“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace…” Dan. 3:17
One of my fondest memories as a young church kid is sitting on the front pew next to the mothers. Granted, I was there most of the time because I was a bit precocious but stick with me. I loved the smell of their perfume, the ornate hats, and the candies they often gave me. But one of my most vivid memories was hearing a mother begin to sing, “I will trust in the Lord, I will trust in the Lord, I will trust in the Lord until I die…” The congregation would sing along with the mother, who no doubt, would begin to cry and shout. My young mind loved it all, but I couldn’t help but think about the words to the song. “Until I die? That’s a long time!” Boy, was I in for a huge lesson!
There just was no way for my young mind to fathom the resolve of Nolan Williams Jr. and Jeffrey Radford when they wrote and arranged this hymn at the time I first heard it. My mind was so naive, so fresh with zeal, so wanton with discovery that I didn’t see the noble creed as a staple of faith. At the time, I said, “wouldn’t they like options? What if it doesn’t work? What if trusting failed and they didn’t have anything to fall back on? Someone, anyone, please sit back down and explain this to me!”
Life would grant me experience of this very thing not shortly after; but my first taste of this trust came with three men by the name of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. We’d later learn their given slave names to be Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Perspectives, their names literally mean “God is gracious” or “God has helped.” When you hear their stories, you understand why. Imagine life going along as normal, living the best you know-how, and then suddenly-without warning-the life you knew is flipped on its head! Imagine being told that going to church, worshipping, and gathering for worship was not only banned but illegal! Imagine having to social distance and hide your faith! This is exactly what happened in the case of these three Hebrew young men.
The story is often told in a surface, palatable way. But the truth is, these young men were marked men because of their faith. There was a strict decree from the mouth of the King that no one was to worship any other gods. This wasn’t just an act of rebellion. This was an act that could result in the loss of their lives. Knowing this, the Hebrew boys decided that they would not give glory to any other but The God of Israel. Their bonds couldn’t change that. Their social distancing wouldn’t change that. Their internal fear wouldn’t change that. As “luck” would have it, the set up to abscond these “offenders” worked, and they individually were brought together to stand before the king. They KNEW it was the end. They KNEW that they had disobeyed the law. But they knew that a direct illegal act against man could not compare to an act of treason to their faith.
The internal struggle of the king to obey his own decree is another lesson entirely. He was so moved by the faith of the Hebrew boys that he mourned his own law. Yet, here they were, and his reputation was at stake. He bound the boys together and stood them before a furnace. The furnace was made seven times hotter than the normal heat. So hot, in fact, that the one who was supposed to inflict the capital sentence on them was engorged by the flames. Yet, like the mothers at the church I went to, these boys were not afraid, nor were they ashamed. In fact, they boldly declared, “even if He doesn’t deliver us, He is well able to do it!”
Have you ever been faced with being in the hot seat? Have you ever found yourself being tested seven times above that which seems normal? What is your response? Do we fold under the pressure of heat? Do we change our names and our existence to normalize compromise? Or do we remember the God who saved us? Do we remember the God who fed us, clothed us, and brought us? The three Hebrew boys had a testament that said “not doing a miracle for us doesn’t mean that He is not the God of miracles!” Sometimes we base God’s power on our own experience. That is a very dangerous ground to build upon. God is THE GOD who cannot fail! When we have yet to see His hand on a situation, do we still believe Him to be in control of it? When we are bound in our own chains of doubt, insecurity, and fear, do we fold and change our story, or do we stand in the truth of our convictions? I now can boldly proclaim in place of those Mothers who have now gone on that I too will trust in The Lord before I, while I, if I, and until I die.