Just a Thought #3 - God's Calendar & the Furnace
I know that God does not have a calendar because He does not need one. He is already present everywhere and He knows all things, which is an interesting thought, but I’m going to get to that later.
As Christians we often wonder “Where is God?” especially when we face the trials and temptations in life. I just want you to remember that God keeps His promises and Jesus made some very clear ones to us. “Lo (he said), I am with you always even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And again, “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5).
I’d like to take you back to the story of the three men in the fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Here were three young men taken from their families and moved into exile into a foreign country. They were all by themselves—literally—and yet we see somehow that they continue to trust and know the promises of God. Even the wise men, magistrates, governors, and prefects of the day looked at these men who were gaining influence and were jealous. And so, they encouraged King Nebuchadnezzar to set up a gigantic idol on the plane of Dura and there Nebuchadnezzar then would issue the decree that everyone was supposed to fall down and worship it. And if you didn’t, you would be thrown into this fiery furnace.
All the rulers and governors could not wait to tell Nebuchadnezzar that these three men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—had not obeyed. King Nebuchadnezzar calls them into his presence and their words are truly inspired. Here we see ordinary guys trusting in the promises that they already had—we have far more, by the way, in the New Testament—and they would not bow the knee; they would not say the word. “O king, we want you to know,” they said, “that our God can save us. Our God is able; He is capable. But even if He does not save us, we are not going to bow down to this idol.”
What a wonderful faith. They were trusting in God, and God was going to greatly bless them in a very unique way. Scripture says that Nebuchadnezzar’s countenance changed toward them; he was filled with rage. He had some of his strongest soldiers bind these young men up. I kind of picture them wrapped up in duct tape—turbans, robes, everything—and had them carried to this furnace, heated seven times hotter than before, and thrown into the furnace. The furnace was so hot that the soldiers that carried them died. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t even seem to care about that. But what takes place is truly amazing. It’s awesome.
Not only was it a miracle that these three men lived, but there was a divine encounter that took place. Can you imagine what it was like for these men in the furnace wondering what the pain was going to feel like? How long would they feel searing pain? When would they die? When would their lungs be filled with fire and their life be extinguished? And yet, when they opened their eyes they’re in the fire, but no longer tied or bound. We find out later that there’s not even the smell of smoke on their clothing; nothing is even singed. That’s a great miracle. But the divine encounter that takes place is even more awesome.
King Nebuchadnezzar says in Daniel 3:24-25, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? … Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
I believe that that fourth person was the pre-incarnate Christ. It was Jesus Himself. First of all, it’s just kind of like something that He would do—be with His children in the most difficult of circumstances. Luther and many other commentators believe that as well. Here they have, perhaps, the best small group meeting ever—Jesus and these three men. What an awesome time they had together. You know these are three ordinary men that had great conviction. They trusted the Word of God, were empowered by God to continue to believe in Him, and God never left them or forsook them. I hope you hear the echoes of God’s promises to us, “I will never leave you or forsake you. Lo, I am with you always even until the end of the age.” As those three men were there, it is kind of interesting to remember that they were not going to worship that idol. They were only going to worship the true God. And they end up in the fire not worshiping the idol but worshiping, I believe, the true God. What they thought would be the most dangerous place to end up, because of their faith, yet trusting, turned out to be the safest place of all because Jesus was there. I believe that this encounter with Jesus marked them forever as every encounter with Jesus Christ does.
I want to get back to that thought. I know that God does not have a calendar, but just imagine with me that He does. And what if that calendar on His refrigerator said at 10 a.m. on that Friday, or whatever day it was, “meet Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace”? What if they hadn’t shown up? God is always present with us. We need to endure whatever comes our way. Jesus never promised us an easy life. None of the heroes of the faith ever had it easy before God. Rather, they experienced really the truth of all of Jesus’ teaching; if you believe in me you will have a great big God. You will have outrageous joy but you probably will always be in trouble. But this God will never leave us or forsake us.
Friends, I want to encourage you that no matter what difficulty you are going through, to remember to keep going forward in the faith, holding onto the promises that you have, and know that God will meet you in the furnace. I believe that these men held onto one of the great promises in the Old Testament that we find in Isaiah 43:1-3,“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 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. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”
What a marvelous promise from God. God makes the same promise to us. May we be found faithful as we continue to walk with Him. I think our names probably are on God’s calendar at different times. And I pray that we show up.
Just a thought.