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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Day 19: With Us in the Fire

Today's Scripture Reading: Daniel 3

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” He answered and said, “But 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 3:24-25, ESV

With Us in the Fire

Isaiah 53 teaches us that Jesus is the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief, which means that He sympathizes with us in our sorrow. We need real sympathy when we're sorrowing and suffering. It helps that we have a Great High Priest who is able to sympathize with us. But sometimes we need more than sympathy, don't we? We need a powerful and protecting presence.

Shadrach, Mechach and Abednego had been uprooted from their homes in Jerusalem and moved to a hostile foreign land a thousand miles away. They had been indoctrinated in the ways of Babylon, but they had stuck together and remained faithful to God. They had faced a challenging a test with their decision not to eat the delicacies of the king's table, to keep themselves pure. God had shown Himself to be faithful and they had passed the test.

Now a larger test stood before them, literally. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar had been inspired by his dream, in which he was the head of gold on a giant statue. Whatever the reason, he constructed a giant golden statue of himself and insisted that everyone bow down to it. The three Hebrew youths looked around and saw everyone complying. What would they do? Together, they refused to bow.

Their refusal was noticed and they were arrested. How dare they defy the king's command? Nebuchadnezzar had come to like and even admire these remarkable young men, so he decided to give them another chance to comply. Their refusal and their unwavering trust in their petty Hebrew god infuriated Nebuchadnezzar. Whatever affection he had fled and was replaced by an fiery rage.

"Heat the furnace seven times hotter and throw them in!" The blaze was so intense that it killed them men who threw them into the furnace. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fell bound into the furnace.

Yet Nebuchadnezzar rose from his throne in astonishment when he realized he was seeing the impossible. Four men were in the furnace, not three. And they were walking around, unbound and unharmed in the intense heat! The fourth man in the fire looked like a son of the gods!

Who was the fourth man in the fiery furnace? Can we doubt that it was the Lord Jesus, taking human form before His incarnation to accompany these faithful men of God in their trial? Jesus was with them in the fire, and His presence protected them from all harm. Not even the smell of smoke could cling to them.

Do we know that Jesus is with us in the fiery trials we face? Do we sense His presence, by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit? Do we rely on His protecting presence?

Jesus promised us, "I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) God has said to His children, "I will never leave you. I will never forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) Will we walk in the light of His promised presence, abiding in His word as He abides with us?

Lord Jesus, You came to be Emmanuel, God with us. You have promised to be with us always, never leaving nor forsaking us. Let us rest in Your presence as You abide with us. May we abide in You always. Amen.  

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