Matthew 14:22-33 – How To Walk On Water

Jesus walks on water - Matthew 14

And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. Matthew 14:28, 29

Very early in that morning, Jesus’ disciples were in their little boat on the sea of Galilee. A strong, contrary wind whipped boisterous waves against them. There was almost something personal about this adverse gale.

A Joyous Multitude

It had been a remarkable day. Thousands had come to hear Jesus. The disciples felt honored to be associated with the wonderful Teacher. The crowds hung on his gracious words. His doctrines and manner of teaching were delightful. There was a thrilling challenge in his message that searched the depths of their hearts.

Every hearer had some notion of the kingdom hope and the part Israel was to play in it. Most were natural, even carnal, concepts, appealing to human pride; were they not the people of God? But Jesus’ kingdom was beautiful—the Lord’s hallowed presence enthroned in every heart.

Blessing Now, Blessing Later

The throng was hungry for His teachings. They forgot their hunger for food. But the disciples became aware of practicalities. They noticed the descending sun, and became uneasy. They interrupted Jesus, whispering that he should dismiss his audience.

Then followed an experience that would make their minds tingle on every future recollection. They became instruments in an amazing demonstration of power: one lad’s supper fed the multitude. What a climax to the day! They witnessed a portrayal of that blessed time when all human needs would be divinely satisfied and they would again be the instruments used of the Lord to convey blessings to mankind. They were learning to live with the power of God.

This is essential to the preparation of the future ministers of the kingdom. Each was a vessel of divine grace, a channel of divine love, an instrument through which the Lord would exhibit the glory of his power to give life abundant to whosoever will.

A Need for Quiet

Finally, the crowds dispersed, and Jesus was left alone with his disciples—but not before another wonderful moment occurred. The people were so elated by the experience that groups gathered, rallying the support of all. The disciples realized that the hopeful congregation wanted to proclaim Jesus their king!

Knowing the people’s intent, Jesus motioned to his disciples, climbing higher up the mountain trail to be alone with God. He longed for that future day when men would respond to divine love in a way more enduring than the fervor of that crowd.

Their Stormy Challenge

He told the apostles to proceed to Bethsaida, leaving him alone with his Father in prayer. The disciples in the midst of the sea, and Jesus on high with the Father, depicted the Gospel age night of weary toil for the Church.

It was hard for them. A hazardous storm had risen. They strained at the oars, their struggles seeming to avail nothing. Their Master’s presence seemed remote. For hours they toiled, the journey taking much longer than they had anticipated. They longed for the sight of dawn and the shoreline.

But Jesus knew. From his vantage point on high, he saw their plight. The watches of the night passed. In the fourth watch, they glimpsed a sight which frightened them. It was Jesus, but a Jesus they had yet to know. He was now demonstrating divine abilities.

Winds and waves threatened their ship;

               yet there was Jesus,

                                                     walking on that troubled water as though it was solid rock.

Consider their fear: Here was a being with superhuman power—power above that of the storm. Even earth’s gravity was impotent beneath his feet.

Our Stormy Challenges

This parallels the mighty power of One whose presence is now recognized by saints on earth. Can we comprehend the vast resources of divine power now available to our returned Lord? He is exercising in this earth’s atmosphere, in the midst of the storms that bring fear into human hearts, the power of the victor over sin, the conqueror of every evil force released on earth.

We do not cry out in fear, but let us shout in worship and praise to our returned King, no longer bound by flesh but glorious in majesty.

“Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously on behalf of truth and meekness and righteousness” (Psalm 45:3, 4).

The disciples feared because they glimpsed a being with powers of another world. This recognition of spirit realm was awesome. Blessed are our eyes that see beyond human sight to celestial glory. In awe we see that One who today stands here amidst the earthly scene.

We Learn from Peter

We were not with him on Galilee. We cannot feel the might of battering waves, the force of gale, the surrounding darkness. But our proxy was there, Peter. How we love his earnest heart!

In Peter we see ourselves. His lessons were enjoyed by saints throughout the age. Yet now, the lessons are for us. When Jesus and the disciples were united in the boat, the storm abated, the wind dropped, the sea became a great calm. Soon they reached the other shore.

The time of trouble will not end, nor the testing of the saints, until the last is gathered to be with the Lord. That is the dispensational message. There is also a personal message for each saint, pertaining to their walk this side of the veil. It has special meaning for us, in this time of the Master’s presence in the very midst of earth’s troubled scenes.

Peter was reassured by the Master’s voice,

Take courage. It is I! Do not be afraid!”

 What comfort we find in recognizing One who stands before us now endowed with wondrous powers. The earth hears and trembles; Zion hears and is glad. In the midst of so much disturbance, so many demonstrations of the powers of darkness, when all human existence on this earth is threatened, what comfort to our hearts to hear the voice of our Beloved saying,

Be not afraid. It is I!”

