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 your hand…
The three young men, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, whom the king of Babylon named Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, did not go to the fiery furnace with a prophecy that they would be preserved, as David did when he moved forward against Goliath. David declared, "This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand." The three Hebrews in Babylon had no such prospect vouchsafed them. They went to the fiery furnace without assurance of any deliverance. Their courage of faith was greater than that of David in the case alluded to. The faith of these three is brought out into full relief when we thus consider that the fiery furnace was a reality in prospect for them. Had God revealed to them that they should not be touched by the flames, their faith would have rested on His word of deliverance; but now it rested on His character of wisdom, truth and love. It was a higher, grander faith than mere faith in a special deliverance promised. It was a full, implicit confidence that God would do what was best, and would never abandon His own servants. It is not, therefore, in the miracle that we find our lesson to-day. Such a miracle may never again be wrought. Men as true and as holy as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have not been miraculously saved from physical torture and death, and no saint of God has any right to expect such intervention. Our lesson lies deeper than this. The exclamation of the three was not "The Lord will deliver us from the force of the fire," but, "The Lord is able to deliver us from the fire." And herein is a vast difference. Here is implied a spiritual knowledge of the character of God as the God of His people, for the implied sentence is, "And He who is thus able will do for us what is best'; and that this is the implied sentence we know from what follows: "and He will deliver us out of thy hand, O king." They are assured that God will give them deliverance from the king's wrath, though it may be by taking them out of the body. There is a grand, eternal deliverance before them. The lesson, then, which we are to learn legitimately from these heroes of the faith is to be unconcerned regarding the Nebuchadnezzars and fiery furnaces that are in our path, and that not because they will be removed, but because the Omnipotent God, our God, is directing all, and will give us the grand deliverance. In our low views of things we are tempted to say, "Why, this is very unsatisfactory; there is no encouragement here. It would be far better if the promise would come to us that the fire should not burn us, that we should suffer no pain or hardship, and have all easy before us. Why cannot God do this?" Well, He certainly could, as far as ability goes, but what would become of His love then, for it is certainly true that whom the Father loveth He chasteneth?
1. The first point, then, in our lesson from the three Hebrews is to have faith in God as our God There is a strange misapprehension of faith, Christian faith, in some minds. They seem to consider it a blind confidence that certain things will take place. Only put your mind on an event, and be perfectly sure it will come, and it will come. There is not a grain of Christian faith in such presumption, but the very enemy and hindrance of faith. Christian faith is faith in God, His character, His will, His promises, as revealed in Jesus Christ His Son. Christian faith has God as its object and security. It holds all things subject to His most holy will, and knows that all things are directed by that will for the soul's good. It does not attempt to mark out God's course of dealing, but it is satisfied with that course, whatever it may be. It asks God for special gifts, but it desires God's infinite wisdom to decide concerning the giving, for a true faith humbly recognises human short-sightedness and knows well that the human wish might be very injurious if granted. Herein is the radical difference between the believer and the world. He is in communion with God, and the grace of God is his comfort and defence, while the world resists the grace and has no Divine promise and no Heavenly experience to rest upon.
2. The second point in our lesson from the three Hebrews is that faith implies service. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us," is the exclamation of the three heroes. This completely sets aside a speculative faith, which is the common faith of so many who are called Christians. Orthodoxy in opinion is not faith. There must be an action corresponding to the creed. As there can be no true faith without active service, so, of course, there can be no assurance of faith. The Christian who lazily looks after nothing but his present earthly comfort will never look at fiery furnaces with composure. Now, the service of the Lord is the use of the Divine means of grace for ourselves and for others. His grace is working in our earth for His great purpose of salvation, and He chooses us to be His co-workers. The field is the human heart — our hearts and the hearts of others. As servants of God we will take hold of this assigned work earnestly. It is in this way our faith will grow into the proportions of overcoming power that will fear no Nebuchadnezzar or his fiery furnace. Without such service we can express no such growth. Salvation is not from without and by magic. It is by a life that has faith as its motor. The three Hebrews were simply acting out their life of faith when they refused to bow to the king's idol It was the natural operation of a godly life. They served the Lord. That was their soul's position. They lived in accordance with that service. "The thing is perfectly plain. Our whole lives direct us. We shall not worship thine idol, and the burning fiery furnace is no argument." That is the way a soul in the Lord's service will always reply to an invitation to sin, even when a threat accompanies it. The reason why so many Christians yield is because they do not serve God. They wear Christ's name and serve self and the world. They have no courage because they have no faith.
3. The third point in our lesson from the three Hebrews is that God's service runs counter to the world's requirements. Hence there must be a collision. A man who will serve God will clash with the world. Nebuchadnezzar was but a specimen of the world. The world will insist upon some form of idolatry of every one, and will threaten the fiery furnace for disobedience. The world hates God, and will not recognise His exclusive demands. Political, commercial and social customs will bring a tyrannical pressure upon the soul, and the Christian in the name of his God will have to resist. The fiery furnace has different forms. The more resolute he is, the more wrath the world has and the hotter will it make the fire. Then is the opportunity for the Christian to triumph in his faith and to taste the glory of his position as with God. Deceit, Sabbath-breaking, impurity, fraud, lying, intrigue, to which the customs of the age allure the Christian, are all forms of idolatry, for they are revolts from God after the gods of covetousness, ambition, or carnality. Now, there is no other treatment of these by the godly but positive, open, uncompromising resistance, at any cost. The only position, then, of the Christian who would be at peace with God and with himself is the position of the three Hebrews — the position of faith. There he is afflicted with no doubts, anxieties, or remorse. He knows that God will be with him, even if it be a valley of death-shadow that he is to traverse. He will find the inexpressible comfort of the Divine presence, and feel at every step the strong upholding hand of his God. He will not miss earthly friends in such exalted companionship. In contrast with this steady believer is the one who fears the world's opposition, and endeavours to soothe and subdue it. This is always done by giving up God for the world. This Christian is of all men most miserable. He gets worse than the fiery furnace in the tortures of his conscience, in his failure to make anything satisfactory out of the world, in his own self-contempt and his dreary, blank prospect.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.