But if Not

Judah had been in captivity for about 22 years. Some of the most prom­ising and well-favored young men of the Southern Kingdom had been taken captive and brought into Nebu­chad­­nezzar’s palace, where for three years they had been thoroughly indoctrinated in “the learn­ing and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” (Dan. 1:4-5) There is a reasonable probability they had been made eunuchs to further humiliate and sub­ject the captives in the indoctrination process, as well as having their Hebrew names changed to Babylon­ian names.

There is no record that these men, taken captive in their teens, had any contact with their families or their own culture during the time of their captivity. There were no caring support groups for them, nor were there any teaching tapes or “Christian literature” to keep their faith alive.

But despite having been fully in­tegrated into Babylonian society and palace affairs, there was still a burn­ing commit­ment in them to the God they had been taught to serve as children. That was even though they could have blamed Him for allow­ing them to be torn from their families and loved ones while in their youth.

In due time, Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. (Dan.3:1) The decree then went out across the kingdom that all the people were to bow and worship the image when the music played. Everyone responded to the decree except Shadrach, Me­­shach, and Abednego. 

When the Hebrews didn’t worship the king’s image, some politicking Chal­deans made sure that Nebuchadnezzar heard about it. The king was en­raged and called the men to him, demanding to know if the allegations were true.

When their political insurrection was confirmed, he allowed them to change their mind, telling them: “Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” (Dan.3:15)

Without hesitation,Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Dan.3:16-18)

The Hebrews didn’t ask the king for a few days to consider their answer, neither did they ask for time to contact their spiritual advisors to get a second opinion as to what they should do. They didn’t ask if they could make a quick trip to their local Christian bookstore to get a “How To” book on surviving a fiery furnace. Neither did they form a feasi­bility committee to check the king’s records to see if anyone had ever survived a burning furnace.

We need a similar “but if not” kind of faith and commitment toward our God. It’s a level of confidence that says we believe our God will deliver us out of every adverse circumstance, dis­appointment, the stronghold of the flesh, sin, sickness, and even the death we face. But if not, our confident trust in Him won’t be shaken. We’ll rest in His love for us and continue to believe that He is in control and has our eternal well-being in mind.

Are there still limits in your mind as to how far you’ll trust God? Have you set boundaries for your commitment to Him? Do you still have a “back door” open if He doesn’t respond in the way you think He should? Would you sell out your inheritance for the right price?

It’s time to seal the back door, throw away the price tags, and tear down the limits of our commitment. It’s time to stand up and believe that the God we serve is going to deliver us; it’s time to believe that He will bring us into our inheritance; it’s time to believe that He’s going to fulfill every word He gave to us.

But if not, we’re still not going to bend, we’re not going to bow, and we’re not going to buy the cheap lie the enemy wants to sell to us for a bar­gain basement price. Neither will we compromise ourselves with a governmental system that is already in the throes of total collapse.

We need to have the kind of commitment that looks the god of this world in the eye and declares, “We believe our God will deliver us out of every snare you’ve set for us; we believe He will deliver us out of every adverse circumstance you’ve devised against us; we believe He will deliver us out of every fire you’ve kindled against us, but if not, we will be delivered out of your hand!”

Are we still committed to the word that God gave us over the past years? As a year rolls into another and decades slip into the past, does the word that He will bring forth a company of sons continue to burn in our bosom? Is the word that He will bring deliverance and set the cap­tives free still a present hope?

Does the word that He will bring forth a generation of people who won’t taste death but who will be changed into immortality in the twinkling of an eye live on in us? Or have the years clouded our vision to the point where we wonder if such things are just “cunningly devised fables” concocted in the minds of illusionary men?

Are you fully persuaded that the One in Whom you believe is well able—not just barely able—to do what He promised and to keep what you’ve committed to Him? When the pressure is on and the battle rages; when everything around you is falling apart, and you’re so low that you’re reaching up for the bottom; when the darkness around you is almost suffocating, and you hear the taunting clamor of 1000 voices, does your faith still reach out into the integrity of God and believe that He will deliver you?

When the Lord asks you to stand in a situation where you have no prece­dent to look back to and no one to ask for advice; when you’ve prayed about something for the umpteenth time, and nothing changes; when everything you’ve hoped for in the natural dissolves before your eyes and you wonder if God has forsaken you: Does your faith still reach out in a confident declaration of “I believe God will deliver me, but if not…”?

Would your children stand in the faith you’ve attempted to instill in them if they were separated from you and had no “support group” for more than two decades? Or would they take the path of least resistance and bow to the slightest peer pressure?

Would you stand when everyone else was bowing down to an image—whatever that image might be? Would you continue to have confidence that your God will deliver you out of whatever “furnace” you’re in if you didn’t have access to ministry, conventions, meet­ings, tapes, or books for over 20 years?

These are questions that no one can answer until faced with situations that require such answers. What can be done is to settle it in our heart that our God is worthy of our trust and absolute devotion, regard­less of our present circumstances. We need to petition Him to bring us into situations that will produce the committed abandonment of knowing Him with the confidence demonstrated in those Hebrew captives.

The time for making such commitments is now.

 

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