I like this story from a Chinese Christian: “I walked through the road of life and had fallen into a great ditch. The ditch was filled with depression, discouragement, and sin. As I lay in that ditch, Mohammed came and said, ‘It’s your fault you’re in the ditch. You offended Allah, and this is your just punishment.’ Then Marx came by and said, ‘You’re in the ditch because of class warfare. You must revolt.’ But after the government changed, I was still in my ditch. Then Buddha came along and said, ‘You’re not really in that ditch. You just think you’re there. It’s all an illusion of the mind. Be at peace, and learn to live in the ditch.’ Then Confucius came by and said, ‘Here are the 10 steps of self-attainment by which you can get out of your ditch. If you will struggle, you will climb out eventually.’ But as much as I struggled and strained, I couldn’t get out of the ditch, because it was too deep.
“Then one day, Jesus Christ came by and saw me in my ditch. Without a word, he took off his robe and got down with me in the muddy ditch. Then he lifted me up with his strong arms and pulled me out of the ditch. Thank God that Jesus did for me what I could not do for myself.”
Romans 7:24-25 says, “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (NLT). A fiery furnace is no threat to those that believe in God. Did you notice in the scripture there is fourth man in the furnace? Who is it?
Today’s scripture is the conclusion of the story began last week in which the three friends of Daniel, Shake-the-bed, make-the-bed and to bed-we-go J … the friends do not bow to the golden image set up by the King of Babylon, but remain true to God. The three friends are ratted out; the King confronts them and has no choice but to follow through with his threat to throw them into a blazing hot furnace. The first part of today’s scripture emphasizes they were bound up, even going into detail about their clothing had on (Dan. 3:21). The furnace is so hot, some of the soldiers of the King are burned up just getting too close to the oven doors (Dan. 3:22). God will bring you through life’s trials ~ no matter how overwhelming. There is a blessing for the brave. Undoubtedly many of you are in the middle of a fire. Here is one person’s story, with the internet I only had a choice of about 5 million testimonies:
"I am in a place where I think I have come to the end of the road. The tests in my life are hitting on me, and I am really depressed. I am on a court probation to pay about $3000, my car engine just knocked last week, I work 24hrs a week with a minimum wage, my roommate just moved out yesterday and I have to be responsible for a two bed room apartment bills. I am starting school this Fall. But you know what, God said in Is. 43:1-3, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." This scripture is a source of strength and peace, though as a human living in this world, stress and worries come. But I trust Him because He has assured me. Praise the Lord of Host...... hallelujah."
What’s your furnace? When the three friends are thrown into the furnace they do not know how God will save them. This is their amazing attitude: READ Dan. 3:17-18.
They are thrown in. They are delivered. We have no guarantee how God will bring us through the fire, but no matter how he delivers us we know he is God and worthy of our praise. Lori Pegan is praying for an acquaintance that is running from a marriage to a muslim man. There is a threat of death and never seeing her children again. The woman is relocating to Lynden with her three children. The risk is great. God will be faithful no matter the details! The hotter the fire the greater the risk, it’s always a risk, but the only risk really is how God will answer and if we will have the patience to endure while we wait, and if our eyes will be open to recognize the hand of God upon us.
God preserves the three friends: READ Dan. 3:24-27. What wonderful detail…not even the smell of smoke. God has amazing care for his servants. When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the flames, he expected to see the young men dead. Instead, he saw them walking around, unharmed and unbound, and a fourth man walking with them. He calls him “a son of the gods,” which is an amazing insight for a pagan king. The King does not quite get the fullness of the miracle. He believes in many gods, but at least in this moment, as the scripture unfolds, he is ready to promote the God of the Jews to the highest level of all gods.
Who was the fourth man? There are those who believe he is an angel (as the King says in Dan. 3:28.) I believe the fourth man was the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This is an Old Testament appearance of the Son of God coming down from heaven in bodily form. One person describes the appearance of Jesus this way: “He stepped across the battlements of heaven, walked down the starry staircase, walked into the blazing furnace and said to the flames, “Cool it!” And they did. That made it very comfortable for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (Ray Pritchard).
The Name Jesus means God Saves. That is the role of the Lord Jesus Christ and that is exactly what the fourth man does. Jesus is in the furnace waiting for the young men. He’ll climb into the muddy ditch to help you escape. Outside the furnace there were three men, inside there were four, and outside there were three again. Jesus is only found in the furnace, at the very moment when he was needed the most.
What a lesson this is for us. So often we go through life for days and weeks without any consciousness of the Lord’s presence with us. But when trouble comes, when the flames lick at our feet, when life tumbles around us, then we discover Jesus has been by our side the entire time. It is in the fires of life that we experience the presence of Christ most powerfully. He is always there, but so often he makes himself known in the fiery furnace. There is a blessing for the brave that those who play it safe never experience.
Preservation is followed by Praise: The final three verses bring this story to a wonderful conclusion. First, the king gives his own summary of the day’s events. READ Daniel 3:28. It’s clear that this pagan king “gets it.” He knows what they did and why they did it.
Next the King promotes their God. READ Daniel 3:29. I am NOT convinced this is the message Daniel and the three friends would want…they don’t want people to be forced to worship God… but at least they are safe…the King is kinda extreme with all his absolutes… kinda like the world: moody/shifting back and forth. You never know what you are going to face, how people will respond…
Finally, the king promotes them personally. READ Daniel 3:30. who knows what form your deliverance will take, perhaps not a promotion in your job, but this I know: There will be satisfaction. Position and status do not matter.
There is a blessing for the brave who make it through the fire Unbound and Unharmed. Jesus Christ is with you. One of the greatest promises of the Bible: the presence of Christ. The coming of Jesus is promised through-out the old testament. One of the great promises is found in Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” And what does Immanuel mean? [God with us]. The fourth man in the fiery furnace is the promise of Isaiah 7:14 filled before the birth of Jesus Christ centuries later. I bet you have never thought of the story of the fiery furnace in Daniel 3 as a Christmas Story!
A blessing is reserved for the brave who expect God to deliver them from the flames. These three young men were walking, not only were they walking, but they were not hurt. These men were thrown in the fire helpless, because they were bound, but in the midst of the fire the fourth man was there to help, and they were not hurt. In the midst of the fire you will not be hurt. In the midst of the fire there is a Divine presence. In the midst of the fire there is a fourth man ~ Jesus Christ. Maybe right now you feel you are going under. Maybe right now the pressure seems more than you can bear The same God who protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire, is our God today. Immanuel.
Daniel 3 is a thrilling account of young men who remained true to God under severe trial. In spite of separation from everything they knew in Israel, living in the middle of the corrupting influences of Babylonian religion, political pressure, and immorality, they did not waver. God is faithful to His people even in captivity and is forever ready to deliver those who put their trust in Him. There is a blessing for those who act with courage.