Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Through the Fire

I'm currently in a Bible study with wives of business school students. I love being able to have community with them and share similar struggles and highlights. We are doing a Beth Moore study on Daniel, which seems like a strange choice, but it has been AMAZING. Last night we studied Daniel 3, and it just overwhelmed me. God's word is so rich and full of application for us, even in the Old Testament!

You've probably heard the story of Daniel 3. I know I last thought about it in Sunday school as a kid, and I'm pretty sure there was a song about it. It's a good story, but it didn't really sink in with me until yesterday.  I was thinking maybe it's the same with you, so I wanted to share. It's the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego escaping the fiery furnace. You should really go read Daniel 3 for yourself here, but I'll give you the basic overview:

King Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) has a 90 foot high golden statue made and orders all of Babylon to fall down and worship the statue. Anyone who does not bow down and worship the statue will be thrown into the fiery furnace, already raging. At the king's command, every person in Babylon from the lowliest citizen to the highest official bows down to the statue - except for three men of God - Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refuse to bow down. Nebuchadnezzar gives them a second chance, but they boldly proclaim that they will NEVER bow down. They proclaim that their God is able to deliver them from the furnace, but even if He doesn't, they still won't bow down. Infuriated, the king orders the fires to be heated 7 times hotter, has the three men tied up, and orders them thrown into the fire. The fire is so hot that the soldiers who throw them in are immediately burned to death. Once Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are in the furnace, the crowd notices something disturbing - they see four men walking around in the fire. Sure enough, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego plus a fourth man are walking around, unharmed and unbound in the fire. The fourth person turns out to be the son of God - a preincarnate Jesus, right there in the fire with them. A terribly frightened king calls the men out of the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerge completely unharmed - nothing has been singed or burned except their bonds. The Bible even says they did not even smell like smoke. And King Nebuchadnezzar believed and praised God and declared that everyone in Babylon should praise God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are promoted in the kingdom and are never mentioned again.

Take-Away 1: I don't want to bow down.
I can think of so many things in our culture that everyone bows down to - money, fame, celebrities, beauty, power, jobs ... the list goes on. Even if everyone else around me is bowing down, I want to actively resist the things of this world that can so easily defile. That image of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego standing tall while everyone else had their face to the ground worshipping an idol is seared in my mind. Let that be me standing, Lord. Let me care more about your fame than about what other people think. In the passage, the king's men say of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: "They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up." (v. 11) Oh Lord, let that be said of me!

Take-Away 2: I want faith like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In the study, Beth challenged us to really wrap our minds around what was going on there. These three men resisted the king on principle. They refused to conform to the culture and blaspheme God. But at what cost? The cost was DEATH. Immediate, certain, painful death. And yet they did not waver. Even when given a second chance, they boldly stood up and declared their faith, no matter the cost.  They could have "pretended" to bow down or rationalized why they were going along with everyone else.  But they didn't. They expressed certainty that God was ABLE to save them, but also acknowledged that he might choose not to save them. Either way, they weren't going to break. They said, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (v. 17-18) Do I have faith like that?

Take-Away 3: God doesn't always deliver us from the fire.
I'm sure that the three men hoped God would completely deliver them from the fire. Maybe they wished the fire would just go out. But it didn't. They were bound and they were thrown IN THE FIRE. Although God didn't deliver them FROM the fire, he delivered them THROUGH the fire. This speaks to my heart so clearly. Often, we wish for God to take away our trials. But we are guaranteed trials as Christians. It's a certainty. Often, God will have us go into the fire and he will bring us through it. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire, "They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them." (v. 27) This brings tears to my eyes. They were IN the fire, but they were not harmed. They didn't even smell like smoke. I believe that God does this all the time with situations in our lives. And guess what Beth pointed out: What was the ONLY thing that burned up? Their bonds - the ropes that had held them captive. What if we come out the other side of the fire FREER than we were before? There is one more option - it's possible that God will not deliver us from or even through the fire. It's possible that the fire will consume us. But we will be consumed for God's glory and it will be because of his great love and sovereign plan for us. I want to remember that we should always pray to be delivered from the fire because God can deliver us. But sometimes we will be delivered through the fire or not delivered at all. God's will be done.

Take-Away 4: God is with us in the fire.
One of the most amazing parts of this story and one that I think I missed as a kid is that THREE men went into the fire, but FOUR men were walking around in there, unharmed. It was so troubling that the king and his men started to freak out a little bit. The king says, "“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (v. 25) Well he looked like a son of the gods because he WAS the son of God. Many scholars believe that the pre-incarnate Christ himself was in the fire with them. God was so gracious to give us this picture. Yes, he allowed them to be thrown into the fire, but HE WAS WITH THEM. Literally! When we are in the fire, God is literally with us. Weather he brings me around the fire, takes me through the fire, or consumes me in the fire, he will be with me.

Take-Away 5: I want to live for God's fame.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were so bold with their faith that their faith spurred a ruthless king and pagan kingdom to praise God. These three men are never heard of again in the Bible... but what better way to go out than proclaiming the Lord and living for his fame? Talk about lives well lived!

Dainel.  Good stuff.  Check it out.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

I did that study and loved it! I loved your comments because it was a great reminder! Love you and I'm excited to hear what God's doing in your life! Xoxo

 
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