“they fell bound into the fiery furnace” (Daniel 3:23)
Here we are with another bible story we are all familiar with. The story of three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were thrown into a fiery furnace in the land of Babylon when it was ruled by Nebuchadnezzar. We can probably all recited the account of three boys in a boiler, and how God delivered them. Simple bible story, right? Or is it so simple?
You see, the account of these three Hebrew children can evoke some pretty strong emotions in any Israelite who hears it. That’s because the mere mention of a fiery furnace brings back memories of their ancestorial past. They would know all too well the Hebrew word for furnace. It is the word kur. And it does indeed mean “fiery furnace.” Like red hot, boiling over, sizzling, scorching incinerator. So why is that word important to an Israelite? I’m glad you asked. You see, there was a time when their ancestors walked through a fiery furnace, as opposed to being thrown into it. Like somewhere around two million of them. It happened back when the Hebrews were in bondage in Egypt. Deuteronomy 4:20 reads, “The Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance.” No, there was no actual furnace in Egypt that Pharoah baked the Hebrews in. It is merely a metaphor that helps us better understand the sort of pain and suffering these ancient Israelites endured. And it was a prelude to the evil torture Hitler brought upon them.
But there’s more that the word kur evokes in the hearts and minds of an Israelite. They would not forget what their father Abraham saw when he awoke and looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah one morning, watching “a dense smoke, rising from the land like smoke from a furnace.” (Genesis 19:28). They would well remember how God burnt the twin cities that were filled with evil practices. Kur would also help them remember the account of God’s presence on Mount Sinai when we are told, “the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like the smoke from a furnace.” (Exodus 19:18). So, you see, when you say the word furnace (or kur) to an Israelite, their mind expands with thoughts that are more than about three teens with a piping hot problem.
Now, that brings us to ask ourselves the question as to what the thoughts of a fiery furnace should evoke in you and me. You see furnaces are not limited to the Old Testament. They are also found in the New Testament. They will be in use in a future time. Jesus talked about purging out evil people in Matthew 13:42 by saying they will be “thrown into a fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And how can we forget what John wrote in Revelation as he talked about how “the fifth angel sounded his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from the sky to the earth. The star was given the key to the shaft of the abyss. When he opened the abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace.” (Revelation 9:1-2). These verses ought to prod our hearts to the mission we have to share the gospel with everyone – before it’s too late for anyone.
So, you see. Three boys in a boiler, is not just a simple bible story – now, is it?