do you feel like you are in life’s furnace right now? it can get pretty hot in there. trials are just that, very trying. And sometimes the heat is really turned up. there are references like “out of the fire and into the frying pan”, perhaps meaning sometimes there is no escape from what we are experiencing, we just have to get through it. or that often we go from one trial to another trial, from one furnace to another furnace, each hotter than the one before.
In the Old Testament, Daniel’s three friends had their own firsthand experience with an extremely hot, fiery furnace, prepared just for them as a punishment because they worshiped and obeyed God rather than the current king, Nebuchadnezzar.
Here’s how it went down, “Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual . . . .” (as if a furnace isn’t hot enough already? talk about your basic overkill) But there’s more, the king is taking no chances in his punishment of these three dissenters, he intends to make an example of them for everyone to witness.
So our story continues, “and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.” I think at this point in the story we can agree, dear readers, that these circumstances appear too hot and too hopeless for us to even consider an outcome other than what the king intended, the certain death of these three dissenters.
But the story is not over yet, dear readers. Let’s read on! “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’ ”
I love that last verse because it tells me so many things about the time I spend in the furnaces of this present life. First of all, I am not alone! Jesus is right here with me, just as He was with the three in the king’s furnace. They were not spared from the furnace but God was right there with them in their furnace.
Now here’s something really amazing. Are you ready? While in the furnace, the three men were UNBOUND and UNHARMED! That’s right. I had to read that again for myself. I would naturally assume that the furnace is a place of bondage and damage. And it is. BUT, Jesus’ presence in the furnace with me changes all that, His presence changes everything!
So even though I am not free from the furnace, I am free even in the furnace. And so are you. We are free in the furnace, unbound and unharmed, just as Daniel’s three friends were. Why did it take me so long to learn this truth? The furnace is not pleasant, the furnace is not fun, the furnace is unbearably hot and harsh BUT the furnace is where I experience my Savior’s comforting, sustaining, uplifting, empowering, loving, healing, redeeming, reconciling, delivering, freeing, forgiving, protecting, providing, peace-granting presence as in no other place or circumstance in my life.
Those three men were thrown into the furnace bound BUT they left the furnace unbound. Why? Because in the furnace they were set free. Christ’s presence in their furnace with them set them free and kept them from harm.
While in the furnace, I am refined – I leave behind what is unnecessary, it is burned away. I leave behind what weighs me down, the flames graciously rob me of my burdens, which I mistakenly thought were treasures. I leave behind my self will and take up my Savior’s will and purpose. I come out of the furnace as gold. ” . . . when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” (Job 23:10)
So let’s see how this story ends, shall we? “Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!’ So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, . . . They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.” (Daniel 3:19-27)
God leaves no doubt! He is able to deliver me from whatever furnace I find myself currently in. And God is able to deliver you, too. But while I wait to be delivered from the furnace, I can walk unbound and unharmed with Jesus. I will take courage from these words in Isaiah 43:1-2; ” . . . this is what the Lord says – . . . I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Life in the furnace is hot and harsh and hard BUT the flames will not set me ablaze. That’s God’s promise, I have His word on it!
sincerely, Grace Day