Editorial: The Fourth Is With You

It wasn’t their fault. Previous generations were to blame. Nevertheless, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah found themselves in Babylon because God always keeps His Word. Centuries before, God promised His people that one of the consequences for covenant disobedience would be: “You will bear sons and daughters but not keep them, because they will be taken into captivity” (Deu 28:41).[1] And now these three Judean captives faced a test of their own covenant loyalty. Standing in the plain of Dura in front of Nebuchadnezzar’s monstrosity, the pressure was on: either bow to the image and honor the king or burn in his fire.

We know the story well. It’s in our Sunday schools, Bible story books and children’s songs. But it is serious first commandment stuff, and the lessons of Daniel 3 are not just for toddlers and preschoolers. The words “worship” and “serve” (as in serving a deity) fill the narrative, and the command “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exo 20:3) is ringing in our ears as we gaze at the king’s golden statue jutting impressively into the sky.

But as Babylon’s best worship band performed and the multitude around them bowed in unison, the Judeans were unmoved. And for that they paid the price, being hurled into the blazing furnace. It was there, in the strangest of places, that these devoted men experienced such extraordinary blessings – the same ones we may enjoy should we refuse to conform to unbiblical pressures unique to our day.

Inside the furnace, they discovered they were not bound. The king made sure his toughest soldiers tied them up, but in the fire they were free and walking around. They obeyed God’s Word and they were free. True freedom is not doing what we want to do but what we ought to do. And we are never more free than when we yield to the Holy Spirit and obey the Word of God.

Incredibly, the Judeans observed they were not harmed. The flames that incinerated those who cast them in had no effect on them whatsoever. They proved the Lord’s words (although figurative) in Isaiah 43:2 to be true: “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.” As God’s people today, we are not promised physical protection as a reward for obeying God’s Word. But as we obey, we will be spiritually preserved: “The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one” (2Th 3:3).

But the greatest blessing in the furnace was that the three men were not alone. There was a fourth, likely Christ in a pre-incarnate manifestation. The Lord always finds His people. As we take a stand for Him in our day, the world may cast us into its own “furnace,” but it is there that the enjoyment of Christ’s presence becomes more precious. Enduring the heat of alienation at work because you wouldn’t compromise biblical principles? The Fourth Man is with you. Finding the flames of rejection and scorn at school overwhelming because you wouldn’t bow? The Fourth is with you. Feeling suffocated by desertion from your family because God’s Word and His Son now mean everything to you? The Fourth is with you. Indeed, He will never leave us nor abandon us (Heb 13:5). And even if the stakes should be as high as Daniel 3, our knees should bend to no one else.

[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the NET.