Sunday, November 14, 2010


Fire Proof

“…and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power

Daniel 3:27

Great fires take only a small spark to get going. Once begun, it spreads rapidly and destroys completely. Sin is like fire. Sometimes the very smallest temptation is all that is needed to set it ablaze. Before long it has destroyed all we valued. “See how great a forest a little fire kindles” says James (James 3:5). We cannot escape the fires of temptation in this world. Even the monastic life, as Luther discovered, is no protection from those sparks of sin we carry about in our flesh. How much harder however, for those who must trade and travel in the streets of Sodom, to remain unharmed by the flames and untouched by the fire. Lack of success in resisting and conquering sin brings discouragement, depression and doubt. A Christian may wonder if there is any hope of escape. The fire is so hot and always so near.

It may be therefore somewhat surprising to read of these 3 friends of Daniel, upon whom “the fire had no power.” It was no ordinary fire either. The flames were fueled not merely to injure these fellows, but to incinerate them. Nebuchadnezzar ordered it 7 times hotter than normal. The soldiers who bound them and brought them to the furnace were themselves burned to death by the blaze. Hell itself, as it were, took up residence for a few moments in this province of Babylon. All that is evil, all that sets itself up against God, all hatred, envy, murder, strife and the like came with unrestrained appetite to devour these holy men. And yet, for all this, “the fire had no power.”

Oh my soul, if ever the grace of God at work in the hearts of man was seen, here it is. Let us give glory to this God of all grace and inquire after the true source of their survival. By what means did the Lord preserve these Israelites from the wrath of Hell? And how may you and I also escape both the scorching flames of sin in this life, and the eternal flames of judgment in the next? Let us look closely, though briefly, at Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego and ask the Lord to open our eyes that we might see.

The first thing I see is men who would not negotiate the praise of God. Even upon the threat of death for not bowing to worship the sacred image they would not surrender their devotion to God. God’s glory was not on the bargaining table, if you will. Thus they said to the king “we have no need to answer you in this matter.” That is, our minds are made up, our intentions are firm: we will serve the Lord. Oh my soul…when the flaming fires of temptation surround you, can you say with these men that you have “no need to answer.” The question has already been settled long ago. Is my heart so committed to Christ’s glory that I refuse even to negotiate with sin?

The second thing I see is a faith that is fully persuaded of the power of God. Sin looks strong. Satan looks strong. Hell looks strong. But these 3 men knew of a power that was greater than all these. “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace.” Oh my soul, how much need do I have to meditate on and consider deeply the infinite power of the God we serve. When sin seems strong, and the Devil flexes his muscles of malice toward us, and the forces of the enemy seem to surround us…remember the sovereign power of God Almighty. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).”

The third thing I see is men fully at peace with the providence of God. They will not argue with the Lord’s plan for them, even if that plan involves a fiery furnace. The Lord could deliver them they knew full well. “But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” A great defense against the fires of temptation is a humble submission to the will of God. This was Job’s defense. “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Dear reader, are you afraid that if you forsake that beloved sin you will die? Can you not bear the thought of life without that precious ornament of Hell? Then die. Cut it off; pluck it out, even if you must lose your life in doing so. Jesus said “he who loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:39).” Die to sin and live to God. That is the ultimate submission of true faith to the perfect plan of God. Well spoke the hymnist who wrote:

Whate’re my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it all unshrinking.” (Samuel Rodigast, 1676)

Finally we find in these men the blessed presence of the Son of God. These 3 alone, it seemed, stood up to this wretched king and his treacherous demand. These 3 alone, it seemed, stood their ground while all of Babylon bowed. These 3 alone, it seemed, were cast into the fatal fire. These 3 alone, it seemed, would suffer a fearful demise. But were they, Oh my soul, ever alone? Consider what this king did see: “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” The great reason for their victory was the effective presence and protection of Christ Himself. None are safe without Him, but all are safe who come to Him in faith. Do remember, dear reader, the presence of Christ in the midst of your own fiery trial! “I will never leave you nor forsake you” He said. This promise has not expired, and will never expire, through all eternity for those who love Him.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine...when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you."
Isaiah 43:1-2