Walking Through the Flames

When we were taking care of my mother-in-law in our home, our caregiver would stay with her on Sunday mornings while we went to church. I offered to trade off with my husband for Sunday evening services, but he always chose to stay home with her. I think he wanted to give me a break since I was with her so much while he was at work.

Jesse, our youngest son, was still home at that time. So he and I had about a twenty minute drive to church. I usually plugged my phone into the car speakers with the music on shuffle. Sometimes I turned the music down and we talked. Sometimes he’d fall asleep or play a game on one of his devices. Sometimes one or both of us would sing along softly.

But when “Walking Through the Flames” came on, we sang along together at full voice.

I’m not sure what about this song inspired our outburst. It’s based on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3 who would not bow down to the king’s idol, even when their lives were threatened. Their faith and their words have inspired believers for centuries:

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

If you know the story, “Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury” (verse 19), ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than normal, and had the three Hebrew men tied up and thrown in.

The furnace was so hot, the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in died. But the three Hebrew men, instead of immediately succumbing to flames, were walking around untied. And what was more, someone else was with them, and “the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (verse 25).

Nebuchadnezzar called them out and saw that they were not only unhurt, but they were not even singed. They didn’t even smell like smoke. Then “Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God'” (verse 28). He decreed that no one in the land could speak against the God of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego without dire consequences. Although Nebuchadnezzar was not a believer yet, the next chapter in Daniel tells how he became one. No doubt this incident had a part in establishing his faith in the one true God.

In “Walking Through the Flames” (words are here), Jeanine Drylie retells the story in song and then applies it to us.

But when the hour of trial comes and fire is all around
We’ll find the place we’re walking on is really holy ground.

And praise be to God that the flames will set us free
And praise be to God, we shall gain the victory.

The version in my playlist is sung by Mac Lynch on a CD by the Wilds Christian Camp titled Praise the Everlasting King. Unfortunately, I can’t find that CD or that version of the song online anywhere. But here’s the song by the Northland Baptist Bible College:

I wrote a couple of posts based on truths from this passage of Scripture: “But If Not,” when our pastor was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and From “What If” to “Even If.”

These truths and this song will always minister to me. But my heart will also be warmed by the memory of singing this song along with my son in the car on Sunday evenings.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

 

Book Review: Be Resolute

Warren Wiersbe’s “Be Series” commentary on Daniel is Be Resolute: Determining to Go God’s Direction.

It’s easy to see why the author chose that title. If you’re not familiar with the book of Daniel except for the lion’s den, Daniel and his three friends (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) were teenagers when Babylon conquered Israel. Most of the population was exiled to Babylon in three waves. Daniel and other young men were selected for a training period to be assimilated in the Babylonian government. But Daniel and his friends stood firm in their faith while still being gracious and kind to their captors.

God had multiple reasons for Israel’s captivity, the main one being their longstanding stubborn rebellion and disobedience to God. But one of the good things He brought out of it was the testimony of these four young men (and hopefully others as well) of the one true God.

The first few chapters contain some of the most familiar stories in the Bible: Daniel and his friends kindly asking for a diet in keeping with their convictions, and ending up in better health; Daniel’s interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams when no one else could; the three others in the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling transformation, the “handwriting on the wall” at Belshazzar’s feast, and Daniel in the lion’s den. In every case, the men gave glory to God and trusted Him for the outcome. The three who faced the furnace for not bowing to the king’s idol said something that rings down through the ages: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (3:17-18). God doesn’t always answer prayer as we’d like. Loved ones aren’t always cured. Crises aren’t always averted. But God is faithful and has His reasons for what He allows. And God used he testimony of these four young men not only in their own timeline, but in all the years since.

I say young men—though the book opens with them as teens, Daniel is in his 80s by the time he was thrown in the lion’s den. He spent his whole adult life in captivity. But he never complained.

Prayer is another big theme in the book, as Daniel seeks God throughout. His prayer of confession for the nation in chapter 9 is a model for us. In Daniel 10, He is told about spiritual warfare going on behind the scenes. Wiersbe says:

The prophet Daniel realized the great significance of God’s plans for Israel, and once again he fainted and was unable to speak. Here he had been involved in a cosmic spiritual conflict and didn’t even know it, and the Lord was using some of His highest angels to answer his prayers! This certainly lifts prayer out of the level of a humdrum religious exercise and shows it to be one of our strongest and most important spiritual weapons. The neglect of prayer is the reason why many churches and individual believers are so weak and defeated. The late Peter Deyneka, missionary to the Slavic peoples, often reminded us, “Much prayer, much power; no prayer, no power!” Jesus taught His disciples that the demonic forces could not be defeated except by prayer and fasting, the very activities that Daniel had been involved in for three weeks (Matt. 17: 14–21).

The last few chapters of Daniel are markedly different. Instead of interpreting dreams and vision for other people, Daniel receives a few himself that throw him for a loop. The angel Gabriel is sent to help him understand.

Honestly, without the ESV Study Bible notes and this book of Wiersbe’s I would have been pretty lost in these sections. I have read Daniel several times over the years, but I don’t remember what I did when I came to this part. Complicating matters is the fact that there are several schools on interpretation about some of it.

The part that covers the history of the next four dynasties is so accurate that people have attacked Daniel, saying it had to have been written after the fact. As Wiersbe says, “Prophecy is history written beforehand.”

The ESV Study Bible’s notes go into great detail about the various prophecies and schools of interpretation. Most of it refers to the history immediately after Daniel’s time, but there are differences of opinion as to what might be figurative and what might refer to end times. I appreciated this reminder:

There are many difficulties in deciding between these interpretations, which all involve questions of the proper approach to interpreting biblical prophecy. In all of this it is crucial not to miss Daniel’s message for his audience, namely, that God has allotted the amount of time for these events, and therefore his people should trust and endure (p. 1607).

I don’t think these different views are anything to fight or disfellowship over. But they can make for some interesting conversations.

The book ends with Daniel himself not understanding everything he’s been told: “I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, ‘O my lord, what shall be the outcome of these things?’ He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end.'” Why tell him these things, then? Many reasons. For future readers and students of the Word of God through the ages. But for all of us, what the Bible tells us about future events reminds us He is in control (a major theme in Daniel). Also, as Wiersbe says, “Knowing God’s future plan and obeying God’s present will should go together. ‘And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.’ (1 John 3: 3 NKJV).”

A few other quotes from Wiersbe:

A heart that loves the Lord, trusts the Lord, and therefore obeys the Lord has no difficulty making the right choices and trusting God to take care of the consequences. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence—that’s superstition—but obeying in spite of consequences.

Faith means obeying God regardless of the feelings within us, the circumstances around us, or the consequences before us.

Daniel was respectful to the king but he was not afraid to tell him the truth. Even if we don’t respect the officer and the way he or she lives, we must respect the office, for “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13: 1).

All of these people and events may not be interesting to you, but the prophecies Daniel recorded tally with the record of history, thus proving that God’s Word can be trusted.

May the Lord help us to leave something behind in the journey of life so that those who come after us will be encouraged and helped!

Wiersbe ends his commentary with an extra chapter of summary of the themes in the book and Daniel’s character. He hasn’t done this in any of the other “Be” series that I’ve read. But it was helpful here, after our brains were stretched and heads were spinning over the last few chapters of prophecy, to go back over the book as a whole.

Once again I appreciated Wiersbe’s thoughts and insights.

(Sharing with Welcome Heart, Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)