's this. Even if he doesn't kind of attitude that I'm assuming really got under an ezer skin, because at this point he flies into a rage and he says, heat the furnace up seven times hotter.

11:54 I don't know how they measured that. You know, like the guard's like, oh, okay, sure. Throw some more coal. Is it seven times? Yeah, sure. Yeah. Okay. But it's hot enough. We, we read in the story that those who end up throwing Shara Meshack and have Bendigo in the fire, they die themselves because the great heat from this furnace, and I have to believe that Shara Meach and Bendigo in this moment, would've remembered those words from Isaiah 43. Even if there's being bound and carried over to this furnace that they walk through the fire, they won't be burned. And you know, I, I read that again, as I was preparing for this message and something stood out to me in Isaiah chapter 43, in that passage we read, and it was this, this very simple thing. How in Isaiah, I'm gonna find Isaiah. Eventually it's in here somewhere in Isaiah 43.

12:51 He says, when you walk through the rivers, they're not gonna overrun you. When you walk through the fire, it's not gonna burn. You see that's, that's present tense. That's a promise for tomorrow. When, when trouble comes tomorrow, it's gonna be okay. But then in, in that verse five, he says, do not be afraid for, I am with you. What tense is that it's present tense. And so what I take from that, and I, I, I I'm, I'm maybe projecting onto them, but maybe what they took from that was that someday when the fire comes, he's gonna be there. But in the meantime, he's with me now.

13:32 And as the story goes, the furnace is hot. The guys are thrown in. The furnace is representing their deaths. And then Neer says this didn't we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace. Yes, your majesty. We certainly did. They replied look, Neer shouted. I see four men Unbound walking around in the fire unharmed in the fourth, looks like a son of the gods. You know, what I wanna propose to you is that this appearance of this fourth, man, this, this representation of the presence of God, I would even propose Jesus himself, showing up to rescue them in fire. I would propose that he didn't show up. As soon as the furnace got turned up, I would propose that he didn't show up. When they decided to stand up. I would propose that the fire only revealed what had been true from the very beginning when these guys were growing up in Judah, before the Babylonians even invaded, which was that God was with them every moment of the way.

14:32 And here's, what's so encouraging to me cuz see, we get into these places where life gets hard and life gets difficult and we walk through some stuff and we're facing down some fires. And, and I know we, we, we talk, we talk church and I know life can be so hard. It can break your heart. And in those moments, sometimes you look on the years and you feel like man, I, I screwed up back then or, or I missed it then or if we had caught it earlier or if, if you know, fill in the blank, we look back on the past with regret and we think where was he? Then I'm telling you, God, doesn't just show up in the moment of your greatest need. Maybe he's been there the whole time. And that means that he can redeem from the beginning. What feels like the end now, because he's not going to be with you only.

15:15 He is with you declares the Lord in Isaiah 43 all the way through, not a day, man. I'm just, I'm thinking of these guys as the Babylonians, besiege, the city, as they come in, as they they're carried off all, all the fears, all the regrets. If only if only if only I will be with you declares the Lord and these guys stand up and they, they are fully aware of the cost of their faith and who cost is it? Who incurs the cost of these guys standing up and facing down the most powerful man in the most powerful empire on the planet who encouraged the cost? Well, they do. They do. You know, and it's interesting if, if my stand for my faith and my refusal to compromise and me drawing a line and not crossing it because of what I believe. If that costs everybody, except me, I'm doing it wrong.

16:15 When we follow Jesus in the way of Jesus, like Jesus is gonna cost us something. This is the kind of stand that we take. And so they're in the fire. The king sees this fourth man looks like the son of the gods. He says, so it says SHA Meshach and Bendigo stepped outta the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors and advisors crowded around them, saw the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was sinned and their clothing was not scorched. They didn't even smell of smoke. And then ne Kezer said praise to the God of Shara Meshach and a Bendigo. He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the King's command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any God except their own God. And at this point I'm like, yes, Neer, you're getting it.

17:04 You're turning into such a, a generous benevolent king. You've come around. It's all gonna be good because of the kindness. Now that is in your heart. And then he says this, therefore I make this decree. If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shara mesh in a bongo, they will be torn limb from limb and their houses will be turned into rubble. Yikes, man, I have such high hopes for you, NB and then ne like, and not only will you be torn Lynn from li we're gonna destroy your house. Just, just to, you know, the overkill, the effect. Oh, never a kidnapper. Here's the thing the king does. What the king does empires do? What empires do societies built on isms? Do what society's built on isms do, cuz he ne Kezer looks into this furnace and he sees a power he's never seen before.

18:00 He recognizes the power of sh the God of Shara Meshach in a minute go. And he says, I could co-op that for Babylon man, that that kind of display of power would look really good on the battlefield. That kind of miraculous happening, man. I could use that in the expansion of my empire and my kingdom. And so NEBA, Kezer like he's done so many times before when he invades other countries, he says, I'm gonna collect the gods and collect the powers and collect the cultures of those I conquer. And this one will be great too. So he begins to try to co-op at the edge of a sword or whatever you use to rip limbs from limbs. Thank you.

18:48 He tries to co-op the power of God. It's interesting that he does this right after, the son of man, the son of God is revealed in the fire. He immediately does what he's always done, which is used power and violence to co-opt this new miraculous thing he's seen. There's gotta be a better way. There's gotta be a better way. When we assume that the tools of empires would look good on the church, there's gotta be a better way than us using the same tactics of empires and modern societies. Even the tactics of power, fear, and violence. There's gotta be a better way than we us deciding. And it's a grave air. When we decide the power and fear and violence are acceptable tools for establishing God's kingdom, there's gotta be a better way. And we see another moment when the, the son of God is revealed in John chapter 14, Jesus is sitting with his disciples at the last supper.

