Now on this subject we’re given the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
King Nebuchadnezzar had set up a golden image, probably of the chief Babylonian god Marduk. He ordered his government to come and worship the image. For the Jews, though, this was a big problem thanks to Commandments One and Two.
Exodus 20:3-5a “You must not have any other gods against my face. 4 You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion…”
This exclusive devotion made the Jews unique among the ancient nations in that they were the only ones who could not worship foreign gods. Babylonians had no problem giving worship to Jehovah in addition to their own gods but Jews could worship only Jehovah.
Unfortunately, the punishment for not worshipping Nebuchadnezzar’s image was death by fiery furnace. For the longest time, i.e., until I prepared this talk, I thought that Nebuchadnezzar had a special furnace just for throwing people into. As if he’d gone down B&Q: “Yes, I’d like a fiery furnace. No, a big one.” In reality, it was probably a furnace used for making bricks and horrific death was just a bonus feature. Anyway, we know how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego responded:
Daniel 3:18 “…let it become known to you, O king, that your gods are not the ones we are serving, and the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.” ”
But no-one will throw us in a fiery furnace for being a practising Christian. It’s not an immediate matter of life and death. If false worshippers don’t treat religion as all that important, will that apathy rub off on us?
In our increasingly secular society, the question ‘who is your god’ doesn’t really matter to many. Will that apathy rub off on us?
A religious commenter wrote: “The greatest development in modern religion is not a religion at all—it’s an attitude best described as ‘apatheism’ … a disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion.”  Will that apathy, that apatheism, rub off on us?
It could, but I’m sure we don’t want it to.
Is apathy a quality you’d use to describe the response of the three Hebrews? Do you think there was any question in their mind when the issue of exclusive devotion came up? Do you think they wondered: “guys, where exactly do we stand on this?” No, because their lives were clearly centred on Jehovah. They must have kept him close in mind continually. They were spiritually minded and proud to be His servants. So when their faith was tested, they didn’t have to think. They knew: “the image of gold that you have set up we will not worship.”
Just like the apostles in Jerusalem: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
We too can fight apathy by being spiritually minded and proud of our identity. How do we do that? One religious magazine  listed the following:
- Continually reaffirm your relationship with God
- Prove Bible truth to yourself
- Seek to please God, not man
- Make your Christian identity known
- Cherish your spiritual heritage
- Immerse yourself in Christian activities
When we do these things, we will be able to respond definitely and without hesitation, like the three Hebrews would have, to the question ‘who is your god?’