 Peter was stirred. He saw that Jesus’ powers could overcome all limitations of flesh. He glimpsed a higher realm. A blessed truth confronted him, and dear, impulsive Peter, wanted to taste that power divine.

Water-walking

The Lord created a scenario, teaching us what Peter sought to learn—how to walk on water.

When Jesus walked upon that sea, he was upheld by an invisible force superior to any power on earth. Here was faith in its fulness, faith-fulness that finds the rock on which to walk throughout life.

Peter asked, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

We should not presume, but meekly ask. The invitation comes from him, “Come. Follow me.”

Peter was not testing God. He was asking for the Master’s power to resist the downward force that gravitates the mind to earth. Peter wanted to experience the power of God.

It was an impulsive request. He had not learned that long-sighted vision which the Spirit would later endow. That Spirit recognizes that a heavenly purpose is working on a grand scale. It is our privilege to co-work with God toward that goal. And the Lord utilized Peter’s impulse to teach us lessons.

First we request the Lord’s help to follow him. He does not ask us to do the impossible. God makes ALL things possible.

We are called to walk in Jesus’ steps. How can we do that? He was holy; we are corrupt. Then Peter had to believe that if Jesus gave the word, Jesus had the power. Believe!

Step out of the rocking boat into the stormy sea.

The power is there. This means more than believing when comfortable, in good health. It means to put ALL our confidence and trust on Someone truly worthyto accept him as our TOTAL means of support.

PSALM 20, 7

Jesus walked on water with no visible support. Our visible support refers to job, home, health, family, friends, position, income, material possessions. We cannot depend on them for our peace of mind.

PSALM 118-8

Our Rocky Boats

Believing meant stepping out of the boat. Even a rocky boat is some means of support. Each human strength is like that rocky boat. Stepping out of the boat requires faith.

HEBREWS-11-1-6

Are we then at the mercy of the waves? No, we are abandoning the things that can be shaken and placing our feet on solid rock. Matthew 14:30 records the situation: “When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord save me! And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

No one can see what supports the child of faith through tribulation and weakness. But the visible effect of faith can be seenpeace, confidence, joy, at times when the world would expect utter dejection and expect us to sink!

The window of the heart opens to heaven when this body of death is locked in its prison.

PSALM 61, 1-2

The attitude of prayerful praise is the visible evidence of the rock of faith. The confining of the body quickens the spirit of perception that enjoys glorious liberty as God’s sons.

Paul, too, stepped out of a boat and walked on water: “Bonds and afflictions wait for me, but none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto me.” We look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are unseen. No overcomer cowers in the boat. How frightening, when poor Peter found himself sinking!

Our failures teach us deep and permanent lessons.

All saints experience boisterous winds and waves, dark and threatening contradictions to our faith.

Every step of walking on water is a test of faith.

PSALM 73-26

There is no retirement from the life of faith. As the years advance, we become like Enoch: this walk with the Lord becomes so absorbing to our mind that we do not see death, only the victorious Lord at the side of God’s throne, his voice ringing out, “Come!” This is the victory . . . your faith.”

At Golgotha, visible evidence indicated that Jesus had been abandoned. Yet that ultimate contradiction to his faith proved its very reality, faith FULL unto death. Faith is knowing our Father’s abiding faithfulness. We know he is there, he is for us, he knows every detail required to bring us to himself in the bond of perfect trust.

When Peter stepped out, he needed something more sure than the rocking ship made with human hands. He needed the most dependable power that exists. To reach for it, he needed faith that can let go, as surely as it can cling!

Reaching to Jesus

Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6, each add some precious detail. We read in Mark 6:48, that as the wonderful Master walked upon those waves, he seemed to be passing them by, proceeding towards the shore. It was this realization that spurred Peter on to request the Lord’s command to follow him.

Peter did not want the Lord to pass him by. He wanted to walk with Jesus. We do not want the Lord to pass us by. We cannot merely watch him from the uncertain safety of our storm-dashed ship.

We are not arm-chair saints.

Our faith is on trial NOW.

THIS is the hour to realize the power of total trust.

Why wait for that hour of tribulation when our ship may break on the rocks? The truth is staring at us today. Jesus defies that which is seen by natural sight. Contradictions are real. This body of humiliation contradicts the high aspirations of the new mind. It humiliates our pure desire for a holy life. Let our clay vessels manifest the miracle of God’s power.

2 COR. 4, 16

Everyone, not just the Lord’s people, eventually lose the things on which human security depends—health, strength, partner, friends. All have a coded date-stamp beyond which corruption will set in. How vital to our peace that we learn to walk on water NOW, before that evil day.

Then shall we know the triumph of faith that conquers the fury of every storm. Then shall we say:

Let the chill mists gather round me.
Let the lights of earth grow dim.
Leave me Jesus, only Jesus.
I am Satisfied with him.

