No Smell of Fire
By Mary Kroeger
In Daniel chapter 2 we find a very interesting story. Let's read it according to the New American Bible version.
The King's Golden Image
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates and all the rulers of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed: "To you the command is given, O peoples, nations and men of every language, 5 that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up. 6 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire." 7 Therefore at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations and men of every language fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
Worship of the Image Refused
8 For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. 9 They responded and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: "O king, live forever! 10 You, O king, have made a decree that every man who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe and all kinds of music, is to fall down and worship the golden image. 11 But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. 12 There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up."
13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; then these men were brought before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?"
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."
Daniel's Friends Protected
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 He commanded certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in order to cast them into the furnace of blazing fire.
21 Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. 22 For this reason, because the king's command was urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. 23 But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?" They replied to the king, "Certainly, O king." 25 He said, "Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!" 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the midst of the fire. 27 The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them."
In spite of the fact that these men had been thrown into a furnace of fire that was so hot that the men who threw them into the fire were killed, the fire had no power over Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego! What a testimony of God's power! This was not a cleansing fire, but the persecution fire of the religious hierarchy, and it has no bounds. No punishment is great enough to atone for disobedience to its decrees. Its purpose is destruction! Here we see the power of God! God used the fire that was to destroy Daniel's friends, to reveal the greatness of the life that was in these men! It brought a revelation of the power and might of the only true God to the pagan world!
Let's reflect for a moment on the ordeal these men faced. They were standing in front of a golden image about 90 feet high, and 9 feet wide together with king Nebuchadnezzar and all the important people in his kingdom. Can you imagine the courage it took to go against the king's command? Have you ever tried living outside the box of religious hierarchy, facing the hatred of the governing body and the death of your reputation plus a fiery physical death if you refused to worship their lifeless golden image?
Babylon represents the world system that is against God and His Christ! Its rule flows out of its antagonism and hatred toward God and His followers, and its lust for supremacy. It is a system of government that wants complete control of every aspect of its citizens. It teaches that this control is for their good. It looks good, and has an outward glitter and attractiveness, but this image or system of government has no life. It has no power to change people from the inside! It can only change the behavior of people to some extent, for it is a dead image. It looks impressive and desirable, and the worship of it promises a good life and freedom from punishment and retribution. These are empty promises for they come from a dead image! The whole system of government with its desire to control comes to us from the mind of the serpent - the mind we have inherited from Adam. Its power lies in its ability to deceive, to excite the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, and to instill the fear of punishment and shame.
God works differently! His government is revealed in the life of Jesus Christ! His rule flows out of life, out of the very essence of His being - out of His love, goodness, righteousness, grace and mercy! His rule does NOT promise freedom from difficulties and suffering. But He does promise that He will be with us always, and He will give us the victory! Our part is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith and to function in the obedience of faith!
We see this demonstrated in the life of Christ! He recognized that He could do nothing of Himself . He only did what the Father showed Him to do! His obedience caused Him to operate outside the box of religious leaders. This lit the fire of persecution against Christ, and the religious leaders sought an opportunity to destroy Him. Jesus knew this would happen, for He knew the scriptures, and He had constant fellowship with the Father. Yet obedience was more important to Him than physical life! The night before the ordeal of betrayal, crucifixion, becoming the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world and becoming one with fallen humanity, He faced the horror of this awful ordeal! That night He embraced God's will as His will in its entirety!
To embrace someone, you throw your arms around that person. You encircle him/her. To embrace God's will you accept it completely! There is no unwillingness in your embrace! It was in the garden that Christ won the victory! There were no thoughts of unforgiveness, no thoughts of self-pity, no thoughts of unfairness, no thoughts of anything but love and the desire to obey the Father in every detail in His embrace of the Father's will! Because of Christ's great obedience, God seated Him above the highest heaven and gave Him power and authority over all things!
After the horrific fiery ordeal that Christ endured, there was no smell of fire on Him! After His resurrection, He walked with some disciples on their way to Emmaus. In His discussion with them, He did not focus on all the pain He had suffered, or how difficult it had been to be falsely accused, and to forgive those who had inflicted all that pain on Him! Instead, He emphasized the fact that the scriptures had been fulfilled in every detail!
There was no bitterness, self-pity or sadness in Him. There was no smell of fire on Him! The Father's great salvation for all humanity, His love, trustworthiness and glory were revealed through His complete obedience! The power of His life was shown to the pagan world in that moment of history when Jesus prayed, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." His resurrection proved that life is stronger than death!
What a wonderful lesson this teaches us! As we, as believers, fearlessly and in the love and joy of the Lord, endure persecution from the religious world within and outside of religious organizations, a testimony that glorifies our Savior is established. As we love, forgive, and focus on the living Christ within us, a revelation of the power of Christ goes forth to the world around us, for their is no smell of fire on us!
The natural man is unable to do this! Without Christ we can only love those who love us. We won't love those who hate us or disagree with us. The wars, the fights, and all the evil we see, prove this. If we go through difficulties and suffering without drawing on the power of the Christ within us, the smell of fire will remain on us. We will be unable to forgive, become bitter, and be filled with discontent and other negatives! These hinder the love of God from flowing out through us. We may even become angry at God for allowing so many hardships to come our way. The smell of fire reveals our wrong ideas of God.
It takes the power of God's life within us to love our enemies! If believers do not avail themselves of the love that has been poured into their hearts in the Holy Spirit, the smell of fire becomes evident. They lose their testimony of having a living Savior and of being a new creation! They need more of the cleansing fire of God to burn away the thinking resident in the natural mind which is against Christ.
"No smell of fire" is the testimony of the overcomers! It is the result of faith in God, faith in His ways, faith in His promises, faith in His abiding presence to keep us and to present us without fault or blame with joy in the presence of the Father and the holy angels! All glory to God and His great salvation in Christ!