Furnace of Fire

Fire is spoken and written about in the Bible representing many different things such as the Holy Spirit, a light unto our path, judgment, purification and refinement.  In the Book of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego found themselves in the fiery furnace because they would not compromise and bow a knee in pray to the ninety-foot-tall gold image of Nebuchadnezzar himself.

The Assyrians and Babylonians conquered their foes in two distinctly different ways.  The Assyrians were ruthless leaving monuments of decapitated heads piled high at the gates of a city so all would fear and reverence their power.  Conversely, the Babylonians brought the brightest of their captives back to their homeland to conform and transform their minds and hearts to think like Babylonians.

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were young boys who were taken captive and deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.  They were trained up and became government servants of the King.  All four of these men all had personal traits of conviction and an unwillingness to compromise even in the face of death.

Nebuchadnezzar allowed those he conquered to keep their gods.  This worked until he came up against the one true God who was not willing to be one of many to be worshiped.  God demanded exclusive worship.  Nebuchadnezzar met his match.  Previously, he had been able to be god over and rule over the hundred of idol gods from other nations, but this new God was different.  God showed up to demonstrate who the One true God was and to show Nebuchadnezzar who had conquered who.  One of the king’s weaknesses was pride and wanting to be worshiped.  He built an image of himself and demanded all to bow and pray before the image as they passed by.  Because of this pride, he faced seven years of insanity before the Lord restored him back to wholeness.

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had a strong allegiance and friendship with one another making it possible to stand unified through difficult times.  Together they drew strength and wisdom as they prayed to their God.  Together they defied the king’s orders to fall before and worship an idol.

Friendship with God and fellow believers is so important in our Christian walk.  Most importantly, we need to know we have friendship with God.  Jesus spoke these words to us in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you.”  We cannot walk with the Lord if we only know Him as God in a far off place.  Jesus is our bridge to reconcile us back to the heart of our Heavenly father.  The Father’s heart is to have a loving relationship and friendship with each of His children.

Friendship with other believers is vital to having a strong, unshakable walk with God.  Friends are to be armor bearers for one another as seen in the narrative of David and Jonathan, 1 Samuel 18:1-4.  Jonathan and David loved each other and their souls were knit together.  Even though Jonathan was the crowned prince, he stripped himself of his right, giving David his robe, garments, sword and bow.  He could have been jealous and competitive with David but instead he chose to surrender control and gave love and support to his friend.  This is a beautiful picture of friendship.  Let’s have this same heart toward our friends; giving our best in their time of need.

Another example of friendship is found in the book of Ruth.  Ruth’s name means “Friendship.”  The themes in the book are redemption, revival and restoration.  Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, finds herself alone and decides to head back home after her husband and sons die.  Ruth chooses to stay by her side, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried,” Ruth 1:16-17.  Together, empty-handed, they faced the uncertainties of life and headed back to Bethlehem, the House of Bread. Bread speaks of provision and nourishment.  As the story continues, God intervenes and is their provision.  Once again, we see God is able, “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”  God provided a friend for Naomi so she would not be alone to face her hardship and trials alone.  The story ends with a powerful message of God’s love, redemption and restoration.

Do you travel independently and like being a loner?  Or do you understand the importance of friends that gather around you in good and bad times?  Do your friends cover you in prayer when times are tough?  Are you and God friends?  If you see and know the importance of friendships but just haven’t found your tribe yet, pray to God who is able to bring friendships into your life.  We need each other.  “A friend loves at all times,” Proverbs 17:17.

There was a dedication once the ninety foot gold image of the king had been set up and all the governors, advisers, judges, magistrates and officials came and stood before it.  They were commanded to bow before the image when they heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre and all kinds of music.  If they did not, they were told they would be immediately thrown into a blazing furnace.  Some astrologers noticed there were some Jews named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who paid no attention to the decree.  The king was furious when he heard of their rebellion and summoned them.  He asked if the report was true and the three young men replied, “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 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,” Daniel 3:16-18.

