Jesus and the Fiery Furnace

At B21 one of our great passions is Christ-centered preaching. Every time we open God’s Word–whether public teaching or private reading–we strive to faithfully proclaim Christ from all of Scriptures. And so we wanted to start a new series on Christ-centered preaching–to show what it is and how we do it.

To begin our series Peyton Hill put out 6 Helpful Clarifications for what “Christ-centered” really means. As we continue, we’ll be offering samples of how we would preach certain texts to point to Christ. May we all, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, show how it was necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory! (Luke 24:25-27)

Jesus and the Fiery Furnace

In the beginning of the book of Daniel the entire nation of Israel experienced earth-shattering despair with the destruction of their temple, city, monarchy, and way of life. Daniel and his friends (including Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) are taken as captives to a new place where they’ve never been before—Babylon. They don’t speak the language, and they no doubt stick out as foreigners from a conquered nation. It would have been so difficult to remain faithful with the combination of outside pressure to fit in and the potential anger and pain against God for what had just happened to them. I’m sure these young men experienced many temptations everyday to foresake God.

But in chapter 3 we’ve moved to the big leagues. This is no small, “no one may notice anyway” matter. King Nebuchadnezzar summoned all of the people that he appointed to be in charge throughout the provinces of Babylon to come together for the unveiling of this huge statue he had made, and the King “commanded” that they all bow down and worship the idol together—and all at the same time. Can you imagine?! These young Jewish men are surrounded by hundreds of the nation’s most powerful people and are under the threat of death. There’s no way to get out of or around it. The countdown was on. How would they respond? Compromise and live? Or stand tall and be killed?

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego trusted in the Lord and refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s statute. As a result, the king had them thrown into the fire. However, the exile was not the first time that God’s people were captives in a foreign country. They had been slaves in Egypt before, and God miraculously brought them out. Deuteronomy 4:20 described the Exodus like this, “But as for you, the Lord took you and brought you out of the iron-smelting furnace, out of Egypt, to be the people of his inheritance, as you now are.” So, God had rescued his people from a powerful empire and a fiery furnace before, and in Daniel 3 he did it again, which is exactly what these three Hebrews trusted God would do! Amazingly, when the men were thrown into the furnace, the king saw four men instead of three, and the new guy looked like a “son” of the gods. The pluralist king was close. It was in fact the Son of God who was in the fire with his people, which is exactly what Isaiah 43:2 promised, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”

King Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed that no god is able to save like this, and that was a true statement. There is no other God who walks through the fire with his people. The Son of God Jesus Christ took on the suffering and death of his people at the cross to rescue them ultimately from suffering and death. Just like these three Hebrews, Jesus was captive under a pagan world empire (foretold in the dream of Daniel 2 and the vision of Daniel 7) – Rome. He was handed over to die, and then he walked away from death three days later.

When Jesus walked away from his death, he commissioned his disciples to take the gospel to the ends of the earth because his blood was spilt to redeem men and women for God from every tribe, language, people and nation (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). In Daniel 3, the pagan King praised the Hebrews God and prohibited any nation or language from speaking against him. God’s deliverance of his people is always meant to be declared among all nations.