A couple weeks ago, I met a man with an interesting tattoo written across his bicep, though not in your typical tattoo green. “But if not,” I read aloud. When I asked what his tattoo meant, the man told me the phrase was from the Bible.
This is the story the tattooed man told me:
King Nebuchadnezzar II reigned over Babylon from 605 BC- 562 BC. He conquered Judah and the city of Jerusalem, taking young Jewish men of noble or royal birth as captives. The book of Daniel tells the survival and incredible faith of four Jewish captives: Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar decided to build an enormous 90-foot tall golden statue in modern day Iraq. He gathered all the important people in his empire and commanded them to fall down and worship the statue whenever they heard music. Soon, the beautiful melody of horns, harps, and pipes spread throughout the area. In response, people fell on their faces, hands outstretched in worship.
To Nebuchadnezzar’s fury, a report was brought to his attention. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, refused to bend their knee and worship the gold statue. In a rage, the king commanded that the trio appear before him.
“Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not worship the golden image I have set up? When you hear the sound of music, fall down and worship the image that I have made. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And what god will deliver you out of my hands?”
The three men replied without hesitating, “O King, we don’t need to answer you. Our God is able to deliver us from the burning fire, and he will deliver us from your hand. But if not, we will still not bow down and worship the statue.”
Much faith and courage is crammed into those three tiny words, “But if not.” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew the Sovereign Lord had the ability to rescue them from the king. They had no doubt in God’s powerful might. But if God decided not to rescue them, they still possessed the courage and the faith to stand in their convictions.
I asked myself, when my prayers are answered with “But if not,” will I still continue to trust in God?
King Nebuchadnezzar grew so angry his face became mottled from rage. He ordered the fire to be stoked to seven times its usual heat. The extreme temperature of the flames killed the soldiers throwing in the faithful trio. The king looked into the fire and, to his utter surprise, saw four men walking around the furnace instead of three. The fourth man, he claimed, looked like the son of the gods.
He called out the three men. Not only did God protect them from a fiery death, but from the smell of smoke as well. King Nebuchadnezzar praised God, blessing the Lord who saved his faithful servants.
After the tattooed man finished his story, I noticed that “But if not” is spelled with eight letters, the same amount of letters in the word “faithful.” The trio’s faithfulness caused a prideful king to praise the Almighty name of the Lord of Hosts.
Although a tattoo isn’t on my To-Do list, I had to admit this would be a pretty cool one to receive.
Where have you seen the results of faithfulness to a “but if not” in your life?
*Photo courtesy of here