*****

HEB. 10, 23

 

Acknowledgment

Br. Donald Holliday — for the above study.

*****

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Full Surrender – Hymns of Dawn No. 14

Full Surrender – Hymns of Dawn No. 14

Lyrics

1.
And can I yet delay
My little all to give?
To wean my soul from earth away
For Jesus to receive?

2.
Tho’ late, I all forsake;
My will, my all resign:
Gracious Redeemer, take, O take,
And seal me ever thine

3.
Come and possess me whole,
Nor hence again remove;
Settle and fix my wavering soul
With all thy weight of love.

4.
My one desire be this,
Thy love to fully know:
Nor seek I longer other bliss,
Or other good below.

5.
My life, my portion thou;
Thou all sufficient art:
My hope, my heavenly treasure, now
Enter, and keep my heart.

 

This Hymn’s History

AuthorCharles Wesley (1707-1788) was the original author of the lyrics to this hymn. The “Hymns of Dawn” Hymnal contains four of the original five verses of this Hymn (“Full Surrender,” No. 14), with some word modifications.

Composer — Unknow (in relation to the melody of “Full Surrender” (No. 14) in the “Hymns of Dawn.”

 

Bible Scriptures Associated With This Hymn

Psalm 37:4 (KJV) Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

John 6:38 (KJV)“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.

Psalm 40:8 (KJV)I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.

Romans 12:1-5 (KJV)“(1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (3) For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (4) For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: (5) So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”

Ephesians 4 (ESV)“(22) to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, (23) and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, (24) and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

The following words are from a “Reprint” (No. 1839-1840) from “The Original Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence:”

 

CONSOLATION

 

Trust in the Lord and do good: so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass; and he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him.”Psa. 37:3-7.

 

WHILE the Word of God abounds in precepts and admonitions, in warnings and instructions, and while it lifts high the standard of moral excellence—so high that in our weak and fallen condition we cannot attain unto it, and in our efforts to do so in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation we must of necessity encounter the wrath of all the powers of darkness strongly entrenched in the hearts of fallen fellow-men, this same blessed Word comes to the faithful children of God in the very midst of this battle of life with sweet and refreshing consolation [comfort, solace].

Consolation! What is it?

Oh, you who have never enlisted under the banner of the cross, you who have never made an honest endeavor to withstand the powers of darkness, to fight the good fight of faith, to stem the current of your own fallen nature’s tendencies, or to contend earnestly for truth and righteousness in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, what can you know of the sweets of divine consolation?

  • It is the balm for wounded spirits on the battle fields of time;
  • the cooling draught for fainting souls hard pressed by the relentless foe;
  • the soothing caress of a loving hand upon the fevered brow of a noble contender for truth and righteousness;
  • the gentle whisper of hope and courage when the heart and flesh begin to fail—

that is consolation, divine consolation, the only consolation that has any virtue of healing and refreshing in it.

 

But it is reserved only for those noble souls who are faithfully bearing the burden and heat of the day; while those who listlessly drift with the current of the world’s favor, and of the downward tendencies of the carnal nature, can never have an intimation of its sweetness.

 

It is to the faithful soldiers of the Lord that the above words of the Psalmist are addressed—to the persecuted, tempted and tried. Hear them, tempest-tossed and fainting souls: they were long ago penned by the Lord’s prophet for your edification—“Fret not thyself,” but “trust in the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”

How strong is the Lord, how wise and good! His promises have never failed to those that put their trust in him.

We may feel that our efforts to be good and to do good are very unproductive, and that the opposition from within and without is very strong; but it is when we are weakwhen we thus realize our own incompetencythat we may be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”

Let us endeavor to make straight paths for our feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, and then lay hold of the Lord’s strength to help us pursue our course in the narrow way of difficulty and trial. The fact that we are weak and lame does not separate us from the love and power of God; for “he knoweth our frame, he remembereth that we are dust.” He knows that we have the treasure of the new nature in earthen vessels, and therefore it is that, while we strive to overcome, we have his proffered sympathy and aid and the imputed righteousness of Christ for our all-sufficient covering.

 

Trust in the Lord and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land; and verily thou shalt be fed” (Psalm 37:3).

 

Our food and shelter will be sure: he will never leave nor forsake his own, but will make all things work together for good to them [Romans 8:28].

 

Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm 37:4).

 

This delight in the Lord is a still more advanced step in the Christian life. It is a blessed thing to learn to trust in the Lord; but it is when continued trust and responsive providences have ripened into personal acquaintance and fellowship with God that we learn to delight in him. Yes, it is when heart answers to heart, when pleading prayer brings recognized answers of peace, when the divine care and love are specially seen in the guidance of our way: in a word, when we come to feel that the Father and the Son have so clearly manifested themselves to us that we can recognize their abiding presence with us.

