BUT IF NOT…!
Vimal R. Ram
As I was reading the third chapter of the book of Daniel, I was captivated by these words, “But if not…!” (v.18). Just these three words from the lips of the God-fearing Jews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, eventually brought great glory to God in the whole province of Babylon! Did these words mean that they doubted God’s willingness to save them from the fiery furnace? Certainly not. They had already declared, “Our God is able…!” So, what did these words imply?
Their fearless and open declaration right after that statement before the great crowd reveals not only their complete trust in God but also their love for Him. When one truly loves the Lord, nothing and no one can separate him or her from the love of God—neither tribulation, nor death, nor the fiery furnace (Rom.8:35-39). The three Jews were determined in their resolve not to bow before the idol, even if their God did not save them from the fiery furnace; they chose to love Him, trust Him and be faithful to Him till death. This is how the Lord wants us to love Him. Oh that we would love Him in this manner! Then He need not say to us, “Nevertheless, I have this against you that you have left your first love…!” (Rev.2:4).
Let us visualise the scene. A huge golden image set on the plains of Dura in the province of Babylon, the musicians playing their instruments, the people of different nations and languages and all the high officials of the king falling down and worshipping that golden image, obeying the command of King Nebuchadnezzar–except that the three young Jews were standing erect fearlessly, defying the king’s orders. What would we have done in such a situation?
Certain Chaldeans who noticed the three Jews standing at once reported it to the king. He was furious, and his attitude towards them changed. What a scene it must have been! After warning them, he gave them one more chance to obey his orders. The whole crowd stood watching them, holding their breath, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego courageously stood before King Nebuchadnezzar and said, “We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 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 even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
And you know what? An unseen Person was also watching this scene! Guess who? The Lord God of these Jews, whose eyes run to and fro upon this earth, round-the-clock, especially upon them who trust and fear Him and hope in His mercy (Psa.33:18;2Chr.16:9). He was watching them along with a host of angels who also desire to look upon these things (1Pet.1:12).
Time must have stood still as the king’s fury rose. At once the king commanded the furnace to be heated seven times over and ordered a few of his mighty men to bind Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them in. Little did the king know that the God of these three Jews was watching all that was happening there. There must have been great rejoicing in heaven over the courage of the three young men who stood firm in their faith in the living God and did not compromise even in the face of painful death. And that was the precise moment for an un-perplexed and undismayed Saviour to come down and save them. The fourth Man in the fiery furnace was “God who is able to save,” taking a stroll with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. We can only imagine their joy as God Himself walked with them in the fire!
Now it was the king’s turn to be amazed and shocked at what he saw in the fiery furnace. He stood up, terrified to see the three men untied and walking freely with a fourth Man who resembled the Son of God. When they came out of the furnace untouched by the fire, not even its smell, the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, our God, was greatly glorified. When our faith in the living God gives us the courage to declare “but if not…”, God proves His unmistakable power in ways beyond our imagination.
The Crown Of Life
So, come what may, let us go ahead fearlessly, ready to lay our lives if need be, so that the name of our Lord is glorified in our land of idol worshippers. Let us love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind. Let us know Him well and be confident that He is able to keep what we have committed unto Him against that day. And, whatever may be the situation, we shall be able to say, “But if not…! I shall be faithful to Him unto death…” and we shall find the lover of our soul, the Lord Jesus, waiting for us with the crown of life at the pearly gates of heaven! Hallelujah!