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The Three Men in the Fiery Furnace

The Bible in Art: The Three Men in the Fiery Furnace 

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Verses for Consideration: Daniel 3:16-18  (The Date is 605 B.C.)

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver usfrom Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

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One reading of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego should convince anyone that these were three brave men. No matter how much they feared dying a fiery death, they would not deny their Lord. They refused to give in to an egomaniac king’s desire to have the whole world worship a false god. They confessed their willingness to pay the terrible price rather than betray the Lord.

What makes heroes brave? What prompts people to put themselves at risk and defy death? The answer is faith.

It’s faith that empowers people to do courageous things and make unbelievable sacrifices.

True, people have died for other causes. People who truly believe in a cause, any cause, will risk death if they believe deeply enough. Think of the Japanese pilots of WWII who made themselves into human bombs in an attempt to stop their enemies. They did it because they loved their emperor and believed in their country. They too were brave, but for a cause that was shown finally to be futile.

That’s what makes the story of the three men in the fiery furnace a spiritual classic. They were ready to die for God-the only one whose cause is rock solid. And the end of the story shows that they put their trust in the right place.

Only God, the Holy Trinity, is worthy of our supreme efforts; his gospel tells us of his great love for us and his supreme sacrifice on our behalf. The way of the cross is the right way. We have God’s promise. Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose for our justification. He has conquered death for us. His victory can inspire us to show the same courage that the three men who dared the flames showed.

Prayer: Lord, because I never know when someone will challenge my faith by putting an idol in my path, deepen my love for you through your precious gospel, which is mine in Word and sacrament. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Title: The Three Hebrews in the Fiery Furnace (c. 1552)

Artist: Pieter Aertsen