“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 (NIV)
Daniel 3 records the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – one that I am sure every Sunday school student has heard. They defy the orders of the king knowing that the punishment is certain death. I recently read this story, and there was one line that stuck out to me that I had never noticed before – “But even if he does not”.
Maybe it is a product of our media culture where the heroes of our favourite movies and TV shows are always able to avoid the enemy’s (often needlessly complex) traps, but the fact that the 3 Jews survived the day isn’t a surprise.
The truth is, when standing up to the king, they did not know they weren’t, in fact, sacrificing their lives. All they knew was that in that moment they had no choice but to risk their lives to obey God. God doesn’t always spare His people, there are many martyrs throughout history that stood up for God and paid with their (earthly) lives.
Their statement “but even if he does not” is not a statement of doubt but of great faith. Faith that there is a much greater reward to being obedient to the King of Kings than obeying an earthly king.
I have never been faced with a life or death choice in whether to obey God or not. I have faced situations where I truly was not sure how everything would work out. Though, those circumstances pale in comparison to the events of Daniel 3, they serve as reminders of how I need to trust God when I don’t know what will happen next.
One example of this is my summer between high school and university. I spent that summer working at a camp north of Toronto. If you have ever worked at a camp, you know that the outside world can get a little lost in that closed community.
I had been accepted and was planning on attending Asbury College in Kentucky. About 2 weeks before I was to arrive on campus, I got news that due to a clerical error my spot at Asbury was in limbo. Summer was coming to an end, I was miles from my parents, who lived in Florida at the time, and didn’t have much time during “business hours” to deal with getting things figured out. On top of all that, simply going home and getting a job was not an option. I didn’t have a visa to work in the USA, just one that allowed me to live there. There was no obvious answer if things didn’t get cleared up for me to attend Asbury.
I remember becoming completely overwhelmed at lunch one day and having to leave the dining hall with another staff member. I don’t remember the words she used, but I do remember the feeling of relief when I was reminded that God was looking out for me. He would guide my path, and I needed to trust that He had a plan.
Thankfully, within a few days the error had been cleared up, and my spot was waiting for me. I look back with great fondness at the four years I spent at Asbury – I had amazing experiences and learned many lessons, both academically and spiritually. I am very thankful that they were part of God’s plan for my life. But even if they hadn’t been, I am confident that God would have directed me on a different path and used it to draw me closer to Him.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced much higher stakes, and a more important choice, but the principal is the same. I, like them, need to trust that the God I serve is watching over me, and I can trust Him to deliver me.