In Daniel chapter 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to an idol provided by King Nebuchadnezzar. In his wrath, the king orders the furnace to be turned up seven times hotter than usual. His helpers bind the legs, feet and hands of the men and toss them into it. The two guards that carry them to the fire both die from the heat.
The three Christ-followers surely would burn to a crisp.
There have been a lot of fires in our world. Are you walking through one now? Are you sick of COVID, sick of wearing a mask (me!), discouraged and maybe a bit angry? Perhaps the election went backwards for you and on top of that, you are having family, relationship or job issues.
We all get discouraged. And sometimes, in a year like 2020, that discouragement goes painfully deep.
Let me tell you about Cina. She fled from an abusive marriage, the courts mandated that the kids have to stay with their father, and she has been living in her car on the streets of Portland for two months while she works the programs she needs and also works her regular job. She cannot go to a homeless shelter-they require her to be unemployed and absorb herself into the programs there. As much as she needs a roof over her head, it seemed backwards to her to give up her employment to do so. She will need the income to help support her kids.
Cina is on the waiting list for some other shelters but nothing has opened up. She has met with numerous people, completed mounds of paperwork, all to no avail. Every waking moment that she is not working at her jobs and programs, she is looking for resources. Winter will soon be here and in a weekly group we hold, I’ve been praying for Cina for about four weeks that God will intervene and provide her with a safe place before the cold weather hits.
Nothing happened. For a long time. And then something happened last week. I saw a breakthrough in Cina. She admitted her defeat, she put aside her pride, she opened up more and she started working on herself. As we again prayed for God’s relief in this situation, a brilliant light appeared. As long as I provide a reference and Cina continues to work on what she needs to do, a nonprofit organization in Portland will pay for her apartment deposit, and three months of rent. She will be off the streets by Thanksgiving and her children will get to come live with her.
In Daniel 3, King Neb was shocked to see that not only were the three men walking around within the fire free from the ties that had bound them only minutes before, but that Jesus stood in the flames with them. Calling them truly the “servants of God”, he then called them out of the fire.
They walked out untouched. Not a hair was singed. And unlike those of us who survived Oregon Burning, they didn’t even smell like smoke.
Sometimes God seems a bit quiet in all the racket of 2020. Sometimes, we might even wonder if He is there. Sometimes it takes all our faith muscles to BELIEVE that He is with us in our fire. And we wonder “well can’t you make it more obvious, like you did in the fiery furnace?”
Did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego know that Jesus was in the fire with them? Although I have seen illustrations that imply that the four men visited with each other in that hot fire, the scriptures are not clear on this fact. They do not say that the men in the furnace saw Jesus. They say only that King Neb did. Perhaps before they realized they weren’t burning to death, the three men grew terrified, wondering where God was now.
I can’t imagine the panic of being bound and thrown into a fire. Can you? And yet Jesus met them there, just like he meets you and me when the fires of life grow unbearable and we cry out in pain, seeking mercy and relief. When we wonder where He is, we can be assured that He IS there. For He has assured us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Jesus is with you in your fire. Do you choose to see him? Open your eyes, admit your need for Him and seek Him fully (bear fruit). He will answer you.
“You did not choose me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”