The Gospel and the Fiery Furnace

Here is a familiar story from Daniel chapter 3.  Three Jewish exiles had risen to places of administrative prominence in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.  Their names?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  And their day of testing is a gospel lesson in faith.  Let’s summarize the story.

King Nebuchadnezzar had constructed a golden image of himself on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  The image was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide.  Pretty imposing.  On the day of dedication for the image, all the government officials were gathered before the image and instructed that “at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up” (Dan 3:5).  The punishment for non-compliance was being “tossed into a furnace of blazing fire” (Dan 3:6).

Jumping ahead in the story, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not bow and worship the image when the music sounded.  Their insolence was reported to the king.  The king called them out and proceeded to give them a second chance to comply.

But the men did not need a second chance as they explained to the king.  “If it be so, our God who we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan 3:17-18).

Well, Nebuchadnezzar flew off the handle, ordered the furnace cranked up seven times hotter than normal, and had the men bound and thrown inside.  Let’s stop the story right here for a second and look again at the incredible statement of faith from Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

In essence, they are saying, “We have faith to believe that God can deliver us from the furnace, but even if He does not, we are all in.”  Staring at what appears to be certain death, this is quite a claim.  Notice that their faith is not tied to their physical rescue, but to the God who is in control.  They affirm that even if God does not deliver them from the fire, they will not worship other gods.  With or without physical deliverance, their faith is in the one true God alone.  Again, their faith is not dependent on an outcome.  It is dependent on a person; the character and person of God Himself.

But God does deliver them from the fire.  When the king peered into the furnace, “Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Look!  I see four men loosed and walking about in the middle of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’ ” (Dan 3:25).  The fourth person may have been Jesus Himself coming to the rescue of His chosen ones in response to their faith.

After all, that is how He came to you and me.  Jesus’s offer of salvation is available to all.  Everyone is invited to come to Jesus.  But the invitation must be accepted by faith.  We must respond to His invitation with a “Yes, I believe.  My faith is in Christ alone.  I am all in.”

The faith that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego demonstrated in the Old Testament is the same saving faith required of us to join Christ’s family.  The gospel message in the fiery furnace is the message of Jesus’ rescue of those who place their faith in Him.