This story has always been an incredible demonstration of how God delivers His people as they go through persecutions for Him.
I love to read of the resolve that these three men possessed and showed in the face of incredible adversity. I say men because I was taught growing up that these were "Three Hebrew boys". No, these were men. They were taken captive as boys, but these boys grew up to be men of renown and responsibility.
Reading it through this lens I discovered something that I had not noticed before.
"Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon." ~Daniel 3:1
(We will call him Nebby in order to save me from getting carpel tunnel from typing his name.)
Nebby decides to build a statue of himself in order to ensure loyalty of his crown and to exercise his ego. He selects one of the provinces of Babylon to be graced with this statue. He then orders the rulers of this province of Babylon to build this statue in their province.
"Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king." ~Daniel 2:49
"There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." ~Daniel 3:12
Guess who would get that memo placed in their "In" box in the morning?
They were to oversee everything. They had the land cleared, had a furnace built on site to handle the smelting of materials, and no doubt were aware of every detail of this project.
Rack, Shack, and Benny! I am truly amazed at how I missed this every time I have read it.
These three men were men who excelled, by God's design, were now in a place of prominence and power. Can you imagine what went through their mind when they got that memo? They started out this journey by turning down the king's meat and wine, now they get to face round 2!
The first thing that I notice is:
These guys were allowed to be in the position that they were in by God himself. These were three captives that became rulers. They had found favor with God and man. They were in a position to oversee all of the affairs in the province of Babylon.
"CHRISTIANS DO NOT HAVE JOBS, ONLY ASSIGNMENTS"
We find a lot of ways to complain about the circumstances that we are either in, or have been in. We like to think that it was a mistake that we had THAT job, or knew THAT person in life, but I have to tell you that God allowed those circumstances for a purpose. If you are His child, then you are on mission with Him. That means that He places you where He wants, around who He wants when He wants. It does not matter if you recognized it at the time or not. God makes no mistakes.
Think about that co-worker that you had such a hard time with and ask yourself this, "Of all the people they could have worked with, why on earth did God let me be the one? What was He trying to tell them, and what was He trying to tell you?"
Have you ever run across someone that you would swear was another person that you knew, except for the name and the way they looked? Other than those details, the attitudes and behaviors were just the same? Why is God bringing those attitudes and behaviors across your path again? What did you miss about responding to and learning from those the first time that He needed to repeat the lesson?
We explain away God's hand too easily these days I am afraid. God is closer than we think. There is no job that you have ever worked that God did not have purpose in. I think the clearest example of that would be the life of Joseph in the Bible. God is trying to speak with those who employ you and He is trying to speak to you as well.
You are where you are because GOD has placed you there! It is a station by God that He has allowed you to fill.
We think sometimes that we earned, or we were savvy enough to gain a position of power. We are delusional at best when we entertain that thought. It does not matter if you are a President, a Pastor, or a Plumber... It is a God allowed station.
"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil."
We like to apply this passage to the political party candidates that we approve of, but that is not Bible. Truth says, "God allows those with the power to have the power".
The people with the power might not even fully understand God's reasoning for their power, but it will be for His end and His purpose in the end.
Stations by God will always produce opportunities to "STAND".
"Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up." ~Daniel 3:8-18
They had in no doubt, been preparing themselves for this moment. These were not little kids who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They knew that this day had been approaching, and I believe as they worked they prayed that God would intervene.
Each day they were informed of the building progress of this statue. They applied a premeditated determination to make a stand.
Stations by God will always produce an opportunity to stand that will always prove...
Stations by God will always produce an opportunity to stand, these will ALWAYS prove the strength of His presence!
"Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." ~Daniel 3:19-25
This is a truth that God taught to me in the most amazing way.
Think for just a minute and ask yourself, "When was the last time I recognized being put through a furnace in my life?"
I was in a situation in my past that carried a lot of similarities to a furnace.
I graduated from Bible College and wanted to do something "Big" for God!
I had the privilege of serving the Lord in a church in Illinois as a youth director and I loved it. It was there that God taught me how to do His work. I wanted to serve the Lord and do His work, but I wanted to do it MY way and in MY strength and ability.
So God did for me what He does for any of His children that need it. He helped me prepare my very own furnace. He moved me from Illinois and placed me in a province where I could discover that His way was very different than my way.
I got busy, very busy, adding bricks to the wall of my furnace, and without recognizing it, bringing my time in the fire closer and closer..
I had in fact been a part of building a work that was not done God's way. It was built on fancy sales techniques where the bottom line was the number of decision cards and not true conversions. It was as if the last command of Jesus on earth was, "Go into all the world and get decisions." When in fact it was to make Disciples.
This sounds a little harsh, but there were a lot of people who would walk the aisle and say "The Prayer", but when I saw people "Added to the church" it was rarely a convert; instead it was someone from another church that we had wowed and amazed with a program that was better than what they had before.
What does the size of a building, or the number in the bank mean if people within the shadow of the steeple do not see anything real about what you have? If you can only see a person as 10% of what they make or for what you can get out of them, what lasting impact are you providing the kingdom?
I built a furnace where I was taught by word and example to see people as just the means to an end and despite "Christian emphasis" in words, slogans, and vision statements, the actions and attitudes that I saw behind closed doors were anything but Spirit led. I would see anger, flesh, and insecurity justify the mistreatment of people in "The Lord's Work". The Fruit of the Spirit would be blown off of the tree at the slightest breeze from a stress storm.
This was a God allowed furnace for me.
I was frustrated because I had been part of "Selling Jesus" in order to have someone repeat a prayer within 4 stanzas of a hymn. This was a furnace. The more I read in the Word, the more conflicted I became. The part where MY strength came in was beginning to quickly burn. In fact, the day where the Lord prompted my heart with the question, "Dan, you are really trying hard to make me and those you work for happy with you... What is it that you can do that would make me love you any more than I already do?" was a difficult day. The heat was on. God allowed me to see something fantastic, and I would have missed it if it had not been for the furnace.
God has revealed Himself to me in so many powerful way since I stepped out of that furnace. I am quite sure that I have more to come as I climb the steps with God, but I am confident in Him and His faithfulness.
Your furnace is no doubt different than mine, but it may be that you have found yourself in a situation that you yourself have helped to create. It is a furnace.
God used this passage to help me understand something profound.
Many times, God allows us to have a hand in building the very thing that He uses as a furnace in our lives.
"God allows us to have a hand in building the very thing that He uses as a furnace in our lives."
I am very thankful for the furnaces that God has let me have a hand in building. I am grateful for them, because without them I would still be doing God's work MY way and in MY strength. My furnaces were and continue to be necessary. Yours are too!
I talk to many good people who have never learned to understand the God allowed furnaces for what they are, expressions of God's love for us. God takes us just as we are, yet He loves us too much to let us stay that way.
Where would you be today had God not allowed you a station that provided you the opportunity to stand? Would you have seen His strength?
I encourage you today to take a moment and thank Him for the furnaces that He allowed you to build!
Climbing with you,