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In the Furnace of Obedience

22/08/2022

In the Furnace of Obedience

Text: Daniel 3:19-30

I suppose one of the best known Bible stories must be Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, being cast into the fiery furnace.  Let’s recap…

  1. Nebuchadnezzar’s Anger. 2:19-23

The king is angry. That’s an understatement, – he is out of his mind with rage. No-one defies Nebuchadnezzar. He’s the king, the man who hold life and death in his hands. See how the text demonstrates his fury and rage…

  • The look on his face. V19 That uncontrollable anger, that sense of indignation and outrage finally erupted into sheer hatred, and you could see it on his face.   
  • The tone of his voice. He spoke and commanded  Sometimes, it’s not what you say, but the way that you say it that conveyed the true intents of the heart. Nebuchadnezzar spoke. Look at what he commanded:-
    • Overheat the furnace. that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. There’s no mitigation here despite their unblemished character record. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t do mercy. He didn’t reduce the tariff, he increased it!
    • Call the special forces. V20 These were the elite troops, and they are being called out to arrest three unarmed worshippers of God,
    • The death sentence was formally pronounced. to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
  • The haste of his actions. There was no delay. The soldiers seized the three young men, and the Bible makes a point of recording that they were still in their clothes. This is important, as we shall see, in the providence of God. V21 
  • The callousness of his heart. Nebuchadnezzar really doesn’t care about anyone but himself. He was willing to sacrifice the life of some of his finest troops, just so that his awful venom could be enacted upon the three men. V22. Have I adequately described the anger of the tyrant against these believers, – his hatred of everything that is godly?

Now, just don’t expect that standing up for Jesus, while everyone else is bowing down to the idols of this world is going to make you popular!  V23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. You will be in the furnace of blind fury and hatred from the world, just because you refuse to compromise. 


2. Nebuchadnezzar’s Astonishment.

Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t content to have the three Hebrews incinerated alive, he wanted to watch it happening. He was able to see what was happening inside, and what he saw shocked him to the core…

  • What he saw. When he looked into the furnace he saw four men, not three! So he called his counsel together, for confirmation that only three men had been condemned to die.  V24   It was so! But there’s FOUR men in there.  And they are…
    • Loose. These men were chained, they were bound, but in the midst of the times of their deepest, deadliest trial, their chains are gone and they are free! V25 And they are…
    • Walking about. How could they be? The furnace would be stoked with coals, and there would be red hot cinders, blazing away beneath their feet, – it would be impossible for these men to be walking about in there, yet there they are, walking in the midst of the fire;
    • Unharmed. and they are not hurt, How is this possible! Unless it’s a miracle? This overheated furnace would have burned them alive, their skin and hair and clothing should be ablaze, they should be charred skeletons by now, but they are safe in the midst of the blaze. READ  Isaiah. 43:2  
  • What he learned. and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”  Nebuchadnezzar learned a lesson. It was that when find ourselves in the darkest of circumstances, Jesus walks with us, just as he did with those Hebrews.  

So, in the midst of the flames, the Lord walks with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, and the king is jolted out of his self generated, ego driven rage, – his mind blown by the power of God to save. He calls on the furnace keepers to quickly quench the flames and bring the men out alive. V26.


3. The Preservation of God’s People.

Finally, let’s see the state of the three men as they come out of the furnace, and how the king reacted to their preservation by God. There was no evidence of harm. So complete was the protection that they had experiences while in the fire, that there was no sign of any fire damage at all.  V27  

  • Hair singes. Yet their hair was untouched by the flames.
  • Clothes burn quickly! Remember that the Hebrews had been cast into that fire wearing their clothes, which should have caught fire immediately! (No fire-proof cloth in those days) yet their clothes were still upon them, undamaged! 
  • If you stand anywhere near a fire, you will smell of smoke. Have you ever been to a bonfire? You stink of smoke afterwards. There wasn’t a whiff of smoke on the Hebrew men.

God’s preservation of his saints is complete and comprehensive. When he walks with us through the fires of persecution, he brings us through intact and untouched! But that can’t be right can it? There are people who have been persecuted to the point of martyrdom! Of course there are, but remember what we learned in our last lesson, that “even if he slay me, still will I trust Him.” It may well be that our God will decide to bring us safely to our eternal home, preserve us through Jordan, until in heaven we shall rest in him, unharmed and intact, in his immediate presence. 

The effect upon Nebuchadnezzar is profound. The arrogant blaspheming, self interested king is brought down, and humbled and forced to acknowledge the wonderful works of God, his greatness and his owner, and his care for all his people. V28  He’s not a Christian – not a believer, not just yet, – he needs more humility, and he will be brought to his knees, but right now, he has learned a valuable lesson, that there is a God who is much more powerful than he.

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