He answered and said, See, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt…
This story has a far-reaching suggestiveness. It represents an oft-repeated conflict. It stands as the picture of man in the face of the fierce elements which oppose him — man in his agony, man in his heroism, man, also, in his consolation. It does not need much insight to perceive one aspect of the universality of the story. Man and the fire — that is life. All too soon we say, man is thrust into the fire of pain and suffering. It needs some insight, or some reflection, to perceive the other aspect of its universality. If man and the fire shall be described as life, man and the fire and the Divine presence walking with man in the fire — that is religion. It is something that we are given the power of perceiving a greater than man with man in the fire. Look again at man in the fire. I take man first as an intellectual being. It is by reason of the understanding which the beasts do not possess that there comes an added keenness to human suffering. We have memory, we have anticipation; and out of these come fierce fires to increase our agony. Pain, which comes to the sons of men, comes with an appeal to their consciousness. Man can anticipate, and he knows that the pain which enters into his life to-day is the indication of something which is working there, and he lives in constant dread of its recurrence. From memory and anticipation there comes the agony of retrospect and the agony of suspense. By the very law of our intellectual being we suffer more than the beasts. But would you part with it? Though you know that the capacities with which you are endowed make you capable of the greater suffering, you will not forego the painful gifts. It is precisely as we grow in the scale of being that our power of suffering grows with it. We are reasonable beings, and because we are so we suffer the more. Take man as a moral being. These Hebrews suffered because of their allegiance to a law higher than the law of self-preservation. Why. is it that a man who is conscientious must suffer? It is just because he is conscientious. He cannot demoralize himself, and the law within asserts itself, and makes him face the greater pain. But this proclaims his greatness. He is the greater because he is the witness to a law which is larger, truer, deeper than any of the outside laws that touch the physical world. In another way his sense of right makes him suffer. He must do right, though the world frown, because the Divine law within him is asserting itself over the law outside. His suffering springs from this — his capacity to understand the allegiance which he owes to the higher law. Take man as a spiritual being. Men, in the history of religion, have exhibited a spiritual conscientiousness. There are things which, though not wrong, are wrong to them. The cause is within themselves. Others cannot understand. The man has recognised a law of his being, which is deeper than the law of the Decalogue. Whatever seems to him to drag him down is wrong for him, because hostile to his better life. He is grieved with anything which hinders the spiritual development of his being. In all this the Lord Jesus is our model. Mark Him in His temptation; see the moral standard. Suffering seems to me as Heaven's subpoena, compelling men to bear witness to the Divine which is within, and underneath, to the eternal laws of right, and to the manifestation of a presence like unto the Son of God. What shall be the law by which a man shall pass through the fire, and the smell of fire shall not pass upon him? How few having gone into the fire of life come out unsinged, untouched, the smell of fire not passing on them! Are not men tainted so that you know that they have suffered? They have been singed in the fire. How noble and great seem the few souls that pass through the fire and come forth unharmed! They are the men who held their own in the battle! What is the law? In every universal thing there is some law. The men at whose side the Son of God walks, who are triumphant over the fierceness of the flame, are the men who have had a victory previous to that. Their victory over the fire was preceded by their victory over the multitude. They would not bow down. We must go back further. These men have first been victors over themselves. The man who is victorious over self is the man who is victorious over the world; and the man who is victorious over the world is victorious over the fire that is in the world. That is the law. But when you have discovered a law you are very far from having discovered all you need. Is is not always easy to put the law into operation. What force is at work behind law? In the midst of the fire there was revealed a fourth figure, and his form was like unto the Son of God. In the midst of the fire was the Divine presence. The motive force was the Divine energy, the Divine life, the Divine presence. The law of success is self-control, but the power to make the law effective is in the Divine presence. Life has little meaning unless I recognise that wherever the fire is kindled, there the Divine presence is also. To recognise that is the part of faith; to work and live by that is the power of faith. Another question this truth may answer. We are called upon to suffer, and who will unriddle its pain? The pain is given that the Divine may be made manifest. The cross was to be the symbol of the world's agony, and of the Divine presence also... Then let us cultivate self-control as a protest against the frivolity of life which destroys the heart, against the sensuality of life that corrupts the conscience, against the intellectual dishonesty which disturbs the pure vision of what life ought to be. As we do this, we shall not be alone. He who wore our nature walked before us in the ways of suffering. When the flame shall kindle upon us He will be with us.
(W. Boyd-Carpenter, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.