But If Not

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up (Daniel 3:16-18 KJV).

Notice the “but if not!”

After King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden image for all those in Babylon to worship; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to participate in that vain religious service (verses 8-12). Nebuchadnezzar, although very angry, gives them another chance to worship. He tells them that if they refuse to bow before his image, he will throw them into a burning fiery furnace. Taunting them, he says, “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (verse 15). They refuse again (today’s Scripture).

It is fascinating that these three young men did not worry about the matter. They told Nebuchadnezzar that if their God wanted to deliver them, He would. But—and here is the really neat part—they said that even if God would not deliver them, they would still not worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image! Here is confidence in morals, men with strong convictions, not afraid to risk their lives for upholding the truth of the God of the Bible.

Nebuchadnezzar commands his officers to heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual (verse 19). He will mercilessly exterminate these three young Jewish men for rejecting his religion. Tied up, they are thrown down alive into the flames. Nebuchadnezzar sees an amazing sight. There are four men, walking around unharmed! That fourth man “is like the Son of God” (verse 25). Nebuchadnezzar finally sees the truth—the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the “most high God” (verse 26).

Their God has indeed delivered them from Nebuchadnezzar’s weak hands. Those three young men escape totally unscathed, having “[through faith]… [q]uenched the violence of fire” (Hebrews 11:34). The lesson? God will be faithful in preserving Israel forever, no matter how violent and extreme her persecutions!