16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
There are Scriptures that speak of testing by fire: .tests of our faith, our works, our hearts, and our love.
In general, when those who follow the Way speak of trials, our tendency is to link them to fire. In days of old, to profess the sovereignty of Christ at the expense of a powerful and corrupt church often did, in fact, end in trial by fire.
Captives away from their homeland, their names changed, and under the constant threat of death or the promise of reward based on the whims of a volatile, arrogant king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gave the ultimate answer to their impending doom, obeying G-d’s commandment to have set no gods before Him, to not worship images of the created, nor images of man.
“We have no need to answer you in this matter…” Their minds were already made up. Surely they already knew of the king’s decree, and didn’t do it. Their hearts were set on G-d, and if they were to meet Him tragically and painfully, they would do so willingly.
Honestly, how many of us would have the faith and courage to say that in the face of impending, indeed, imminent death. The devout and pious young men were not even tranquilized to face their doom, and were excessively bound so that there was no escape from the flames that were so hot they killed some of Nebuchadnezzar’s mightiest men. (I think G-d was sending the king a message even then, I digress…)
They affirmed their faith with an even more fantastical statement. “…but if not…”
We are reminded of ‘the others’ in the Book of Hebrews, who had no last minute rescues, who saw no divine intervention, who were torn apart by various means with their faith in G-d intact in their hearts, and the kingdom of Heaven on their minds.
In these days, as the love of many grows cold, and the once-faithful turn away, as we are all tempted to do when see the flint-like face of our Savior leading His people to a new Promised Land, our Shepherd leading His sheep to the green pasture where the lions lay next to them, we are reminded to let not our hearts be troubled, nor afraid, and to believe in G-d, and the Son he sent for us to reconcile us to our Creator, and to redeem us spotless and blameless, without sin, into His eternal kingdom, redeeming us from the flames of the Prince of this world.
We are reminded He will be with us, even to the end of the age, and He revealed Himself as He did, in fact, redeem His good and faithful servants from the flame of a worldly king, who then testified as a pagan witness to the presence of Jesus.
25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”[a]
Therefore I pray:
Lord Jesus, You have said the world will hate us because it hated Your first, and that it hates You because You testify that its works are evil. You never wavered in the face of temptation, or persecution, or crucifixion, or death. And even as You died, You took a repentant thief into Paradise.
Give us the resolve to stand, O Lord, as Your three servants who set the example for us on earth, as You set it for Heaven. Help us to keep discernment through the eyes of the Holy Spirit in us, and know that the battle is spiritual, and not of flesh and blood.
In an age of faithlessness, compromise, and blasphemy, we ask You to increase our faith, and help our unbelief.
We need You now more than ever, to impart Your strength to our quavering voices and shaking knees, to shout from the rooftops what You’ve whispered, and to set our holy lights on the hills of a land in decline, and be voices in the wilderness, proclaiming the Year of the Lord’s favor, and to seek Him while He may yet be found.
By the Power of Your Holy Name, I pray,