Ah! then it is that we begin to delight ourselves in the Lord.

Then, however dark may be the way, or however heavy may be the storm that rages about us, the balm of divine consolation is always there, so that the child of God, though often troubled on every side, is not distressed; though perplexed, he is never in despair; though cast down, he is not destroyed; and though persecuted, he is never forsaken.

To delight thus in the Lord is to have the affections centered in him; it is to have the heart in such sympathy with righteousness and truth as to see in God the fountain of all goodness and truth, the one altogether lovely.

The Psalmist expresses such an attitude of heart when, personifying our Lord Jesus, he said, “I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.” And again, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.” And again, when he says, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is….Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee….My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice. My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.”Psa. 63.

Such an experience springs only from the felt consolations of divine grace in times of sore and pressing need, and however great the afflictions or the trials of faith, patience and endurance that lead to such an acquaintance with God, there is great cause for rejoicing in them; for—

 

E’en sorrow, touched by heaven, grows bright
With more than rapture’s ray,
As darkness shows us worlds of light
We never saw by day.”

 

When the heart has been thus centered in God, it is its most natural impulse to commit its way to him. As one has beautifully expressed it—

 

“We’d rather walk in the dark with God
Than go alone in the light;
We’d rather walk by faith with him
Than go alone by sight.”

 

And how precious is the promise to those who thus learn to trust in the Lord and go on doing good, no matter how obstinate or fierce may be the persecution it may excite, and who delight in the Lord and confidently commit their way to his loving wisdom. Surely they shall have the desires of their heart, and no good thing will he withhold from them. Their fervent prayers avail much, and in his own good time their righteousness, however misrepresented and evil spoken of now, shall be brought forth as the light—clear, cloudless and widely manifest; and their judgment, the justice and righteousness of their hearts, as the noonday. And even while we remain here as aliens and foreigners in the enemy’s land, verily we shall be fed, both with the temporal bread and with the bread of heaven for our spiritual sustenance.

 

Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.”

 

But the Psalmist adds one more important word of counsel to the Lord’s beloved children. It is this—

 

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.”

 

Do not make the mistake of expecting him to give you the desires of your heart at the very instant of your request; to make your path peaceful, easy and pleasant as soon as you commit your way to him; and at once to bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday. He has not promised to do that. Time is necessary for the working out of his kind providences in our individual affairs; for God works on philosophical principles and for lasting and blessed results. So—

 

Hymns of Dawn No. 13 - lily-bsd.jpg

 

This waiting, under severe trial or affliction, will indeed be a blessing in disguise, if the soul be rightly exercised unto patience, endurance, faith, hope, meekness, long-suffering, kindness and true Christian fortitude. And it will be in the darkness of these waiting seasons that the blessed stars of hope will shine the brightest, and the bright Morning Star, the harbinger of day, will shed his beams into the deepest recesses of our hearts. “They that wait upon the Lord,” says the Prophet (Isa. 40:31), “shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.”

Blessed promises! and, to the praise of his abounding grace, his saints of the past and present all bear ample testimony of their fulfilment.

 

“Who need faint while such a river
Ever flows our thirst to assuage?
Grace, which, like the Lord, the giver,
Never fails from age to age.” 

 

Hymn Book Purchase

The Hymns Of Dawn (hymn book) can be purchased at:
The Chicago Bible Students Online Bookstore: https://chicagobible.org/product-category/books/page/4/
The Dawn Bible Students Association: http://www.dawnbible.com/dawnpub.htm

 

Acknowledgment & References

  • Br. Charles Taze Russell

pastor-russell-in-his-study.jpg

Br. Charles Russell—the founder of the Bible Students movement, who is the compiler of “Poems and Hymns of Millennial Dawn” which was published in Allegheny, Pa., in 1890. This Bible Students’ devotional originally contained a total of 151 poems and 333 hymns.

POEMS-AND-HYMNS-OF-MILLENNIAL-DAWN

Later on, the hymns from this book formed a basis for the hymnal titled “Hymns of Dawn” which was published by the Dawn Bible Students Association in East Rutherford, New Jersey (USA) and the 1999 edition contains a total of 361 hymns.

