Study 5 THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE
STUDIES IN THE LIFE OF DANIEL
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Daniel 3:1-30 )
This study focuses upon three men who glorified the Lord in the fires (Isaiah 24:15 KJV), and in all probability the writer to the Hebrews had Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in mind when he wrote - Hebrews 11:33, 34.
While most of us may never have to face the ordeal of entering a literal fiery furnace, it is nevertheless true that 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 because we belong to the Lord; indeed, we must expect testing as part of our heritage in Christ (John 16:33; Philippians 1:29). If you, a dedicated Christian, are 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. In many parts of the world God’s people are in the fires today, but those of us who are spared this ordeal should equip and arm ourselves so that should the trial come we too would glorify the Lord, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did. Daniel 3 is a pictorial forecast of future events; there is prophecy as well as authentic history here. The day may not be far ahead when multitudes of God’s people will be under the heel and domination of Antichrist and will suffer a terrible ordeal.
Every day, in some way, we are tempted to deny the Lord whom we love, just as these three men were tempted. Let us find encouragement as we focus our attention upon them, and notice to begin with:
1. THE CHALLENGE THEY FACED
In verses 1-7 we read that the proud, despotic king had set up a golden statue on the plain of Dura. It was a huge monument, 90ft. high and 9ft. wide, and it was probably a replica of the statue the king had seen in his dream recorded in chapter 2. Everyone was commanded to be present at the dedication of the statue, and a terrible penalty was imposed on any who would refuse to bow down and worship it. At the appropriate moment everyone bowed down except for the three government officials, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who refused to bow and renounce their God and His commands (verse 12). They were determined to be faithful to Him at all costs. It is so easy to go with the crowd and let the herd instinct dominate us, and thus to fail the Lord, but these men were victorious in the hour of their supreme testing - though this was not the end of their testing, for notice:
2. THE COMPROMISE THEY REFUSED
Verses 8-18 tell us that the astrologers reported this disobedience to the king, which so infuriated him that he sent for them and invited them to reconsider their decision. Here was the temptation to compromise: “Just do this one thing …Do it to please me… It won’t harm you… It’ll soon be over…” – but steadfastly they refused to save their situation 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…” 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 resisted it - Hebrews 11:24-27; so was Jesus, and He resisted it - Matthew 4:1-11; so was Stephen, and he refused it and was stoned to death - Acts 7:54-60. How do we account for the courage that these three men had? What was their secret? Notice:
3. THE CONFIDENCE THEY POSSESSED
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:
- The power of God. They said, ”The…God we serve is able …” Of course He is! Nothing is too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14), and all things are possible to Him (Matthew 19:26).
- 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 then He’ll deliver us – but He may not. Perhaps its His will for us to suffer and die - but 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; Romans 14:8.
Their steadfast refusal maddened the king, and he commanded the furnace to be made seven times hotter, and the three men to be cast into the fire (verses 19-23). What a terrible experience! But what a wonderful experience! – though no more wonderful than the experience we may have if we are faithful to the Lord, for notice:
4. THE COMPANIONSHIP THEY ENJOYED
Verses 24-27 tell us that they were not alone in the fire; the Lord was there with them - just as He is always with His people when they suffer in His name - look up Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 23:4; 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 it should not do so, and in being tried and tested and cast out by 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 the fires - 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 quiet confidence in Him in the hour of trial and by the manifestation of His power and glory, others may be blessed and His kingdom may be extended. Notice, therefore:
5. THE CONFESSION THEY WITNESSED
This is brought before us in verses 28-30. What a testimony coming from a pagan king! But how different the whole outcome would have been had they compromised!
As you conclude this study turn to Psalm 66:10-12, and compare 1 Corinthians 10:13.