THE FIERY FURNACE
We live in a day when, for the most part, a Christian witness and testimony is very little regarded and at times calls down the hatred of a sinful world on those who seek to maintain it. Realizing that, let us draw some lessons from the well-known, yet perhaps often neglected, narrative of the three Hebrew friends of Daniel who passed through the fiery furnace for their faith; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Notice first of all that it was at the request of Daniel (Ch. 2.49) that these three young men of the captivity were found in positions of responsibility and power in the capital of Persia in Babylon. Learn from this that it is not wrong for the Lord’s people to hold positions of authority in the world. Power in itself is not wrong, rather the abuse of it is wrong. Perhaps some may be concerned about their promotion in secular things. Such positions of responsibility do indeed carry a greater and more conspicuous accountability before God and man, however, did not the Lord say to Paul “My grace is sufficient for thee”? This is wonderfully apparent in this book of Daniel.
Secondly – notice that Nebuchadnezzar raised up an image of
considerable size (some 90 feet high) and of considerable value, being made of gold (Ch. 3.1). The heathen king set it up in the plain of Dura where it could be seen by all, and could not be avoided. The prince of this world, Satan, raises up large and apparently valuable objects for men to focus their attention on. In the secular realm men are taken up with their families, amassing wealth, leisure activities,
and so on. In the religious world we find the images of false ecumenicity, religious experiences, or denominationalism engaging all the energies and desires of men. These things, like Nebuchadnezzar’s image, loom large and are naturally desirable and apparently valuable.
Having erected this image, the command is given in all its detail to bow down before it (Ch. 3.2-5). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are included in this demand of the king. Notice too the outward commotion and organization that the king uses to achieve his ends (Ch. 3.5,7,10,15). Satan still demands that the people of God join this world in falling down and worshipping the images mentioned. Moreover, this command is given under threat (w.6,11) of painful and prolonged destruction. Surely it is the aim of the wicked one to destroy, if possible, the Name and integrity of Christ by destroying Christ’s Church. We see throughout the world not only the threat, but the carrying out of physical, mental and spiritual persecution because there is, among the people of God, opposition to the errors and evils of the day. The world and its ‘king’ wants the Church to walk with it and will use every means it can to make it do so. All the organization of the powers of darkness will be brought to bear. We rejoice however that while God is God, and on His throne, the Church will never, never be destroyed.
Reading on we find that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to obey the king’s orders (Ch. 3.12-18). This naturally aroused Nebuchadnezzar’s anger. Their courageous stand seems only to infuriate this despotic and proud monarch the more.
Notice however that though fearless before him, these three men retain their respect for his authority (Ch. 3.16-18). Let us remember that those in authority over us “whether the king as supreme, or governors” (1 Peter 2.13-14) command our respect at all times, and our obedience when they rule and govern well and in accordance with their God-given and Scriptural mandate. Just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego incurred Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath, so shall we if we oppose the evils arrayed before us. We need the outlook given to Daniel’s friends so that we respectfully and courageously stand firm, with our trust in the living God who is so flagrantly blasphemed today. He is able to deliver us, and will do so according to His will and pleasure.
Reason and common sense now seem to forsake the king who heated the furnace seven times hotter than usual (vl9). This has the effect of destroying his own army and supporters as they cast “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego into the fire. Here is a picture of the devil and the world. They always overstep the mark and will ultimately be the means of their own destruction. Nevertheless the three brave Hebrews fall down bound into the fire, and it appears
that evil has triumphed. Perhaps this is how things appear to us as we look around us today. However the truth of Isaiah Ch. 43.2-3 will hold true for us even as it did for Shadrach, Meshach and ^bednego, “when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour”. This was proved by the three Hebrews, and witnessed by the king. What astonishment appears on his face (v24) as he looks into the flames and sees that glorious fourth Person. The Son of God was seen and recognized by the king, but only the three believers held communion with Him. As WE take our stand on the Word of God and His Truth, the rightness of our cause will be evident to the world and we shall realize the blessing and presence of God. How true are the words, “Them that honour me I will honour” (1 Samuel 2.30). As John Kent puts it –
Yet He in the furnace loves us;
‘Tis expressed in words like these:
‘I am with thee,
Israel, passing through the fire’.
As a result the three Hebrews are delivered undeterred and unaffected by the experience through which they had passed (v.26-27). Not only are they delivered but their cause is vindicated (v. 28-29), and further promotion is secured (v.30). The people of God will be delivered as they stand for the cause of God and of truth. It may not be a temporal deliverance but “Thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 3.19). The last great day will declare many things and amongst them will be revealed those who were apparently destroyed but in reality have been delivered. That day, if not before, our enemies will have to confess that by God’s grace alone our stand was right. Further, the day of God will see a far greater promotion for us than ever we, or our enemies, could conceive as we join the Church Triumphant and reign with our Lord in glory.
Let us draw the encouragement God gives us in His Word and, girding on the heavenly armour of Ephesians 6,
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm,
Dare to make it known.