This morning, my chronological Bible plan had me re-visit the book of Daniel and the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (chapter 3). I say re-visit because, like many of you, I have heard the story of the fiery furnace many times, read the passage over and over again and felt like I knew it quite well.
But…something really stood out to me today.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”
They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (Daniel 3:24,25)
In case you’re unfamiliar with the story, I’ll give you a little background. (Of course, you could read chapter 3, if you’d like.)
- King Nebuchadnezzar made a statue, an idol really, to be worshiped at an appointed time. I always thought it was of himself, but we are not actually told this. Perhaps it was. Perhaps it reflected his earlier dream, as interpreted by Daniel in chapter 2. I don’t know, I am just speculating.
- Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, obeying the Lord’s command to ‘have no idols, nor bow down to other gods’, refused the king’s command to worship this golden image as the music played. This also interested me…Daniel is very specific about the instruments and he repeats the entire list. Now, Nebuchadnezzar had invited some very important people, people from various ‘nations and languages’. This list of VIPs was also repeated, by the way.
- Well, the king was none too pleased when certain Chaldeans pointed out that these three men, whom the king had given great responsibility, refused to worship his statue. In fact, he flew into a rage. He commanded that these men should be brought to him.
- He gave them a chance to recant their position, warning them that it would not bode well if they chose to continue on the same path. He even goaded them a little: “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
- They responded confidently that their God was able to save them, but even if He didn’t, they would never worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods.
- If the king wasn’t already angry, he sure was now. He was ‘full of fury’ and ordered the fire to be seven times hotter than usual.
- Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego were bound and taken to the fire. It was so hot that those who escorted them were killed by the heat outside the furnace. The men fell in.
- Soon, the king incredulously asked the question: “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” He noticed that the men were no longer bound and there was another man in there. Whaaattt?
This is where I got to thinkin’. The fire only burned the ropes, or whatever was used to bind them. Nothing else. Their clothes didn’t even smell like smoke. In the midst of their trial they were free.
It made me look deeper into my own life. Do I feel free when I’m in tough situations? Do I need to go through hard things sometimes to be freed from something? One who is to be free from addictions must endure a few agonizing days as his body adjusts to life without drugs. Are other things that enslave us like that? Is there a kind of detoxing involved? Sometimes, I think, it is tribulation that makes us recognize our problems; and though it sounds counterintuitive, perhaps the trials are often a necessary passage to healing.
As I considered this, I might have been overwhelmed, if I didn’t know this truth: in the midst of my trials, He is with me, just as He was in that fire–the fourth person–with those men. I never go through the process alone. Sometimes He saves me from trouble, sometimes He holds my hand through it.
So, pondering the rest of the passage with this in mind, I began to wonder: would those observing me in my trials have the same reaction as Nebuchadnezzar? We are told he exclaimed:
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
Do others see Christ in me in the hard times as well as the good?