Wouldn’t you like to know the rest of the story? I’d like to know more about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—after their walk through the flames.
We do know two things—King Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed with their God and their faith that he promoted them to higher positions in the kingdom (and remember, they were foreigners in the land!) and he also issued a decree that no one in his kingdom could speak a word against their Almighty God.
Impressive. They influenced the entire country with their stand of faith and improved their own earthly fortunes.
But throughout Scriptures, prophecy paints a picture of the people of God suffering greatly … and such positive outcomes will not always be seen on earth. Even after this seeming change of attitude toward the Israelites, there was still opposition. The plotting against Daniel that landed him in the lions’ den came after this incident. Opposition and persecution of God’s people will not end at any time in the history of this earth.
Our natural reaction is to shrink back from the flames. To do whatever we can to avoid being bound and thrown, against our will, into the devouring heat of the furnace.
But Jesus said if we follow Him, we can expect this. Prophecy says terrible suffering and persecution will come to God’s people, because the world will hate us.
Where’s the hope in that?
Remember the fourth man in the furnace?
Jesus left the earth, promising that He would always be with His followers, everywhere, right up to the “end of the age.” No matter what is coming tomorrow, He walks with us.
And then we have the words of the angel messenger who comes to Daniel. Daniel, too, cringes when he catches a glimpse of what will come, as we all probably do. But the angel tells him several times,
“Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials.” (12:10, see also 11:35)
Even in the fire, God works for the good of His people!
Who of us can say that we do not need more cleansing, more purifying, more refining?
Even when evil brings its worst against God’s Kingdom, the Almighty Sovereign works His purposes in His people.
The letters of the New Testament to a persecuted church (remember? they are being thrown to the lions….) echoes this hope.
Peter’s two letters, especially, are packed with encouragement and hope: Stand strong, because trials and suffering cleanse and purify. God will work through suffering and “restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation” (1 Peter 5:10). Great joy is ahead!
And Peter also reiterates: “the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials.” (2 Peter 2:9)
Much of prophecy is vague and ambiguous. This part is very clear to me: God’s people will suffer. They will be hated and persecuted because of who they are and who they serve.
And yet —
My hope remembers the angel’s words to Daniel.
My hope remembers God’s promise to cleanse and purify and keep us strong.
My hope remember the fourth man in the fire.
I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.