During very difficult situations it can appear there is no possible way that light will come in the darkness. And Israel faced many years of darkness when they were held captive in exile. The promises of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob seemed so long ago… the reign of the kings over… the nation shattered…. Was there any hope of rescue?
God’s people had been feeling lost and abandoned in a foreign land. Their freedom gone, their God mocked, their ways ridiculed… and then it got worse.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced a trial beyond comprehension. The great king Nebuchadnezzar, well, he had grown really, really great and not just in his own eyes. He wanted more and, in order to ensure the people’s devotion, he decreed (fancy way of saying demanded by law) that ALL people bow to a HUGE (really big: 90 ft. tall) statue and worship. And these three guys? They wouldn’t do it. They wouldn’t betray the commands of the Lord God by bowing in worship of any other god. The punishment: death by fiery furnace.
Obey the king… or die.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? They chose to obey God. Nebuchadnezzar? Refusing to back down, he gave them one more chance, with a little taunt thrown in for good measure, “But if you refuse, you will be thrown immediately into the blazing furnace. And then what god will be able to rescue you from my power?”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.”Daniel 3:16-18
Nebuchadnezzar = out-of-his-mind-crazy-mad orders the furnace heated 7 times hotter, throws the men in, takes a look and is like, “Um… guys, what’s going on here?
Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.Daniel 3: 24-28
Can you imagine the awestruck moment as king Nebuchadnezzar looked into that fire and saw a 4th person standing there… standing in the fire… yeah, in that fire that was seven times hotter than normal… oh the absolute wonder of it all as God stepped into that fire with them… the rescuer was right there with them in that fire!
God’s people needed this moment… God’s people still need to remember this story… to find hope found in knowing we are never ever alone.
God has never abandoned us.
You are never alone.
Our rescuer came for us, stands with us, fights for us, died for us… because He loves us!
The astounding hope found in the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is something to hold on to! Because we’ve also lived this. It might not have been a physical furnace but life has sure heated the figurative furnace awful hot sometimes… stop in awe of God standing beside you… look for His presence… cling to the hope of His rescue!
The awe and wonder of Christmas isn’t found in the perfect story of a beautiful baby-savior born in Bethlehem but of God who came to us, who walked in our fiery mess of existence to rescue us!