“If It Be So”

IN 606 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar took the children of Israel captive to Babylon. Among these captives were three young Hebrews who were given the Chaldean names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. In addition to these three young Hebrews there was also Daniel, who became one of God’s outstanding prophets. All four of these young Hebrews were given special training by the king’s servants, and when Daniel was able to tell Nebuchadnezzar about his dream in which he saw the great human-like image, and interpret it for him, the king gave him a high position in the government.

Daniel seized the opportunity to request from the king that his three friends be given suitable positions in the government, to which Nebuchadnezzar agreed. Later Nebuchadnezzar erected a great golden image, and directed that all the officials in his government attend the dedication of this image. This, of course, included the three young Hebrews. It was further commanded that upon a certain signal played on musical instruments, all should bow down and worship this image.

The three young Hebrews properly concluded that this would be equivalent to worshiping a false god; that it would be idolatry, which was forbidden by the Law of their God. So when the signal was given they did not bow down before the image. This information was communicated to Nebuchadnezzar, and the three young men were brought before the king. The king decided to give them another chance, and told them, “Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the comet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”—Dan. 3:15

With resolution, the three young Hebrew men replied, “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.” (vss. 17,18) Here we have a remarkable display of faith, a faith that was based upon the promises of God.

The Resurrection Hope

The Apostle Paul indicated in Acts 24:14,15, that in the Law and by the prophets it was taught that there would be “a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” The three young Hebrews who refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image were undoubtedly of the ‘just’ class, and would know about God’s promises of a “better resurrection” for the faithful of Israel. Their faith meant, then, that if the God of Israel did not see best to deliver them at that time from the fiery furnace, he would surely deliver them from captivity in death in his own due time; hence their willingness to defy the king and rely upon the wisdom and love of God to deal with them as seemed good in his sight.

This was proper reasoning. Centuries later the Apostle Paul wrote, “If the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”—I Cor. 15:16-19

The Ancient Worthy class, of which Daniel and the three Hebrews were a part, did not understand fully the loving arrangement through the redemptive work of Christ whereby the dead would be restored to life. But the evidence is that they did have a hope of the resurrection, and it was this that made much of the difference in the manner in which they served God. Those who did not exercise faith in God’s promises, readily drifted away into idolatry and into other sins. Such would have had no scruples against bowing down to the great image which Nebuchadnezzar set up.

We Are Also Tested

The example of the three Hebrews is a meaningful one to us who have covenanted to do the Heavenly Father’s will. We have many assurances in the Word that our God is able to care for us in every time of need. With these assurances we should be able to meet the tests of faith and obedience which his wisdom may permit to come upon us. A crisis in our lives as Christians may be a temptation from the Adversary, but God permits it as a test of our fidelity to him.

And these tests come to us in many ways. Often small things are involved, and we find ourselves confronted with a derision as to whether we will follow the course of righteousness set forth in the Word of God, or whether we will take the easier way—the way, perhaps, of less sacrifice which would be more pleasing to the flesh. We know that if we choose the Lord’s way he is able to overrule to his own glory, and to our deliverance from the trial, if it be his will to do so.

But our decisions as followers of the Master must be based, not on the expectation that if we choose the hard way the Lord will lift the burden, but on what we believe the Lord wants us to do, regardless of what the outcome may be so far as our own immediate circumstances are concerned. True, we should always keep in mind, as the three Hebrews did, that our God is able to deliver us, and that he will deliver us in his own due time, even if that due time is not until our resurrection.

“But If Not”

Another meaningful statement in the reply of the three Hebrews to Nebuchadnezzar is contained in the three words, “but if not.” They were not sure whether it was God’s will to deliver them from the fiery furnace. But even so, they did not intend to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image, for, they continued, “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”—vs. 18

We are also given two viewpoints when confronted by tests of faith. The one is, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.” The other, “But if not” we will not serve other gods—neither the world, the flesh, nor the Devil. The three Hebrews knew that God would deliver them out of the hand of the king, but just how or when, they did not know. So with us, we are assured of ultimate deliverance into the kingdom, but just what the Lord’s providence may be in the meantime, we do not know; it is a matter of faith.

Three Hebrews Delivered

As it resulted for the three Hebrews, God permitted them to be cast into the burning fiery furnace, although they were so fully protected that the flames did not hurt them. When the king investigated he discovered that instead of there being three in the fiery furnace there were four! The fourth was “like the Son of God.” In other words, while the Lord permitted these faithful servants to pass through this “fiery trial,” his presence was with them and they were not injured. The fire had no power upon their bodies, “nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed.” They did not even have the smell of fire on them!

The Apostle Paul wrote that it was through their faith that these Hebrews “quenched the violence of fire.” (Heb. 11:34) Upon the basis of faith we, too, can pass through our trials unscathed. God is dealing with us as New Creatures in Christ Jesus. We know that our ultimate deliverance will be into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We know that this deliverance will mean the death of the flesh and all its interests. So regardless of what happens to our flesh, we know that the Lord is looking out for our New Creatures.

We have Jesus as our example. God permitted his enemies to put him to death. But Jesus, as a New Creature, came through his ‘fiery furnace’ uninjured, with not so much as the smell of smoke upon him! And so it will be with us. Our faith can quench the violence of fire also, even a fire which may destroy our flesh. But the violence of our trials will not harm us as New Creatures, and we will know that through them all our Heavenly Father’s presence is with us by his Holy Spirit, and by all the other means of grace which he is pleased to use in his love and mercy.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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