After hearing their defiance, the king ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal. Soldiers were instructed to tie Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego up with ropes and they were thrown into the fire.  The fire burned so hot that the soldiers were burned up by the flames as they carried out their instructions.

As the king watched, he saw four men walking about the fiery furnace instead of three, unbound and unharmed.  The king was astonished, knowing the fourth man was the young men’s God.  He shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!,” Daniel 3:26.

When they came out, they were unharmed; their hair was not singed, robes were not scorched and they had no smell of fire.  The king witnessed the power of the young men’s God and decreed that no one could speak against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego or they would be cut into pieces and their houses turned into rubble.  Because they were unwavering and unwilling to compromise and worship any other god than the One True God, they were saved and promoted by the king.

Do you have this same kind of conviction?  Or, do you have excuses when you run into a crossroad of your faith?  Do you justify compromises or weak decisions with thoughts like, “Just this once, no one will notice” or “I’ll do this because God knows my inward heart?”  We can always come up with excuses and fall into compromise.

All of us at one time or another will be thrown into the fiery furnace of life.  Fire is part of the refining process God allows in our life.  Peter tells us we should not be surprised, “Do not be surprised at the painful (fiery) trial you are suffering (which is to try you) as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed,” 1 Peter 4:12-13.

Paul also says, “Rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed,” 1 Peter 1:6-7.

Even though painful, God allows fire in our life to refine us.  He loves us too much to let us go on living life to be happy.  He is in the business to burn away the impurities so we will be holy and purified like gold before Him.  We are somewhat familiar with the process of how gold is refined.  Industrial sized furnaces are used with extreme heat to liquefy the gold.  The gold is stirred until all the impurities are burned away.  The smelter knows the process is complete when he can see his reflection.

The same takes place with us after we have endured a fiery trial.  God looks into our face and when our eyes lock with His and He can see His reflection, he knows the process is complete and our faith is strengthened.  When we are refined and redefined, God speaks the same words as Nebuchadnezzar, “Come out, come here.”

Trials do not only come when we are off course as seen in the story of these three Jewish men.  They were standing strong in their convictions.  Many of us get very confused when we are doing everything we know to be strong in the Lord and then find ourselves in a fiery trial.  Difficult times come not because we are in sin, though sometimes that is the case, or because God is mad and wanting to punish us but to improve and strengthen us.  The enemy, however, loves us to think the contrary and wants us to believe God is an angry, punishing God.  God is good all the time.  His essence is good, unchanging, and forever the same.  Yet, He is always doing new things in our lives.

Just as Jesus was present with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire, He is likewise present with us when we go through fiery trials.  “I will never leave you or forsake up,” the Lord promises in Hebrews 13:5.  We don’t always notice God in our life when we are sailing along.  We see Jesus best in the fire and so do the others that are watching.  Those who do not yet believe are always watching Christians as they go through a “hot” time; they observe and watch to see if Christians handle the heat any better than they do.  We have an audience who wants to see if our God will show up.  Nebuchadnezzar watched and saw the ropes were burned away but the men were unharmed.  Unbelievers need to see the ropes that once entangled us and kept us in bondage are burned away when we come out of the furnace.  They need to see we are unharmed and stronger.  They need to see our God-given promotions we walk in after we pass the test.

The bottom line, God insulates us from the flames, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over.  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, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior,” Isaiah 43:2-3.

There are so many insights we can learn from in this wonderful story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s unwavering, uncompromising convictions to serve the One True God.  They remained strong in their faith and unfailing friendship with one another.  They were willing to die for their convictions.  God was in the midst of the fiery furnace and kept them from harm.  I love when stories have a happy ending.  The king promoted the three young men when they came out of the furnace unscathed.  We have nothing to fear in this life for God is able and near.  Again, God is able, more than able, to rescue us from life’s fiery trials.

Blessings,

Elizabeth

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