He answered and said, See, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt…
The narrative of the glorious boldness and marvellous deliverance of the three holy children, or rather champions, is well calculated to excite in the minds of believers firmness and steadfastness in upholding the truth in the teeth of tyranny and in the very jaws of death. Let young men especially, since these were young men, learn from their example both in matters of faith in religion, and matters of integrity in business, never to sacrifice their consciences. To have a clear conscience, to wear a guileless spirit, to have a heart void of offence, is greater riches than the mines of Ophir could yield or the traffic of Tyre could win. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a stalled ox and inward contention therewith. An ounce of heart's-ease is worth a ton of gold; and a drop of innocence is better than a sea of flattery.
I. The place WHERE GOD'S PEOPLE OFTEN ARE. In the text we find three of them in a burning fiery furnace, and singular as this may be literally, it is no extraordinary thing spiritually, for, to say the truth, it is the usual place where the saints' are found. The ancients fabled of the salamander that it lived in the fire; the same can be said of the Christian without any fable whatever. It is rather a wonder when a Christian is not in trial, for to wanderers in a wilderness discomfort and privation will naturally be the rule rather than the exception. It is through "much tribulation" that we inherit the kingdom.
1. First, there is the furnace which men kindle. As if there were not enough misery in the world, men are the greatest tormentors to their fellow men. The elements in all their fury, wild beasts in all their ferocity, and famine and pestilence in all their horrors, have scarcely proved such foes to man, as men themselves have been. Religious animosity is always the worst of all hatreds, and incites to the most fiendish deeds; persecution is as unsparing as death, and as cruel as the grave. At times the Christian feels the heat of the furnace of open persecution. Another furnace is that of oppression. In the iron furnace of Egypt the children of Israel were made to do hard bondage in brick and in mortar; and doubtless many of God's people are in positions where they are little better than slaves. There is also the furnace of slander.
2. Secondly, there is a furnace which Satan blows with three great bellows — some of you have been in it. It is hard to bear, for the prince of the power of the air hath great mastery over human spirits; he knows our weak places, and can strike so as to cut us to the very quick. He fans the fire with the blast of temptation. Then he works the second bellows of accusation. He hisses into the ear, "Thy sins have destroyed thee! The Lord hath forsaken thee quite! Thy God will be gracious no more!" Then he will beset us with suggestions of blasphemy; for while tormenting as with insinuations, he has a way of uttering foul things against God, and then casting them into our hearts as if they were our own.
3. And thirdly, there is a furnace which God himself prepares for His people. There is the furnace of physical pain. A furnace still worse, perhaps, is that of bereavement. Then, added to this, there will crowd in upon us temporal losses and sufferings. The business which we thought would enrich, impoverishes.
4. The context reminds us that sometimes the Christian is exposed to very peculiar trials. The furnace was heated seven times hotter; it was hot enough when heated once; but I suppose that Nebuchadnezzar had pitch and tar, and all kinds of combustibles thrown in to make it flame out with greater vehemence. Truly at times the Lord appears to deal thus with His people. It is a peculiarly fierce heat which surrounds them, and they cry out, "Surely I am the man that hath seen affliction — I may take precedence of all others in the realm of sorrow."
5. I do not like to leave this point without observing, too, that these holy champions were helpless when thrown into the furnace. They ware cast in bound; and many of us have been cast in bound, too, so that we could not lift hand or foot to help ourselves. Pretty plight to be in! Who does not shudder at it! Certainly none of us would choose it; but we have not the choice, and as we have said with David, "Thou shalt choose mine inheritance for me," if the Lord determines to choose it for us among the coals of fire, it is the Lord, lot Him do what seemeth Him good. Where Jehovah places His saints they are safe in reality, although exposed to destruction in appearance.
II. WHAT THEY LOSE THERE. Look at the text, and it will be clear to you that they lost something. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego lost something in the fire — not their turbans, nor their coats, nor their hosen, nor one hair of their heads or boards — no; what then?
