While preparing to lead a recent study in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, I discovered something new in a story I remember learning as a child.
When I first learned the story, my Sunday School teacher used flannel graph figures to represent the characters of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
How many of you remember flannel graph? I loved those colorful paper figures with scratchy lines of something on the back that miraculously attached to a piece of cardboard wrapped in flannel. Simply amazing!
In my flannel graph days, the furnace of the story in Daniel Chapter 3 that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into for refusing to bow to the king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar, was like a huge oven with a door that latched on the outside. From that picture, in my mind, the only way the three Hebrew men could leave the fiery furnace they’d been thrown in was to have the door opened from the outside.
Through the years, I’ve come to understand the furnace of the Babylonians may have been like a huge ziggurat with sloping walkways leading into the fire, or like a very large clay oven with an open front. Either way, these descriptions seem to indicate there was a way of exit, if those inside them could indeed exit.
So back to my preparation for leading the lesson…
In Daniel 3:25, King Nebuchadnezzar looks into the furnace, and instead of seeing three dead Hebrews, he notices four men walking around, untied.
The commentary I read in preparation for this lesson mentioned something I’d never thought of which I’d like to share with you, in case, like me, your vision of the furnace was one the men had no way out of on their own.
Which actually was the truth, no matter how the oven was configured.
The commentator asked, why were the men walking around, and not trying to leave the furnace?
“Since God rendered the furnace of no consequence, why not stay in the flames and fellowship with the fourth man?”
Why not stay in the flames and fellowship with the Fourth Man?
How many times have we felt like we’ve been tossed in the fiery furnace believing there was no way out? During those times are we ever content to simply walk around our furnace with the Fourth Man, Jesus, knowing God’s got it all under control?
If you’re like me maybe your answer would be, not often enough.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s faith came first. They believed God could deliver them, whether he would or not. They left their fate in God’s hands. Their praise and devotion came before deliverance.
The presence of the Fourth Man was in response to their faith. Not the other way around.
Because of our faith, God will never leave or forsake us.
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Nebuchadnezzar: Then why do I see four men, completely unbound, walking around in the middle of the fire? They don’t appear to be hurt at all. And the fourth . . . he appears to be like a son of the gods. Daniel 3:25 (Voice)
I wish you well.
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