Don’t Fear the Fiery Furnace (a meditation)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:16-18

During Judah’s exile into Babylon, three Jewish friends served in the government of King Nebuchadnezzar. At one point the king decided to make a massive statue, overlaid with gold, and called all the leaders and authorities in the land to come to its dedication. When they heard the music play, they were commanded to fall down and worship the statue or face death in a fiery furnace.

Given to worship the One True God and not beholden to the gods of Babylon, though these friends respected and worked for the king, they refused to bow. The king had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego arrested and gave them one last opportunity to obey his command. Their response illustrates the heart of what it means to worship God and fear no one else.

They told the king that they would not bow, they expressed faith that God would deliver them from a fiery fate, but, they said, “Even if he does not, we will not worship your image.”

Though they lived hundreds of years before the life of Jesus, they lived out what Jesus taught: “Do not fear those who can only kill the body” (Matthew 10:28).

In the case of these friends, God did miraculously rescue them. The king had the fire burn as hot as he could and tossed them into the furnace, fully clothed and bound. Yet when he looked he saw the three of them and then a fourth man walking around quite alive and unbound. He called for them to come out and the three emerged without a scratch or singe.

Such could only happen by the protection of the One God who created and sustains all things.

So we who follow Jesus are to have the same attitude. Many things can happen in this world: persecutions, famine, disaster, terrorism, disease, accidents, and the list could go on. There are so many things that could threaten our lives and bring an end to our time on earth. Some we may see coming, others may take us by surprise. In neither case are we to be afraid.

The song “The Shadow of Death” by The Whistle and the Bells says, “But death can stare me in the eye but, oh, I will not blink. Oh, the shadow of death is not the end of my story, for the shadow of death is but my entrance to glory.”

This is the attitude of faith: No matter the situation, we trust in the hand of God to rescue us from danger and death; but even if he doesn’t, we will still trust in him because he will bring us into his glorious Kingdom through death. Don’t fear the fiery furnace.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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