GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
Any Sunday School student worth his salt knows of the three men in the fiery furnace. They might even remember their names — Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego—and that these three men had refused to worship a huge golden image set up by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Daniel 3). Reported by their jealous enemies, the three men were given two options: bow down and worship the golden idol, or be cast immediately into a burning fiery furnace. And then Nebuchadnezzar challenged: “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (verse 15)
The three condemned men responded that “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” (verse 17) And even if it were not His will to so save them, no way would they “serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (verse 18) Bring on your fire! It can only kill our bodies, not our souls!
With the furnace stoked up to seven times its normal temperature, so hot that it killed the men who cast the three into the flames, the three faithful men of God found themselves walking freely in the blast furnace, with nary a hair singed or any smell of fire or smoke upon them. Their God had saved them according to His will and power!
But much more! Amazingly, He had joined them in the fire, which was plain to see. For the king exclaimed, “I see four men loose . . . and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
(verse 25) Not three men in the fiery furnace, but four! God not only saved His people, but also walked with them in their great danger.
But this is a promise He has oft repeated. Through Isaiah God assured His people, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. . . . For I am the Lord your God.” (43:2, 3) Jesus told His disciples, who were rowing for their lives, “It is I, do not be afraid.” (Mark 6:50) Surely we are warned about smoldering temptations and searing cross-bearing. But the Man in the Fire has promised, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) What a comfort to know that after our predicted fiery trials, in which we partake of Christ’s sufferings, we will rejoice exceedingly when the glory of the Lord is revealed.
(1 Peter 4:12, 13).
Not only is the Man in the Fire with us, He was also in the fire for us. It’s hard to fully comprehend the pain and suffering involved in being scourged, then nailed to a cross and lifted up to hang in the burning sun as one accursed of both men and God. Jesus was not the only man ever crucified. But He was the only One upon Whom “the Lord laid the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) That made His ordeal hellish! In Psalm 22 the Man in the Fire gave us a glimpse of what He endured for us: “I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.” (14-15) It might even be said that for three long hours the Father turned out the lights to hide the hellish agony of His suffering Servant. But through such suffering, our Savior “made intercession for the transgressors,” and “by His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:12,5)
So it is true that three men were cast into the fiery furnace, but a fourth Man joined them that day and delivered them.
On another day, years later, Jesus alone suffered the burning pain of hell, there to atone for all sin. How can we not remember? How can we not forever praise and thank this Man in the Fire, our Redeemer, our Immanuel?!
David Fuerstenau is pastor of Holy Truth
Lutheran Church in Ketchikan, Alaska.