In Daniel chapter 3, Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego were called to appear before King Nebuchadnezzar. They were charged with not worshiping the gods of Babylon nor bowing down the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar himself. He is willing to give them another chance, and if they will bow down then all will be well. But instead:
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” -Daniel 3:16-18
They respond in faith that God can and will and deliver them from the furnace and from the king’s hand. But even if he does not, they will not bow down before his image or his false gods. He has them thrown into the furnace, after having it heated seven times hotter than normal in a display of fury. The guards who carried them up were killed by the heat of the furnace, and the three Hebrews fell bound into the fire. They were neither delivered from the fire nor from his hand, but instead
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
Perhaps this is a well known story to many of us. Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego were called out of the furnace and Nebuchadnezzar blessed the God of Israel. The men’s faith was in God’s ability to deliver them; but instead of taking them from the fire he was found walking in the fire with them. Whether the fourth man was a pre-incarnation appearance of Christ or an angel is unclear, but clearly God’s presence was manifest and fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
When the Hebrew children (young men actually) went into the furnace, God was with them. He was in Egypt with the children of Israel. He was in the belly of the whale with Jonah. He walked with David in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and ministered to Elijah when he believed himself to be the last servant of God left in the world. In Gen. 8:1 God remembered Noah, and in Exodus 2 heard the cry of the people of Israel and remember his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. “God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” Ex 2:25
While all the examples above are all from the Old Testament, we have even greater promises. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (Hebrews 1:1-2) Jesus told his followers he was with them always, even to the end of the age. Romans 8:28 reminds us that “all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose.” (It was as true in Gen 50 as in Acts 2.) And finally this passage from 2 Timothy:
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. -2 Timothy 1:8-14
God often chooses not to deliver us from various trials. Sometimes that is for our good and sometimes for the good of others. While God’s purposes may not always be clear – to us at the time – keep these truths in mind: God remembers, God knows, and God is near. You are never alone in the fire.