Daniel 3: Our Friend in the Fire

I often hear parents with adult children use the phrase, “the bigger the kid, the bigger the problems.” With two children, ages seven and fourteen, my husband and I are potentially on the cusp of some of those “bigger” problems. In general, we can more easily solve our elementary-aged child’s problems. We are attempting to let our teenager be the problem-solver or advocate for himself before we step in, which can delay or disrupt resolution. 

Parents know that our kids will experience suffering as they grow up, and we want to prepare them without scaring them. We can ask God to use our own suffering to bear witness to our children that we have a faithful Redeemer and friend in the flesh and in the fire.

Our Faithful Friend

In the Daniel 3 story of the blazing furnace, Nebuchadnezzar’s self-righteousness puts God’s righteousness and faithfulness on display. The king creates an image made of gold, probably of himself (v. 1). He doesn’t just invite a few people, but everyone. The required list of attendees is long: the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, justices, magistrates, and all the other officials in the provinces to come and worship him (vs. 2-3). He doesn’t just sound one instrument to call the officials and all the peoples, nations, and languages to worship him, but every kind of music – the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, and bagpipe (vs. 4-5). This king really wants all the glory for himself.

When only three of all these officials, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ignore the call and refuse to bow, the king tries to intimidate and force them to worship him (vs. 12-15). When Nebuchadnezzar realizes they won’t be intimidated by him and sees them trusting in God, he loses his temper and attempts to silence them and God forever in the fiery furnace (vs. 16-19). But when he sees that they are safe in the furnace, he is not casual about the realization; rather he is astonished, rises up in haste, and declares to his counselors that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are servants of the Most High God—and then he promotes them (vs. 20-30). 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respond to the king’s threats with trust in their faithful God, “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us…but if not, be it known…that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (vs.17-18). As parents, we can demonstrate this same trust in God when we are placed in life’s fiery furnaces with difficult people or hard situations. It is God’s good pleasure that our children will, like the king, see that we are safe with him and declare that he is the Most High God. It is our hope that, unlike the king, our children would not stop short with astonishment, but would receive God as their own faithful friend and choose to trust in him too.

Our Friend in the Flesh

Sadly, the king is not the only bully in this story. In the previous chapter, Daniel 2, the Chaldean magicians attempt to trick the king into telling them his dream so that they can “interpret” it without any real work or power. When the king sees through their motives, they defend themselves with the excuse that “no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (2:11). But Daniel is given praying friends, real flesh-and-blood members of the family of God. God also gives Daniel power to both know and interpret the king’s dream, which brings these Israelite captives, rather than the Chaldeans, promotion and honor from the king. 

In chapter 3, the Chaldeans appear again, ready to exact revenge on these Jewish worshipers of God by tattling on them to the king for not obeying his command to worship the idol (vs. 8-12). They will not let these three men, who surely would have gone unnoticed, get away with serving their God. When the king observes the protection of the three men in the fire, he exclaims, “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” (v.25). As it turns out, there is a God who dwells with the flesh and in the fire! 

Our Friend in the Fire

Scripture goes on to reveal that this God is Jesus, who came in the flesh to dwell with his people. Jesus suffered, died, resurrected, and ascended so that we, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, could be unbound and safe with him in the fires of life. What the foolish Chaldeans complain to the king as untrue and impossible, God displays as true and his good and sovereign plan. 

Jesus didn’t start dwelling with his people when he became man. He has always dwelled with his people, from as far back as creation and in Old Testament stories, like this one with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Gen. 1:26; Dan. 3:25). It is our honor and privilege to declare to ourselves and to our children, from Scripture and in our own fires of suffering, that God’s people are safe and he is present with us.

God is not only with his people who trust him in the fire, but also with his people who are complaining in the wilderness and afraid and anxious in the storm (Ex. 16:2-15; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25; Mat. 8:23-27). Fear not moms and dad, nor tweens or teens – whether we are in stormy waters or hot fires, we are his, known by name and redeemed. In the end, the waters and fires of life will not overwhelm or consume us. He has made a way in the wilderness in Jesus and turned those rough waters into drink for his people by the Holy Spirit (Is 43:1-2; 19-20).

Like the Chaldeans, I doubt and distrust God’s plans and presence. I am tempted to make excuses and to scheme in order to appear capable and competent to those around me. Like Daniel and his friends, we are invited to pray, speak truth from God’s word, and watch God’s power displayed in our lives and the lives of our kids. 

When our teens find themselves in situations that feel like a fiery furnace, we can encourage them to trust that the triune God is our faithful friend. He is dwelling with us, and we are safe in his presence. Jesus is our friend in the fire.

If you want to learn more about gospel-centered parenting, we hope you’ll consider joining us for our 2024 conference in Dallas, TX, where we’ll take a walk through the book of Daniel. 

What does it look like to live in a world that is increasingly hostile to Christianity? Teenagers today feel the enormous pressure of a “you-do-you” culture. Discipling them to walk with Jesus in this modern “Babylon” feels somewhere between daunting and impossible. The Old Testament book of Daniel provides the encouragement we long for and the direction we need in a cultural moment that leaves us crying, “How long, O Lord?” Daniel offers the ultimate hope that one day God will bring all nations under his rule, and we will dwell with him forever! Our prayer is that in studying this book together you will be filled with hope, seeing more clearly the God who loves his people, who is in sovereign control over all things in his world.

Dr. Melissa Powell is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC). She is married to Chris Powell, Executive Pastor at North Shore Fellowship, and the mother of two children. An old dog, a good book, a big salad, and a long walk are a few of her favorite things.

More From This Author