But if Not…
Published on July 08, 2024
But if not

At the end of Daniel Chapter 2, we learn that King Nebuchadnezzar, at the request of Daniel, set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, “over the affairs of the province of Babylon”  Daniel 2:49.  I don’t know exactly the extent of their tasks or the jurisdiction of the offices they held, but they were appointed directly by the King.  I think it is safe to say they were government officials that held significant leadership positions in Babylon. 

Honestly, I had not noticed this before now, or maybe just never thought of it, but when King Nebuchadnezzar set up his infamous golden statue, those that were invited to the “When you hear the Music, Fall Down and Worship” dedication ceremony, were the local government leaders…  

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

Daniel 3:2

Who Was There?

The more I thought of the fact that they were officials in the Province of Babylon, the more I thought of the intense pressure they must have felt to comply.  I mean, they weren’t just individuals – they were officials.  And on top of even that, they were officials at the request of Daniel – who we know from the end of Chapter 2 that he “sat in the gate of the King”.  Let’s also not forget that all of them (including Daniel), were Jews who had been taken into captivity by Babylon.  I can’t imagine much more we could add to their situation that would have increased the pressure on these men to comply. 

Their story is familiar to us.  Of course, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not comply.  They did not bow down to the king’s statue.  It is important that we remember the historical account of these men (I prefer the term “Historical Account” over “Bible Story” because it reminds us this is true history – not a fun and fictional “story”).  There is no Biblical requirement for unlimited submission to government officials who are abusing their proper role.  We have been discussing this idea in recent articles.  Check out our article, “Being a Faithful Steward in Civil Government” for more on this idea.  Another great resource for a discussion on that subject is a sermon that was preached by Jonathan Mayhew in 1750 called, “A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers”. 

Every time we hear lower-level officials in our own government just recite the obligatory lines their superiors require of them, may we remember the remarkable courage and boldness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men stood up for what was right – (quite literally stood up in this case) despite what must have been unimaginable pressure to comply.  May we be inspired by their example to never be a part of evil in an effort to try to escape the anger of a tyrant.

Angry Official

So, when the King was notified of the non-compliance of his Province of Babylon leadership trio, the Scripture tells us he got really angry (I bet he did!) and sent for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  The King tells them essentially, they need to fall down and worship the statue.  If they do, then all will be well.  If they will not comply, they will be thrown into the burning, fiery furnace!  I love their conversation!  It is especially their response to the King that I wanted to share with you today… 

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

BOOM!  I love their response! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego without question know that God is able to deliver them from the burning fiery furnace.  They do not, however, know whether or not He will choose to deliver them. 

But if not... we will not bow down

Our Nation Today

I believe this is exactly the situation we are in today in our nation.  Certainly, none of us would doubt, or question whether or not God is able to save our nation.  We all know He can do whatever He wants to do.  The following question is the one we don’t know…  We don’t know if He will…  Either way, we can confidently say with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us…”  The other part of what they say here is instructive for us as well, “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.”

So, we see very clearly here that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – though they don’t yet know what God will do – they are determined to do what is right, regardless of the consequences!  They know God is able to deliver them from the most powerful empire on earth at the time – they don’t know if He will.  But either way, they will be faithful!  They will NOT bow to the statue, and they will NOT worship the King’s false gods. 

But if Not

May we also live out the “But if Not” sentiment that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego boldly shared with King Nebuchadnezzar that day!  As it turns out, as we all remember from the familiar passage, they were thrown into the furnace that day.  They were also joined by the Lord Himself in the furnace, and they received no damage whatsoever – not even the smell of smoke!  I like to smoke meat, and every time I am out there, I smell like smoke for the rest of the day.  I can’t grill burgers without smelling like smoke!  When I smell that smoke on me from my grill, I often remember how God completely delivered His people that day from the furnace. 

We have to set our minds the same as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  We have to determine in our hearts that God can do as He pleases.  He can choose whether to deliver us from consequences, or not.  “But if not…”  We STILL aren’t going to bow…  We STILL aren’t going to submit…  We STILL aren’t going to worship your false idols…  Hey, King, you’re just gonna have to throw me in the furnace, or do whatever you have to do….  But I will do what’s right.  May we always stand and do what is right.  I hope you will be standing with me! 


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