There is so much wisdom to be gleaned from the account of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego’s encounter with the furious King Nebuchadnezzar recorded in the second chapter of Daniel. If you are not familiar with the story you might want to begin with the first verse … I’m starting with verse 13.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?” (vs 13-15)
The world and the wisdom of the world expects people to conform to its expectations … expectations that do indeed have some degree of elasticity … with some exceptions where faith is concerned. This is the second time in two years for me that the Lord has taken me out of the care of my oncologist … care I am extremely grateful for and pleased with. That said … the last time God gave me two years of much improved health with no chemotherapy … what could He have planned now? Only time will tell … much like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego we may find ourselves faced with a fire we must go through … either at the hand of the world, our decisions, our circumstances or the enemy within. The mistake the king makes here, and the one we often make, is that he believes there is no other king that can offer deliverance … one thing I have learned in life … don’t throw down a challenge to God that makes you out to be in control …
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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. 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.” (vs 16-18)
The lesson these three Jewish men teach here is powerful … GOD IS ABLE … and I believe the other strong message they are proclaiming is … HE WILL DELIVER US. For believers, there are two possible outcomes … He will deliver them from the fiery furnace and the hand of the king into better circumstances or He will deliver them into the presence of God … a deliverance that remains in the here-and-now or a deliverance that takes them into the hereafter … either one of which is acceptable to them based on their response to the king. The words of Paul echo in my mind … To live is Christ … to die is gain.
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. (vs 19-23)
Being a believer in God … being a Christian … does not provide us an exemption from the trials and tribulations of this world. Quite the opposite … trials and tribulations should be an expectation in the Christian life. In fact, I am totally convinced that God does His most effective transformational work in the midst of the trials and tribulations as we go through the fire.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He 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.” (vs 24-25)
The Christ Jesus that we abide IN and abides IN us goes through the fire with us every step of the way … and it is oftentimes only in the fire that the world around us sees His work and presence IN and THRU us. Did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego see Jesus in the fire? I don’t know … but I’m confident they felt His presence. In my darkest hours, I have the greatest sense of the presence of God IN me and the midst of my circumstances.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. (v 26)
Nebuchadnezzar found out there was a God greater than the god he believed himself to be. Then the three came out the fire … delivered. God answered the challenge thrown down by the unbelieving king. And note only three came out of the fire … so often when we come out of the fire in the here-and-now we lose sight of Jesus … calm waters oftentimes sink Christians and cause us to drift astray … calm waters don’t typically build us up.
My God whom I serve is able to deliver me from the ravages of cancer, and he will deliver me out of the grasp of cancer. Whether that is the deliverance into the here-and-now or deliverance into the hereafter, know that I will not succumb to the fear and worry cancer dispenses.
But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:13 (ESV)