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Daniel 3:19-30

LESSONS FROM THE FIERY FURNACE

 

Intro: This is one of those chapters in the Bible that we have been hearing since we were small children in Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. It is one of those passages that we think we know inside out, upside down and forward and backwards. It is one of those passages that we often neglect in our search for “deeper truth in the Bible. Even though many of us have traveled a long way down the road of life, there are still some valuable lessons to be gleaned from the familiar stories of the Bible.

I want to look into these precious verses this evening because I find help here. I find that there is help for those who may be enduring some trials in these days. I find there is help for all of us, because we live in a world that is becoming increasingly unfriendly toward God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, Christianity and the born again believer. I want to travel back in time to ancient Babylon, to a kingdom that was also unfriendly toward God and His ways. I want to look in on three young men with backbones of steel, who would not bend, bow or burn. I want to watch them as they endure their furnace of affliction. I want to learn some Lessons From The Fiery Furnace. There are three simple lessons in this passage that I would like to explore this evening.

 

I. v. 19-23 GOD’S PEOPLE ARE A PERSECUTED PEOPLE

(Ill. The Context Nebuchadnezzar reacts in anger to the stand taken by the three Hebrew boys and determines to destroy them in the fiery furnace. He orders them bound up and cast into a furnace heated some seven times hotter than it was normally heated. The fire is so hot that it slays the men who toss them into the fire.

Why is there all this anger leveled at these men? The reasons for the king’s actions are given in verses 9-18.)

A. v. 8-12 They Are Persecuted Because Of Their Standards Ill. The golden image set up by Nebuchadnezzar and the command attached to it in verses 1-7. It would appear that either Nebuchadnezzar has set p an image of his favorite god, or more likely that he has set up an image of himself. Either way, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow to that image. Their faith in God would not allow them to stoop to the same level at the pagans around them. In other words, their standards and manner of life made them different from the others around them that day. (Note: The born again believer should have a different standard of living from the world around him, 2 Cor. 6:17; Col. 3:1-2.)

B. v. 13-15 They Are Persecuted Because Of Their Savior Nebuchadnezzar gives them a second chance. He knows why these boys are refusing to bow, and he mocks the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, v. 15. He implies that he, Nebuchadnezzar, is more powerful than the God they serve. He demands that they bow to his will instead of the will of God. (Note: The believer should walk in total submission to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be totally sold out to Him and His will. He is to have first place in our lives. Listen to the Lord’s Own standard for us – Matt. 10:37-38; Luke 14:26-27.)

C. v. 16-18 They Are Persecuted Because Of Their Stand Even when threatened with a horrible death, these men refuse to bend or to bow. They take their stand in spite of the personal cost. (Note: The true believer should square his shoulders and take his stand for Jesus. We are to be totally committed to Him, 1 Cor. 15:58; Luke 9:62.)

(Note: Here is what we need to get a hold of today: If we are going to live for Jesus in this world; if we are going to be His alone; if we are going to refuse to let this world squeeze us into its mold; then we are going to suffer persecution. That is what the Bible teaches us, 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 4:12. Here is the bottom line my friends, if you and I are going to live “godly; if we are going to live for Jesus, then we are going to be persecuted. There will be furnaces of criticism, furnaces of intimidation, furnaces of hatred, furnaces of temptation, furnaces of trials like you cannot imagine. That is just the way it is!)

 

(Note: The furnaces of life, especially the furnaces of persecution are no fun. However, they are all good for us! Why? The furnaces of life exist to help us become more like Jesus. Just as gold and silver are placed in the furnace and are purified through the process; persecution has the potential to remove the dross from our lives.

But know this: when the Lord has sent you through a small furnace and seen the big results, He will place you in a greater furnace somewhere down the road. What am I saying? It’s going get worse! Look at what the Lord told Jeremiah when Jeremiah came to God sort of whining because people didn’t receive him and his message, Jer. 12:5. God is basically saying, “Jeremiah, if you think it is bad now, you just stick with me and realize that things are about to get a whole lot worse.

That’s not much of an encouragement, is it? What we have to understand is that this world cannot understand the Christian. We are a totally mystery to lost people. They cannot understand the way we live, the things we do, or the love we have for our God. Our lives bother them and they are convicted by holiness in the life of a believer. Their natural reaction is to persecute the believer in an attempt to get us to behave like them. If you are going to live for Jesus, you will be persecuted! Some of you are there tonight. If so, there is hope and help in these verses.)

 

II. v. 24-27 GOD’S PEOPLE ARE A PRESERVED PEOPLE

(Ill. The three Hebrews are cast into the fire, but an amazing thing happens. Instead of dying in the flames, they are loosed from their bonds and are walking around in the flames. Nebuchadnezzar cannot believe his eyes and commands them to come out, which they do, totally unharmed by the violence of the flames. Notice how this amazing preservation took place.)

A. v. 25 They Were Preserved By An Ever Present God When Shadrach. Meshach and Abednego were thrown in to the flames; they found that they were not alone. The God they had professed faith in earlier met them in the fire. Nebuchadnezzar and the others with him could not believe their eyes! They threw three men into the flames and now there are four men loose and walking around! (Ill. What might have happened there that day! (Note: Here is a lesson for you and me. Even in a furnace in Babylon, God kept His promise to His people, Isa. 43:2. My friends, we have the same promise this evening, Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5. When the flames rise around you, open your eyes, for Jesus is right there with you! Notice what happened because the Lord met them in the fiery furnace.)

