Perhaps you’ve heard the song, ‘Another in the Fire’, perhaps not, but it is one of my new favorites and is the inspiration behind this article. (You should definitely listen to it!!)
If you haven’t heard it, chances are that you’ve read the story upon which it was based: the story of Nebuchadnezzar and the fiery furnace, which is the biblical foundation upon which I am writing this. (You can read the story in Daniel 3, which is also where the scripture references come from)
It is the story of three young boys: Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
However, they are better known by their Babolonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, respectively.
As youths, the three boys were taken from their homes and brought to live with King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. They were given new names, a new education, and a new lifestyle. Nebuchadnezzar changed their names, their lives, and their homes; plus, he stole their parents, their friends, and everything else they used to know, in an attempt to change their identity. Though he snatched and switched every earthly thing from and for them, he could not steal or change the one thing he wanted to; their faith. Despite the king’s best and evilest tactics, the boys were steadfast in their devotion to their Heavenly Father and they would not turn from their faith in Him. Their loyalties were not switched to their earthly king, but remained with their Heavenly King throughout their lives.
Even when faced with death, lions’ dens, and the one which I would like to write about today: The Fiery Furnace.
King Nebuchadnezzar decreed that a statue was to be built; a huge, golden statue of him. The people in his kingdom were to come, fall before, and worship the idol. Truly though, the king knew that worshiping it would have a deeper meaning. The people would be worshiping him and his power over them, even if they didn’t know it. The fact that he could order them to do something, even as crazy as falling on their knees before a giant hunk of gold, was proof enough. They were going to follow him no matter what, because otherwise their punishment would be death.
And that’s exactly what they did. The people heard the prompting from the musical instruments and fell down to their knees with their faces on the ground, worshiping and praising this giant statue of their king.
I can not even imagine the smirk that king Nebuchadnezzar wore on his face that day, watching his people worshiping his statue and following his command.
However, I can imagine that it was ripped off his face in an instant when he saw those three boys, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, standing up and refusing to obey him.
I believe this is when it becomes about worshiping him and not merely his fancy statue.
Nebuchadnezzar approached the boys, and said, (3:14-15)
“Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods, nor worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe, and all kinds of musical instruments, to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can rescue you from my hands?”
With faces like those of brave and loyal warriors, the boys replied with complete conviction regarding the matter, and said, (3:16) “Nebuchadnezzar, we are not in need of an answer to give you concerning this matter,” and being full of the empowering feeling which I am not able to name, but the one that is known only when you are in a circumstance that directly opposes our faith, our God, and everything we stand for, the young men finished their thought with these exact words, (3:17-18) “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods nor worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
The bible tells us that at this moment the great king of Babylon ‘was filled with wrath and his face was changed’ towards these boys that dared to oppose him. As an answer to theirs, he ordered that the fire be heated seven times it’s normal heat, and he called for his ‘valiant warriors’ to tie up the boys without removing their clothing or anything on them. He knew the flammability of their coats, hats, tunics, and whatever else they were wearing, and I believe that is the reason he did not have them stripped off. The king wanted to make it hurt. He wanted these boys to suffer for what they had done, disrespecting his name and his power.
We know that the fire was so hot the flames leapt out and devoured the ‘valiant men’ who threw them into the fire. I tend to brush this off as just a minor detail, but this is important. The fire was so hot that it’s flames licked out and killed the king’s men too.
I’m sure you have been around fire in your life, and I’m also sure you know that it is hot. Very, very hot. Now, imagine that kind of heat multiplied sevenfold. That would be an unimaginable heat, and it would surely scorch someone from a great distance away. Not to mention the excruciating death that would befall one who was thrown into it, especially covered in flammable kindling.
Now remember that King Nebuchadnezzar ordered that fate on three of his best and most promising young men. He ordered their death sentence, and I would bet anything that he didn’t think twice about it.
Nebuchadnezzar was a ruthless killer. The very thought makes me shiver.
After the three boys had been thrown into the furnace, the king noticed something that took him by surprise, shock and horror. He looked at the men who had witnessed the event and said, (3:24) “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the middle of the fire?”
The men honestly answered him, “Absolutely, O king.”
The king was, I imagine, horrified and extremely confused. He exclaimed, (3:25) “Look! I see four men untied and walking about in the middle of the fire!”
Nobody could explain it to him, and I doubt that they even tried.
“[they are] unharmed, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”
He carefully approached the door to the furnace and called into it, (3:26) “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!”
I do truly believe that Nebuchadnezzar had a divine awakening at this time, and realized that the true God of the universe had saved these men.
All of the surrounding men ‘saw that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men, nor was the hair of their heads singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had even the smell of fire touched them.’
When the king saw them, he said, (3:28) “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and rescued His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and surrendered their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”
The king believed what he just said; I trust that fact with all my heart. I think he really did know that these boys served to true and living God.
Nebuchadnezzar finished that thought with (3:29) “Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or population of any language that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses made a rubbish heap, because there is no other god who is able to save in this way.”
The Bible also says that (3:30) ‘the king made Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego prosperous in the province of Babylon.’
This story has given me abounding hope during the trials and hardships I’ve faced in my life so far, and the fact that God will never, ever leave us, even when we’re thrown into blazing hot and viciously raging fires (literally and figuratively) is the greatest source of comfort that I could ever receive! He is always with me, and you, and everyone who puts their hope and trust in Jesus Christ. You can always cling to that, beloved. No matter what you are or aren’t going through right now, the God who saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from a fiery furnace is with you always and forever!