Posted by: pmarkrobb | November 17, 2016

But even if He doesn’t

i found myself revisiting the story of three young men and a fiery furnace recently in preparation for a one-week men’s group focus on the first three chapters of Daniel.  Most, if not all, will know the story well.  Ruthless King Nebuchadnezzar has just been given a divine revelation about the rise and fall of empires from his day through the arrival of Jesus.  Yet even more amazing than the most comprehensive prophecy of world history in the Bible was the fact that God revealed the king’s dream (in vivid detail) to Daniel.  There are numerous instances of dreams being divinely interpreted in Scripture, but there is only one time when the actual dream was revealed to the one God chose to deliver its interpretation.

As the dream chapter (Daniel 2) narrative draws to a close, we find Nebuchadnezzar bowing in worship telling Daniel, “Truly, your God is the greatest of gods…”  Yet in the span of just a few verses, as the furnace chapter begins, the scene opens to Nebuchadnezzar’s ninety-foot-nine-inch gleaming gold idol.  Before we’re quick to leap on the bandwagon of condemnation of the king’s epic reversal of worship, I wonder how many times this is true in our own lives.  How many throne changes per day do our heart’s average?

The people of Babylonia are summoned and gather around the gleaming “ninety-foot-nine” and are ordered to bow when the music begins.  Somewhere in the crowd, likely out of plain sight, three young men remain standing as the first notes ring out.  Their defiance escapes immediate notice, but it is not long before some royal tattlers run to the king to report it.  “But there are some Jews – Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego …” the astrologers urge.  “They pay no attention to you, Your Majesty.  They refuse to serve your gods and do not worship the gold statue you have set up.” (Daniel 3:12)  Nebuchadnezzar flies into a rage and orders the three be brought to him.  He offers a second chance.  Bow or be burned, he shouts.

The finish to the story is epic.  The fire in the furnace is so hot that the guards who are tasked with administering the king’s punishment, die in the process of throwing the three young men into it.  But it is not the blazing heat of the story which struck me in reading.  It was the undercurrent of character in the story’s three main characters which most captured my notice.  More specifically, a single statement in their larger declaration of defiance.  “But even if he doesn’t…” (v.18)

We know how the story of these three men and the fiery furnace ends.  The angel of the Lord appears in the midst of the fire.  As it burns bright and hot, the king sees four distinct figures.  He calls out to the young men and they walk out from the furnace completely unharmed, without a singe or scent.  And Nebuchadnezzar once again finds himself bowing in worship to the God of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (Yes, these are their real names.  Not the one’s most of us know them by.  Why don’t we know their real names?  Why do we refer to them as the names which specifically reference Babyonian gods, that were given for the purpose of stripping every bit of their true identity from them?  Not me anymore!)

The words and resolve which begin verse eighteen have special significance in my life.  Significance in a story which did not end like that of these young men.  Mine had the “He doesn’t” ending.  i cannot possibly tell it well enough here, but suffice it to say God chose not to rescue or heal.  Walking the road of that story introduced me to the distinction between the “He is able to save us” and “He will rescue us“ declarations of faith in verse seventeen and the truest and fullest declaration of faith … “But even if He doesn’t.”

i invite you to write those words on your heart today.  For they tell the full truth of God and His presence in our story.  Our troubles in this life do not always have fiery furnace rescues.  They are sometimes, “He doesn’t.”  The bold and true faith of the three friends was not in the outcome of their story, it was in the God of the outcome.  It was not in the “He is able” or “He will,” it was in the “But even if He doesn’t.”  May this also be true of us.



  1. Such a great truth and perspective Father! Thank you for sharing it through Mark. “But even if He doesn’t…..” We often miss the depth and beauty of You, Father, as we pursue the “He gives”, when You are “taking away”.

    Oh, how Your thoughts and ways are often unlike my hoping of them to be. 🙂 But always “higher”!

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
    declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
    Isaiah 55:8-9

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