It was really fun.
Awhile back, my church had a s’mores fest. People set up their fire pits — not close to the church — but in its big parking lot.
There was a long table with all the s’mores fixings — graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. Another table had hot chocolate, apple cider and water.
We sat around the fires in our lawn chairs talking, while our church’s worship team played music. We’d get up to roast the marshmallows for our s’mores.
I had a great time, but noticed when I got home that my sweater smelled like smoke.
So, not wanting to smell like the inside of a chimney when I wore my sweater to work, I tossed it into my washing machine.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about a fiery encounter that included three Bible times men named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
You may remember the story.
It begins after the men along with many other Israelites are carried off into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar’s forces and taken to Babylon.
At one point, the king has a 90-foot-tall gold statue built and orders everyone to bow down and worship it.
But those three Israelites won’t do that. They’re only going to bow down to the one true God.
When the king learns this, he’s furious and has them brought to him.
He threatens to have them thrown into a fiery furnace if they don’t comply.
And, the angry king asks, what god will deliver them out of his hand?
Our friends don’t back down.
“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king,” they say.
Then they show some God-fueled courage.
The men say that even if God doesn’t deliver them, they still won’t serve the king’s gods or worship the golden image.
Now, the king is hotter than the furnace.
But not for long.
The fuming king has the furnace heated seven times hotter than normal and orders mighty men in his army to bind our three friends and throw them into it.
The soldiers waste no time. The three Israelites are still wearing their hats, cloaks and tunics when they’re bound and thrown into the furnace.
And because the furnace is overheated, the flames kill the men who took our friends up and tossed them in that inferno.
The Israelites fall — still bound — into the furnace.
Suddenly, the king stands up.
“Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” the ruler asks.
Everyone agrees the king’s math is correct.
“But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire — and they are not hurt — and the fourth is like a son of the gods,” the astonished king says.
The king comes near the door of the furnace and says: “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out and come here!”
Did you notice the king didn’t try to order that fourth person — who looked like a son of the gods — to do anything?
I think that was a smart move.
Anyway, the three men come out.
The king and his counselors gather around the men and see that “the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men.”
Not one hair on their heads is singed, their cloaks aren’t damaged — and the Scriptures say the men don’t even have the smell of fire on them.
I think that means they didn’t smell like smoke.
At any rate, Nebuchadnezzar starts praising God and saying the Lord sent an angel to deliver his servants who trusted in him — setting the king’s order aside and yielding their bodies rather than serving or worshiping anyone but God.
The king then orders that anyone who says anything against God will be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to rubble.
“For there is no other God who is able to rescue in this way,” the king says.
So, what does this ancient story have to do with us today?
Quite a lot, actually.
For one, you don’t have to be tossed into a furnace to go through a fiery trial.
Life can heat up pretty fast when you’re going through a health, financial or relationship crisis.
And you don’t have to be bound with a rope or chains to be tied up with fear, shame, worry, guilt or regret.
But look at the three Israelites. They were so firm in their resolve to obey the Lord’s will that not even public humiliation or the king’s death threats could dissuade them.
The three men still boldly proclaimed their devotion to God.
Do you suppose they figured it would be better to be in God’s good graces than a human king?
Or do you think they loved God so much that betraying him wasn’t an option?
The men knew our almighty God could deliver them, but even if he didn’t rescue them — on this side of the sky — they still refused to be disloyal to him.
Were the men ever afraid?
I would think so, but I believe God gave them that extra portion of grace, bravery and determination right when they needed it.
And l believe he’ll do the same for us — as we trust and rely on him.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had incredible, fire-proof faith, which remains as an inspiration to us all.
And now, as I think about their story and my stinky sweater, I’m amazed even by the miracle of them walking out of that furnace — not smelling like smoke.
I see so many lessons in their story, too, like: how God often gives us furnace mates (those who walk with us through fiery trials) and how life may heat up even more when we do what’s right, but how God never leaves us.
Whether we’re walking through a fiery trial or roasting marshmallows, our God is the best furnace mate and fireside friend we could ever have.
*English Standard Version of the Bible.
“…When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….” Isaiah 43:2-3.