Hymns of Dawn.jpg

  • Harvest Truth Data Base
  • Hymnary.org

 

Further Reading

What Does Being Consecrated To The Lord Mean?
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/01/01/romans-121-what-does-being-consecrated-to-the-lord-mean/

How Is Your Zeal?
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/10/06/how-is-your-zeal/

NEHEMIAH 8:10 — The Joy of the Lord Is Your Strength
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/12/20/nehemiah-810-the-joy-of-the-lord-is-your-strength/

Are You In The Little Flock?
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/12/03/are-you-in-the-little-flock/

Worthy To Be Praised
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/05/15/worthy-to-be-praised/

SONG OF SOLOMON 2:1, 2, 16; 4:5 — The Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the Valleys. https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/12/15/song-of-solomon-21-2-16-45-the-rose-of-sharon-the-lily-of-the-valleys/

The Lord Is My Shepherd, (R.1396) — Reprints of the Original Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

 

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DANIEL 3:17 – Our God Whom We Serve Is Able To Deliver Us

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Our God, whom we serve, is able to deliver us.” Daniel 3:17

The King of Babylon – King Nebuchadnezzar

Probably twenty years elapsed after Daniel and his companions reached Babylon in captivity before the scenes of the lesson in Daniel Chapter 3 were enacted. Meantime Daniel had been raised to a very high position in the empire, as the King’s counselor, while his three Jewish companions—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednegohad been made magistrates in the provinces of Babylon. We know that their prosperity did not tend to make them careless of their duties and responsibilities toward God, for otherwise they would not have been able to stand the severe test recounted in this lesson, and which proved a great blessing to them because of their fidelity to the Lord.

King Nebuchadnezzar just before this had won some great victories over surrounding nations—Egypt, Syria, etc.—as he had previously done with Judah, and as the Lord had predicted in the dream which Daniel had interpreted for the King, which showed the Babylonian Empire as the golden head of earthly dominion. His great success no doubt had tended to feelings of pride and a desire for display. Yet these were probably not the only motives which led to the program of the great festival in honor of his victories, and the erection of the great image which all were commanded to worship.

With a view to unifying the Babylonian empire by unifying the religious views and worship of the various peoples under his sway, Nebuchadnezzar had a great feast arranged, of which the very center of attraction was the great image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Nebuchadnezzar's image

In Daniel 3:1 we read that this image, with its pedestal, was sixty cubits high (approximately 27 metres or 8 storeys high) and six cubits wide (approximately 2.7 metres wide). It was of gold, probably either made hollow or on a base of clay cement. It was located in the Plain of Dura, about the centre of the walled enclosure twenty-four miles square, known as the city of Babylon. As it is a level country, and as the structures were comparatively low, the image could probably be seen from every part of the great city.

The Festival

The appointed time for the festival having come, leading representatives, judges, treasurers, governors, sheriffs, etc., from all the divisions of the empire, clad in the gorgeous garments of the East, were present. A great band had been prepared, composed of all the musical instruments popular at that period.

As the people stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up, the herald proclaimed aloud:

“‘You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace'” (Daniel 3:4-6).

By falling down and worshiping the image, the people would thus be indicating their loyalty, not only to King Nebuchadnezzar, but also to his gods who he believed had given him the wonderful victories which they were celebrating.

This was a crucial test for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They knew that the King’s powers were autocratic, and that to cross his will meant death in some form, yet they wanted to be true to God, whatever the cost. It might be that their refusal to prostrate themselves before the image would pass entirely unnoticed by others, or it might be that, even if noticed, the incident might never reach the ears of the King, but such circumstances could make no change in the matter of their duty; whatever others might do, they must not bow the knee to any but the true God. Daniel is omitted from mention here, possibly because, occupying a different position as one of the king’s personal staff and household, his conduct would not come so directly in contrast with the general conduct.

The Hour of Trial

Finally, the hour of trial came, when the great King of Babylon was recognized not only as civil but also as religious ruler, and the image which he had set up was worshiped by the various representatives of his empire—except Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. Their neglect to bow was quickly brought to the attention of the King, for no doubt these, like all good men, had their enemies: some enemies through jealousy and rivalry for the King’s favor; other enemies because, perhaps, they had been interrupted or hindered in dishonest practices and contracts with the government. The matter seems to have astounded the king, and hence his inquiry, Is it true, can it be true? Surely, no sane men would be so foolhardy as to oppose my decree, and that in my very presence, and upon such a fete-day as this? Not waiting an answer as respects matters of the past, the king voluntarily proposed for them a fresh test of loyalty and submission.

Perhaps the king’s mind shot a glance backward fifteen years, to the time when the God of the Hebrews, through Daniel, had told and interpreted his dream, a matter which none of the other gods of his wise men could do; and as though he had this in mind, and wishing to impress the matter upon these three Hebrews who had dared to challenge his power, he made the boast, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” In his arrogance of mind and under the flush of his mighty victories over the greatest nations and mightiest kings, Nebuchadnezzar felt prepared to have a contest even with the unseen and to him unknown invisible powers. He would not be backed down in his own capital city; he would demonstrate his power to inflict a penalty, regardless of what any of the gods might do in retaliation.

