How Would You Fare Against the Furnace?

Posted on August 7, 2019

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By David Ettinger

A Familiar Story
Many of the accounts in the Bible have become quite familiar to us over the years, and this is a shame. When this happens, we tend to view these true narratives as tales of legend, hence they lose their spiritual “bite,” which weakens the message they are designed to communicate.

Such is the case of Daniel’s three friends – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – who refused to bow to Babylonian monarch Nebuchadnezzar and as punishment were hurled into a fiercely-fueled furnace. You can read the account here.

Faced with briefly dishonoring the God of Israel by paying obeisance to a pagan, the three Hebrews were willing to die rather than bow. When warned by Nebuchadnezzar that they would suffer a grisly death, they gave one of the Bible’s great affirmations:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

What About You?
This is an extraordinary rebuff of the king. Don’t forget, the furnace ­­– “heated seven times hotter than usual” (v. 19) – was just a short distance away from the trio of Jewish exiles, and they could well have been feeling the literal heat of it.

Death was just feet and seconds away when they encountered Nebuchadnezzar. They were not in the comfort of their beds or favorite comfy chair reading this account as you and I are, but living it in real life and time.

As I read this account for probably the 65th time in my life, for whatever reason, it struck me hard. In the early morning quiet of my bedroom, I immersed myself in the scene and did my best to imagine what I would have done if I was in the shoes of the three Hebrews.

It would be one thing to be threatened with a bullet in the head – a quick and relatively painless death – but what about the prospect of being burned to death? Even if it only took 2 minutes, the agony would be monumental.

Though the three Hebrews seemed to have no reservations whatsoever, I believe I would have had plenty! I know I would have thought to myself: What harm will it do? I know I love the Lord, so what’s so bad about bowing down for a minute or two before this pagan king? After all, what’s 120 seconds compared to decades of worshiping the true and living God?

What about you? Would you have been conflicted?

Today’s Narrative
Tragically, while you and I in the West can only speculate on such scenarios, millions of believers in third-world countries face such challenges daily. To those in North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, and so many more, this narrative is real.

For multitudes, the sudden end of life due to one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is every bit a reality today as in Bible days. You and I can only wonder what we would do if someone had us down on our knees with a knife to our necks and said, “Renounce Christ or die.” Multitudes of other believers, however, live with this potential threat daily.

Regarding Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, I can well imagine that the Holy Spirit was with them at their moment of need. As for today’s martyrs, I believe the same is true. And if one day it is me and you in this life-or-death furnace moment, I pray that the Holy Spirit would infuse us with a love, conviction, and zeal for the Lord Jesus that we would have no doubts whatsoever.

May God bless us in our weakness to stand for Him no matter the consequences!

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