22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?”
They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
A man is a natural lone wolf as he makes his way in the darkness of this fallen world. The pressures of a job and career can shorten his horizon from the wide-open dreams of youth to the narrow relief of the next paycheck. There is always another milestone ahead: a health checkup, a child’s graduation, and the moving goalposts of retirement. A loving spouse can grow cool and distant over time as painful words and hurts calcify, turning a spiritual partner into simply another passenger along the road of life. Success in business is obtained with a team, but yet is most prized when achieved alone.
Nor are women immune to the storms of life that buffet or dreams that stoke desires with empty promises. The same pressures of life abound for wives and daughters as they seek to conform to the image of the successful mother, sister and friend—all the while struggling to maintain a home. At the end of a hectic day, or when weeks seem to blend with each other and rest seems impossible, the loneliness creeps into the soul as tiredness does to the bones.
This bleak picture can befall even the most devoted Christian when focus is blurred by the world’s calling, or the strain of the modern age weighs down the heart. Relationships cannot help but bend and shatter.
Daniel 3 shows us an incredible picture of not one, but three young believers who were confronted by an impossible situation and faced certain death as a consequence for their faith. In this scene, King Nebuchadnezzar is challenging God and his own prophetic nightmares with a golden idol and demands for its worship. The three Hebrew youth, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, have no choice but to refuse obedience and are thus sentenced to a fiery, terrible death at the mad king’s command.
How does this compare to the bleak picture of the struggle of men and women in modern life? It almost seems unfair, doesn’t it? Life today seems to bring a quiet threat that eats at the soul over time and chips away faith with a thousand daily cuts. It would almost seem a relief to be challenged directly to stand for your faith and face trials or bend a knee and worship a false god.
The reality, of course, is that such do-or-die challenges certainly exist in this world. Whether it is out in the open, such as a government crackdown on the persecuted Chinese church, or more inward, like the siren song of a life of ease, the call to forsake your heavenly Father is real and just as deadly.
The loneliness of this modern life can be deadly to Christian spirit and it can splinter the bonds of brother and sisterhood. Think about the impact of COVID-19 on your life. Have lockdowns disrupted old patterns? Have travel restrictions caused a strain on family ties or once strong friendships? One of the most tragic results of the pandemic has been the isolation of the sick or the elderly. Family and friends should be at the side of a dying loved one, but all too often they have been denied entry and the suffering one is left to pass away alone.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego show us the need to maintain the bond of fellowship in a world of sin and sorrow. God is continually reminding us of this:
Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken. — Ecclesiastes 4:12
How do we do this? We must pray to have our eyes and ears opened to the loneliness around us. In doing so, our own bonds with fellow believers will be strengthened too.
Kevin Briggs is a California Highway Patrolman who has been called the “Guardian of the Golden Gate.” Since 1994 Briggs estimates that he has helped prevent about two people per month from committing suicide on the famous bridge. How has he been able to do this? Briggs says it is by simply taking the time to talk and listen to them. The CDC reports that an estimated 400,000 people per year commit suicide. In a world of almost 8 billion people, how can it be that so many people just need someone to listen?
In the fiery furnace, God listened to Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego and not only were they unharmed by the flames, they were joined by one who was “like the Son of God.” An astonished Nebuchadnezzar saw more than just three friends clinging to their faith in the true God; the Almighty made His presence known among them!
Do not be a lone wolf in this world. Seek out the fellowship of other believers. Learn what selfish sins have built walls between you and your loved ones and seek to tear them down with the truth. We all face fires in this life and we cannot make it alone, but there is hope. When we look to Christ, we see that we are not alone. God has sent His own Son to walk with us through the fires of this world and we shall not be burned. Our hope in the fire is found in the promise of God through the prophet Isaiah:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. — Isaiah 43:2
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.