Commentary by Walter Albritton

April 13, 2008


The Cost of Choosing to Serve the True and Living God


Daniel 3:10-13, 16-18, 21, 24


Key Verse: If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up. – Daniel 3:17-18


          In every age there have been rulers who insisted that people serve false gods. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was not the first monarch to erect a huge statue of himself and force his subjects to worship him. Six hundred years before Christ King Nebuchadnezzar did that in the same land that is present-day Iraq. He built a “golden statue” very likely of himself and demanded that everyone, at the sound of music, bow down and worship the statue.

          Nebuchadnezzar was so thirsty for total control that he promised death in a furnace of fire for anyone who refused to worship his gods and the statue. He was enraged to learn that three Jews, among his own officials in Babylon, had refused to obey his orders.

Questioned by the king, the three men bravely declared themselves servants of another God. Furthermore, they were prepared to die rather than worship the king’s gods. Thus did their names – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – become synonymous with unflinching courage.

          The three Jews had made a prior commitment to the God of Israel, the true God. Not only had they made a covenant with God, they had confidence in their God. Calmly they explained to the king, “the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty.” Then they uttered the unforgettable words, “But even if he doesn’t, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”

          That did it. The king was so furious now that his face was “distorted with rage.” He ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual! The fire became so hot that it killed the soldiers who threw the three men into the roaring flames.

          As the king watched he was astonished to see that the three men were unharmed by the fire. Not only did the flames not hurt the men, the king saw a fourth man with them, someone who looked like a divine being! The king realized that he had seen “the Most High God” at work. So he called the courageous men out of the furnace and rewarded them with higher positions in his government.

          When it came to worship, King Nebuchadnezzar was very foolish. He tried to force people to worship. First he tried to force people to worship false gods and honor a statue. Then he attempted to force people to worship the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Using force was the same mistake that Constantine would make centuries later when he decreed Christianity to be the official religion.

          To the present hour there are leaders who foolishly try to coerce people to worship in a particular way. Some who are enamored with so-called “contemporary worship” insist that everyone must embrace this style of worship. The music is different, exciting, and popular. Young people love it. So it must be the way God wants all of us to worship him now. What seems to be forgotten is that what is “contemporary” today will soon be old-fashioned, and perhaps eventually obsolete.

          There are others who insist just as strongly that God can only be rightly worshiped by using the honored rituals of the past. So these wise souls circle the wagons and contend with their last breath that “traditional worship” is the only way to go. Will we ever learn that love, not force, is God’s way and the obvious solution to the worship wars within our churches?

          The secret to dynamic worship is not the methods, the liturgies, the orders, the chancel, the stage, the music, or even the preaching. The secret is the spirit in which we approach God and each other in the assembly. Real worship happens when we freely assemble in brotherly love to praise God for the loving kindness he has shown us in the gift of his Son Jesus Christ.

          Real worship happens when worship leaders, the music, the praying, and the preaching of the gospel are so anointed by the Holy Spirit that the worship center seems electrified by the presence of the Most High God.

Real worship happens when people have a sense of meeting God at the foot of the cross and experiencing the forgiveness of their sins. Real worship happens when people feel like crying with David, “Have mercy on me, O God,” or with Isaiah, “Lord, I’ll go! Send me!”  

Real worship happens when we are more aware of the loving presence of God than the rituals of our order of worship. Real worship happens when we begin loving people regardless of their preference for a particular style of worship. Real worship happens when we become disciples who are sent out not to argue about forms of worship but to love hurting people into the kingdom of God. Real worship happens when we find joy, not in having our way, but in seeing someone find joy by accepting Christ as Savior.

Real worship happens when we feel drawn to our place of worship to give glory to God for the grace he has so generously given us. Real worship happens when we are so thankful for our salvation that we can hardly wait to assemble again with the family of God to offer our praise to God.

Real worship happens when, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we freely chose to serve and worship only the true and living God, no matter the price. The false gods of this world have nothing of eternal value to offer us. The Most High God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, offers us everything we need – in this life and the next.

           (Contact Walter at