Taking the Heat
Daniel 3 tells the story of Israeli captives in Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and their encounter with the fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. When questioned, they answered:
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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. 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.” – Dan. 3:16-18
In his fury, the King made the fiery furnace seven times hotter and threw them in. He was shocked by what followed.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counsellors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” – Daniel 3: 24-26
There was no doubt in the king's mind that the miracle had taken place. The intense heat and flames did not harm the clothing or bodies of the men. They had not been burned, nor had their clothing been damaged. Smoke could not even be detected. Only the ropes that bound them were lost in those flames.
Nebuchadnezzar called the three Hebrew men out of the furnace, praised their God, and honoured them, declaring, “No other god can save in this way” (Daniel 3:29).
Scholars believe that Jesus Christ pre-incarnate was the fourth person in the furnace. Whether it was Jesus or an angelic being, God did not deliver the three FROM the furnace, but IN the furnace.
Sometimes God delivers us FROM the furnace, but other times, He delivers us IN the furnace. God can deliver us FROM a trial, but sometimes He miraculously sustains and strengthens us IN a trial.
It is important to know this because living in this comfortable world poses a great danger to Christ followers. As a result, we may become compelled to avoid pain, discomfort, suffering, and inconvenience, praying, "God, save us from these things. We want our lives smooth, easy, comfortable, and pleasant. Remove all obstacles from us." Then when trials hit us, when we are thrown into the furnace, we wonder why God permitted this, or if God has abandoned us.
Sometimes God allows struggles and difficulties to remain in our lives because He uses them to work out His spiritual and eternal purposes. He works in and through our trials to spiritually conform us to Christ's image, and to refine our faith and character. On our part, we need to be still and know that He is God. He promises that He will not leave us nor forsake us. And His grace is sufficient for us. By His power, He will sustain us in our weakness.
It is easy to praise You when life is easy, but hard when life is hard. Let us always remember that through the difficult seasons of our lives, You are the same loving God You have always been. When we suffer, we often lift our eyes away from you and focus on our struggles and our anguish. Let us be reminded of your words of comfort:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. - Isaiah 43:2
These words remind us to trust in Your presence every day of our lives, and rest in Your comforting arms when we don't know what to do or say. No matter what challenges we face, Father, let us always and every day come before You in humility and prayer. And may the peace that transcends all understanding be upon us as we trust quietly in you.
In Jesus' name,