“Even if he doesn’t”

One of the most powerful and well-known passages in Scripture is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They, like all in Babylon, had been commanded to pray to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden statue but refused. Threatened with death, they replied powerfully,

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve† your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, CSB)

The faith of these men is inspiring. They trusted God above all else. Even in the face of death, they knew he was the only one worthy of worship. “Even if he does not rescue us” they would still worship him only.

We know the story, of course. They were thrown into the blazing fire, left for dead. But a fourth man, one like “a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25) was there with them in the fire. In the end, God rescued them. We are right to be inspired by this story. We are right to be encouraged by their example of faith. But we should not forget these words: “Even if he doesn’t.”

This is hard for us to get, particularly in the west where we’ve built up this idea that God being for us means we’re going to get all the things we want. But God doesn’t work like that. God being for us means we get something better than our trivial temporal concerns—and better than our important ones, too. We get God himself. We are called by his name, made to be his people, given new life and the sure promise of eternity with him.

And this doesn’t change, even if he doesn’t seem to come through for us on what consumes so much of our mental energy. He knows what we need, better than we do, and he provides it. But sometimes his provision doesn’t look as we’d expect.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego understood this. They got it. They knew that, as Daniel Akin wrote in The Gospel Project’s session on this passage, that,

Regardless of the potential immediate outcome, three things were clear: 1) God’s servants bow down only to Him and no one else; 2) God’s servants trust in God’s sovereign purposes no matter what; and 3) God’s servants trust in God’s power and protection and leave what happens to His providential plan.[1. The Gospel Project, Vol 6: Exile and Return, “The God Who Deserves Our Allegiance,” p. 26]

We live in strange days. I suppose we always have. They might only get stranger from here, and there will undoubtedly are times coming when we are called to compromise ourselves and our worship of the true God. But the God we serve is the same God Daniel served. The God who has shown us time and again that we can trust him.

“Even if he doesn’t.”

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