He answered and said, See, I see four men loose, walking in the middle of the fire, and they have no hurt…
I. THEIR TEMPTATION.
II. THEIR FAITHFULNESS.
1. They stood alone (v. 7). Might they not fall in with the current and perform the outward act with inward reserve?
2. Then the terrible alternative: "Ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace" (Daniel 3:15). Nothing more calculated to inspire terror. But, like St. , they "preferred the fire which lasts an hour and then cools, to the perpetual torment of eternal fire." In the same way, the Christian martyrs, St. Lawrence and others, were prepared to undergo terrible tortures of gridiron and flame rather than lose the favour of God by denying Christ. But these "three children" were faithful in the days of the old covenant, when God's love to man had not been made known by Christ, nor did the Spirit of God as yet personally dwell among men; this accentuates their courage.
3. Then note their readiness to endure the torture.
III. THEIR RESCUE.
1. It was miraculous. An old writer enumerates eight miracles in this lesson; but, without going into minutiae, that they were not consumed by the flames could certainly only be owing to Divine intervention.
2. It was the fulfilment of prophecy, "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43:2). "The flame," says St. , "set free the captive, and itself was bound by the captive." The reality of the fire was shown by the molten chains; and the deaths of those who cast the three children into the flames; but the Divine promise was evidenced by their preservation.
3. The mode of the rescue was through the instrumentality of an angel: "The form of the fourth is like the Son of God"; "a son of the gods" (R.V.), that is, an angel. Some ancient interpreters thought Christ Himself was here meant (, St. ), of whom Nebuchadnezzar had heard from Daniel, and thus it would be classed with the "theophanies"; but St. says, "It was in truth an angel." The visible presence of the angel was proof to the king that the deliverance of the three youths was the result of God's protection, and from no deception. Similarly, God delivered Jerusalem from the power of the Assyrians by the ministry of an angel (2 Kings 19:35); the Apostles from prison (Acts 5:19; Acts 12:7); and St. John from the cauldron of flaming oil.
4. The deliverance was complete. Completeness marks all the works of God. There are no half-measures or imperfect contrivances — only the chains are destroyed, not their garments, nor their hair singed, nor the smell of fire had passed upon them (v. 27).
1. Temptation may be strong, but faithfulness to conscience should be stronger. Temptation, though strong, is never overwhelming or an excuse for sin (1 Corinthians 10:13). The three children were faithful unto death; they were, like St. John, martyrs in will (Revelation 2:10).
2. What Nebuchadnezzar designed is unconsciously carried out by multitudes amongst ourselves. They fall down before the golden image; they worship wealth, and make a god Of "the mammon of unrighteousness"; and this covetousness "is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5).
3. Let us admire and imitate the courage of the three children in disobeying the royal mandate, and take the side of Christ and His Church, if ever obedience to the powers of the world should involve a violation of the Laws of God.
4. Let us rejoice in the Divine deliverance. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them" (Psalm 34:7). The furnace of Nebuchadnezzar is an image of the "fiery trial" of persecution, of sensual passion, and of affliction; but to those who are faithful, like the three children, temptation and tribulation are times of Divine manifestation, of refinement and election, and of more entire self-surrender. "Behold, I have refined thee, but not as silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction" (Isaiah 48:10, R.V.).
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.