There’s going to be a time, in your life as a believer, when your witness or your worship of God differentiates you so much that it infuriates the enemy. When you suffer, not because of some sin in your life, but because of something you’ve done right. It is a time when your enemy turns the fiery furnace up seven times hotter – and then throws you into it. Congratulations… you’ve just been promoted!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego faced this problem when they would not serve or worship king Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image. (See Daniel 3). They had lived blameless lives, along with Daniel, during their Babylonian captivity. But their refusal to worship other gods caught the attention of certain Chaldeans, who accused the three Jews of insubordination. They stood out because of their purity of spirit and their confidence in God’s goodness.
Amidst taunts: “Who is the God who will deliver you?” (Daniel 3:15), they were thrown into a furnace to be killed. At normal furnace temperatures, the boys could have died, but the king in his fury ordered that it be “seven times hotter.” Those who threw them into the furnace were consumed immediately.
Where Was God?
What’s amazing to me is that the three boys were not prepared ahead of time with any “extra help” from God. No divine intervention, no angelic visitations, no comforting prophetic words protected them from the trial they had to face. It might have seemed that God was abandoning them. They were literally bound to be burned!
Yet from the beginning, there were clues that God was on the scene. Seven is the biblical “perfect number;” it represents a perfect work of God, like the creation of the world in seven days. The enemy (in this case the king), was allowed to turn up the heat only to the temperature GOD would allow, because God was about to promote Himself and His people in the king’s eyes.
God knew that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were able to handle the heat. He knew he could count on them to maintain their witness even in the face of terrible pressure, and they did. They were mature enough to live their lives not for themselves, but for God. They were secure enough in their relationships with Him to trust Him to turn the situation around for His glory, not necessarily for their own. They did not require or demand an explanation from God for His apparent lapse in their protection! In the end, God blessed them – and their nation - with a promotion.
Pressure Releases Presence
Miraculously, the king saw the Son of God in the midst of the Jews’ trial. He saw four men unbound, and was convinced of the reality of God’s presence and power. Astonished, he issued a decree that God – not the king – would now be worshiped as sovereign. If we ever need proof of God’s presence with us in difficult times, we can find it here.
It's immaturity that balks at the idea of God allowing His children to suffer. Insecurity causes us to ask, ”Why me, God? What did I do that you have to treat me like this?” The apostle Paul begged God three times to take away an annoying “messenger of Satan” that buffeted him. Esther pleaded with Mordecai to release her from the obligation of disclosing her Jewish identity to the king. Our carnal nature craves the cocoon of protection we call “entitlement.”
But as with the refining of gold, there must be a trial by fire in order to show forth the immeasurable worth of a life in God. It's not about us; it’s about Him. What doesn’t conform to the life of God will be burned. Allowing our weak flesh to enter into a trial causes the anointing of God to increase in our lives. We can face any furnace in the security of our knowledge that He will never leave us or forsake us. In Him, we are people “on whose bodies the fire has no power.” (Daniel 3:27). When the enemy turns up the pressure, God turns up His presence, just as He did long ago for three Jewish boys in Babylon.
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you."
c. Deborah Perkins, 2014
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A severe hearing loss from childhood caused Deborah Perkins to develop what she now calls her secret weapon: tuning in to God's voice. A Wellesley College graduate and an award-winning writer, Deborah is now a wife and mother of 3 boys. Deborah has devoted over 25 years to professional and lay Christian ministry in New England and beyond. Her passion is inspiring people to cultivate greater intimacy with God.