Monday Minutes With Pastor Chris McCool (July 18, 2022)

Last week, we examined the account of the three Hebrew children who refused to bow to the idol of gold. We saw such similarities between that day and our day! Just like in that day, the Babylonian world system in which we live is still trying to corrupt our youth, and destroy them. You may recall that these three young men – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – were ultimately thrown into the fiery furnace, but were delivered by the presence of Christ Himself.

Today, I want to look at their experience as they were threatened with and ultimately punished by the fiery furnace. In Daniel 3:19, after these three Hebrew children refused to worship the idol in the presence of the king, we read that “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach,and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.” In continuing to read, we find that the furnace was so hot that the soldiers who pushed them into it were also consumed by it!

Let’s think about the perspective of those three young men. What do you think would have been the worst part about the fiery furnace? There are several things I can think of that might have been really bad when it comes to this horrible punishment. I want to consider them with you for a few minutes.

What about the embarrassment of it? They were high-ranking government officials, who had previously enjoyed the favor of the king. It’s always a “sensational” tidbit of news whenever a “big-shot” gets shot down – I’m sure whatever version of Facebook and Twitter they had back then (the gossip stations!) were pouring out the gossip full-bore over this! “Look at these guys, that thought they were SO high and mighty! Bet they don’t feel so high and might now!” etc. You get the drift. It would have been VERY embarrassing to fall so far out of the king’s favor.

What about the betrayal of it? It was their friends and neighbors – maybe co-workers – who turned them in! In Daniel 3:8-12, we read that “certain Chaldeans” (Babylonians), who clearly KNEW these men, accused them to the king. How vexing it must have been to know that your acquaintances who appeared to be friends were really your enemies! I’m sure that would have been hard to take.

What about the heat of it? Certainly the heat of it was tremendous, and terrifying! I cannot imagine the anxiety they must have felt as they were herded into the opening. Burning is a horrible way to die: I’m sure these three young men were not immune to the trepidation anyone would feel as they face such torture! And although we are not told of anyone else being executed at this time in this way, it is probable that these young men had seen or heard of such things and would no doubt have dreaded the heat and torture of the fiery furnace.

But what was REALLY the hardest thing about the fiery furnace? I do not believe that the embarrassment, or the betrayal, or the heat were the hardest things about the fiery furnace. All of these things were terrible, but I want us to see what occurred in Daniel 3:26, when the old Babylonian king implored them to “come forth, and come hither“. My dear friends, I believe that the hardest thing about the fiery furnace was COMING OUT OF IT!

You see, these three Hebrew children were not alone in the midst of the burning fiery furnace! When Nebuchadnezzar shuffled over to take a look after they were cast into it, he exclaimed, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? . . . Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Dan. 3:24-25. THE SON OF GOD HIMSELF WAS IN THE MIDST OF THE FIERY FURNACE WITH THEM! What an amazing occurrence for these Hebrew children! The very God Whom they had worshipped, and to Whom they had remained faithful, was so faithful to them that He came down and visited them in a way He had never done!

Can you imagine the experience of having all your embarrassment, vexation, and fear dispelled as you walk with, and talk with, the very Savior you worship! This is what they were experiencing in the fiery furnace. In the fiery furnace of their lives, they experienced a fellowship with God that they had never experienced before, and about which we never read again in their lives. Can’t you just see them marveling over the fact that they are unburned, unsigned, and unhurt, and that the Savior Himself – the Son of God – is with them in the fire? I expect that their hearts were full unto bursting as they experienced the holy fire within that was hotter than the fires of man without!

And then, as if from afar, they hear the old king say, “Come forth, and come hither.” How reluctant they must have been! They were experiencing fellowship with God that they had never experienced before, and likely never would experience again in their earthly lives! I can just see them, looking around at each other, and looking at the Lord, asking, “Lord, do we have to leave?” How hard it must have been for them to walk out of the fire! What a let-down they must have felt as they came “back down to earth,” so to speak!

I believe I’ve felt a similar feeling before. It seems like in the fiercest fires of life, I feel the presence of Jesus as at no other time. Often, when I finally come “out of the fire”, it is a “let-down” from the standpoint of my fellowship! Oh, but how wonderful it is to be able to look back at those times and remember how the Spirit of God manifest Himself to me.

Although we don’t read much more about the lives of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I have a sneaking suspicion that the rest of their lives were molded and shaped by their experience with Jesus in the fiery furnace. I suspect that in future times of trouble, these Hebrew children would look back in the midst of their struggles and say, “You remember that time in the fiery furnace? THE SON OF GOD HIMSELF WAS THERE! I bet He won’t forsake me now!” Maybe even on their deathbeds, the pain and fear of death was assuaged by the knowledge that they were about to see Him again with Whom they spent those glorious moments in the furnace.

In the midst of the fiery furnaces of our lives, may we feel the Lord’s presence and remember throughout our lives that He will never forsake us.

May the Lord bless you is my prayer.

Elder Chris McCool, Pastor