"But if not" are three words that should call to mind three young Hebrew boys, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Who are these three, you might be wondering? It's likely you know them better by their Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It was King Nebuchadnezzar, of ancient Babylon, who changed the names of these three from their Hebrew names of Hananiah, which meant "Yahweh is gracious," Mishael, meaning "who is what God is" and Azariah, "whom Yahweh helps." He gave each a new name with a meaning that included the name of a Babylonian god. Hananiah became Shadrach, meaning "may Bel protect his life," Michael became Meshach, which means "command of Aku" and Azariah was given the name Abednego which means "servant of Nebo." What a travesty against the Lord to remove their names that honored God and give them names of honor to false gods.
However, while Nebuchadnezzar could change their names, He could not change their hearts. Even while bearing the names of Babylonian gods their trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remained steadfast. This is most clearly seen by the confidence these three demonstrated when facing a fiery test that threatened their lives. The account of this is recorded in the book of Daniel, chapter three.
In chapter two of Daniel the well known dream of King Nebuchadnezzar is recorded, and in chapter chapter three we read of the king erecting "an image of gold" 60 cubits high and 6 cubits wide (Daniel 3:1). It is thought that this statue was an image of himself, because King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that his subjects bow down and worship the statue (Daniel 3:4-5) or face the consequences:
"And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." (Daniel 3:6)
Remaining true to their God, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused and responded with some of the most inspiring and faithful words in all of Scripture:
"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.'" (Daniel 3:16-18)
Three proclamations: 1) "Our God..is able to deliver us," 2) "He will deliver us from your hand," and 3) "But if not..." The third proclamation speaks three powerful words of strong and prevailing faith.
Do we have that kind of faith? When facing trials, tests and tribulation, do we have the kind of faith to respond as the three young Hebrew boys did? Their simple and straightforward response should be remembered by their three proclamations: 1) My God can... 2) my God will... 3) but if not ... I will will worship my God and not bow to another.