The actions (or inaction, actually) of three Hebrew friends led to a confrontation with Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon. They did not prostrate themselves in front of a huge golden image, so Nebuchadnezzar ordered that they be thrown into the furnace.
We started this story last week.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s calm response to Nebuchadnezzar infuriated him even further than before the confrontation, and his attitude toward them changed (Daniel 3:19). I think he stopped seeing them as employees who made a mistake and began seeing them as subversives, intent on undermining his authority. I can imagine an “after all I’ve done for you!” attitude. He turned to some workmen nearby and ordered them to heat the furnace as hot as it could possibly go.
That furnace must have been the one they used to create the golden image. Perhaps that’s why it was nearby and so big that four grown men could walk around in it.
We grilled some meat for lunch today. It took fifteen minutes just to get our gas grill up to 450°F. The note in my Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says the kilns of that time were usually about 1650°F. Let’s say they started at that temperature and heated it as hot as it would go, using wood. I’m sure one of my engineering friends could calculate exactly how hot the furnace could get and how long it would take, approximating the size of the space. I’m making a wild guess, however, of at least an hour. Point is, for awhile, everyone stood around waiting on the furnace to get hotter.
What an awkward time! What do you think the three friends were doing while they waited? Did they plead for their lives? Of course not. I think they were praying for strength to honor God through this trial.
Finally, the workmen approached King Nebuchadnezzar, their eyebrows singed off, and insisted the fire was as hot as possible. Perhaps just for show, Nebuchadnezzar ordered a few of his strongest soldiers to tie up the three men. (Didn’t he know they would have walked in willingly?) Taking them to the top of the furnace, the soldiers threw our three friends into the furnace, but it was so hot these brawny, battle-tested soldiers died from the heat and flames.
What was going through Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s minds as they were carried up the hill and fell through the air to the floor of the furnace? Maybe…
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. -Psalm 23:4-5 KJV
(I don’t know why that came out in King James, but I’m leaving it like that.)
They might go through death,
but they would not go it alone.
They did not need to be afraid of what Nebuchadnezzar could do to them. They might go through death, but they would not do it alone. God Himself was with them! They could celebrate even in the furnace.
None of the three were injured by their fall into the furnace. None of the three even felt the heat as their bindings burned away. None of the three singed their eyebrows or got blisters on the bottoms of their feet from the literally scorching floor. (I can’t even walk on the white sand at the beach without jumping and hopping.)
That would have been enough. In fact, it was already more than enough. They had been willing to die rather than dishonor God, and He flagrantly saved their lives. Not just barely saved them. They didn’t walk out naked, with second degree burns, smelling like a fire pit. No, they walked out as if they’d spent the day at the palace.
But God didn’t even stop there. He sent a presence to walk through the fire with them. Want to talk about flagrant? That presence wasn’t visible only to the three friends. No, everyone could see it—even Nebuchadnezzar.
I’m telling you! (Having a little glory spell here…) God’s deliverance was no skin-of-your-teeth, last-minute, seat-of-your-pants rescue. He made a STATEMENT with the way he led those guys through the furnace!
**Dear writer friends, I know I’m not supposed to use this many exclamation points, but what else can I do? This is phenomenal, miracle territory here! (See, I just used another one.)**
In case you were one among the masses there and couldn’t see inside the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar let everyone know what was happening. After confirming the presence of a fourth man, the king called on the three friends to come out. The fourth guy…he just disappeared, I guess.
Look what Nebuchadnezzar was already saying before the guys even walked out: he called them “servants of the Most High God” (Daniel 3:26).
Things have changed on the plain of Dura.
The government officials crowded around the three friends, touching their clothes and smelling their hair. Nothing. There was no sign of fire anywhere on them. (Personal comparison again: If I sit by a campfire for five minutes, my hair will smell like smoke until I wash it. And I think I once scorched my eyes from staring into a fire for too long. It’s not hard to smell like a fire.)
God redeemed a profane
celebration for His
glory among the nations.
So now this day that was supposed to be all about Nebuchadnezzar’s power became a day to celebrate the power of God Most High, maker of heaven and earth. Through the integrity of three mid-level government officials, God redeemed a profane celebration for His glory among the nations.
Think for a minute on these two things:
- The strength of God is in His very presence. As far as we know, that fourth person in the furnace (maybe pre-incarnate Jesus, maybe an angel) said nothing. But he was there. That was enough. We have that same presence now indwelling us: the Holy Spirit.
I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. … You know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. -Jesus (John 14:16-17)
I don’t know about you, but sometimes the only way I make it is in the almost-tangible strength of His Presence.
- God is always about His glory among the nations. God stamped His power on the most public spectacle of a decade (if not a century), where leaders from across the broad, diverse kingdom of Babylon witnessed His presence and power. That was no coincidence, nor was it either the first or last time.
Look at what Joshua said:
For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God. -Joshua 4:23-24 (emphasis added)
Look for ways our deliverance
intertwines with His glory.
The priest asked for blessing from God “so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations” (Psalm 67:2). And Jesus Himself said we are to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). The method may have changed, but the purpose remains the same…as does His presence.
Epilogue: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego got promotions at work as a result of this situation. Don’t you think those jealous astrologers (Daniel 3:8) were just steaming?
What do you love about this story? How do my thoughts today resonate with you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Take a minute and let me know what you’re thinking.