Nebuchadnezzar: The Fourth Man in the Furnace
“But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25).
No wonder the king was confused.
You throw three men, bound with ropes, into the furnace.
They don’t die.
The ropes burn off, but the men don’t burn.
They get up and walk around inside a blazing inferno.
Then a fourth man shows up. What’s up with that?
When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the flames, he expected to see the young men roasting to death. Instead, he saw them walking around, unharmed and unbound, and a fourth man walking with them. He called him “a son of the gods,” which is an amazing insight for a pagan king. It’s a Babylonian way of saying, “That’s the Son of God!”
Who was the fourth man? I believe it was the Lord Jesus Christ himself. This is an Old Testament appearance of the Son of God in bodily form. He stepped across the battlements of heaven, walked down the starry staircase, stepped into the blazing furnace and said to the flames, “Cool it!” And they did. That made it very comfortable for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
I am struck by the fact the Lord Jesus appears only once in this chapter. Where is Jesus in Daniel 3? He is in the furnace waiting for the young men. You can do the math yourself. Outside there were three, inside there were four, and outside there were three again. Jesus never manifests himself, except inside the furnace, at the very moment when they most needed to see him.
What a lesson this is for all of us. So often we go through life for days and weeks without any consciousness of the Lord’s presence with us. But when trouble comes, when the flames lick at our feet, when life tumbles in around us, then we discover Jesus has been by our side the entire time. It is in the fires of life that we experience the presence of Christ most powerfully. He is always there, but he makes himself known in the fiery furnace.
Are you in the furnace today? Be encouraged. You are not alone.
Lord Jesus, when our faith falters, show us your glory! Open our eyes to see you standing by our side. When we are afraid, we will trust in you. Amen.
Musical bonus: The carol Child in a Manger comes from an old Gaelic melody. Even though it is found in many hymnals, I think many people are not familiar with it. Here are the lyrics to the first verse:
Child in the manger, infant of Mary,
Outcast and Stranger, Lord of us all,
Child Who inherits all our transgressions,
All our demerits upon Him fall.
I hope you’ll listen carefully as Sarah Brightman sings Child in a Manger.