Witnesses

Scripture identifies Nebuchadnezzar as the only one seeing the fourth person in the furnace. Whether or not he motioned others to look into the furnace when he asked if three men had been thrown into the furnace and not four, we are not told. Let us assume that only he saw the fourth person so that we do not attempt to stretch Scripture. That being said, all those in attendance knew that the furnace had been heated up seven times higher than its normal temperature, ready to throw the three young Hebrews into its flames. Many are likely to have witnessed the mightiest soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar’s army perish as they took the condemned men to the edge of the furnace. What cannot be disputed, however, are the witnesses to what happened next. We are told in Daniel 3:27, “The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.” (NASB) Here we have confirmation that many individuals witnessed Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah unharmed and untouched after coming out of the furnace. God has, and will, continue to provide his protection for those whom He has redeemed. Isaiah 43:2 tells us, “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.” (ESV) While this Scripture was directed towards the Israelites, it applies to all of those redeemed by God. It has application on an individual level in that each individual makes up the entire body of the redeemed. Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying here that we are each individually protected from such trials. History confirms that truth. Many of God’s people have been put to death by the enemies of God for their faithful testimony and many more will experience that fate. Our sin-riddled bodies are affected by sickness, disease and ultimately death. Being a true Christian does not give us a free pass to what we experience in this world. Isaiah is stating here that even the redeemed will, and must, pass through fiery trials. The examples given are, of course, the global flood of Noah’s day where eight souls were saved. The parting of the Red Sea is another, where the Israelites were able to escape the Egyptians. Exodus 12:37 and Numbers 11:21 confirm that over 600,000 Israelite men left Egypt on foot. These numbers excluded women and child so the grand total could well be in excess of between 1.5 and 2.5 million Jews who crossed the Red Sea. Yet another example is that of our current study where just three individual Jews were protected from the flame of a furnace. In all of these examples and those that others, and perhaps ourselves, have experienced or are yet to experience God’s promise is this. “I will be with you”. He is always with His redeemed. Never forget that. Never doubt it for one moment.

When Peter was crucified upside down (by tradition), when Paul was beheaded (by tradition), when Polycarp who was eighty-six years old and was viciously thrown from a carriage that is said to have broken his leg only to then be burned at the start and pierced by a spear; when William Tyndale was choked to death as he burned at the stake; when Jan Huss was bound by ropes and his neck chained to a stake while his executioners piled wood and straw that covered him to his neck; when Latimer and Ridley were burned together in Oxford, England – GOD was with all of them. These are just a few of the thousands of examples of God’s own redeemed suffering untimely deaths for their faithfulness. No matter what befalls us, or does not, God is with us. His promise is cemented in rock-solid concrete (my metaphor) and He will never forsake us.  That proof and promise are contained in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, for our eternal life with Him in His kingdom.

Nevertheless, God has intervened many times to physically protect His redeemed and will do so again in the future. The Scripture in Daniel that we have discussed today is one such example. We have all experienced being exposed to smoke as in a fire when burning some wood, for example. Or even those of us who can remember making a coal/wooden fire to keep warm. The smoke is unmistakable if it comes into contact with our clothes. You cannot get rid of it necessitating a change of clothes.

As the three Hebrews were examined by all those gathered around them, they could see as the Scripture says, “the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.” This indeed was a miracle of huge proportions. Not even a single hair on their head was singed. One could imagine (despite Scripture being silent on the matter) that many of these officials could have spoken, or repeated, the events of this miracle to others in their districts or, perhaps, family members for many days, weeks, months or even years to come. It was impossible to ignore. In all of the excitement of seeing the young Hebrews unhurt from the furnace, they had all forgotten something that was missing, that was destroyed by the fire. The ropes that bound the three Hebrews. Despite the young men’s clothing not being touched, the ropes were gone. The symbol of Nebuchadnezzar’s unbelief and wrath were destroyed in the flames by God Himself.