Monday, March 29, 2010

…And the Smell of Fire Was Not on Them

This past week I was reading through the book of Daniel, which contains the Bible’s two most well-known epic escapes. I wanted to touch on the first great escape that we read about in chapter three that involves three Hebrew men and their fiery furnace appointment.

As background, the Book of Daniel is set during the Babylonian Captivity, a period when Jews were deported and exiled to Babylon following the siege of Jerusalem of 597 BC. The book revolves around Daniel, a Judean and member of Israelite nobility who becomes Chief Magician (4:9) in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler of Babylon from 605 to 562 BC. The book has two distinct parts: a series of six narratives (chapters one to six) and four apocalyptic visions (chapters seven to twelve).

The fiery furnace story that I referenced earlier takes place within the narrative section of the book. In chapter three, we read that King Nebuchadnezzar had built a giant golden statue of himself and ordered everyone to bow down and worship it. If anyone refused, they were to be executed by being thrown into a fiery furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, along with Daniel, were members of the Israelite nobility, and therefore taken into the king's service, boldly refused to worship anyone other than the God of Israel and then professed their faith in God's ability to protect them, “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” (3:17-18).

As Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego entered the furnace, the king made an amazing observation, "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" (3:25). The Lord Himself had entered the furnace and protected his servants from harm but what I wanted to focus on was the level of protection provided as I believe it contains a wonderful spiritual truth that I hope will bless your heart.

The Scripture says that when the servants exited the furnace they were inspected by the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors, “...and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them” (3:27).

The Lord did not just save the lives of his servants; the text says the fire had no power on them. Their God had saved them completely, so that there was not the slightest evidence that they had ever been in danger. So too, the salvation offered by the Lord is so effective and complete that nothing of the lost condition of the sinner remains. It is this fact that prompted Christ to exclaim on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His atoning work of salvation offers absolute deliverance from all that corrupts, all that defiles, and all that blights to anyone who puts their faith and trust in Him, "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10).

At the end of the chapter, Nebuchadnezzar responded to this miraculous deliverance by declaring, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God! Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this" (3:28-29).

That is quite a statement from a king who at the outset of the chapter believed he was the king of kings to be solely worshipped by all. Now this man realizes there is a God in Israel and He alone has the power to deliver like no other.

Yes, there is a God in Christianity. A God in the midst of His people, going with us through the fiery trials of life, protecting us from all harms and guiding us home to His everlasting arms.

"God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain." – C.S. Lewis

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The book of Daniel is enthralling. The three Hebrew servants perfectly picture a faith well placed in the God of Israel.