One of my favorite stories in the Bible is found in the third chapter of Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon made a golden image that was 90 feet tall and nine feet wide. After setting it up, a decree was sent out. When the music played, everyone was to fall down and worship the image. Failure to do so would result in being cast into the furnace.
When the music sounded, all fell down to worship the image, except for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. It is interesting to me that Nebuchadnezzar attempts to give them a second chance. Nebuchadnezzar had a vast empire. He was a powerful conqueror. His name struck fear into the hearts of people. He was a man of action. It was uncharacteristic of him to offer anyone a second chance. This suggests that he had a great deal of esteem for these three men. He obviously did not want them executed. The lives of these three men clearly had an impact on the people they encountered. I have to ask myself this question. Do I have that sort of impact on the people in my world?
Nebuchadnezzar was prepared to try this again. Perhaps they hadn't understood the directions. Perhaps there had been some sort of confusion. Perhaps they thought their position would save them. He makes his expectations very clear. If they would do as he commanded, everything would be fine. He'd forget about the first incident. If they didn't obey him, their position would not save them. He would carry out his threat.
I love what happens next. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego basically tell Nebuchadnezzar that he doesn't need to bother with giving them a second chance. They're not going to change their minds.
17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18 But even if he doesn't, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up."
Daniel 3:17-18 (NLT)
How many times do we attach strings to obeying God?
I'll pay tithes and give more in the offerings if you bless me financially, God.
I'll read my Bible every day if you give me that new job, God.
I'll volunteer my time if I get a raise, God.
I'll follow you if I don't have any problems ever happen in my life again, God.
I'll witness to people only if you heal me, God.
The list goes on and on.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were willing to serve God with no strings attached. While they acknowledged that God was perfectly capable of rescuing them, they knew that he was not obligated to do so. He's God. He gets to do what He wants to do, the way He wants to do it. He's the one who makes the rules, not us!
This is what faith is. This is what commitment looks like. They were perfectly submitted to accepting God's will. God's will had become their will. They were recognizing who God truly is. They were trusting their very being to God, no matter what!
This last part always makes me want to sing, dance and jump for joy. The furnace was so hot that the men who cast them into it were killed instantly by the heat. I have no idea what the temperature was, but I remember my dad telling me that you always had to wait for a kiln to cool down before you could open it. Dad taught ceramics out at the VA and they had to keep the kiln in a locked room to prevent someone from being injured. Just inhaling that hot air would destroy your lungs and you would die. I imagine something similar to that occurred.
Suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar leaps to his feet. Instead of three men, he sees four men, unbound walking around in the fire. Although Nebuchadnezzar was not serving God, He recognized God. When we put our trust in God and are totally committed to him, the things which bind us are loosed and the world can't help but see Jesus walking with us. We are where God is and God is where we are! That is the only place to be.
Nebuchadnezzar recognizes who they really are. They're servants of the Most High God. He calls out to him and when they emerged they were not burned, their clothes were not burned, their hair wasn't singed and they didn't even smell of smoke. In other words, although they were in the fire, the fire couldn't touch them. (Dan. 3:19-27).
We are going to pass through "fires" in this world. Sometimes they will touch our physical bodies and sometimes they may not. However, you can remain confident that if you are in the fire with God, your soul will not be bound. Your soul will not be burned. Your soul will not be touched when you are willing to follow Jesus, no matter what!
*8/18/11--This blog is now part of a series entitled Walking With God In The Midst of Cancer.