One of the (many) reasons I adore the Bible is the over-the-top, slay the impossible, and undeniable ways God shows us His mighty power. He makes sure there is no doubt about what He can do and how that same power applies to our own singular lives, right now and in today’s circumstances. Today I want to concentrate on one particular example of His mighty power- the fiery furnace Bible story.
All of us have probably felt the heat of “walking through fire” in our lives. It’s intense and painful, with no immediate relief in sight.
Maybe you’re feeling the flames of financial ruin, deep depression, or a frightening health diagnosis. Our fiery furnace can be life threatening, painful, scary, and completely overwhelming.
No matter what your trial, this story of the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace will show us how to walk through the fire, gathering and relying on the strength and peace that only could come from Him.
Book of Daniel Chapter 3
The book of Daniel opens with King Nebuchadnezzar besieging Jerusalem; stealing temple artifacts and some of the best and brightest young men to take back to Babylon, a land steeped in the occult.
They completely indoctrinated these men into the language, customs, and literature of the Babylonians. They went so far as to even change their Jewish names into names of Babylonian gods and demons.
In this story, we meet three of them- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
Nebuchadnezzar subsequently builds a 90-foot golden image of himself and summons all the important people in his kingdom to its dedication. Whenever the music plays, all the people must fall to their knees and worship this image.
There were consequences for refusing:
“Whoever does not fall down, and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
The consequences did not deter these three Jewish men. They had only One God and followed His First Commandment- to have no other gods before Him.
Some astrologers got wind of this disobedience and went straight to King Nebuchadnezzar to inform him. Furious, he called them into his presence to question them himself and was prepared to execute them as promised to all who refused to bow down.
“Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” he asks them. (Daniel 3:15b)
Undeterred and unbowed, they affirm their guilt freely-
“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.”
But Even If
“But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of god you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18
These three men were ready to die for their faith rather than deny their true God. They showed the courage of their faith and obedience in standing up to Nebuchadnezzar “even if” God did not save them.
What a powerful statement! They believed in His power to save, but also trusted God enough to make the same decision. They chose complete obedience and trust. What a beautiful act of faith for us to emulate.
No one knows exactly what kind of furnace Nebuchadnezzar built, but an execution chamber was probably not its primary function. Stone was rare in Babylonia and so they mostly used bricks for building, including color-glazed bricks that needed a fiery furnace for production.
The men’s denial to bow down to his likeness infuriated the king. He orders the furnace to be heated seven times hotter.
He ordered his strongest soldiers to tie up the three men and toss them into the furnace. The heat was so intense it killed the soldiers who cast them into the furnace.
Shadrach Meshach and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace
They assumed that the fire would have immediately consumed the three men, but when the king looked into the flames, he leapt to his feet in amazement and asked,
“Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” “Certainly, O king,” his advisors replied.
“He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’” Daniel 3:24-25.
Was Jesus in the Fiery Furnace?
Who was the 4th man in the fire? This fourth person was obviously a supernatural being, but there is no consensus on who it was. The king calls the being “an angel” in verse 28. Many Biblical scholars believe this was the pre-incarnate Christ, while some are unsure of the word’s exact meaning.
The later Greek translations of this passage call this being an angel, while other places use “angel of the Lord,” another term for the pre-incarnate Christ.
Angel or Lord, I’m going to stand on these promises:
“When you pass through the water, I will be with you; when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God.” Isaiah 43:2-3.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” Psalm 23:4
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20.
Nebuchadnezzar called out to the three men to come out of the fire. All could see that their bodies, clothing, and hair were untouched by the flames and there was not even a smell of smoke on them! The only thing missing were the bindings of the soldiers.
Even Nebuchadnezzar could not deny the power of the Hebrew’s God. He commanded no one speak against Him and promotes Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in his kingdom.
Lessons from the Fiery Furnace
This amazing story of God’s power and protection has far-reaching lessons of encouragement for us today and beyond.
The heat of the flames comes to each of us in a variety of ways, but with one constant- the unrelenting heat. We will all experience these kinds of trials; Jesus told us to expect them.
“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
Trusting in His presence, love, and protection as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did shows us His great faithfulness, the perfection of His plan for our lives, and His great love.
●We are never alone in our struggles. He is with us in the flames to comfort and guide us.
God could have saved the three men after the heat killed the soldiers, but He did not. He allowed them to walk into the blazing furnace to show us we need not fear the flames; He walks with us.
We emerge from the flames with a deeper intimacy with Jesus and a new reliance on His power. We’ve felt it, we’ve seen it, and we’ve come out of the fire not smelling of smoke, but with a sweet aroma of renewed strength and hope for our future.
