In my youth, I had an illustrated Bible that I disliked immensely. I disliked it because it scared me. We are talking about a bible that was probably published somewhere between the late 1970s to the early 1990s. The illustrations were colorful, very detailed and they scared me. I kept the bible hidden, I rarely carried it to church but it did get used. You see, my mother was often unwell due to her kidneys not working properly, so every now and then if she had a bad Saturday night that was plagued by insomnia, we didn't go to church that Sunday. I am ashamed to say now, as a kid I didn't like going to church, so I was thrilled on these days when we didn't go.
Why? Well, I am a night owl by nature. So I would ALWAYS be up on a Saturday night after I was sure my mother was sleep watching late-night television, listening to music, or reading a book. I am not a morning person, so after getting up Monday-Friday at 6 am for school, I didn't relish doing it again on a Sunday. Lastly, I grew up in a Black church and for those of you who do not know what that means, back then that meant if church started at 10 am, you MIGHT make it home by 3 or 4 pm. Then you get a few hours before bed and then school on Monday...it was a whole hassle for me, God was still working on me.
Anyway, on those Sundays we didn't go to church we would have Bible study with my mother. Sometimes she read from her bible, but sometimes she would have me read from my Bible, yes that dreaded illustrated one. One Sunday she had me read from the book of Daniel about the fiery furnace. Quick Re-cap: King Nebuchadnezzar built a Golden Idol, everyone had to bow down and worship it when the music started or be thrown into the fiery furnace. Everyone was willing to do it except these three Hebrew Boys Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When the music started these 3 Hebrew boys did not bow down to the idol and it made the King very angry and he told them that if they did not bow down and worship this idol they would be thrown into the furnace, and then asked the bold question of "what God will rescue you from my hand?" (Daniel 3:15)
I do not know I could have been as brave as these three, especially when you consider their response in verses 16-19: "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 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," -It is verse 18 that takes me out-"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."
Now stay with me, this is my adolescent mind thinking again -what do you mean "even if He does not?" After that bold declaration, I need you to know you will be delivered because now the King is angry and he ordered the furnace to be made seven times hotter than it already was. The bible says it became so hot that the soldiers who tossed them into the furnace died from the heat it was giving off. So for me, "even if he does not," is not an option. I remember so vividly the picture in my bible of the furnace, that looked like a huge brick pizza oven, and on one page watching them being tossed in and on the next page watching them stand in the furnace among the flames with a man in a white robe standing among them. They are all smiling and happy and everyone in the crowd looks deathly afraid.
Now that I am older and maturing spiritually, reading this passage verse 18 takes on a whole new meaning for me. It is a powerful statement of faith. You are facing certain death, imminent death, and you believe God can and will save you but "even if he does not," he must have allowed this horrible death to happen for a reason, for the greater good and I am submitted to his will either way. You know, growing up I always heard the sayings "God answers prayers and God is always on time. So when I prayed and hoped, I didn't want to experience an "even if he does not," moment. I want my way, I want this thing, this job, this situation to swing in my favor, etc. and when it didn't I was mad at God and I would say and think things like, "this is why I do what I do, and act the way I act and don't go to church and read my bible regularly, you ain't listening to me anyway." Thank God for his love, patience, mercy, and grace.
I have experienced quite a few "even if he does not," moments in my life and I'm still experiencing them. I have even experienced those moments like Israel did in 1 Samuel and asked God for something that was not good for me and God was trying to keep me from it, but because I was so insistent, I got my King Saul thinking it was the answer to my prayers, and it ultimately wound up being my problem. So now that statement is one I hold close to me as not just a declaration of Faith but a declaration of trust in God, who knows best. I can pray and ask, but I also leave it to God's will because for me "even if he does not," I will still trust Him, love Him, believe in Him, and submit to his will....and pray there are no fiery furnaces in my future and lions dens...that was a scary illustration too. I kind of wish I still had that bible though.