Utter Dependence on God in the Fiery Furnace
With Jill Southern-Jones, Director of NETS
Jesus never submitted to the economic and political powers in His day and likewise, we should never submit to them when they’re telling us to do something contrary to the Word of God. I have been challenged by the faith Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had. They did not bend, they did not bow, and they did not burn. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three Jewish champions of their faith. Did you know that pride is a huge issue? When people gain wealth and power, they often end up in pride. King Nebuchadnezzar made everyone bow down and worship an enormous 90 foot golden image, probably of himself. Everyone, that is, except the Jews. The Jews knew, from the second commandment, that they could not bow down or worship any other God except the One True God.
If this happened to us today and the governments or the political powers required us to worship them or something they had set up, what would we do? They said, “Our God can rescue us. But even if he does not, we will not bow down to the image you set up” (vs. 17-18). We cannot worship or bow down to any earthly king instead of God. God is jealous over us and our worship and we must not flirt with any other gods or allow them to take away the love and worship of our hearts.
I believe these three Jewish princes, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had the favour of God on their lives, and they had been elevated over the occultists. We must remember that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers (Eph. 6). The principalities and powers of darkness that were working through these astrologers, and the terrible envy they had because these three Jewish princes had been elevated over them, actually started to stir up wickedness and evil in their heart. They were able to manipulate the king using his weakness, pride. The astrologers, the Chaldeans, had probably already figured out that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would not do it, and they laid a trap. As soon as they saw that the Jews did not bow down to the golden image they were ready to tell tales to the king. Be assured, there will always be someone to tell tales about you to the earthly powers. However, God was on the throne, not Nebuchadnezzar.
King Nebuchadnezzar ordered they be brought to him, and he even gave them a second chance. The three explained they had no need to defend themselves and furthermore didn’t want a second chance because they would never worship the idol. This offended the king’s pride and he was furious with rage. He thought himself to be the ultimate power and authority and was enraged when someone put their trust and devotion in God. He then made the furnace seven times hotter so that even the people who threw them in died with the heat. Here is an amazing sign and wonder of a miraculous working God.
God is able to produce huge miracles for us. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had amazing faith that God would rescue them and they knew that either God would rescue them from death or rescue them in death. Do you have that in your heart right now? Whichever way you cut it, it is win-win. When you look at their faith, it was total reliance on God in the face of complete impossibility. Faith is the open hand by which we take what God is offering us by grace. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew God and trusted Him, they were completely reliant.
Think about when you are in what seems to be a fiery furnace. When we get in the place of complete inability to do anything about it ourselves, we have to be able to say “Either God will rescue us or he will not, but in any event we trust him with the outcome.” This is such an important releasing place to get to. In the beginning days at Pierrepont, there was an impossible financial mountain to climb, completely ridiculous in secular eyes. There was a small group of people laying their lives down freely to establish the work here and there was a huge 2 million pound mortgage with no way to service it. From the very beginning we got to see the miracles of God.
We then came to a place when we had completely run out of money. I remember saying, “This is God’s work and either He will provide for us or He won’t, but we don’t have the money between us.” Every time we got to that place at the end of ourselves, with nothing to do but throw ourselves on to Him, we have known the miraculous provision of God. This position increases our faith because while we can still drum up the resource or rely on our experience, friends, or our education, we have not come to the end of ourselves.
I believe this story is about the utter faithfulness of God to obedience. They had to obey first before the miracle came. There’s something in our hearts that says, “Will you come first, and then I’ll be obedient?” Often, only when we can see the rescue plan of God and the escape route are willing trust God with walking down. Can we trust Him even when there’s money in the bank and we have a deadline? As we walk in obedience to God, in faith and utter dependence on Him, there is no Plan B. When they were thrown into the fiery furnace there was no Plan B. That opens the way for the miracle of God.
Did you notice what happened when they came out? The king had a complete change from his earlier rage. When, not if, you go through the fire God will be with you. The Son of God was in the midst. Miracle one happened in the fire, they were walking there unbound and Nebuchadnezzar saw it with his eyes, and his whole mood changed. Suddenly, he was challenged by a higher power than he was. There was no harm on their bodies or a singe on their heads. Their robes were not scorched, not even a smell of fire. It was a totally miraculous move of God, a sign and wonder to the king.
The exact opposite of what the occultists were trying to achieve happened. The favour of God was on those three and as they came out of the fire, the one true God was uplifted and put back in His rightful place. God is utterly trustworthy and absolutely faithful. The God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is your God today. He has not changed. Our God is eternal and there is no shadow of turning with Him. Just as they trusted God in the face of sheer impossibility, many of us will need to trust God in the same way. When there is no Plan B or nowhere to escape, we will have to throw ourselves on an utterly trustworthy God. And, brothers and sisters, until you get to that place, you don’t know God. You can talk about Him and see others’ stories about him, but not until you and I stand in that place with no other way out, will we see the miraculous happen. Then you will start to know how the Almighty God is, and that’s why He takes us to that place. He is the one who can save you from death or in death, and is the only one we can trust. Faith is ever discovering what God is able to do in the face of absolutely opposition and difficulties. This is our God.
Jill Southern-Jones, Director of NETS