Alistair Begg lays out seven rationalizations or excuses that Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego (SMA) could have given. Each pretext could or would have given them “mental reason” for bowing down to the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
However, what Begg is actually doing is plugging into the potential reasoning of his present-day audience. He is pulling his audience into the thinking which might well characterize them were they in such a situation. Begg is not delineating seven thought patterns which he knows went through the minds and hearts of SMA then, but he is plugging into the excuses which he surmises might go through “our” minds and hearts – today.
Here is the link to the audio clip+ of those seven reasons, along with a loosely worded transcript of those seven reasons.
(Audio Clip+ of Alistair Begg, “A Blazing Furnace” @ the 32: 07-minute mark of the original message — link to original message )
After all — they weren’t required — there’s nowhere we’re told that they were required to renounce their God . . . . and presummably they could have said
1 – we’re bowing down on the outside, but we’re not bowing down on the inside
2 – we’re not expected to fall into a course of idolatry . . . . just once or twice
3 – the king has absolute power – we can’t be blamed – God won’t blame us
4 – the king has done a lot for us. . . therefore the least we can do is bow down once or twice — you know after all every man has his price
5 – far from home . . . stuff like this is expected – when you go away to college — you get into stuff like this
6 – when we read our Bibles we found that people who were serving God before also messed up
7 – if we comply then we’ll keep our places and keep our lives and therefore we can be useful in the future. . . . .
The Question: Why did they not bow down?
Answer: Because — of Exodus chapter 20, verse 3 —
– in the command of God —
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”
Quantify The Rhetorical Technique
The technique is quite simple to quantify or “template.”
#1) See if there are any stated rationalization within the passage. If there are, begin there and then say, “I can think of a few more which I would have included in our day, such as . . . .”
#2) List out present-day thinking / reasons / rationalizations which “we” would or could come up with today in order to ______ (not obey / revise what was said / reject a particular avenue / not step up to the battle / survive / fit in / be admired / manage the situation / etc.)
#3) Sprinkle the “excusatory wording” with some of today’s allusions and vocabulary. Begg did this when he mentioned “college.”
#4) Use only the most cogent and effective arguments. If you offer potential “arguments” or rationalizations which do not sound logical or relevant the audience will struggle with them and you! You may only want to offer three, not five or seven if there are three which will adequately drive the point.
#5) Limit the number (Even Begg realizes that he could have gone on and on — seven reasons in less than 3 minutes.) But there comes a point where once we have highlighted the most prevalent, relevant, and/or obvious ones, that they are sufficient. It is easy to get carried away with too many examples, and/or fail to hit the most “audience identifiable” examples.
Some other Bible characters with whom this can be done.
- Joseph’s brothers
- David & Nabal
- Saul & Goliath
- Ruth vs. Orpah
- Naomi’s reasoning to her daughters-in-law
- Elimelech to his family
- Abraham & Sarai
- Rebekah & Jacob
- Daniel (prayer and lion’s den)
- Discouraged saints in Nehemiah’s day
- “The Man of God”
- Ananias & Sapphira
- James & John – sons of thunder
- disciple fishermen – cast your nets
- Rich young ruler
- Not Any Parable Characters, Please! Because . . . .link
P.S. Notice how Begg asked “The Question” and then held off the answer by saying – Exodus chapter 20 verse 3!
Again, he is adding some variety through the way he answers the question along with a mild delay of the answer. Begg could have just cited the verse but held off the audience members who probably would not think of where that verse is and/or what that verse says.