Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Fire of His Presence

This past week has been an awesome week.  From seeing God move in the people around me, to experiencing my own encounter with The Most High God, I have been exceedingly blessed to be a part of what God is doing!
Sunday, November 10th, while praying in the prayer room of my church, God began to show me Daniel 3, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  Now, when I opened up to Daniel 3, the first thing I thought was, “I have read this story at least 50 times.  What is there that I haven’t seen before?”  But of course, the Holy Spirit gives us great understanding and as I read on, I began to see some new things.  However, it wasn’t until Wednesday evening at the last night of our fall encounter that God revealed the entirety of the vision.  If you would like to follow along, I will be using The New King James Version throughout this post.

Daniel 3 Summary

Daniel 3:1 begins the story with king Nebuchadnezzar making an image of gold.  The size was approximately 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide (according to translation from cubits to feet).  As we continue the story, we see the king send word to bring everyone together to the dedication of the statue and once they were all gathered, he decreed that everyone, when they hear “the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image… and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” (v. 5-6)

So the people heard the music and they bowed down.  However some people came up to the king and pointed out the children of God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who did not bow to worship the image.  They went further to goad the king by saying, “they don’t even serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.” (v. 12) In essence, they were saying, they don’t give a rip about you or the things you care about!  The king is upset and calls them over asking if it is true and even gives them another chance to worship warning them if they do not they will be thrown into the furnace.

At this point we see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answer, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.  But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (v. 16-18) 
King Nebuchadnezzar was now enraged and commands the furnace be turned up 7 times hotter than before.  Then he commanded that the strongest men come and bind up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  They were bound on top of all the layers of garments they wore and cast into the furnace.  Because of the king’s decree to heat up the furnace 7 times hotter, the flames killed the men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.  

After seeing the three men go in, king Nebuchadnezzar was shocked to look up and see four people in the furnace.  At the sight, he said, “Look!  I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” (v. 25)

He proceeded to call them out of the furnace and examined them, seeing that all of their garments were not singed or even smelled of smoke.  The only thing gone was the bindings.  He then decreed that everyone begin to worship their God and if anyone speaks against their God, they would be cut to pieces and their property burned.  Then he promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.

 The Message of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego 

In the beginning we see the king making an image of himself.  This image is a representation of his “flesh”.  First we see that he makes the image of gold.  This is representative of trying to make ourselves worth more or more valuable than we truly are.  See, God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).  In fact, we see that Jesus said that the “first shall be last” (Matt. 19:30) and to be great we must be a “servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  When we exalt ourselves, it is defiant and arrogant to God.  However, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t stop there.  He also made it bigger.  The idol was 90 feet tall and 9 feet wide.  This shows a magnification of the flesh!  Magnify means to enlarge or make bigger.  Psalm 34:3 says, “Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”  Magnifying the Lord means to take one small aspect of Him (since there are so many, it’s hard to pick just one) and make it bigger so you can study all the details of it and worship Him for it!  SO, imagine how offended God is getting right now that the king is exalting and magnifying himself.  He builds this idol on the plain of Dura which is in Babylon.  Babylon itself is representative of defiance and rebellion against God.  Throughout the Bible we see Babylon continually rebelling against and defying God in all things.  So, in defiance, king Nebuchadnezzar exalted, magnified, and glorified, his flesh.  All of that by itself, God could have ignored, because there are so many who do that in their lives.  But, then he continues his offence by ordering music to be played and all of the people to bow before the idol.

I want to begin this part by showing how Lucifer was created.  He was the brightest and sweetest sounding angel, before his defiance.  The Bible says in Ezekiel 28 that he was created with music in him!  The praise music continually flowed from him on the mountain of God.  Then his pride, his glorification and magnification of himself caused him to fall.  With his fall, he took God’s praise.  God, when he made man, gave us the position Lucifer once held.  The honor of praising and worshiping God!  We have vocal chords (stringed instrument) to sing, hands (percussion) to clap, lungs that support the voice (wind instruments), all created within us to praise and glorify God!  When Nebuchadnezzar began to play the music with all the instruments, and then command all the people, including God’s people, to bow, he was stealing God’s praise.  I believe at this point, God could not remain silent any longer.  He was fed up and determined to make an example of the king just as he had with Lucifer.

