Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“He has put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many shall see and worship and put their trust and their reliance in the Lord. Blessed is the one who makes the Lord his (her) refuge and trust, and turns not to the proud or to followers of false gods.”
Psalm 40: 3, 4
“Be like the bird, that halting in her flight
Awhile on boughs too slight,
Feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings,
Knowing that she hath wings.”
“This pretty bird, oh, how she flies and sings;
How could she do so if she had not wings?
Her wings bespeak my faith, her songs my peace;
When I believe and sing, my doubtings cease.”
Sparrow – and Me
It’s wonderful –
Just so wonderful
Really do see
Ruth Harms Calkin
Tell Me Again, Lord, I Forget
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10: 29-31
Today’s Study Texts:
Text 1: “(Nebuchadnezzar) answered, ‘Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’”
Daniel 3: 25
Now when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly saying, ‘Truly this was the Son of God.’”
Matthew 27: 54
Text 3: “Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest Who has already ascended and passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession of faith in Him. For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning. Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time for every need and well-timed help, coming just when we need it.”
Hebrews 4: 14 -16
“The Furnace of Affliction: - Part 14
“What Happened to the Fourth Man?”
“We have spread so many coats of whitewash over the historical Jesus that we scarcely see the glow of His presence anymore.”
Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes
Have I ever wondered what happened to the fourth man in the furnace?
When I have found myself in a fiery furnace, have I ever looked for the “Son of God” to be there at my side?
“The presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below.”
J. C. Ryle
“If Jesus personally knows the pain of loss and suffering, He can comfort and encourage me in the midst of the turbulence that He Himself warned is inevitable in a world corrupted by sin.”
The Case For Christ
It was an incredible sight. Four men walking in a blazing fire – fully clothed and apparently unhurt. What was King Nebuchadnezzar to do? When he planned for the grand event to honor the Babylonian gods, he could not have imagined that at the end of the day’s festivities, everything would come to an abrupt halt when none other than the “Son of God” stepped out of the courts of heaven and into the middle of a flaming furnace.
I doubt that the three Hebrews could have predicted that their rescuer would choose to appear in the fire with them. Indeed, they may have believed that their God, the Almighty God, would deliver them in some miraculous way. But coming into the fire, that seemed quite impossible. Yet, right before their eyes, they witnessed heaven’s rescue plan on their behalf.
As I’ve studied this particular Biblical record of a truly miraculous intervention, instituted from heaven in order to save the lives of three of God’s beloved children on earth, I find that it is King Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction which captures the feelings of the moment in a most dynamic way. After realizing that the “Son of God” had intervened in the protection of the three Hebrews, Daniel tells us that Nebuchadnezzar “came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, you servants of the Most High God, come out and come here” (Daniel 3: 26, Amplified Bible). You can’t help but catch a glimpse of the irony in this situation. King Nebuchadnezzar still thought of the three Hebrews as conquered captives. These three men were under his royal charge. Well—sort of! It was hard for a worldly king to recognize that his power had limitations associated with it. When you toss three disobedient captives into a blazing fire, you don’t expect the result to be that all your subjects including the: “satraps, the deputies, the governors, and the king’s counselors” will gather around to get a close up look and see, that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed; neither were their garments scorched or changed in color or condition, nor had even the smell of smoke clung to them” (Daniel 3: 27).
It would do us well for a moment to take a second look at the fact that in his rage, King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered that his strongest soldiers were to be enlisted into duty binding up these disobedient subjects. But there’s the catch. They were to be bound with their clothes on – shoes and hats included! Why? As several commentators note, with all the layers of clothing, it would have taken them longer to burn. But there’s more meanness associated with this clothing issue. As each layer of clothing caught fire, it would cause the skin to burn, repeatedly, increasing the pain. The bottom line is that Nebuchadnezzar’s plan to make the punishment as painful and lengthy as possible only served to make God’s rescue even more powerful. God’s intervention became more profound as the king’s wickedness kicked into high gear. This is the way our heavenly Father works for when clouds are darkest and the pit of pain the deepest, the more spectacular His heroic rescue becomes.
Without ever appearing to have been in the fire, the three Hebrews, unhurt and unsinged, became the focus of the day. Rather than the plain of Dura becoming the focus of Nebuchadnezzar’s gods, it became the focal point dedicated to the worship and glory of God for as Nebuchadnezzar himself declared: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who has sent His angel and delivered his servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.”
But I ask you, “Weren’t there four men in the fire? What happened to that fourth man?” I’d like to offer an answer to this question from the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah who faced many a bitter trial in his life and during his witness for God. “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43: 2)
I believe that the fourth figure who was walking with His children in the fiery furnace never left the furnace. He still walks with His beloved followers in every furnace of affliction in their lives. I don’t say this as an observer but as an active participant. Many a time I have felt the presence of my Deliverer. And on those days when I cannot walk in the fire, I know His loving arms carrying me as He whispers, “Give me all your load today.” And I know, without question, that what our Deliverer will do for me, He will do for you as well.
When the flames of life are so high they block our vision and we don’t recognize the “fourth figure” in our own furnace of affliction, that is the time for us to rely on the knowledge that the “Son of God” that walked with the three Hebrews is the same person walking with us throughout our life. Indeed, we must look no further than Calvary’s hilltop to see the length He will go to rescue us.
And just as He saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, so He will step into your world and mine. His presence will be our comfort and sustaining strength. As one author so beautifully writes, “Jehovah will reveal Himself as a “God of gods,’ able to save to the uttermost those who have put their trust in Him.”
Whatever the furnace you face, no matter how hot the fire, the “fourth” man is with you. He’ll never walk out of the fire until He brings His children safely home.
“No matter how serious your present problems may be, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, take heart! You are not alone. You have a sympathetic high priest who can enter into all your problems, for they have been His problems too.”
Christ and Your Problems
“Where is God!” inquired the mind:
“To His presence I am blind.
I can tell each blade of grass,
Read the tempests as they pass;
I have learned what metals lie
In the earth’s deep mystery;
Every voice of field and wood
I have heard and understood;
Ancient secrets of the sea
Are no longer dark to me:
But the wonders on the earth
Bring no thought of God to birth.”
Then the heart spake quietly,
“Hast thou thought of Calvary?”
“Where is God?” inquired the mind;
“To His presence I am blind.
I have scanned each star and sun,
Traced the certain course they run;
I have weighed them in my scale,
And can tell when each will fail;
From the caverns of the night
I have brought new worlds to light;
I have measured earth and sky,
Read each zone with steady eye;
But no sign of God appears
In the glory of the spheres.”
But the heart spake wistfully,
“Hast thou looked on Calvary?”
Thomas Curtis Clark
“Almighty God, the hour of Your glory has come, look mercifully upon me and deliver me…In You I place my hopes, for alone I am helpless and as nothing. Help me, O God, and deliver me from fear.”
Found in a Russian collection of prayers.
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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