“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”…“Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Have you ever studied the fiery furnace account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego? I have read it several times. When I started to think about it the other day I wondered if there is any account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, stating anything about the fourth person. I know King Nebuchadnezzar mentions the fourth person in the furnace but were the three men aware of it themselves? What is interesting is that there was no mention that they were aware God was literally with them. Clearly, they knew He was delivering them from the furnace but it didn’t say that they were aware He was actually physically there.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were given a directive to bow down and worship the idol, yet chose not to. They said, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” This account causes us to realize that the furnace did happen. They did go in it. They weren’t spared from the trial but were delivered through it.
There are 8 points I want to address that relate to our own furnace moments…
First, we will go through the fire as believers, especially if we are serving the Lord and living well for Him as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were doing. It was this particular fact that drew the attention on them. 1 Peter 4:12 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.”
Second, there are times we are aware the Lord is with us in a trial, and then there are times we don’t feel His presence at all. It is always of great comfort to feel the Lord. It helps to strengthen us when we need Him. However, when we are in the furnace, I don’t know how often we do feel Him. I think in those moments, we sense Him less or not at all. This is often a difficult place to be as we need Him greatest when the fire is at its hottest and we often attribute feeling to presence. Yet every day we endure something beyond human ability, we show that Jesus is victorious and present.
Third, whether we know it, feel it, or believe it, God is closest to us in the furnace. The Lord stood right with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He wasn’t moving outside the furnace. He wasn’t changing things that prevented them from being scorched. He, Himself, was the reason they weren’t scorched. It wasn’t their doing. This is the point of the furnace. If you are in a difficult circumstance and you are doing fine and managing well, you are not in a furnace. A furnace is a place where God alone does the work. You literally leave it praising God that you survived.
Fourth, close doesn’t mean that God is emotionally observable. I believe this is a sticking point for most of us. It is the fire that is working to strengthen us in our faith. If we always sensed the Lord, the faith-building, strengthening work that comes from the furnace wouldn’t be realized. It is easy to believe when we feel God’s presence. It is an entirely different thing to do so when we don’t.
Fifth, a lack of feeling His presence doesn’t mean He isn’t there. I don’t think it is an accident that the Bible doesn’t mention them proclaiming that they saw God. I do believe they would have proclaimed it if they did, wouldn’t you? It would be the first thing I would say after the awe that I survived had passed. When Jesus healed all the people during His earthly ministry, He warned them not to tell anyone. Did they listen? I don’t think even one did. How can you? I believe Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego would have proclaimed they saw the Lord if they did, especially considering they were so bold before the furnace.
Sixth, there are trials that feel like a furnace. In the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, the fire burned 7 times hotter than normal. This is how some trials feel. I spoke to a friend the other day that said of his last trial, “I wasn’t in the fire, I was on fire”. How true that feels to us sometimes. Some trials make us feel desperate. In 2 Corinthians 1:8, Paul said, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” Sometimes we ask the Lord to take us home because the trial is just too much for us.
Seventh, God’s enduring power is sometimes only observable by others. If a trial is brought our way that causes us to just be about survival, we may not recognize being upheld. Others can see it but to us, we are blinded by the fire.
Eighth, it isn’t until we are out of the furnace that we see we aren’t scorched. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were acutely aware that they weren’t being consumed by the fire but I don’t think they realized they weren’t even scorched until after they left the furnace. They couldn’t know that while in the fire. Only afterward was that seen and understood.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, willingly went to the fire. They said three powerful words to King Nebuchadnezzar, “but if not.” They knew God was able to save them stating: “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” Often times, the fire comes upon us unexpectedly. When we step into the trial it is easy to brace ourselves but some trials come upon us and it takes time to settle into them, especially if God is doing significant work. The trials the men faced were to show God’s power in a unique way. The men were willing and ready to enter the furnace. When the trials are about our molding and shaping, we don’t react the same way. If we did, the trial wouldn’t be about shaping us. Only after the fire do we see what God was doing, and not always the “why” but the “how” – Jesus!
Are you in a trial and feel the burn of God’s refining? I am there every day. The furnace is not enjoyable but it is profitable. Hebrews 12:11 acknowledges this, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” Sometimes we must hold on while the refiner does His work. This is where the day – to – day, moment – to – moment people live. They know the fire of the furnace better than anyone. They are silent warriors fighting every day, holding on for God’s glory and being upheld for their good.
If you are in the fire struggling and need someone to talk to, please feel free to reach out. We can walk our trials together.
#2 and #6 resonate
God bless you in your furnace!
Thank you, they resonate with me too!!!
Thank you for writing! I am enjoying your thoughts. I hope you keep writing. Praying for your healing!