●Even as the flames shoot up around us, we can have peace. Not only that, but we also come out stronger when we emerge from the flames.
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The king demanded worship of himself through the giant golden statue he erected. We know how our 3 Hebrew heroes responded. They were unwilling to compromise their belief in God, even to the point of facing death.
These three men understood God created them for the express purpose of worshiping Him and Him alone.
They could have made excuses and rationalizations to bow down (“it’s not that bad”, “it’s not hurting anyone”) but they still would have been disobeying God’s command.
We all face these same choices in who and what we worship today (and use those same excuses!). Satan has taken no time off in trying to draw us away from our mighty God.
Ephesians 6:12 tells us we will struggle “against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
We’re always being pulled in directions directly opposite of our faith. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked into a fiery furnace rather than deny their God. That shows the strength and courage of their faith.
This story gives us a chance to look at the choices we make in our lives and how we honor and serve God. These men fully believed in God’s plan for them without knowing the outcome. They had been practicing for years to stand up to this king. Even in this foreign land, they stood strong in their faith.
Reflect on your commitment to Him. Are you loyal to Him in the small things and the big ones? Do you trust God in your fiery trials even when you don’t know the result? Or do you emerge from the fire stinking of of smoking bitterness toward God, your circumstances, etc.?
●We can trust in God’s love and care for us in any situation, no matter how hot the flames are.
God’s Refining Fire
Throughout Israel’s history, there has always been a faithful remnant who trust and follow Him. Their difficult circumstances were like the refiner’s fire. Not a fire that destroys, but one that purifies. God describes His method of purification like this:
“This third I will bring into the fire, I will refine them like silver, test them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them; I will say, they are my people: and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” Zechariah 13:9.
The refiner’s fire heats the silver or gold, exposing impurities and burning them away. God’s refining fire filters out the sinful nature that we fight daily. His fire doesn’t destroy, but cleanses.
Remember those troubles Jesus promised us? He can use them to shape us closer to His image. I remember my eyes being opened in one of those “aha” moments when studying this Romans passage:
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
“God works for the good”- this “good” is not a rose strewn path of life. Not all that happens in our lives will be good, but He can use every circumstance to transform us into the likeness of Christ. And that is very good.
What Does the Fiery Furnace Symbolize
I recently had my own fiery furnace experience.
Unfortunately, my spine had deteriorated over the years to the point I needed surgery to correct it. Over a period of several months, I prayed and watched and felt Jesus give me the answer to prayers to pave the path towards choosing surgery.
After a long and difficult surgery, I awakened to a perfectly straight and untwisted spine! That was truly a miracle- it amazed even the surgeon!
Unfortunately, I also awakened with a known complication- severe nerve pain down my entire left leg. After 3 weeks of failed therapies to correct it, I was back in the hospital.
They could give me IV medicines that helped some. But I needed to pass a test before going home- go off all the IV medication and see if that had reduced the inflammation. If not, then I needed another surgery.
Answers in Our Trials and Tribulations
My prayer that night was for explicit confirmation and direction in making this decision. In my heart, I prayed for pain relief, not surgery, but if it had to be surgery, I wanted that answer to be clear.
At 10pm that night, Jesus answered my prayer clearly. The flames and the heat of intense pain increased to where I was in tears. It did not relent, all night long.
I watched the clock on the wall slowly tick to morning and gave thanks for the incredible night nurse who talked me through decisions and meds to make it through.
He waited outside my door in the minutes before my next dose- never once was he late. He whispered, “I’m sorry” each time he came in, showing me a calm and caring presence.
This affirmation of “turning up the heat” was exactly what I needed to make my decision. If the pain had let up halfway through the night, it would have confused me.
The best part of this story is that I had the surgery, and as I opened my eyes in the recovery room, I realized the severe pain in my hip and upper leg was completely gone!
What a night and day difference! I’m still processing the whole situation and realizing His comforting presence within the flames, His angels here on earth, and the strength He gave me to make it through.
Fiery Furnace Meaning
I could have railed against God for this complication in the first place. I could have asked, “Why me?” But I have seen Him work for my good in many ways in the past, and in those times, He has given me His strength and comfort the closer I come to His arms.
The pain and sorrow of trials will not overwhelm us because we are His. He is with us every tick of the clock as we wait for deliverance, drying our tears and holding us close. I trust in His plan and His way of deliverance.
Surviving the fiery furnace is but one way He shows us His mighty power. He truly is the God of the impossible! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, by all laws of nature, should have been incinerated immediately. Only God could have saved them.
Let these three men encourage you to have a courageous faith, knowing Jesus stands by our side through every fiery trial, and to rely on His amazing power in our lives.
All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
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