The answer of the three Hebrews was a wise one; seeing from the king’s mood that the discussion of the subject would be useless, they did not attempt to retaliate by threatening him with divine vengeance; neither did they attempt to convert the King to Judaism, knowing well that the provisions of the Jewish covenant were not for Gentiles. They simply responded that they were not anxious to avail themselves of the opportunity to argue the matter with the King. They assured him of their full confidence that their God was able to deliver them from the fiery furnace, and out of the hand or power of even the greatest king of the earth; but they answered:

 “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

Angered that his great festal day should be thus marred by even the slightest opposition to his will, the king did not wait to give another opportunity wherein the Hebrews might relent. He saw that it was useless, that they were men of character and determination, and he resolved that he would make an example of them before all the people. The form of his visage or his countenance changed toward these men; whereas once he had admired them, as amongst his ablest counselors and magistrates, and an honor to his empire, now he hated them, as opponents whose course, if not interrupted, might introduce disorder into his empire, and lead to more or less sedition, if copied by others. In his rage he commanded that the furnace be heated seven times, or to its utmost capacity. The furnace, already heated for the occasion, may have been the one used in melting the gold for the image, and must have been of immense size.

Probably as a mark of his great authority, and to show that even the very greatest of his subjects were subordinate to his supreme authority, the king commanded that these three recalcitrant officials be cast into the fiery furnace by prominent officers of his army—no doubt to teach a lesson respecting the power of the army, and the willingness of its chief representatives to serve the king, as against everybody else.

The Hebrews, bound in their official garb, were evidently cast into the furnace from the top, because it is stated that they fell down bound, while the heat was so intense that it even killed those who cast them into the furnace, possibly by the inhalation of the flames, which might kill them instantly.

The King seemed to be having matters his own way, as usual; even the mighty God of the Hebrews had not delivered these men from his power. And yet the King was solicitous and eyed the furnace, and to his surprise beheld those who had been cast into the furnace bound, walking about free in the flames—seemingly uninjured. More than this, he saw a fourth person there, of most remarkable appearance, which caused the King to think and speak of him as one of the gods. No wonder he was astonished; he was evidently contending with a God of whose powers he had been ignorant.

Nebuchadnezzar realized he had made a great mistake in attempting the destruction of three of his most eminent magistrates, and that he was thus defying the great God. He was prompt to make acknowledgement, and approached the furnace, calling out, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” In the presence of the king’s courtiers they came forth, and all beheld them that the fire had done them no injury, not even having singed their clothes or their hair. This was indeed a stupendous miracle, and doubtless was valuable in its influence, not only upon the Gentiles, but also upon the Hebrews residing throughout Babylon, who would thus hear of the power of Jehovah in delivering those faithful to him.

Whether this had a bearing on the subject or not, we know well that, while idolatry had been one of the chief sins of the Israelites before this captivity, there was comparatively little of idolatry in its crude forms in that nation afterward.

Nebuchadnezzar’s acknowledgement of the God of the Hebrews, who sent his messenger and delivered his servants that trusted in him, is very simple and very beautiful. He rejoiced in the noble character of these men, and at once made a decree:

“Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way(Daniel 3:30).

And furthermore, he promoted these faithful men to still higher positions, for they had still more of his confidence respecting their integrity.

Men who would thus hazard their lives for conscience’ sake could be trusted in the most important positions.

Lessons From This Bible Account

The Lord’s people may find in this Biblical story many valuable lessons and suggestions. Not all of God’s people are in such prominent positions as were these Hebrews; and not many have testings of exactly the same kind as were theirs, with a literal fiery furnace before their eyes. Nevertheless, there are trials before the Lord’s people today that are fully as severe.

Babylon the literal was in ruins long before the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos was shown in prophetic vision the mystic or symbolic Babylon “which reigneth over the kings of the earth” today. The provinces of Babylon today are the various civilized nations—really “kingdoms of this world;” but deluded into calling themselves and thinking themselves kingdoms of Christ—“Christendom.” And parallels to the King and the image are also presented in Revelation—they are religious systems symbolically described as “the beast [Papacy] and his image” (Revelation 13:15-18).

The worship of this symbolic beast and his image are to be the great test or trial upon professing Christians in every province of symbolic Babylon in the end of this age and indeed, the testing is even now in progress. Only those who refuse to render worship to those powerfully influential religious systems (symbolized by “the beast and his image”) will be counted by the Lord as “overcomers” and be made his joint-heirs as members of his elect Church (Revelation 20:4).

As already pointed out, the “beast” represents not Roman Catholics (the people) but the Roman Catholic system, as an institution: and the image represents not Protestants (the people) but the consolidation of Protestant systems, as an institution. Those who absolutely refuse to worship its images are already exposed to fiery trials;—social ostracism and financial boycotts. Prominent amongst these is:

The Roman Catholic idolthat church sets itself as the representative of God, and demands worship, obedience and contribution to its funds;

The Greek Catholic Church idol: the Anglican is another; and the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.all similarly demand worship, obedience and revenue. They have “pooled their issues,” to a certain extent, so as not to war upon each other’s devotees, but they unite in warfare against all who do not bow the knee to some such idol (who reverence and worship only the Almighty God, and recognize his only begotten Son as the only Head and Lord of the true Church, whose names are only written in heaven—not on earthly rolls of membership (Hebrews 12:23).

