It's been so hot here in Fremont!
I drove past a bank today and the sign read "101 degrees." All I wanted to do after church was come home and stay in my air conditioned house.
The whole thing, however, reminds me of three guys who really were in a hot spot. They were among Israelites taken into captivity. Their names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
We know them better by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. As the story goes, the king has built a 90-foot-tall gold statue, which he orders everyone bow down and worship.
Those who don’t will be thrown into a fiery furnace.
Guess who won’t bow down? Yep, those three stubborn Israelites. And when brought before an enraged king, they even say “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.”
Then our non-compromising friends say something that I consider the epitome of God-fueled faith.
Immediately after making their first statement, they follow up with: “But even if he does not (rescue us), we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
Did you catch that phrase “even if he does not….”
How many of us can say, “Even if God never heals me on this earth, I will remain faithful”?
“Even if God never brings along that mate I’ve prayed for so long….”
“Even if God never lets me have a child….”
The king doesn’t take this response very well.
He orders the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal.
Next, the king has some of his strongest soldiers tie up the three men and throw them into the furnace. The furnace is so hot that it kills the soldiers. So you’d think our three friends would be gone, right?
Suddenly, the king leaps to his feet.
“Weren’t there three men we tied up and threw into the fire?” he asks.
Everyone agrees that the king’s math is correct.
“Look,” he says, “I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods!”
The king orders our three fellows to come out of the fire, which they do. They’re not hurt, their clothes aren’t scorched — and they don’t even smell like smoke.
We don’t like those furnace times — the times we hear about layoffs at work; or that our loved one was in a bad accident; or that the doctor wants us to come back because something on our test doesn’t look quite right.
Suddenly, we can start to feel our faith evaporating faster than the sweat on our brow. But it’s at these times that we have to remember who’s with us in the furnace. Bible scholars tell us that the fourth man in the furnace could have been an angel or the preincarnate manifestation of Christ.
Either way, those boys weren’t alone.
And neither are we.
God is faithful and he has protected me throughout my life — like the time my car hit a slick spot on a bridge and the back end hit a sign; or the time I nearly drove off a bridge that was under construction (that's a whole other story); or one time I was riding with a friend who hit a rainy slick spot while driving and took out a section of grass in a hilly park area.
Yes, God's had to keep an eye on me.
But then, he does that with everyone.
I'm so grateful to the Lord, who as the Scriptures say never sleeps or slumbers, and who can get us out of some really hot situations in life.
And while I wish he'd cool down these hot summer temperatures a bit, I know that I all have to do - if I want some real refreshment - is to open my Bible!