The Fiery Furnace

Reading: Daniel 3

Nebuchadnezzar was a proud and very powerful king. He was the King of Babylon. Although he had acknowledged Daniel's God as a great God, he still had a lot more to learn about Him. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he could prevent his empire being overthrown by ordering all people to obey him and worship his idols, with the penalty of death for those who dared to disobey. He made a huge image entirely of gold and commanded all the people to bow down and worship it. Those who disobeyed would be thrown into a fiery furnace.

Imagine the scene: the huge, golden image, gleaming in the sunlight; a large band standing by waiting for the signal to play; crowds of people, governors, princes and captains all in their official robes, standing before the image. The band played. Everyone fell flat on their faces before the image. Everyone except for three young Jews who remained standing. They were friends of Daniel and had been influenced by his great faith in God.

To stand up and be counted in that way they needed to be very sure of what they were doing. They also needed to have the right attitude - humbly, not with pride or boastfully. This applies to us alos - there will be times in our lives when we have to stand up for what we believe. We must have enough faith to believe that God will be with us and, in the end, will save us. These young men had tremendous courage and great faith which enabled them to stand firm knowing that God had forbidden the worship of idols (see Exodus 20 v 2)

King Nebuchadnezzar was furious when he heard that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had disobeyed his order and he sent for them. He gave them one more chance to bow down to his image and said:
" ... 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?"

But Daniel's three friends did not need another chance - they were firmly resolved to follow the commands of God rather than the proud King Nebuchadnezzar. They knew that the king would carry out his threat of throwing them into the furnace, but they also knew that the Lord their God would deliver them out of the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, in whatever way that may be:
"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 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."

What great faith and courage these men had! Nebuchadnezzar's fury and rage increased and he lost all sense of reason - he ordered his men to heat the furnace seven times hotter than was usual. The strongest men of his army bound the three men (who didn't resist their capture), but they were burnt and killed by the flames as they threw Daniel's three friends into the fire.

Suddenly the king leaped to his feet and called out in utter amazement:
"Wasn't it three men that tied up and threw into the fire? ... Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound, unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods."

God had sent his angel to deliver them. Nebuchadnezzar called to them:

"Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!"

Everyone crowded round the three men and stared in complete amazement when they found that they were completely unharmed. Not a hair was singed nor was there any smell of fire about them. The One, true, God, in whom these men trusted, had rescued them from the power of the king and once more Nebuchadnezzar was brought to acknowledge the existence of a greater power than his own. He now realised that God was in control and ruling, even within his kingdom. So he made a new decree condemning to death anyone who spoke against the God of the Jews.

It does not matter where we are so long as we have faith and trust in God. If we obey God first, He will always help and deliver us, when our faith in Him puts us in need of His help. Let us remember too that God will help and deliver us in the way in which He alone knows is best.

 


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