In the “dark ages,” when Papacy had a monopoly of the “church” business, it meant torture and the stake, as well as social ostracism. Today, in many instances there are evidences that the same spirit prevails, merely restrained by changed circumstances and lack of power. Thousands today are worshiping at the various shrines of Christendom who in their hearts long to be free from the sectarian bondage of fear—who fain would serve the Lord God only, had they the courage. And there are some the world over who, with a courage not less than that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, declare publicly that the Lord God alone shall have the worship and the service which they can render. None, perhaps, know better than the writer the various fiery experiences to which these faithful few are exposedboycotted socially, boycotted in business, slandered in every conceivable manner, and often by those of whom they had least expected it, who, according to the Lord’s declaration, say “all manner of evil against them falsely” (Matthew 5:11,12).

But with these, as with the three Hebrews of our lesson, the chief trial is in connection with their faith; after they have taken a firm stand for the Lord and his truth they may indeed be bound and have their liberties of speech and of effort restrained, and they may indeed be cast into the fiery furnace, but nothing more than these things can be done to them. As soon as they have demonstrated their fidelity to God to this extent, their trials and troubles are turned into blessings and joys. As the form of the Son of God was seen with the Hebrews in the fiery furnace, so unseen, the Lord is present with those who trust him and who, because of faithfulness to him and to his Word, come into tribulation. How beautifully this is expressed in the familiar hymn,

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee, I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”

And sometimes even the worldly can realize that the Lord’s people in the furnace of affliction are receiving a blessing, and sometimes thus our Heavenly Father’s name is glorified in the world, as in Nebuchadnezzar’s experience.

Sometimes the Lord’s people who are bound, restrained of liberty to proclaim the truth, find, as did those Hebrews, that the fire burns the cords and sets them free, and really gives them larger opportunities to testify to the glory of our God than they could have had by any other course.

The Lord’s providences vary, and it is not for his people to decide when shall come remarkable deliverances, and when they shall apparently be left entirely to the will of their enemies without any manifestation of divine favor on their behalf.

Note, for instance, the fact that, while the Lord interposed to deliver these three Hebrews from the fiery furnace, he did not interpose to prevent the beheading of John the Baptist, although of the latter it is specifically declared, “There hath not arisen a greater prophet than John the Baptist.” We remember that, while Peter was delivered from prison by the angel of the Lord, James was not delivered, but was beheaded. We remember also that Paul’s life was miraculously preserved on several occasions, and that the Apostle John, according to tradition, was once cast into a cauldron of boiling oil, but escaped uninjured, while on other occasions dire disaster came upon the Lord’s faithful ones, and that quickly, as in the case of Stephen, who was stoned.

It is not, therefore, for us to predetermine what shall be the divine providence in respect to ourselves; we are to note the point of right and duty and to follow it regardless of consequences, trusting implicitly in the Lord. This lesson is most beautifully set forth in the language of the three Hebrews, who declared to King Nebuchadnezzar that their God was entirely capable of delivering them from his power, but that, whether he chose to do so or not, they would not violate their conscience.

It is just such characters that the Lord is seeking for, and it is in order to their development and testing that multiform evil is now permitted to have sway.

While such testings have been in progress to a considerable extent throughout this entire Gospel age, the Scriptures clearly indicate to us that in some special sense all of the Lord’s people will be tested in the “harvest” or closing time of this age. Our Lord speaks of it, likening our Christian faith to a house, and represents the trials in the end of this age as a great storm which will beat upon every house, with the result that all that are founded upon the rock will stand, and all founded upon the sand will collapse. The Apostle Peter speaks of this trial-time, saying:

“Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which shall try you, as tho some strange thing happened unto you” (1 Peter 4:12).

We are to expect a testing in the end of this age, just as there was a testing of the Jewish nominal church in the end of its age. As in that testing there was a thorough, complete separating of the “wheat” from the “chaff,” so here the separating will be complete between the “wheat” and the “tares,” as our Lord declares (Matthew 13:24-30). Throughout the age the “wheat” and the “tares,” by divine arrangement, have been permitted to grow side by side; but in the “harvest” the separation must occur, that the “wheat” may be “garnered,” received to the Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul, also, speaks of this time of fiery trial, and, likening the faith and works of a zealous Christian to a house built of gold, silver and precious stones, he declares that the fire of this day, in the end of this age, shall try every man’s work of what sort it is, and shall consume all but the genuine faith and character structures (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). But we are to remember that such loyal characters grow not suddenly, in a few hours or days—mushroom-like,—but are progressive developments, fine-grained and strong like the olive tree.

