fourth (adj.): ordinal number constituting number four in a sequence
man (noun): an individual human, a person
“But look!” he said. “I see four men, walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed! And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods!” Daniel 3:25
Here in Seattle, we have a wildly loyal and energetic football crowd. Every home game for our Seahawks is packed with fans dressed not only in jerseys and hats, but in crazy costumes, wigs, makeup, jewelry, and anything else that comes in neon green. I have yet to go to a game, but I have heard that these fans can get loud. Really loud. So loud, in fact, that when the noise from Century Link Stadium reached 137.6 decibels in one particular game, it broke records and registered as a minor earthquake (learn more here).
They call themselves the 12th man, implying that their noise and energy are a critical part of the team’s defense. That the cheering and support of these thousands is as beneficial as having one more player on the field than the other team.
That would make a difference, wouldn’t it? One more player.
It made a difference to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
They were in terrible trouble for refusing to kneel and worship a gold statue set up by King Nebuchadnezzar. He was so furious with the three of them that he ordered them to be bound by their hands and feet and thrown into a roaring furnace. He fired it up to seven times hotter than usual–so intense that the heat killed the men who threw them in.
I can’t imagine what those first moments in the furnace were like for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But we don’t get to hear it from their point of view. Instead, we are ushered to the furnace through the eyes of King Nebuchadnezzar. We are stunned–as he is– when we read that the three of them were “…walking around freely in the fire, completely unharmed.”
And even more amazing and reassuring for us is that there was a fourth man in there too. An angel? Jesus?
We aren’t sure exactly. But we know that the fourth man was God coming close. Coming to the rescue of his faithful followers. Coming to be with them in the fire. To free them, to calm them, to protect them. I love that they were simply “walking around” together in the threatening flames and the unbearable heat.
Don’t we need him to do this too?
To come close.
To rescue us.
To calm us and protect us.
To stand beside us in the furnaces we find ourselves thrown into.
No matter what fire we face, no matter what is heating up around us, we have the advantage of God with us. Having him on our side makes all the difference.
Invite Him in: Call to him from the heat, the flames, the bound-up places of your life. He knows what you need. He can protect you from the dangerous, hopeless places that you find yourself in. Picture him beside you as you “walk around freely” together. He will be right there in it with you.