Daniel 3:25 ďLook!I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.Ē


Itís really difficult to bring this story back out of Sunday School.The story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego is a staple for children.These Hebrew exiles are so faithful to their God, that even when the king demands that they bow down and worship him, they refuse him time and time again, knowing their refusal will mean their deathóuntil the king gets so mad that he throws them into the fiery furnace.But they donít die.The king looks and sees them walking around in the fire along with a radiant being heís never seen before.There are songs about it, and both the intrigue and the miraculous ending capture the imagination.


As with other miraculous stories, the biggest obstacle in moving the fiery furnace story into the adult realm is skepticism over whether it actually happened.Literalists get all worked up in trying to insist that it did; the rationalists get equally worked up insisting that it never could.Both are missing the point and are keeping the story from living and breathing in our adult lives.For my part, I donít think it matters a bit whether it happened or not.The story is there to tell us a truth, and that truth stands regardless of historical fact.Facts are true, but the nature of truth is well beyond mere facts.Chew on that for awhile.


Anyway, I find at least two important truths in this story.The first applies not only here but to all the miracle stories.The important question for faith is not whether it did happen, but whether it could happen.God is not limited by our ability to understand whatís going on.Itís as easy for God to rescue three men from a fire as it is to say, ďGood morning.ĒTo say that God canít do something we find miraculous is to place our own knowledge and experience on Godís throne.Thatís never a good idea.God made fire and the laws of thermodynamics.God can figure it out.Thatís the first point, and it blesses my life every moment of every day.There is no problem or disaster beyond Godís ability.Remembering that puts the problems and disasters of my life in better perspective.


The second truth I see here is that when we are in the furnace, we are not alone.God could have brought them out of the furnace safely and shown up later over dinner.But God wanted the king to see that the God of the Hebrews was not an uninvolved, impersonal being.Yahweh is a God who walks with us in the furnace, so that whether we get out alive or not really doesnít matter.God is with us.And as we move into Advent next week, we begin the story in the Gospels that tells the same message.EmmanuelóGod with usóto death, through death, and out again on the other side.Whether itís a fiery furnace, a devastating disease, or a brutal cross, we are not alone.And if the living God is with us, talk of death is meaningless.Weíll be fine, even if our earthly bodies are burned to ashes.


Someday weíll get to ask God about the facts of the story; but in the here and now, itís the truth that really helps.


God of fire and cross, thank you for walking with us even through the valley of death.Amen.


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