We who have become “new creatures” reckonedly, in Christ, know that we are to be tested (if our testing has not already commenced), and should realize that only as we practice self-denials in the little things of life, and mortify (deaden) the natural cravings of our flesh in respect to food, clothing, conduct, etc., will we become strong spiritually and be able to “overcome.”

Many deal slackly with themselves in respect to little violations of their consecration vow, saying,—“What’s the use” of such carefulness and so different a life from that of the world in general? Ah! there is great use in it, for victories in little things prepare for greater victories and make them possible: and on the contrary, surrender to the will of the flesh in the little things means sure defeat in the warfare as a whole. Let us remember the maxim laid down by our Great Teacher—that he that is faithful in the things that are least will be faithful also in the things which are great. And this is the operation of a law, whose operations may be discerned in all the affairs of life.

Our Lord expresses the same thought, saying,—To him that hath (used) shall be given (more), and from him that hath not (used) shall be taken away that which he hath. If we start on a Christian life ever so weak in the flesh and weak in spirit, we will find that faithfulness in the little things will bring increasing strength in the Lord and in the power of his might. But it is in vain that we pray, “Lord, Lord,” and hope for great victories and the “crown of rejoicing,” if we fail to do our best to conquer in the little affairs of daily life. In other words, our testing is in progress from the moment of our consecration, and the little trials are but preparations for greater ones which, when faithfully attained, we will be able to reckon with the Apostle as light afflictions which are but for a moment, and which are working out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

The answer of the Hebrews to Nebuchadnezzar,—“Our God whom we serve,” is worthy of note. They not only acknowledged God and worshiped him, but they additionally served him, according as they had opportunity. And so it will be found today: those who have the necessary strength of character to refuse to worship human institutions and thereby to “suffer the loss of all things,” counting them but as loss and dross, that they may win Christ and be found finally complete in him, as members of his glorified body, and joint-heirs in his Kingdom, not only practice self-denials, but gladly serve and confess the Lord in their daily life. Rightly appreciated, a profession of love for the Lord would always be a profession of service to his cause. Whoever is not rendering some service to our King in the present time of multiplied opportunities has at very most the “lukewarm” love that is offensive to the Master (Revelation 2:4; 3:16).

Let us resolve, dear brethren, as did the three Hebrews of this lesson, that we will worship and serve only the Lord our Godthat we will neither worship nor serve sectarianism, in any of its many forms, nor mammon, with its many enticements and rewards, nor fame, nor friends, nor self. 

God “seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth,” is the declaration of our Lord and Head (John 4:23,24).

Acknowledgement

Br. Charles Taze Russell – The above content is based on Reprint 2494-2497 – from The Reprints of the Original Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence.

Suggested Further Reading

Daniel The Beloved
http://www.heraldmag.org/literature/bio_3.htm

Daniel and the Lions
http://www.beautiesofthetruth.org/Archive/Library/Doctrine/Mags/Bot/90s/BOTMAY98.PDF

Daniel In Babylon
http://www.heraldmag.org/literature/proph_31.htm

Trials
http://www.beautiesofthetruth.org/Archive/Library/Doctrine/Mags/Bot/90s/BOTFEB98.PDF

Time and Prophecy 
http://2043ad.com/timeandprophecy.pdf

The Doctrine of the Trinity – Mystery or Confusion
http://www.heraldmag.org/1999/99nd_3.htm

The Origin of the Trinity – From Paganism To Constantine
http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/Contents/doctrine/The%20Origin%20of%20the%20Trinity.htm

Facts About the Trinity http://www.heraldmag.org/olb/contents/doctrine/FACTS%20ABOUT%20THE%20TRINITY.htm

God and the Trinities
http://www.heraldmag.org/literature/doc_42.htm

Father, Son and Holy Spirit
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2016/06/23/father-son-and-holy-spirit/

What Is the Heavenly Father’s Name
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/06/27/gods-name-what-is-the-heavenly-fathers-name-that-we-are-to-hallow-and-why/

Jesus – The Name
https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/07/05/jesus-the-name/

The Doctrine of Christ – Booklet
http://www.biblestudents.com/docs/DoctrineChrist.pdf

Daniel the Beloved of Jehovah (paper back book) by R.E. Streeter –

Streeter-Daniel-Paperback_cropped_with_shadow-424x600

This book can be purchased through the Chicago Bible Students bookstore at the following link:

https://chicagobible.org/product/daniel-the-beloved-paperback/

 

book-of-daniel-activity-book-biblestudentsdaily-com

The Book of Daniel- Children’s Activity Book – free online here for use in proclaiming the glorious Gospel message:

https://biblestudentsdaily.com/2017/02/05/the-book-of-daniel-childrens-activity-book/

 

 

 

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