The remarkable account of the Fiery Furnace in Daniel 3 is an astonishing lesson in faith and trust. I have watched children grow wide-eyed with horror and then open-mouthed with excitement as the story unfolds.
Nebuchadnezzar was an outrageous king; he had a massive, gold statue made – 90 feet high x 9 feet wide – and erected it on the plain of Dura. He then installed a huge orchestra, sent out a royal command to the kingdom’s hierarchy, and issued an alarming order [Daniel 3:1-7]. Since that order included bowing down to the image, Torah-observant Jews refused to obey [vvs 8-12]. Nebuchadnezzar flew into a towering rage, and sent for the offenders, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave them another chance, warning that if they refused to obey they would be hurled into a fiery furnace. Their reply has become a classic: “…the God we serve is able to deliver us…But even if he does not…we will not serve your gods…” [vvs 17-18 italics added]
Incandescent with fury the king told his servants to heat the furnace seven times hotter than normal, and ordered the strongest of his soldiers to bind the friends and throw them into the fire. The excessive heat killed the soldiers instantly. When the fire had died down sufficiently for the king to draw closer, to his astonishment he saw four men walking around in the flames, and even this pagan understood that the fourth was divine!
Life can hit hard, can’t it? Bereavement, redundancy, ill health, relationship problems, increasing age, and some troubles that are personal. “Do we…have a ‘But if not..’ in our spiritual vocabulary,” asks Oswald Sanders, “…to carry us through our fiery furnace?” There are wonderful times when Yahshua meets us in the fire and we are set free, ‘but if not’ let us continue to trust the One who is able. Does it confuse and upset you when the One who can – doesn’t? We may not always understand the way Yahweh deals with us - and He doesn’t need to explain Himself – but Yahshua did leave us a wonderful promise: “You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand” [John 13:7].