[Preliminary note: The girls call my brother and his wife "Tio" and "Tia." My sister-in-law is Filipina, and when she married my brother, I asked what children called their aunts and uncles in the Philippines, and that's what she said. What she didn't say is that her myriad nieces and nephews who actually live in the Philippines call her and my brother "Auntie Rome" and "Uncle Chuck," while my little Anglo girls are the only ones calling them "Tia" and "Tio." But...no matter, everyone's happy. And for the record, the girls also call each other "Ate" (pronounced ah-tay, meaning "big sister") and "Sanse" (pronounced sahn-say, meaning "little sister." Always doin' our best to be multicultural. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.]
When my brother and I were growing up, we took part in yearly musicals at Wheaton Bible Church. Anyone else out there remember these? Anyone? Bueller? OK, maybe not. They were Bible-story based musicals or stuff derived from Music Machine, etc. Chuck usually got some great lead part or at least the funny man part, while I was always relegated to the chorus and playing the kazoo. But...no professional jealousy there or anything. Our absolute favorite one was called "Cool in the Furnace." (I'll let you figure out the Bible story on which it was based. Take a minute. Got it?) Chuck got the main part: Daniel, who acted as the narrator.
My mom has audio cassettes of some of our musicals, and the girls discovered "Cool in the Furnace." They absolutely love it, and what a blast it was for me to REWIND and listen to our little selves circa 1981. Daniel's voice hadn't even changed yet!
Now every night right before bed, both girls start clamoring for "Tio, Tio!", which is code for "Cool in the Furnace." We turn out the lights, and the musical kicks off with me (and the other kazoo players) and segues into the first song, which the girls dance around to with wild abandon. I wouldn't say that the words are particularly deep theologically--"Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego learned some lessons they want you to know, they had funny names and they lived far away, but they set an example you can follow today"--but the story's all there, and it's presented clearly.
So why the other night when they were dancing and singing for the nth time to this recording, did my eyes fill up with tears when I heard Elaine lisp "Shadrach! Meshach! A-BED-NEE-GO!"? (And no, it wasn't because of my kazoo playing). All of a sudden it hit me--man, we are still talking about these guys. Didn't this incident happen in like, 570 B.C. or something? This meglomaniac king builds a big statue and every time the music plays, everyone is supposed to bow down to it, and if you don't? Fiery furnace. I can picture so clearly a massive crowd of people face down, and then there are these three young men--we're not even sure how old--maybe their voices had just broken...and they're standing up. Standing up tall. Alone.
I always love their response to the king too when he tells them bow down or go to the furnace and even their god won't be able to save them then, and they reply calmly, "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But either way, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." Either way.
Immediately they're seized and dragged to the furnace, which scholars believe was set into the side of mountain or hill. Any time God could have intervened and called a halt to the whole thing. But He didn't. He let those young men be dragged away and thrown into a fire so hot, that those who threw them in were immediately consumed by it themselves. The three men fell, tied, into the fire, and that could have been the end of it.
Except the king, who was apparently peering into the fire (from a safe distance), suddenly saw figures in the fire. Untied. Walking around. (Hey, I don't want to read anything into the Bible that's not there. But when I picture this scene in my head? Those guys are dancing around. Singing, too.) And of course there was a Fourth in there with them. When the king called into the furnace, the three men walked out, by themselves, unharmed.
There were a lot of different ways God could have played that scene. Maybe the split second before they were bound together and thrown in, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego accepted that He really wasn't going to miraculously intervene. Imagine their joy and surprise at the way He chose. Sometimes God works quietly, in the heart, in the attitude, in the aftermath. And sometimes He just flat out shows up. In a big way.
And because He did that day, those guys with the funny names not only set an example we can follow today, but some 2500+ years later, two little girls can dance and sing the story and its outcome to His glory. And their mom can look on with tears in her eyes.