1. Why, they lost their bonds there. Do observe: "Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire." The fire did not hurt them, but it snapped their bonds. Blessed loss this! A true Christian's losses are gains in another shape. Now, observe this carefully, that many of God's servants never know the fulness of spiritual liberty till they are cast into the midst of the furnace. Shall I show you some of the bonds which God looses for His people when they are in the fire of human hatred? Sometimes He bursts the cords of fear of man, and desire to please man. When persecution rages, it is wonderful what liberty it gives to the child of God. Never a freer tongue than Luther's! Never a braver mouth than that of John Knox! Never a bolder speech than that of John Calvin! Never a braver heart than that which throbbed beneath the ribs of Wickliffe!
2. Again, when Satan puts us in the furnace, he is often the means of breaking bonds. How many Christians are bound by the bonds of frames and feelings; the bonds of depend-once upon something within, instead of resting upon Christ the great Sacrifice. Fierce temptations may be like waves that wash the mariner on a rock — they may drive us nearer to Christ. It is an ill wind which blows no one any good; but the worst wind that Satan can send blows the Christian good, because it hurries him nearer to his Lord. Temptation is a great blessing when it looses our bonds of self-confidence and reliance upon frames and feelings.
3. As for the afflictions which God sends, do they not loose our bonds? Doubts and fears are more common to us in the midst of work and business than when laid aside by sickness.
III. WHAT SAINTS DO THERE. "Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire." Walking! They are walking — it is a symbol of joy, of ease, of peace, of rest — not flitting like unquiet ghosts, as if they were disembodied spirits traversing the flame; but walking with real footsteps, treading on hot coals as though they were roses, and smelling the sulphureons flames as though they yielded nothing but aromatic perfume. Enoch "walked with God." It is the Christian's pace, it is his general pace; he does sometimes run, but his general pace is walking with God, walking in the Spirit; and you see that these good men did not quicken their pace, and they did not slacken it — they continued to walk as they usually did; they had the same holy calm and peace of mind which they enjoyed elsewhere. Their walking shows not only their liberty, and their ease, and their pleasure, and their calm, but it shows their strength. Their sinews ware not snapped, they were walking. These men had no limping gait, they were walking, walking in the midst of the fire.
IV. WHAT THEY DID NOT LOSE THERE. The text says, "And they have no hurt." They did not lose anything there.
1. But we may say of them first, their persons were not hurt. The child of God loses in the furnace nothing of himself that is worth keeping. He does not lose his spiritual life — that is immortal; he does not lose his graces — he gets them refined and multiplied, and the glitter of them is best seen by furnace-light.
2. The Christian does not lose his garments there. You see their hats, and their hosen, and their coats were not singed, nor was there the smell of fire upon them; and so with the Christian: his garment is the beauteous dress which Christ himself wrought out in His life, and which He dyed in the purple of His own blood. As it is not hurt by age, nor moth, nor worm, nor mildew, so neither can it be touched by fire. I know you dread that furnace — who would not? — but courage, courage, the Lord who permits that furnace to be heated will preserve you in it, therefore be not dismayed!
V. WHO WAS WITH THEM IN THE FURNACE. There was a fourth, and he was so bright and glorious that even the heathen eyes of Nebuchadnezzar could discern a supernatural lustre about him. "The fourth," he said, "is like the Son of God," What appearance Christ had put on I cannot tell, which was recognisable by that heathen monarch; but I suppose that He appeared in a degree of that glory in which He showed Himself to His servant John in the Apocalypse. You must go into the furnace if you would have the nearest and dearest dealings with Christ Jesus. Whenever the Lord appears, it is to His people when they are in a militant posture. The richest thought that a Christian perhaps can live upon is this, that Christ is in the furnace with him. I know that to the worldling this seems a very poor comfort, but then if you have never drank this wine you cannot judge its flavour. What must it be to dwell with everlasting burnings! One's heart beats high at the thought of the three poor men being thrown into that furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, with its flaming pitch and bitumen reaching upwards its streamers of flame, as though it would set the heavens on a blaze; yet that fire could not touch the three children, it was not consuming fire. But, be ye warned, there is One who is "a consuming fire," and once let Him flame forth in anger, and none can deliver you. He calls to you to leave your sins and look to Him, and then you shall never die, neither upon you shall the flame of wrath kindle because its power was spent on Him, and He felt the furnace of Divine wrath, and trod the glowing coals for every soul that believeth in Him.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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.