The Man in the Furnace – Gospel in Life

The Man in the Furnace

Tim Keller |  May 7, 2000

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  • Suffering
Daniel 3:14-29
RS 113-2


The book of Daniel teaches us about the Israelites while in exile. After living for centuries in a culture in which the cultural institutions supported their belief in God, they found themselves in Babylon, which was a religiously pluralistic society. This big city had many gods and many moralities. This naturally created tension because the Israelites believed in the one true God of the Bible.

In a similar way, how do we live as believers in a pluralistic society? We may be accused of being intolerant of those who don’t believe like us. Or we may face hard questions about our God allowing unjust suffering in the world. How do we handle that? Today’s passage from the book of Daniel helps us navigate these issues. First of all, let’s take a look at the golden image, which addresses the problem of tolerance, and then we’ll look at the fiery furnace, which addresses the problem of unjust suffering.

Understanding Daniel 3:14–29

The story in Daniel 3 shares the struggles of the Israelites trying to keep their faith strong in a society that believes in many gods and has various moral standards. This is like how Christians today live in a world where people hold loads of different beliefs. This story tackles two big problems: how to show respect for all religions in our diverse world, and why bad things and suffering happen if God is all-powerful and good. The golden statue and the fiery furnace are symbols used in the story to help us unpack these issues.

1. The golden statue

King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue in Babylon might represent the many gods of Babylon or the power of the empire. This brings up the topic of religious diversity in our multicultural world. The idea here is that peace can only happen when we respect each other’s beliefs and don’t insist that ours is the only right one. Christianity teaches tolerance, love, and self-sacrifice, and it’s important that Christians live these values as a way of standing up for the truth.

2. The fiery furnace

The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shows how suffering can test a person’s faith. The presence of a supernatural figure, known as the Angel of the Lord, points to Jesus as the one who existed before his birth and the one who ultimately answers our questions about suffering. The belief that God suffered for us, and faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, can give us comfort, growth, change, and understanding when we face tough times.



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