Three little words today: “But if not . . .” And once again, it was Amy Carmichael who brought these to my attention. The context is Daniel 3:16-18. The three young men are threatened with the fiery furnace if they will not bow down the false god. Nebuchadnezzar asks them: If I do this, who will snatch you from my hands? Their reply is: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 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 your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.”
Amy refers to this passage in this selection from her book, Thou Givest . . . They Gather:
Some years ago we were caught in the turmoil of Law Court trouble [Note: Amy rescued Indian children from temple prostitution]; it lasted for many months, and utterly exhausted those of us who were submerged in it. During that time a friend came for a visit, and his (as it seemed to me) light faith was a trial, not a help. Of course, we should win, he said–“Power over all the power of the enemy”–was not that our Lord’s own word? What need for anxiety? Everything would be all right. I remember thanking God for the Psalms with their cries of depth. This shallow sureness got me nowhere. I could not forget “But if not . . .”
I do not think we should ever forget that “must” of our Lord Jesus, spoken just after the shining word about His coming: “So shall also the Son of Man be in His day. but first He must suffer many things” (Lk 17.24-5). They followed a suffering Savior, the warrior souls and heroes of faith all down the ages . . ..
Of course, this brings to mind that powerful eleventh chapter in Hebrews wherein is recounted all those who “by faith” “did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us, that apart form us they should not be made perfect.”
May God give us the grace to be able always to say: “But if not . . .”