The Fourth Man in the Fire
One of the most beautiful promises in Scripture comes from Isaiah 43:2.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
God promises to be with us when we walk through fire. He doesn't leave us to fend for our ourselves.
This is especially good to remember when we are going through a difficult patch. Here's the deal - we all go through times of difficulty, trials, and testing. Now - these difficulties can come from different sources:
- life: sometimes, it's just life, and the difficulty is part of the friction of normal human existence, and there's nothing we can do about it.
- mistakes: we all make mistakes, but sometimes we make mistakes that are particularly painful and hurtful.
- affliction: there are times when we are persecuted, when someone from the outside intentionally inflicts pain and difficulty upon us.
The challeng in all these situations is to come out on the other side unscathed. We really have two choices: we can either let the trial by fire be the defining moment in our destiny so that we 'smell like fire' the rest of our lives, or we can put our trust in God and move on.
A Real Life Story
When we read the Bible, it's easy to forget that these are real people with real feelings and thoughts and normal, human reactions to situations. And so in Daniel 3:1-30, we read about three guys who ended up in difficult situation. They served a narcissistic king who erected a giant golden statue of himself and command everyone, included all of his key leaders, to bow down and worship it, with the threat that anyone who did not would be thrown into a fiery furnace.
These three guys - Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego - were Jews who had been brough up loving God, and they knew that the first commandment (Exodus 20:3) - you shall have no other gods before me - meant they could not bow down. And the second commandment - not to bow down to idols (Exodus 20:4) - left no questions. Plus, it's silly to be down and worship gold and pretend it is a god.
The narcissistic king was furious and gave them a second chance. But note their answer in Daniel 3:16-18:
O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
What an answer! This is one of the great statements of no compromise in the Bible. Look at what they said:
- We really don't need to answer you on this; we serve a higher authority, and there's really nothing to discuss here.
- Our God is the real God, and that means he can and will deliver us from you. You're really not as powerful as you thing you are, and you have no idea whom you're dealing with.
- Even if God doesn't deliver us, we're not going to bow down to your golden pretend god. It's up to God whether he wants to deliver us - or not; He's God, and he can do what He wants. But we're not going to play your silly game.
When the three Jewish boys would not go along, the king had the furnace heated up seven times hotter, and the guys were thrown in. It was so hot that the soldiers throwing them in died. But God protected them to the degree that not even a head on their hair was singed. They came out not smelling like fire.
But while they were in the furnace, the king noticed something:
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. Daniel 3:25
Many Bible expositors believe this to be an Old Testament appearance of the Lord, God in the person of His Son, appearing as the angel of the Lord. What is beyond question is that the Lord is with us as we walk through fiery trials.
- Difficulty situations will come our way: they provide us with an opportunity to turn and trust in the Lord.
- Compromise is never worth it: even when we're being threatened, obeying God is worth whatever it costs.
- The Lord is always with us: whether it is through literal or figurative fiery tests, the Lord will not leave us.
- When we trust God through our difficulties, we can come out on the other side, free from the smokey smell of bitterness, resentment, frustration, and anger. We come out with the fragrance of God.
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.