Motivation for Worship—Choice, not Coercion

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Defy Nebuchadnezzar

Interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrate two forms of motivation for worship. One is coercion; characterized by the use of force, intimidation, or any kind of threat of punishment to compel worship; and typified by King Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of an image of gold he set up. The other is choice, a personal decision to worship God based on understanding our relationship with him and illustrated by the action of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in defying Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.

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We discuss interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; regarding the image of gold that the king set up as god over Babylon. The interactions illustrate the contrast between two forms of motivation to worship. One is coercion, which is typified by Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of his image of gold. The other is choice based on understanding our relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied Nebuchadnezzar’s threat based on their choice to worship God.

Messiah for all people
Messiah for all people
LumoProject.com freebibleimages.org

Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. Abraham received the covenant from God on behalf of himself, his descendants, and all that receive Christ as the Messiah. God promised the Messiah for all people when he called Abraham to a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah: “… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:3]. Thus, his covenant with Abraham confers on every person the right to choose to worship him based on understanding that he will be God to all that will worship and serve him.

We discuss Nebuchadnezzar’s example to illustrate worship by coercion. Thereafter, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham as the Christian basis for worship by choice, using information from the gospel according to John to understand the promise of the Messiah extends God’s covenant to all people. Then, we discuss meanings of “worship and serve God” based on information from previous bible studies.

Worship by Coercion

Worship image or die
Worship image or die
freebibleimages.org

King of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar set up an image of gold that he wanted to establish as god over his entire kingdom. He published a decree to establish the god by using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship from all people under his kingdom [Daniel 3:4–6]: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound …, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were administrators over the province of Babylon at the time. We recall they came to Babylon with Daniel as captives, were trained and placed in the king’s service as wise men, and were appointed administrators in Babylon province after Daniel distinguished himself as a reliable dream interpreter for the king. Their elevation to high administrative positions in the province did not please the Chaldean “wise men” that the king used to rely on exclusively for advice and special service. Therefore, when the Chaldeans observed that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not worship the Babylonian gods and did not obey the king’s decree regarding the image of gold, they reported to the king and asked him to enforce the decree: “There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up” [Daniel 3:12].

The king had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego brought to his palace to answer the charges. However, they told him there was no need for a trial because they had chosen to not worship the Babylonian gods or the image of gold: “…let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” [Daniel 3:18].

EXTREME DEFINES CONTRAST The decree by Nebuchadnezzar represents an extreme example of motivating worship by coercion. Thus, it serves a purpose of defining the identifying characteristics of such motivation for worship.

Threat of fiery punishment
Threat of fiery punishment
freebibleimages.org

Worship by coercion could consist of any use of force, intimidation, or any kind of threat of punishment to compel worship. An act of worship performed in response to coercion, such as to avoid punishment or other forms of undesirable reaction from a person or organization, is really not different in form from Nebuchadnezzar’s decree even if the coercion is more subtle. Based on Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, an act of worship performed to win approval of a person or organization does not please God. A person’s only reward for such worship is the approval (or avoidance of punishment) that he/she may win: “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” [Matthew 6:2]. Also similar for a prayer directed at winning people approval: “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” [Matthew 6:5].

Motivation of worship by coercion is not of God.

Worship by Choice

The decision to worship God is voluntary to every person and is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to every person that will worship and serve him: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless’” [Genesis 17:1]. And in [Genesis 17:7], “… I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.”

God to all that worship and serve him
God to all that worship and serve him
theglobalgospel.org freebibleimages.org

Abraham received the covenant on behalf of himself, his descendants, and beneficiaries of God’s promise to send the Messiah for all people through Abraham’s offspring: “… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:3]. The gospel according to John emphasizes beneficiaries of the Messiah promise are party to the covenant [John 1:12–13]: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” That is, all that receive Jesus as the Messiah and worship and serve God according to the covenant are given the right to be children of God. The fact that God is their God is independent of any blood relationship (e.g., with Abraham) but is because they are beneficiaries of the Messiah promise.

God’s conditional promise to be God to any person that will worship and serve him is universal to all people but only those that CHOOSE. The choice is personal and is based on understanding our relationship with God through the covenant.

Worship and Serve God—
A Way of Life

To worship and serve God defines a way of life characterized by living in the image of God and unconditional commitment to the will of God in everything.

LIVING IN THE IMAGE OF GOD As we discuss in a previous bible study under Keeping Watch, Christ explains the meaning of living in the image of God through formal teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Living in the Image of God: The Beatitudes), parables such as the Good Samaritan (Love through Compassion), and demonstration of human service such as in feeding a crowd of thousands (Provider Assistant Example).

Providing service to benefit others
Providing service to benefit others
theglobalgospel.org freebibleimages.org

Living in the image of God implies the following.

  • Representing God in every human interaction such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and elicit positive response from others.
  • Fulfilling your responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, willingly and gracefully providing service to benefit others when God places a need in your path, or accepting service provided by others with heart-felt appreciation and happiness.

 

UNCONDITIONAL COMMITMENT Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrate unconditional commitment when Nebuchadnezzar confronted them with charges that they did not obey his decree. The king gave them one more opportunity to comply [Daniel 3:15]: “Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound … and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” They declared they did not wish to contest the matter [Daniel 3:17–18]: “If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

Out from furnace unscathed
Out from furnace unscathed
Sweet Publishing freebibleimages.org

They knew that God is able to deliver them but will determine what delivering them means and how and when to implement the deliverance. Their commitment to worship and serve God is independent of what he does in any specific situation. He will deliver them in a way and at a time consistent with his purpose. In any case, “…let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Our choice to worship and serve God is unconditional and permanent.

 

 

Summary of What We Learned

Interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrate the contrast between two forms of motivation for worship. One is motivation by coercion, which is typified by Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of his image of gold. The other is motivation by choice based on understanding our relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied Nebuchadnezzar’s threat based on their choice to worship God. Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. Abraham received the covenant on behalf of himself, his descendants, and all that receive Christ as the Messiah.

More Information

Please watch this bible study on video at VIDEO_LINK , listen to or download the audio at AUDIO_LINK . You can also download a PDF copy of the PowerPoint presentation from PDF_LINK.

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