In the Midst of Fire

Faith that came out pure as gold

Activated - - FRONT PAGE - By Jewel Roque Jewel Roque lived in In­dia for 12 years as a mis­sion­ary. Now in Cal­i­for­nia, she works as a free­lance writer and editor. This ar­ti­cle was adapted from a pod­cast on Just1Thing, a Chris­tian char­ac­ter-build­ing web­site for young peo­ple.

Shadrach, Me­shach, Abed­nego, and their pal, Daniel, were four young men who might have passed into ob­scu­rity if not for some re­mark­able things that hap­pened in their lives.

The story be­gins around 500 years be­fore Christ with these young men be­ing taken far away from their home­land as cap­tive slaves by Ne­buchad­nez­zar, king of the Baby­lo­nian Em­pire.

We don’t know how old Shadrach, Me­shach, and Abed­nego were, per­haps barely teenagers, nor what their life was like be­fore their jour­ney into ex­ile. Did they know one an­other? Per­haps they were friends and shared their dreams and hopes. Maybe one of them dreamed of hav­ing a dozen sons like his fore­fa­ther Ja­cob, and of teaching his chil­dren to be godly. Per­haps an­other one wanted to be a teacher. Then there might have been the sto­ry­teller, who told the oth­ers, “You ful­fill your dreams, and I’ll tell the story af­ter­ward.”

But all those dreams and hopes, what­ever they might have been, were cast aside when their land was con­quered and they were taken into cap­tiv­ity. What were those first days and nights like? Un­der guard, shack­led, and chained? Cor­ralled to­gether like an­i­mals, look­ing for a fa­mil­iar face? One can picture them find­ing one an­other, band­ing to­gether, per­haps the op­ti­mist of the group say­ing, “Fear not, God is with us. Re­gard­less of what hap­pens, we are in His hands.” The oth­ers agree­ing, per­haps mak­ing a pact that no mat­ter what hap­pened, they would stay faith­ful to God.

Faith­ful and true they did stay. First of all, they re­fused to eat food straight from the king’s ta­ble. There must have been all kinds of de­lec­ta­ble de­lights. Yet they didn’t touch it.

Was it a chal­lenge for them to forgo the del­i­ca­cies of the king’s ta­ble? Per­haps, but they did it to fol­low the di­etary laws God had given their peo­ple. It was a lit­tle de­ci­sion, but our lives are com­prised of just that: lit­tle de­ci­sions. They ap­pear so small, when in re­al­ity, they may de­cide the course of our des­tiny.

Later, when Ne­buchad­nez­zar or­dered the court to bow be­fore his im­age, Shadrach, Me­shach, and Abed­nego re­fused to bow down. Only God knows what thoughts were run­ning through their heads, how hor­ri­fied they were at the au­dac­ity of an earthly king com­mand­ing his sub­jects to wor­ship him. Yet their

an­swer was re­spect­ful, calm and col­lected, trust­ing.

“King Ne­buchad­nez­zar, we do not need to de­fend our­selves be­fore you in this mat­ter. If we are thrown into the blaz­ing fur­nace, the God we serve is able to de­liver us from it, and he will de­liver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or wor­ship the im­age of gold you have set up.” 1

Ne­buchad­nez­zar’s re­sponse was much less calm and col­lected. He or­dered the fur­nace to be fired up. It turned out to be so hot that it killed the men who threw Shadrach, Me­shach, and Abed­nego into the fire. But within mo­ments, the king re­al­ized some­thing was not as he ex­pected.

When King Ne­buchad­nez­zar peered into the blaze, he saw the three youths walk­ing around, and in the midst of them—shin­ing brighter than that bril­liant blaze—was an­other whom he rec­og­nized some­how—per­haps be­cause re­gard­less of our re­li­gious be­liefs, when we come face to face with such a sight, there is no mis­tak­ing it. He knew it was Je­sus, the Son of God, and he called the bold and brave young men out of the flames.

They walked out un­scathed, with­out even the smell of smoke on their clothes. And the king made an­other im­petu­ous de­cree—“that the peo­ple of any na­tion or language who say any­thing against the God of Shadrach, Me­shach and Abed­nego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rub­ble, for no other god can save in this way.” 2

What brought the Son of God into the flam­ing fur­nace? Those three young men were far from home and loved ones, from any­thing they might have clung to. But they held on to their faith. I think it was that faith that brought Him to their side at the mo­ment they needed it most.

It is what brings Him to our side to­day too. A word of prayer, a de­ci­sion to trust by faith. A sim­ple word or de­ci­sion when we don’t know how things will turn out. A be­lief that, even in the flames, God is able.

Je­sus never fails to reach out from the throne of grace to pro­tect and honor those who trust Him.

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