You likely know of Biblical heroes Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, but not by those names. Just as Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon renamed the prophet Daniel (calling him “Belteshazzar”), so he renamed those three friends of Daniel who had been taken captive with him from Judea in the 6th century B.C.
Hananiah had his Judean name changed to Shadrach. Mishael was dubbed Meshach. And Azariah became known at the Babylonian court as Abednego. (cf. Daniel 1:6,7)
You also likely know the account which displays the heroic faith of these young men. To summarize, Nebuchadnezzar made a gigantic gold image and commanded all his subjects to bow down and worship it. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah refused, and informers brought that to the attention of king Nebuchadnezzar.
(By the way, why don’t we rename him “the Nebster.” Naah, let’s make it Nebby.)
Nebby was enraged and dragged the three before his throne. He gave them an opportunity to recant and bow down to the image. He threatened them with severe punishment if they stood their ground, which of course they did. So Nebby told them that they would be “…cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
Then in the same spirit of the Egyptian pharaoh who had defied Moses, the foolish, arrogant Nebby added these laughable words: “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
We are compelled to admire the response of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “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. 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 3:17,18)
Temper tantrum throwing Nebby became apoplectic at that point. He commanded that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal. How that temperature increase was quantified is not known to this writer. But Daniel the chronicler of the event tells us that the furnace became hot enough to cost Nebby the lives of a few of his henchmen. It blazed up and killed those henchmen when they led Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah to the mouth of the furnace!
The faith of these men, filled with that peace which passes understanding, was such that they recognized it might NOT be God’s will to deliver them from that violent and dreadful death. Their faith reasoned along these lines:
“Lord, perhaps you have determined that our captivity under this cruel and capricious tyrant is about to end. Perhaps You purpose to bring us home to Your courts in Heaven, to serve You our real King there. We rejoice in the knowledge that Your service is perfect freedom.
Lord, You can indeed deliver us from this dreadful decree, but You can also make this violent death but our portal to everlasting bliss. This vain despot might be relishing the thought of seeing us writhe in pain, but we consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Through the wisdom and knowledge You have given us and our friend Daniel, we know that the pain will be slight and momentary even from an earthly perspective. Even if the king and his servants don’t realize it, we know that the human body cannot endure such circumstances for more than seconds. Physical death will overtake us very quickly.
And we are assured that you will give us dying grace even in those final seconds of earthly life. We believe that instead of ending our earthly days cringing in hopeless despair, we will in this burning perceive the dawn of Your Spirit’s work to purify our souls finally and completely as we enter Your presence.
And so we look upon what is about to happen – either some extraordinary wonder by which You will glorify Yourself and show Yourself to be the LORD, or Your allowing the king to kill us – with a hearty, bold, confident, and even joyful assurance and expectation.
By Your grace we are prepared for whatever You have in store. Lead on, O King eternal!”
Finally reader, you likely know the conclusion of the matter. Jehovah God showed Nebby just what kind of saving, delivering God He was, is, and ever will be. As they were cast into it, a divine figure suddenly appeared in the super-heated furnace with His three faithful servants. God recorded for His people of all subsequent ages this infallibly true, miraculous account of His power to save temporally as well as eternally.
The Bible says (Daniel 3:27) that not even the smell of smoke was upon Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah after their ordeal. God did deliver them. And the same God is able to deliver you when you are cast into whatever kind of hot “furnace” comes your way.
But even if He does not, by faith you can come through your trial smelling like a rose.