When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. – Isa 43:2
This is an amazing passage of scripture. When I last read it, it made me think of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego in Daniel chapter three. I wonder if they were thinking about this scripture when they were about to be thrown into the blazing furnace.
After the three Hebrews had refused to bow down before the image of gold, the furious king Nebuchadnezzar brought them before him. If you remember the story, the ‘gracious’ king decided to give them another chance: “When you hear the sound of the music if you fall down and worship, good! But if you do not worship then you shall be cast into the burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Dan 3:15, my paraphrase)
The land of Babylon, at that time, was filled with Hebrew people. The king had invaded the land and carried away many Israelites captive to his own country. The king wanted to meld the people into his own culture so he gives all the Israelites new names, commands them to eat a babylonian diet, and then sets a 90 foot gold statue for them to worship. The Hebrews were given over to the babylonians by God because of idol worship in their own country and now these three Hebrews, who were trying to do good, were faced with either obeying the king (which meant breaking the first and second commandments of the 10 commandments) or death by burning. And to top it off, the king was taunting them.
I love how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answer the king:
O Nebuchadnezzer, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up. Dan 3:16-18
How did these three Hebrews have such confidence? They must have read Isaiah 43:2: “When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned.” Could these men ever imagined that this verse would apply to them literally? But here it certainly did. And verse 5 of Isaiah 43 applied to them quite literally as well: “Fear not, for I (God) am with you.” When the king threw them into the fire he stood up from his throne and said, “Did I not throw three men into the fire? How is that I see four men? And one of then looks like the Son of God!” Glory to God!
God saved them from the burning furnace. They came out of the fire and they were not burned. Their hair was not singed, and they didn’t even smell like smoke! Jesus Christ Himself jumped into the fire with them and delivered them!
We may not ever be thrown into a literal fire, but we certainly will face our own fiery trials:
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the FIERY trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you. 1 Peter 4:12
Peter doesn’t make it a matter of ‘if’, but a matter ‘when’ the fiery trial will come. The devil is sure not going to let your faith go unchallenged. He is going to seek out the ‘opportune time’ (Lk 4:13) to try your faith (Rev 2:10). Just like the three Hebrews, you are going to have the opportunity to stand or to bow. Will you be ready for that moment? God doesn’t promise you that it will be easy, but He does promise that He will be with you. He promises that you will not be burned. He will work all things together for your good, because you love God and because you are called according to His purpose. The same thing that the devil meant for your destruction will be turned around and made for an occasion of praise and glory to God!
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