The Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and their time in the fiery furnace isn’t something I’ve thought about in a long time. Honestly, I’d sort of forgotten about it until it came up in my Bible reading this morning.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s trial of faith feels far away, as I feel like I live in a place where it’s pretty easy to be a Christian. We have churches all over town, and I’ve never had a threat to anything more than my pride in claiming my faith.
But, even places where it’s easy to be a Christian can be places where it’s simply hard to be. Those places may be hard to be because someone is living in poverty or because they’re facing serious illness or, in the case of my dear friends in El Salvador, they’re living in the middle of a spike in gang-related violence.
These aren’t literal fiery furnaces, but they’re the conditions that test our faith because they force us to wonder why God would allow such things to happen.
When King Nebuchadnezzar declared that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego must “fall down and worship the statue” he had made or else be thrown into the furnace, they refused.
They refused because they believed God. They didn’t refuse because they believed that God would save them. They told King Nebuchadnezzar:
“If our God, whom we serve,
can save us from the white-hot furnace
and from your hands, O king, may he save us!
But even if he will not, know, O king,
that we will not serve your god
or worship the golden statue that you set up.”
They believed the goodness of God, the power of God, the plans God has for each of us, even though they could not understand those plans or their significance on earth and in heaven. Full of that belief, they entered the furnace and survived “unfettered and unhurt” and, while in the furnace, were accompanied by a fourth man. Seeing this, “Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him.’”
Nebuchadnezzar meant to kill these three servants of God, but, his punishment of them brought about his own recognition of the holiness and power of their God. Like Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Sometimes I can’t see the goodness of God and His plan, how even the most difficult times can lead to His glory and our good both here and in heaven. As I pray for my friends in El Salvador, I pray for peace because they need it so desperately, but today I felt led to pray also for faith that says “But even if he will not.” This prayer feels easy to pray in the comfort of my home and knowing that, even when I’m in El Salvador, I don’t face the same dangers my friends face. But, my prayer is for me, too, that God will continue to see His work through, even through the fire.