The perfect open door was when God’s own children stood against Nebuchadnezzar.  In the beginning, they were part of the group who fasted with Daniel, gaining the kings favor when they excelled in everything they did through their obedience.  The declined the kings best so that they could merit The King’s best!  So they had favor with king Nebuchadnezzar for their abilities!  This is why I believe he was lenient with them at first in giving them another opportunity to bow.  After refusing a second time though, the king’s heart was hardened.  At this point I believe God intervened similar to the way he had intervened in pharaoh’s heart towards Moses in Exodus 9:12.  God took control!  He had to be made an example of to all who would defy God and steal the praises of His people!

In his hardened heart, he ordered the furnace turned up 7 times.  When I read this, it puzzled me.  Why seven times?  Why not doubled or tripled?  Why exactly seven times?  God’s answer was, because first this is to show that God Himself was in control.  He chose the number of amplification!  And the number He chose symbolized completion.  It was the act that opened the door for Him to step into the furnace and meet His steadfast children!

At this time we see the men bound in all their clothes.  They didn’t even stop to steal their possessions and give them away.  The king bound them and had his strongest men escort them to the furnace.  Do you know that Satan will try to bind you, even with your “armor of God” covering you, he will try to make you think you are bound.  However, your bondage may be just the thing that tests you and leads you to your encounter!  Stand firm, as Ephesians 6 says!  

See, when they stepped up to the furnace, everyone who was present encountered God.  God’s glory is described in Exodus 24:17 as a “consuming fire.”  However, in Zechariah 13:9 and Revelation 3:18, it is described as a refining fire!  I believe that God’s presence is both but that it affects each one differently. 
First, we see the guards.  They were the strongest and the best!  I’m sure they were the pride of the king’s personal guard.  They probably were well cared for, given multiple privileges and honored for being the strongest and the best.  However, their status in the community did them little good when standing before the fire of God’s presence!  Devoid of purity and righteousness, the fire consumed all impurities until there was nothing left. They died in their self-righteousness and pride.

Second, we see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego!  They stood firm and trusted God.  At that point I can just see God canceling Michael or Gabriel’s trip and saying “No, boys.  You’re not going to visit humanity today.  Their absolute loyalty and trust demands that I go myself!”  I think God couldn’t stand it any longer.  The defiance, the theft, the rebellion were one thing, but the desperation, the boldness, the audacity and the unadulterated passion they had for reserving their praise for The Most High God, the KING of kings and LORD of lords was the shot heard across the heavens!  Seven times hotter as the dead men walked into the furnace, the impurities of flesh consumed and they were left pure in God’s sight, just as Isaiah was in Isaiah 6!  They entered in the fire of God’s presence and were the only ones to see God’s face in the Old Testament!  Even Moses could only see God’s backside!  Tommy Tenney states, in the book The God Chasers, “Dead Men See His Face” as he describes how repentance brings about God’s presence.  It is only when flesh dies that God can come close to us.1

The final piece of this message is the fire itself.  As it refines and purifies us, we see that the greater the fire, the greater the encounter.  God showed up and all the nations saw Him.  There was no question about it!  They could not doubt what God had done!

If we can turn our backs on flesh and let go of ourselves and refuse to bow to the demands of this world, we will enter into a greater encounter of His presence.  And with that, the provision, and favor that follows!
I challenge you to examine the fires around you.  Are they refining you?  Do you trust God to be with you in the midst of them?  God will provide a way out or a way through, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego told the king.  He will deliver you from the grasp of the enemy and bring you to a place in Him!  Trust Him and seek His face.

Revelation 12:11 says, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” (emphasis added by author)  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego did not love their lives to the death and stood firm in their testimony of who their God was and they were delivered!

God bless you as you seek and serve Him!

1.  The God Chasers, by Tommy Tenney:  Chapter 4, "Dead Men See His Face"
This is the book we are studying right now in Ladies Bible Study -
I strongly recommend this book to ANYONE who is seeking a deeper and more intimate relationship with God.  It will challenge you and stretch you and if you allow God to show you who He is, He truly will!  This has been an amazing journey and I can't wait to see what else God is going to do through this study!