(…continued from yesterday’s meditation #159)
This is powerfully seen in the story of the three men in the fiery furnace in the Old Testament book of Daniel. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had created a huge statue of himself and commanded that everyone in the kingdom bow down and worship it. Three of the king’s most trusted servants, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were exiled Jews living in Babylon, and they refused to obey the order. They said that they would bow down and worship only God, and not any man. The king was furious with them, but gave them one more chance. He told them to bow down or they would be killed by being thrown into a blazing furnace. The king said, “I don’t care what God you worship, I have the power to kill you and no God will be able to rescue you from my hand.”
And then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said to the king some of the greatest words of faith in the entire Bible. They said, “Oh, King Nebuchadnezzar we need not defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O King. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O King, that we will NOT serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The king was enraged and had the furnace stoked up even hotter. He then ordered that the three men be thrown in. The furnace was so hot that the soldiers who threw the men in died of the heat. But the three men of faith were rescued by God, and the King saw them walking around in the fire, unharmed. He called them out and found that not a hair on their head was singed, nor did they even have the smell of smoke on them. King Nebuchadnezzar then praised the God of the three brave and faithful men, and they were then released. The faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was given a severe test, and they passed.
There are similarities between their story and the story of Philip (in yesterday’s meditation). Philip knew that Jesus could do miracles, but he knew also that a miracle wasn’t guaranteed, even if Jesus was right there. Jesus would act when and where he chose, and not when and where he was ‘expected’ to. The three men of God in the fiery furnace story had that same kind of faith. They knew God could rescue them, but even if God did not, they would remain faithful. God’s care and salvation is bigger even than this world and this life, so even if we are not rescued from hunger and death here, we can still be rescued. Our faith in God is not dependent on whether or not we get the miracle we pray for. Far better miracles than we can ever imagined are promised to all who will believe in Jesus.
God still tests the faith of his children. Perhaps you can think of a way you are being tested in your life right now. Perhaps you are praying for God to do something for you, and His answer is slow in coming, or doesn’t come at all. But God’s vision is much larger than ours, and his better answers may be far beyond our seeing. The men about to be thrown into the furnace expressed their faith in God even if they would not be rescued. “Jesus saves,” isn’t just a slogan on a bumper sticker. It is the truth. And we look forward to and trust in that salvation, leaving in God’s hands the exact time and place of its fulfillment.
Daniel 3:16-18 — Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 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.”
Romans 14:8 — If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
My Father, if it is possible, may this cup (of suffering) be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. –Jesus in Matthew 26:39