Summary: You meet the Lord in the furnace long time before you meet him in the sky
Title: The Furnace and the Sky
Text: Daniel 3.19-30
MP: Jesus is always with us, if only we have the eyes to see him.
Part of what fascinates me about the Bible is that it shows me how to see the things that I cannot see. Seeing
C.S. Lewis said it so well: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks with us in our sorrows, and shouts to us in our pains.” Now matter the circumstance, he is always there – But how we perceive him changes. Much like that old poem “Footprints,” just because Jesus is walking with us, doesn’t always mean we’ll see two sets of tracks. Developing the ability to see him and to see what he is doing in our lives will help us to understand when life takes the turns it does. We’ll see that in this morning’s lesson.
- Carnegie & the Libraries – Seeing the simple need. (The guy who lent the books, following with it, etc…)
o Andrew Carnegie’s education and passion for reading was given a great boost by Colonel James Anderson, who opened his personal library of 400 volumes to working boys each Saturday night.
- In the Furnace with Rack, Shack, and Benny
- Rich Mullin’s “You meet the Lord in the furnace, long time before you meet him in the sky”
- Elisha’s servant (2 Kings 6)
- Refining Steel (Bessemer Process) – How Carnegie made his money!
May want to use the Poland odyssey as an illustration.
You need to see three things:
1. You need to see what to do – and we saw that last week. (Men of Issachar)
2. You need to see what you have to through (They went into the furnace)
3. You need to see who is going to go through it with you.
The thing about the Bible that fascinates me is that it teaches me how to see. As a Christian, of course, it is my desire to see the Lord – but frankly, I don’t want to wait to die before I do that. The texts we read are designed to show us who God is and learn to appreciate him for who he is. This morning, is no exception.
But I have to warn you; the thing about seeing clearly is that what is seen isn’t always what you want to hear. Earlier we read a song that I think captured it so well: ‘You meet the Lord in the furnace, long time before you meet him in the sky.’
I don’t like furnaces. The Good Lord knows I even keep our thermostat down in the winter! If I’m honest with myself, my hope is that I’d see the Lord in his glorious return – but I’ll skip his presence in the daily tragedies that we call life. I want to avoid those things that will be used to shape me. Now, if it were up to me, this Christian life would be nothing but one mountaintop experience after another. I’ll skip the valleys thank you.
But as good students of the Bible, we know if we try to live that, we’ll precisely miss out on being with the very Lord we claim to we want to see. As the psalmist says, ‘Yea, even as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” What? Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff – two devices of correction like, say the belt and the wooden spoon – they comfort me.
Walking with the Lord involves valleys, furnaces, and other things we’d like to avoid. But in this morning’s text, I want to show you that we need to go there. The struggles, the failures, the tests are precisely where we will meet the Lord, a long time before we meet him in the sky.
As we read the story, I want to highlight the Lord’s presence in the furnace. I want you to see where the Lord is when things get tough, and I want you to see the implications of that. You’ll remember from two Sundays ago, what led up to this point. The King had this plan to set up an idol that was 90’ high. And then, in one of those community building events, he said, when the bagpipes start playing, everybody is bow down and worship. Well, that’s what just about everybody did – everybody except for our three friends Rack, Shack, and Benny. So, the King thought, maybe they just didn’t hear – and he gave them a second chance. Um, guys – when you hear the music, just get down on the floor and do your thing.
“King,” they said, “Our hearing is just fine. Problem is – we’re not going to do it. Our God is a lot bigger than a 90’ high statue. He’s able to deliver us. And, if not, it’s still just the wrong thing to do.