Daniel 3:16-18. 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.”
Most of us think this Bible story is about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three young Jewish men taken captive into Babylon, forced to worship the king, but then with great faith they refuse and suffer the fiery furnace, where God miraculously rescues them. Now go and do likewise. The end.
But this story isn’t really about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; it’s about Nebuchadnezzar and his showdown with God. It’s about God proving himself to be the true King of the universe, the Son of Man who will rule the world.
The fiery furnace that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego face is just one part of that showdown. Their fiery furnace will prove God’s authority to Nebuchadnezzar and to the world. And the same is true of your fiery furnace.
Life is full of fiery furnaces isn’t it? When you’re living in exile there is no shortage of false gods and golden images trying to steal your attention away from Christ, and there is no shortage of Nebuchadnezzars trying to burn you alive.
But why does God allow these fiery furnaces into our lives? Couldn’t God just rapture Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego up to heaven? Couldn’t he just throw Nebuchadnezzar into his own furnace? Why is life with God full of so much suffering and so many hard choices?
Because the invisible God is made visible by our faith in him.
People trust in God when they see his people trust in God. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego went into that fire in faith, God sent his saving presence into that fire with them. And it was in the fire that Christ was made visible.
Daniel 3:25. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
Christ is the fourth man in the fire. God’s eternal son entered into the furnace with the faithful ones. He was the one person in this story, including Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that didn’t deserve to burn. Yet, in love, he entered into the flames. And one day his love would enter the flames of hell on the cross of our sin and separation.
In the furnace, the faithfulness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego revealed the salvation of God to Nebuchadnezzar and all of Babylon. And on the cross, the faithfulness of Jesus revealed the salvation of God to the whole world. Where would Nebuchadnezzar be without three boys in a furnace? Where would the world be without Christ on the cross? And where would the world be today without our faithful fellowship of suffering with Jesus revealing the gracious salvation of God?
The furnaces of life exist because of sin and the curse. They are a part of this life. But in Christ, the furnace has been transformed. The trials are no longer God’s flames of destruction; they are his holy fire of gracious refinement. The furnace cannot destroy you because the fourth man is in the flames with you. Christ’s life makes you fire proof. Nothing in this life, including death, can burn you. Now every fiery situation of your life serves to reveal the grace of God to a world in danger of the eternal flame of death.
“To live is Christ” means trusting the reality of your fire proof life. And as you trust Christ’s life more and more, your faith will prove to the world the grace and faithfulness of God in Christ. The world will see you walk around unbound in the midst of the fire with Jesus, and they will declare like Nebuchadnezzar, “there is no other God who is able to rescue in this way.”
What is your fiery furnace today?
You in Christ
How does knowing that you are in Christ allow you to enter the flames of life in faith?
Christ in you
How can your suffering actually make Christ visible to a dying world?
Playlist: In the Fire.
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