Wednesday, September 2, 2009

There is a Blessing in the Fire

Scripture Reference :
Daniel 3:14-24 (NIV)
Beginning with Daniel 3:14... and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?" 16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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 gold you have set up." 19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king's command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. 24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers "Weren't there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?" They replied, "Certainly, O king."

The events in the book of Daniel is written at a time the Jewish captives of Babylon were in bondage because of their idolatry (see Isaiah 2; 30:19-22; 31:7; Jeremiah 8:19; Ezekiel 5: 1-12; 6:1-10; 14:1-5; 16:15-23; 20:39-40; 22:1-4; 23). Israel was commanded not to make or worship idols, on penalty of death.

Now, with the making of this golden image and the dedication ceremony, three friends find themselves commanded to worship this idol, or die. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were determined to flee from idolatry. These three remained faithful to God and to His law, even when threatened with the fiery furnace. They obey God’s law even when it is life-threatening. They would rather face the wrath of men than the wrath of God.

The three Hebrews, bound tightly and still in their festive dress, had to be carried to the furnace and then thrown in. The fire was so intensely hot that those charged with the unpleasant task of throwing the men into the fire were consumed by the flames which belched from the furnace. These three men did not stand a “prayer of a chance,” unless their God was able to deliver them. They were cast into the top of the furnace, bound hand and foot.

Something puzzled Nebuchadnezzar, when looking into the furnace he saw not three men, but four. More troubling was that the fourth person in the furnace was not like the other three. The king turned to his high officials, who were looking on. He asked them if there were not three men cast into the fire. They wisely agreed. He called their attention to the fact that four men were now in the fire, and one had a god-like appearance. Whatever that appearance was, he knew it was not human and assumed it to be divine.

When placed in a position where we must either obey God or men, then we must obey God and disobey men. If obedience to one of man’s laws would result in our disobedience to one of God’s laws, we must obey God by disobeying men.

The three friends did not believe that faithfulness to God guarantees freedom from suffering and tribulation. We know from the Scriptures that those who would live godly lives should expect suffering and tribulation (see 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 11 and 12; James 1:2-41 Peter 2:18-25; 41-19).

While these men bore witness to their faith by what they refused to do, God’s power was most dramatically demonstrated in the fire. When Christians suffer well, the world takes note that the faith of the believer is not a fair-weather faith. Suffering is the opportunity for God to bear witness through us.

Lastly, suffering is a beneficial experience because it purifies.

The enemies of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were shown the folly of their own “faith” and the power of the God of the Jews to preserve and deliver them.

Deliverance comes from God, to the people of God. Deliverance is complete. It will keep us through the fire of tribulation and adversity.

by: B Stevenson and Lillie Jackson

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