Friday, September 5, 2014

The Fire (Part 2)

We call three men out of the fire, and they don't even smell like smoke. All of a sudden, we're talking about a God who saves His servants. We're talking about a God who protects every single hair on their heads. We're talking about a God who lets His people walk out of the fire.

And somehow, we're not talking about a God who walks into it.

Everybody seemed to miss this. The story in Daniel 3 continues:

Nebuchadnezzar said, 'Praise the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He sent his angel and saved his servants, who trusted him. They disobeyed the king and risked their lives so that they would not have to honor or worship any god except their own God. ...No other god can rescue like this. (v. 28-29)

No other God can rescue like this, but that's not the story. The story is that no other God is stepping into the fire like this. 

We all have some measure of fire in our story. We all have trials and troubles. We're all thrown into things we'd rather not be involved in, forced into battles we don't want to fight. And we, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, often find ourselves saying, My God can save me from this trouble...

What we forget is what follows, ...But if He doesn't....

Because we read stories about the God who saves, and we start to think that if He doesn't save us, He must not be God any more. Or we must not be worth it. Or He must not like us. Or He must not be strong enough. Or maybe we're not strong enough. Or...

None of that is necessarily the case. We can't judge our God by wins and losses. We can't believe in Him based on saving graces. What God has always told us is the most true about Him is His presence. We have to put our faith in God based on whether He shows up or not. Whether He's here or whether He's not. What He does when He gets here is irrelevant (kind of); it's whether He's here at all that tells us who He is.

And I am with you always, until the very end of the age.

That's real. That's the truest thing God ever says about Himself. I am here. I am with you. Look around you in the fire.

Here He is. There are four men in the fire.

Does it matter if they walked out smelling like smoke or not? Not really. I'm kind of disappointed that they didn't. Does it matter if they walk out at all? No. Is that hard to believe? Maybe.

But let's say they didn't walk out of the fire. Let's say Nebuchadnezzar throws three men in the fire, looks into the furnace and sees four walking around, those four burn to a crisp, and the king has done what he set out to do. Is God less of a God? No. Because everyone has seen the fourth man. They know that this is a God who, even when He does not save, comes into the presence of His people. Even into the fire.

Don't you think that's going to make an impression?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have prefaced this entire fiery journey with the words quoted above: We know our God can save us...but even if He doesn't.... As soon as the king sees the fourth man at all, he knows that they were right. This, indeed, is not merely a god; this is their God. And what other God does this for His faithful?

There's not one.

Call out to God in the fire. He is able to save you. But even if He does not...He'll be there. He'll come to you when you cry out. He'll walk into the fire just to be in your presence, just so you can be in His. He'll stand there with you with flames all around. And whether you walk out without a hint of smoke or the hairs on your head are still smoldering or you don't walk out at all, know this:

I am with trial, in trouble, in fire, in fear, in hope, in joy, in doubt, in faith...always.

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