The last time: how are we living? That we live in the last times means that we must live our lives in complete separation from the world. As we walk in the midst of this world we must be distinct. We must manifest in our lives that there is indeed something different about us; something so completely different that we have absolutely nothing in common with the world of sin and iniquity which surrounds us.
That we live in the last time means that we must stand antithetically on the side of Christ Jesus our Lord. As we walk in the midst of this world we must walk as He walked. We must live as He lived. The words which we speak must be the words which He spoke. In short, we must live in these last times in unconditional obedience to Him Who performed the will of the Father to the very letter. We must live in such a way that we manifest in our lives the marvelous truth that we are not our own, but that we belong with body and soul to our faithful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
And that too, in the face of almost certain persecution. Yes, that is also what it means to live in the last times. If it is the case in our lives that we live in complete separation from the world; if it is the case in our lives that there is something different about us, something so completely different that we have absolutely nothing in common with the world of sin and iniquity which surrounds us; if we stand antithetically on the side of Christ; if we obey Him and His Word unconditionally; if we show forth the fact that we are not our own, but that we belong to our faithful Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall face almost certain persecution. The world of ungodly men will scoff at us. The reprobate seed of the serpent will hold us in derision. They will hate us, and in their hatred they will seek their vengeance upon us who stand firmly upon the side of Christ Jesus.
Is that the way in which we live? Do we live our lives distinct from the world? Can the world see by the way we live and how we act that we have absolutely no common ground with it and all of its wickedness? Do we stand antithetically on the side of our Savior, knowing that we are not our own? Do we stand in faith, nothing wavering, clinging by grace to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ? Do we live with the consciousness that, though we are persecuted for righteousness sake, our Savior, to use the words of our Heidelberg Catechism, “will make whatever evils He sends upon me in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage”? Is that the way in which we live?
That by the grace of God is the way in which Daniel’s three friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah lived. And that fact we must notice in this article as we consider the Word of God as that is set forth in the Book of Daniel, chapter 3. Daniel chapter 3 presents to us a very vivid picture. It describes for us the fact that King Nebuchadnezzar had made a great image. Concerning that image we read that it stood some 60 cubits high and some six cubits wide. That is, it was an image that stood some 90 feet high and some 9 feet wide. A great image it was. However, not only was it great from the point of view of its size and dimensions, but it was also great from the point of view of its costliness. It was made, we read, of gold. It was a golden image. And with respect to that fact, it really does not matter whether we conceive of that image as being an image of solid gold, or whether we conceive of that image as being an image of wood overlaid with gold. It really does not matter. It was indeed a great image.
That great image Nebuchadnezzar erected on the plains of Dura. No one really knows where exactly the plains of Dura lay, nor is that important. But what is important is what took place on those plains of Dura. What took place there was this, namely, that to those plains and before that great image, Nebuchadnezzar called all the mighty men of his realm. He called everyone and anyone who was somebody in his realm. After they were gathered there, all of a sudden the voice of a herald rang out with a message — a message which amounted to this: when ye hear the sound of the comet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye shall fall down and worship this great image. No sooner had the herald spoken when the sound of all those instruments were heard. And all fell down in worship before that great image which Nebuchadnezzar had made.
All fell down in worship! All, except Daniel’s three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Oh, yes, they too were gathered there on those plains of Dura for they also were important men in Nebuchadnezzar’s realm. They too heard the herald say that when the sound of all of those musical instruments was heard, all must bow down in worship before that great image. But Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah did not bow down. They would not fall down in worship before that great image. Imagine that! All those men were gathered there on the plains of Dura and all bowed down before that great image, but Daniel’s three friends did not! How conspicuous they must have looked! Three out of hundreds, or maybe even thousands, remained standing.
Now, the question of course is: why? Why did they do that? Does not the Bible say that we must obey those in authority over us? Does that not mean, therefore, that Daniel’s three friends were violating that authority, the word of King Nebuchadnezzar, when they refused to bow down before that great image? Yes, indeed, the Bible says that we must obey those in authority over us. But the Bible also says that we must obey God rather than men. And it was exactly that fact that Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were doing when they refused to bow down before that great image. We must not obey that which is not God. But most emphatically, we must obey God! Clear to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah was this truth that that which stood before them represented all that which is not God. That image was nothing other than a glorious tribute to man. As it stood there shining in the noonday sun, it was a glorious reflection of all that man had done, and all that man had accomplished. As it stood there it spoke volumes! It said to all those who were gathered at its feet: Look all ye peoples! Look at me! I am the very embodiment of man: of all man’s power and strength, and all man’s wisdom and learning, and all man’s achievements! By me nations are conquered and people are subjected! And who is like unto me? Look at me and bow! Fall down and worship! That is what that image spoke to those who were gathered at its feet. But that, however, is not all. For not only did that image by virtue of its greatness command all to bow down before it, but it also said that those who refused to bow would die! And not only that, but having spoken that word of death to all who refused, that image also mocked God. We must notice that. It said, “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?” I know that those were words spoken by Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar spoke those words when he discovered that Daniel’s three friends had refused to bow down to his image. But what we must understand is that when Nebuchadnezzar spoke those words, that image also spoke those words. Nebuchadnezzar made it. It was his image. And therefore, all that he said and did, and all that which was not God which Nebuchadnezzar represented, his image also represented. Imagine, it said, “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?” I know that is not too difficult to imagine, is it?
It was not too difficult for Daniel’s three friends to imagine. They were there. They heard it. And having heard it, they refused. But the point is, that all that that image represented, and all that that image spoke, yes, even its horrible word (“And who is that God who shall deliver you out of my hand?”) is not too difficult for us to imagine. We hear those words every day. We are in the world —not of it, but in it. And because we are in it, we hear those words. We stand with Daniel’s three friends in the plains of Dura before that great image and its horrible speech. The plains of Dura with its great images are everywhere. We cannot escape them. No matter where we go, no matter where we turn, there are those plains of Dura, and there are those great images with their horrible God-defying speech.
And the question is: what do we do when we are confronted with that speech? Do we listen to that speech? Do we bow down before those great images? As we stand before them do we determine how we are going to live and what we are going to do by looking and seeing how everyone else is living and what everyone else is doing? And do we determine that if everyone else is bowing down before the great images of this world, that we will do likewise? I submit to you that if Daniel’s three friends had done that, they would have bowed. But they did not bow. Why not? Because they knew in their heart of hearts that it was their calling to live their lives distinct from the world and separate from the world. They knew that it was their calling to stand upon the side of Christ, come what may. Do we know that that calling is also our calling? And, even more importantly, are we obedient to that calling, come what may?
That is our calling. It is none other than the calling given to us by Christ. And to us who have been given that calling, Christ gives the grace to obey, yes, even in the face of persecution and death. I ask you, how could Daniel’s three friends have obeyed their calling? Not by virtue of their own strength. They did that because Christ Jesus their Lord stood beside them, upholding their faith every step of the way. He did! Even when they were thrown into the fiery furnace, He did. And the wonderful testimony of the Scriptures is that so also does Christ Jesus our Lord stand beside us. He upholds our faith as we stand in the plains of Dura with its great images every step of the way. The world says: who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand? By faith we say: He is Jesus, Jehovah Salvation, the Son of God in our flesh, our King and our God. He shall deliver us.
May it be true of us that we live our lives with that wonderful testimony in our hearts and on our lips. Remember, these are the last times. But the question is: how are we living?