As they watched the fire surrounding them, you cannot help but wonder what thoughts rushed through their minds? As they were thrown into the flames, what words of prayer were found pressed to their lips? As they realized those flames did not even singe them, how quickly did those prayers turn to praise? As they walked amongst the raging fires, what sounds and words did they hear from the crowds that watched in astonishment?
We all know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Men of unwavering faith, that refused to deny God in the face of the most powerful man the world had yet to know. A man who’s reach stretched out to much of the known world. A man who with the snap of his fingers could command armies to distant lands. A man who could destroy and rebuild cities with nothing more than the nod of his brow. But these three followers of the Lord, knew that with all his power, Nebuchadnezzar was just that, he was just a man. He was not God, and he did not speak for God.
As they stood before this powerful king, their devotion stood true to the King of Kings. The words they professed to Nebuchadnezzar still move us to this day. “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”(Daniel 3:16-18). They looked into the eyes of the most powerful one the world had to offer, and placed their faith in the most powerful One the world could ever know. Their answer was simple, if God rescues me, or if He does not, I will only serve the Lord!
Many excuses could have easily come into the thoughts of these three men. Thoughts and excuse that would have spared them the fate they knew would soon follow. They could have fallen to their knees, but not actually worshipped the statue. They could have told the king they would not become idol worshippers, but would this one time to appease the king. They could have reasoned with themselves, the king has absolute power, so we must do this. The could have used their titles as an excuse, the king had appointed them so they must obey him. They could have used their situation as an excuse, they were in a foreign land and needed to honor the followings and traditions of that land. They could have turned to the past, knowing their ancestors had worshipped idols at times and had survived. They could have bowed to the social pressures of the day, convincing themselves that to worship another god did not diminish their God. And they could have looked to justify their actions, if they were to deny the king then it might impact the rest of the Jewish people. But they rejected the temptation to use their own logic, standing on the promise of God’s Word. They placed their fate and their future into the Lord’s hands. Their belief became their insurance, and their faith spoke the words for them.
As the crowd watched that day, their astonishment turned into amazement, and the words of the king went from anger to praise. All those witnessing, looked into the furnace that day, and what they saw had to have brought them again to their knees. But this time, they did not fall to their knees because a king had ordered them to, they found themselves on their knees because of what the King of Kings showed them. As the king and the crowd looked into the furnace, they did not just see the three men, but a fourth man. One the king would proclaim was, “like the Son of God”. A image that would forever change the fate of not only these three men, but of the Jewish people. The actions of the king reflect this, and so do his words as he called out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!”(Daniel 3:26). No man can bind what Christ sets free!
As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego faced that day, a verse that David wrote quickly comes to mind. A verse that easily may have been on the lips of these three faithful men that day. “So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord!”(Psalm 31:24). When we look at the words that make up this verse, we see the power of David’s pen come to life.
Three words from this verse stand out at us; strong, courageous, and hope. The Hebrew word for strong used here means, “to grasp, to hold fast’. The Hebrew word for courageous means “an inner will, determination”. And the Hebrew word for hope we see used in this verse means, “to wait in anticipation.” No matter where we find ourselves, and no matter what this world may throw our way, we do not face it alone. The grasp that Christ has on us, gives us the will and determination to face anything. And with Christ by our side, we anticipate how the Lord can use us in any situation. We have the promise of knowing that tomorrow is the Lord’s. We do not have to worry if the Lord will rescue us today, because He already saved us yesterday, and we know that either way we will have Him by our side tomorrow! Whether rescued or not, tomorrow holds our hope!
As many of us today look at the world around us, we feel the heat coming from the furnace. We watch the events of this worlds unfolding, and we see flames of the fire starting to burn. We watch as fellow believers are being persecuted, and we see the guards approaching. And as we look to our left and our right, and see many of our “so-called’ brothers and sisters on their knees before a false god, we see the bindings the guards are carrying in hand for us. We see the crowds gathering around us, and we know what our future holds. But as we face the fires, we must first ask ourselves one question, a question three faithful men asked themselves so many years ago. Whether God rescues us or not, will we serve the Lord?
In our stance today, are we ready to stand for God? Are we willing to show this world, that when we stand for God, we stand out? Are we willing to accept that sometimes in our trials can be found eternal reasons? Are we willing to place our destiny is God’s hands, or will we trust them in the hands of man?
To each of these questions, I would give a simple answer. Hold fast! Let us answer these questions boldly, moving forward with strength, courage and hope. Let us not find ourselves on our knees as we cower to the demands of this world, but let us lead the world to its’ knees as they watch the Lord work through us. Let us never forget, when we walk by faith, we walk for Christ. We must be willing to follow the example Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego set so many years ago. We must be willing to show those who would lead us into the fire a greater purpose and calling than this world can ever offer or know. We must show the world the face of the One who can keep us from the flames, the only One who can deliver us from the fire. We must be willing to offer and give our all, showing this world that only Christ can bring us all. We must face what the world throws at us today, standing strong and courageous, knowing we will see the hope that tomorrow brings.
As I look at the world around us today, I see the flames of the fire again being stroked. I watch as the world again prepares the furnace, and I see the anger on the world’s face because many of us will not bow before it. I fear that before that Glorious Day, many of us may be given a view of the inside of that furnace. But to each who refuse to bow, I would offer words of encouragement and hope. The words of a fellow believer I often like to quote. “Hold fast. Help is on the way. Hold fast. He’s come to save the day. What I’ve learned in my life, one thing greater than my strife, is His grasp. So hold fast.”
Hold fast to the foot of the Cross! In that grasp lies complete hope. The Cross you grasp is anchored deep, and despite how hard they may try, the world cannot pull you away. That Cross is filled with the confidence and assurance you will see tomorrow, and the strength and courage that will carry you through this day. And as you grasp firmly to that Cross, know that in the splinters that now fill your hands is found the only hope, joy and peace that can change this world tomorrow. Hold fast!
Praying each of you keep a strong grasp in the midst of the fire
Dr Mike Murray
Mercy Me – Hold Fast