In the early chapters of the book of Daniel we read of four young men Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah who served and followed the Living God in the midst of a society that was living with little if any regard to the revealed will of the Creator. This was a society that although religious and spiritual according to their own understanding, cared little for the things that would please the God of Israel.
The people of God had been taken captive and forced to settle in the land of Babylon under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. In order to survive they needed to live and work amongst the peoples of the land. The Lord through the prophet Jeremiah had instructed them to settle and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:1-7. This settling and positive contribution to the states welfare did not include a total change of heart and Spiritual direction which would take the people away from God. They could cooperate only to the extent that they would not relinquish the position of Yahweh as “Lord” of their lives.
In chapter 3 of the book of Daniel we read that the King ordered the people to worship an image erected in the plain of Dura. Despite such a large number of Jewish captives being resident in the land we only read of three men who would not bend the knee to the image. These men would opt to suffer rather than join the majority in the easy route of appeasing the people of the land.
This situation though many thousands of years ago is very similar to the present state of affairs in this nation. If today you choose to suffer you might find some who will suffer alongside you, but very often the suffering is alone. The suffering we face is not always as a result of taking a stand for our Lord, sometimes our suffering is forced on us without room for choice, sometimes our choice may seem small but in the grand scheme of things the decision is great.
The married woman who awakes everyday to a miserable and uncaring husband is presented with the option to simply leave and divorce her partner. Many friends and work colleges will tell her this is the best option rather than suffering such a depressing marriage. The values of society tell her “move on” the media’s soaps present the option as the norm. Even in the wider church the option to divorce a partner for a more Spiritual individual has often become acceptable practice, something we have gotten use too!
The three men made a choice to please Yahweh rather than themselves or the society in which they lived. This led to a punishment that was to be so severe, suffering so intense that would ultimately result in the loss of life itself. The King had warned that those who refused to worship the image would be thrown into a furnace and burnt alive. On this occasion the King was so angry that he ordered the furnace to be heated 7 times more than normal. The heat was so intense that the soldiers who forced the three men into the furnace died due to the excessive heat, the flames killing them.
Here in the flames of the furnace in the place of suffering the three men walked about unharmed. To the amazement of the King a fourth walked among them “like a son of the gods”. Our Lord walked with his servants in the midst of the furnace. In the midst of the place of suffering our Lord was present and the three walked in the flames unharmed.
It is a wonderful and exciting truth that the Lord accompanies his people in the place of trial and suffering but when the three looked out of the flames towards the entrance they would have seen an amazing sight “someone drawing near to the furnace”.
Someone was amazed at the sight and at the revelation of one like a son of the gods” and decided to draw near to the furnace of suffering. “Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace” The King moved close to the entrance – wait only moments before the intense heat had killed his best men – and yet now we find him drawing near the furnace.
The revelation of “God” in the midst of his suffering people caused Nebuchadnezzar to exercise a measure of faith. Faith to draw near to the furnace and call out the servants of the Lord. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
It may be the case that you are in a place of great suffering, the Lord is with you. Look out of the flames and take note of those who are looking in. When you begin to walk in the flames with Jesus at your side there will be those who draw near to the furnace. Your suffering will bring revelation, be prepared to respond when they call out too you form the doorway of your furnace.
We very often focus on ourselves in the furnace, forgetting our Masters presence and failing to see those who are looking into our furnace What was the result of this event? God had set up a nation “Israel” in the Promised Land to reveal himself to the surrounding nations. This was a failure, not God’s failure but his people’s failure. This great Jewish society failed miserably and ended up “like all the nations around about” in fact even worse. Yet from the place of captivity in an unsympathetic society three men who embraced suffering brought about amazing change and influence on a nation and it’s King. So much so that we may expect to see the King of Babylon in the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is not our wealth and success that will influence our society, it is our walk in the furnace with our Lord and Savour Jesus Christ that will bring about revelation to our rebellious society. Remember that outside of the furnace of suffering there are those who look for revelation and salvation. Its maybe only through the flames of your furnace that they will see our Lord and Deliverer – Jesus Christ.