19:54 The disciples are asking how they can see God, how they can see the father and trying to make sense of who this guy Jesus is that they've been with their friend, their teacher, their rabbi, but they don't, they don't really understand like, are you really something different? They're trying to make sense of it all. And then it's, then that Jesus performs, performs this really bold self reveal. He makes a declaration that was subversive then, and it's subversive. Now. He says, I am the way the truth and the life, no one can come to the father except through me. And then he goes on and says, and if anyone, if you speak a word against me, you'll be torn limb from limb. And your houses turned into rubble. , that's a different Jesus of course not is not.

20:41 He says this. He makes this declaration. And then he pours wine for his friends and he breaks bread. And he says, what am I'm about to do? You're not gonna understand for a while. But trust me is to self-sacrifice that my mission is made complete because the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom, for many Jesus makes this really bold declaration. That there's no other way, but him and then he stands up and he gives his life for his enemies. And if on the cross he would look down and he would say, father, forgive them. They don't even know what they're doing. What kind of king is this? It's a king. Like we've never seen because it's a kingdom. Like we've never seen this idea that that Jesus would come not to win, but to lose that the cost he would would incur would be on him and not on his enemies.

21:34 This is something that is so foreign and so weird and so different. And even today it is subversive and other worldly, you only get to make a stand against the falseness of lesser gods when you're fully willing and prepared to walk into the suffering. That's waiting to incur the cost of love to walk into the furnace of suffering. Like Jesus said in the garden moments after he declared this God not my will, but yours be done. There was a song we used to sing a few years back and it's, I'll, I'll try to get the words, right? Our God is greater. Our God is stronger. Our God is stronger and higher than any other. You get the gist. you know, I, I don't wanna sing that song if all we do is we sing that song, declare the supremacy, supremacy of God and walk out and act like every other kingdom on the earth.

22:35 I don't wanna declare that God is God above all other gods and, and everything about him. I don't wanna declare that if we are putting him in the same category as ne Kezer did, where he's just another, another tool in our political arsenal, another, another way to get what we want. We'll just coat our, our, our own selfishness in, some scriptures and some Bible and some Jesus. And that'll give us the moral high ground to grab on to whatever we desire in this life. I don't wanna declare that God is Supreme over other gods, unless we are willing to do what Jesus did right after he said these words, which is to go and to lay his life down for his enemies to lay our lives down and our rights down and our comforts down in an act of love. Yes, for our friends, but even more so importantly for those that hate us and that we see as our enemies.

23:31 And this is the, the difference, and this is the nuance. And by the way, if you're not into nuance and you're just like everything, like super clear cut and yell . And if it worked out of a megaphone or in an all caps post on social media, that's your jam. You're not gonna like this place. because when we talk about the way of Jesus, there's a lot of nuance and there's a lot of, of hard work of relationship and, and, and face to face loving and, and working through. And this is the way because we can't declare that Jesus is the only way and not become intolerant and full of bigotry, unless we are willing to follow him in loving our enemies and laying our lives down. And David French said this, any admonition that declares that we must rule should be checked with the immediate reminder that Christ did not. It is the cross, not the boardroom, not the oval office and not the box office. That is the absolute center of the kingdom of God, righteousness, peace and joy. That's something we can't force that threat of death. That's something that we can't force at the, the end of a, a, a, a, a sword or a gun. This is something that we have to model through. Self-sacrifice like, Jesus did,

24:53 You know, right after Jesus, made that declaration. He, he poured some wine for his friends. Could I get that bottle? I've got a wine bottle here, vintage 2020. That was a great year. That seems weird. Maybe for wine, it was got this bottle of wine. any guesses on how much this costs are you afraid to insult me? You're like, eh, you're like a $5 bottle kind of guy. $15, $20. So you're thinking, well with inflation, they double, the guesses are wrong, to find out the, the true cost of the wine. you shouldn't ask me, you shouldn't ask the store. You shouldn't even ask the vineyard that created this wine to know the true cost of the wine. You have to ask the grapes that went into it, because for them it cost everything. And so we stand at this. I, I, I believe it's a, it's a fork in the road for people of faith that we have to decide, what kind of Jesus will we serve? What kind of Jesus will we portray? What kind of way of Jesus will we walk in? Because a way of Jesus that costs everybody else, something, and not us doesn't have the ability to create something. The world is desperately looking for.

26:33 I believe this. And I want this for our church for west side and our extended family and community that we would be poured out as an offering in the community and the world around us, but that doesn't come without some crushing and some pressing and some giving and some loving John three 16 says it was because God so loved the world, not the God fearing world, not the Christian world. God so loved the world that he gave. And what did that son of God do after he was given, he was self sacrificed. He was allowed to be pressed and crushed and bruised and poured out. And then he invites us to do the same. And so this is really tough. I mean, it's easy to, to stand up here and preach about loving our enemies. And I think about all the people that, that maybe some of you think are enemies, and I don't agree with, and I'm like, you need to love them. But then I think about people that I think are enemies and I'm like, oh, I don't wanna love them. That's tough. Yeah, it's tough. But it's in doing this that we begin to stand out, maybe more than any other group in our society right now to stand up and say, we will display a self-sacrificial care and compassion and love and mercy for those who we disagree with, those who

28:00 See us as enemies, that will love like Jesus loved. And so Jesus, we invite, that, that way to invade our hearts and our minds, that we would follow you into the, the pressing and the crushing and the, the way of the cross that produces something wonderful and beautiful for a world around us. So I pray today. We might get maybe a little sense. I know in the middle of summer, it's a strange time to talk about the cost of following you. But today we get a little bit of a sense of that cost and that we would learn to love the world like you do in Jesus name.