1. They Were Free In The Fire All the fire did is burn away the things that had them bound. The Lord used the fire to loosen these men from the ropes that held them. (Note: When the fires of persecution and affliction come into your life, you need to remember this truth: The Lord is merely freeing you from some of the things that have had you bound in your life. As the flames burn away the ropes of besetting sins, bad attitudes, bad habits, etc, you will find that you are freer in the fire than you were outside the fire!)

 

(Ill. Often, persecution seems like the worse possible thing that can happen in our lives. But, it can prove to be the best thing we have ever experienced. Ill. I think about John Wesley, the father of the Methodist church. He wanted to preach in the pulpits of the land in England, but his doctrine was so different and his message was so contrary to the establishment message that was being preached in the day, they forbad him to preach in the pulpits. They wouldn't let him stand in a church and preach. John Wesley was not allowed to preach in a pulpit in an established church. Well, he thought that was bad. When that happened he thought he was being deprived. But, you see, God knew something Wesley didn't know. God knew that the people weren't in those churches anyhow. God knew that the masses of the people weren't even coming to those churches. The masses of the people were out there. So John Wesley, going through the fires of being excommunicated and deprived of the pulpits of the churches went out into the open air. John Wesley and his brother, Charles, and, along with them, over here in America, George Whitfield, three great fiery preachers for God, they began to preach out in the open air where the people were and thousands of people were won to Jesus Christ. The flames just simply loosed them from the ropes that bound them.”[1]

The fire has the power to set you and me free from the things that bind us and hinder or walk with the Lord.)

 

2. They Were Fine In The Fire We are told that they have no hurt. The fire did not kill them, it didn’t even burn them! God allowed them to go through the fire, but He did not allow the fire to go through them. Again, there is a powerful truth here for those who might be walking through a fiery furnace. The furnace may be frightening, but you were not brought to it for destruction, but for growth. God did not allow it for your hurt, but for your good, Rom. 8:28; Jer. 29:11; 2 Cor. 4:17.

Even thought the flames may come, they will only free you from what binds you. You will be fine in the fire, because there will be One with you every inch of the way. He will not leave you, but He will preserve you through the fire and He will keep you for His glory!

 

(Note: By the way, when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire, only three men went into the furnace. When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace, he saw four men in there walking around. When Nebuchadnezzar called for the men to come out of the fire in verse 26, only three came out. What happened to that fourth man? Well, He is still in the furnace! So, when you go there, you will find Him waiting for you. He will look at your flames and say “Cool it! The three Hebrew boys were preserved by the presence of God and you will be too!)

 

B. v. 27 Preserved By An All Powerful God When those boys came out of the furnace, they were inspected by Nebuchadnezzar and his men. We are told that not a hair was singed, there was no soot on them and they didn’t even smell like smoke! (Ill. Can you see them sniffing of these fellows?) What a miracle! You can’t even walk into a convenience store where people smoke without getting the smell of cigarette smoke on your clothes. But, the power of God operated in this situation and overcame the furnace totally!

That’s just God! When He does something, He does it all the way. When He heals, He heals completely! When He saves, He saves completely! When He forgives, He forgives, He forgives completely. Whatever He does, He does it all the way! How? He is all powerful, and He is able to use that power in your life and mine, Eph. 3:20! So, when you find yourself looking at a fiery furnace, remember that you serve an all powerful God, Who is able to keep you in the times of affliction and Who is able to bring you through for His glory!

 

III. v. 28-30 GOD’S PEOPLE ARE A PROMOTED PEOPLE

(Ill. Everyone there that day came away with a greater understanding if Who God was and what God could do. Going in, the three Hebrew boys did not know what God would do for them, v. 17. But, they trusted Him anyway. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was more powerful than they God they served, v. 15. In the end, they all learned that God was greater than the king and greater then the furnace of fire. Notice what happened when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were delivered from the furnace.)

A. v. 29 God’s Person Is Praised An old, pagan king exalts the name of the true God. Because of what he saw God do for His people in the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar sees thing differently. God used this horrible moment in the lives of those three Hebrew believers to touch the hard heart of a lost, heathen king. (Note: You never know what God will do with the afflictions in your life. As we pass through the furnaces of life, leaning on the grace of God to sustain is, it may be that God is using those moments in your life and mine, those moments that hurt so much, to show a lost world that He is God and He can help them. That is why we need to submit to the furnaces of life, trusting God’s grace to be sufficient, 2 Cor. 12:9.)

B. v. 30 God’s People Are Promoted Because they were faithful to the Lord, they passed through the furnace. On the other side, they are promoted in the kingdom. (Note: There is a lesson in this for us. It is a true lesson, but it is a lesson that we might not like to think about. God never really uses anyone in a great way until He first takes that person through the furnace of affliction. You cannot stand on Mt. Carmel in power until you side by a dry brook in humility. You cannot lead the nation of Israel, until you first watch someone else’s sheep in a wilderness. Ill. This truth is clearly seen in the life of Gideon, Judges 6-8. Gideon was a general with and army of 32,000. 22,000 left because they were afraid. Now, Gideon is a captain with an army of 10,000. 9,700 of those are rejected by the Lord. Now, Gideon is a sergeant with an army of 300. Then, he hears the enemy compare him to a “cake of barley bread. That would equivalent to being called a “dog biscuit. But, God took Gideon “the dog biscuit and used him to win a great victory. When God send you through the furnace, it is not to hurt you, but to grow you. He sends you there because He is about to use your life in a greater fashion.)

 

Conc: If you are passing through a furnace time today. Let me encourage you to cling to the Lord. He is with you in what you face and He has a plan to bring you through what you face and to use you for His glory. Still, you might need to come talk to Him about your furnace. If there are needs, this altar is open!



[1] Jerry Vines – Sermon on Daniel 3:19-30

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