How the Fiery Furnace of Daniel Inspires Us to Have Faith in Impossible Situations

How the Fiery Furnace of Daniel Inspires Us to Have Faith in Impossible Situations

“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” (Daniel 3:17-18).

This is the incredible story of three young Jewish men who defied the mighty King Nebuchadnezzar and were thrown into a fiery furnace. This story has been taught for centuries and has long captured the hearts of adults and children alike. Recorded in the third chapter of the book of Daniel, the story of Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego provides readers even today with strong and enduring lessons of true faith in the one true God.

Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego Captured

Nebuchadnezzar was perhaps the greatest king of ancient Babylon. He ruled from the period of 605 to 562 BC – the early period of the Babylonian empire. He was at the same time one of the most powerful yet evil men to have ever ruled. During the third year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem and defeated it (Daniel 1:1). At the time, the king ordered that a great many Israelites be brought to Babylon to serve the king, including:

“…young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service” (Daniel 1:4).

Among these were four young men from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (v. 1:6). Certainly we know Daniel, the prophet who wrote the book by his name; we are not likely to remember the other three – at least not by their given names. The king’s chief official gave all four new, Babylonian names. Daniel received the name Belteshazzar. Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah became known as Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. And it is by those names we know them.

Refusing to Worship

Then the king’s ego demanded to be worshiped. Nebuchadnezzar built a huge image of himself made from gold. He then decreed that everyone fall down in worship of the idol. And the punishment for not doing that – for not falling down in worship – was this:

“Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace” (v. 6).

The king’s astrologers, who hated the Jews, reported that there were three Jews who were not following the decree:

But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up” (v. 12).

Furious, the king summoned the three to ask them if this was true. He asked them, “If you choose to not worship the idol, and are thrown into the blazing furnace, then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” In other words, the penalty for defying the king and not worshiping the idol was death. Their response was profound:

“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” (v. 16b-18).

Before ordering the men thrown in, Nebuchadnezzar ordered the heat of the furnace raised to seven times hotter than usual (v. 19). The flames were so hot, in fact, that the fire killed some of the soldiers who had tied up the three men and tossed them into the inferno (v. 22-23). 

Trusting in God

We cannot help but be astonished at the strength and faith Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego displayed in their God – the one true God. They had confidence that God is who he says he is and will do what he says he will do. They had utmost faith in the supreme being whom they knew had the power to deliver them from this evil; he is the only one who could.  

These three men put their faith in God on display for a large group of unbelievers – one of whom had the power to put their bodies to death. Some 200 or so years later, Jesus himself spoke of such:

“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

In the case of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, they were thrown into the flames – yet, even if they were to die horrible, painful deaths, they refused to deny their God and worship an idol.

Oh, that we had that kind of faith when we face trials.

It is difficult for us today, here in the United States, to imagine being threatened with our lives unless we deny our God and worship another. And yet, this is happening today in many other parts of the world. But, what about when we aren’t facing being thrown into a furnace and burned to death? What about when it is a diagnosis? Or a job loss that leads to financial ruin? What about an unfaithful spouse? Or even the death of a loved one – our own child?

As believers, we know the promises of God in Scripture. But sometimes we need reinforcement. We need to find the strength in him that we may not have in ourselves. This kind of strength of faith doesn't come through human effort – it is truly a gift of God. It doesn't come automatically just because we say we believe. It comes when faith is made strong through trials, through relationships, through trust, and ultimately through surrender. 

Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego didn't suddenly remember what their rabbis had said in temple all those weeks and years that their faith had been built. Their faith was strong because that faith had been developed and strengthened. 

Perhaps there is a lesson for us – that we ought to consider working on our relationship with God, building our faith, and strengthening our trust in the Lord. Then we, too, can ultimately surrender to his power, his authority, and his will when the time comes.

How do we do that? Prayer. Let the Holy Spirit fill you through prayer every day. All kinds of prayer. Pray about everything. Pray without ceasing (1Thessalonians 5:17).

Oswald Chambers said, “Prayer is not preparation for the greater thing. It is the greater thing.”

Even If…

The thing is, as believers, we know that God is able to deliver us, but we also know that sometimes he doesn’t. God's answer isn't always what we pray it will be. For reasons unknown to us, God does allow trials and struggles in our lives. 

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

There is a wonderful song by Mercy Me called “Even If.” The song is based on struggles that lead singer Bart Millard faced as his son battled a terrible chronic illness. 

“I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone”

Millard himself says that he wants to be like Shadrach, Meshack and Abednego. “I know that God will deliver me, but even if he doesn’t, I’m still not going to bow. I’ll still worship him. He’s still worthy to be praised.”

We can continue to hope in God, regardless of our circumstances, because of what he has already done for us. Whatever we are going through now, Christ has already done for us what can never be undone. What Christ has done prepares us for whatever circumstances we may face in this life. Jesus promised we would have trials in this life: 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

In other words, “I have already overcome everything the world can deliver to you. You don’t have to worry about your circumstances in this life. Your joy is in me. No matter what you’re going through, I will be there with you.”

And Then…

“Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods’” (v. 24-25).

Like a son of the Gods. Nebuchadnezzar then called the men out of the flames. Not a hair on their heads nor a thread of their clothes was singed. The king had seen what he then described as God’s angel in the fire with the men.

“Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God’” (v. 28).

An angel – perhaps the pre-incarnate Jesus – was there to protect Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego in the fiery furnace. An angel visited Daniel to deliver a message (Daniel 10:12). An angel helped escort Peter out of prison (Acts 12:5-9). Paul had an angel visit him onboard ship during a storm (Acts 27:23). The author of Hebrews tells us there are angels sent to help those who will receive salvation (Hebrews 1:14). Angels can and do protect us.

Most of us may not have a clear calling like Peter or Paul. What we do have is the assurance that God will be with us through all things. We have the assurance that angels have already been sent to help us. We know that our lives will not be one day shorter – or longer – than God intends. If God still has works for us to accomplish, he will ensure we are alive to do it (Psalm 139:16). 

That doesn’t mean our lives will be perfect and without trials. The quality of those days might not always be ideal. We might feel at times that all is lost as we face the flames of struggle – only to discover that nothing has been lost after all. God has been with us the entire time. Whenever we experience suffering, or illness, or the pain of the death of a loved one, our hope lies in knowing that we have eternal life with God, and he enables us to live above that pain and suffering.

“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them’” (John 14:23).

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/kevron2001

SWN authorGreg Grandchamp is the author of "In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins" — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email  and on Facebook