Okay, okay… you know how you can read something in the Bible a hundred times and then, suddenly, you see something you never read before? Well, Ken and I were reading in the book of Daniel just last night and we came across the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Um, that’s where King Nebuchadnezzar, you know, made a gold image and if anyone refused to bow down to it, he had them thrown in a hot furnace. Of course, being God’s people, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow down to that image and the king had them bound with ropes and then thrown into the furnace. So, let me pick up the story in the third chapter, the 24th verse; it says, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, ‘Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?’ They replied, ‘Certainly, O king.’ And he said, ‘Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.’”
Now, as you well know, there’s so much to learn in this story, so much to glean, not the least of which is that although the fire did not harm the three men, the fire did burn off all the ropes that bound them. And of course, one can’t miss that that fourth person who appeared alongside Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego was an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. But the thing I’ve always missed; the insight that caught me for the first time last night, was that they were walking in the midst of the fire. And boy does that speak to me.
Because whatever affliction, whatever fiery trial God might put me through, I can be sure that whatever sin had bound me before the affliction, will, by His grace, be burned away in the midst of it. And next, I can always have the assurance that Jesus will be with me in the middle of it all; not standing outside the furnace cheering me on and telling me to hang in there, but this lesson in Daniel teaches us that Jesus goes through the fiery ordeal alongside us; in the midst of the suffering He’s right there! And finally, there’s that thing about walking in the midst of the fire.
Because we tend to think that an awful affliction will always stop us dead in our tracks, you know, everything, everything stops. Well, that’s not the way it goes for the Christian. A trial does not bring everything to a standstill until we can quickly get past it; a trial is one of the streets through which we move forward into our destiny. A trial is a, a pathway on which we walk closer to the finish line. A trial is a road that we walk on that leads us deeper into the heart of Jesus Christ. It is not something to escape; it is not a puzzle that needs to get quickly solved so we can get back on a normal track; no, it is normal, it is the main road, it’s the main thing, it’s the main path. We don’t stand still in the midst of a fire; no, we are to be found walking in the midst of it, and walking and moving forward.
The comfort of Christ’s revelation is not that it teaches emancipation from sorrow, but emancipation through sorrow. It was George Matheson who said,
The road is too rough,’ I said; ‘It is uphill all the way; No flowers, but thorns instead; And the skies overhead are grey.’ But One took my hand at the entrance dim, And sweet is the road that I walk with Him. “Then why do we fret and sigh; Cross-bearers all we go: But the road ends by-and-by In the dearest place we know, And every step in the journey we may take in the Lord’s own company.