Study 10 THE SUBMISSION OF FAITH - THE FIERY FURNACE
MORE STUDIES IN HEBREWS 11
by Francis Dixon
Scripture References: Hebrews 11:34; Daniel 3:17-27
This study focuses upon the three men in Daniel chapter three, who glorified the Lord in the fires - look up Isaiah 43:2. It is probable that the writer to the Hebrews had Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in mind when he wrote - Hebrews 11:34. While many of us may never be faced with the necessity of entering a literal fiery furnace it is nevertheless true if we are determined to be faithful to the Lord we shall know the significance of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:12-16. There is no immunity from trials by virtue of the fact that we belong to the Lord. We are to expect testing and trial as part of our heritage in Christ - look up John 16:33 and Philippians 1:29. If you are a dedicated Christian, determined to be loyal to the Lord at all costs, do not be surprised when the fires of Satan’s and the world’s hatred are heaped upon you. All around the world God’s people are in the fires today. Those of us who are spared this terrible ordeal should equip and arm ourselves so that if the trial should come to us we too would glorify the Lord, as did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Indeed, this story in Daniel 3 is a pictorial forecast of events still future. There is prophecy here as well as authentic history. Every day we are tempted to deny the Lord whom we love and serve, just as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were tempted to deny Him. May we be encouraged as we consider these three brave men who exercised faith in their time of fierce testing.
1. If you trust in God your faith will be challenged.
Read Daniel 3:1-7. The proud, despotic king had set up a golden image on the plain of Dura (verse 1). It was a huge monument, ninety feet high and nine feet wide, and probably it was a replica of the image the king had seen in his dream in chapter 2. Everyone was commanded to be present at the dedication of the image (verses 2-5). It was a spectacular occasion, but a terrible penalty was imposed on any who refused to bow down to worship the golden image. We read in verse 12 that the three government officials refused to bow down, to follow the crowd or to renounce their God and His commands. They were determined to stand out against this evil thing and to be faithful to their Lord at all costs. It is so easy to go with the crowd and to let the herd instinct dominate us, and thus to fail the Lord, but these three men were victorious in the hour of their supreme testing. Their trust was in God, but, as is always the case, their faith was challenged.
2. If you trust in God you will be tempted to compromise.
Read verses 8-18. The Chaldeans reported to the king that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had not obeyed his command (verse 12). The king was furious and sent for them and invited them to reconsider their decision (verses 13-15). Here was the temptation to compromise. ‘Just do this one thing… Nobody will see you… Do it to please me… It won’t harm you …It will soon be over …’ – but steadfastly they refused (verses 16-18). They refused to save their lives at the expense of their conscience and to bring dishonour upon the Name of their Lord, so they defied the king. They said, “We will not…” (verse 18). Are you loyal enough to stand out with the minority, to be one of three against three hundred thousand? Moses was faced with this temptation and he resisted it (Hebrews 11:24-27); so was Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11); so was Stephen, and he refused it and was stoned to death (Acts 7:54-60). God gives us a wonderful promise that no temptation need ever prove too strong for any of His children – look up 1 Corinthians 10:13.
3. If you trust in God you will confidently submit to His will.
Read verses 17-18. In spite of the dreadful alternative facing them, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego steadfastly refused to worship the golden image, because their whole trust was in God. They had confidence in: (1) the power of God. They said, “The God we serve is able …” Well, of course He is! Nothing is too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14). All things are possible to Him (Matthew 19:26). He is the God of miracles. They also had confidence in: (2) the purpose of God. They said, “But even if he does not …” In other words, ’God can deliver us, and if it is HIS WILL He will deliver us - but He may not. It may be His will to let us suffer and die. We do not know what His will is, and we do not mind, for His will is best anyway.’ Faith is ready to trust God to fulfil His purpose, whatever that may be, and to say - Job 13:15 and Romans 14:8. The steadfast refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego made the king furious, and he commanded the furnace to be heated again and again, and the three men to be cast into the fire (verses 19-23). What a terrible experience! What a wonderful experience! - but no more wonderful than the experience that we may have if we are faithful to the Lord.
4. If you trust in God you will never be alone.
Read verses 24-27. They were in the fire, but they were not alone, for the Lord was there with them, just as He is with His people when they suffer in His Name - look up Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 23:4 and 2 Timothy 4:16-17. The presence of the Lord with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fire was the guarantee of their protection. Even the fire could not touch them, because it was God’s will that the fire should not touch them; and in being tried and tested and cast out by these men these three were now brought into sweeter communion with their Lord. God never calls us to enter the furnace alone. He is always with us, and He blesses us in the furnace in a way that we never could be blessed had we not experienced it – look up 1 Peter 1:7. But this is not the end of the story. One reason why the Lord allows us to be tested is that by our confidence in Him in the trial, and by the manifestation of His power and glory, others may be blessed and His kingdom may be extended.
5. If you trust in God others will be blessed.
We see this in verses 28-30. What a testimony from a pagan king! But suppose these three had compromised, how different the whole outcome would have been! Often we are placed in a situation of difficulty where it means that if we trust God and seek His grace to glorify Him in the trial, others will be wonderfully blessed and helped by our testimony. Consider Psalm 66:10-12 as we conclude this study!