TODAY’S READING: Daniel 4–6
There were four deportations from Jerusalem to Babylon (605 BC, 597 BC, 586 BC, 581 BC) with Daniel taken in the earliest one. Some scholars say the opening chapters of Daniel are more about Nebuchadnezzar than Daniel, but it seems they are more about prayer and about God than about any man. Yes, Nebuchadnezzar had earthly power and authority. Yes, Daniel and friends were given knowledge, skill, and understanding (Dan. 1:17). Yes, Daniel worked hard, earned favor, and astoundingly served for over 60 years as a senior civil servant (as a foreigner!) for the superpower of his day. But the opening six chapters of Daniel direct our attention to the God who answered prayer and delivered the faithful representatives of the God of heaven, those who knew when to refuse to bow to the powers on earth, even if it meant fiery furnaces or lion’s dens.
It was May of 1940. The dreaded German Panzar Division had swept across Europe and had the British Army pinned down at Dunkirk. The British and French generals thought that the narrow twisting roads and paths through the Ardennes Forest were too small to allow the mass movement of the large German tanks and machinery. However, German General Heinz Guderian managed to maneuver the large tank force through the Ardennes and was ready to strike. The British commander was able to get a communiqué back to Britain that consisted of just three words, “but if not!” Those three words sparked a surge of courage, determination and downright grit throughout the British military and the entire civilian population. Those three words brought about the bravest, most unorthodox successful rescue of any army in the pages of history.
Those same three words to a constituency biblically literate enough to know they originated in Daniel also galvanized a nation to pray, with King George calling for prayer from all his citizens. And pray they did. God delivered on the beaches of Dunkirk just as He did at the fiery furnace and the lion’s den. Yet, the declaration “but if not” transcends deliverance; it is a stake in the ground, the contention that as long as God is glorified, we will be satisfied whether by life or death.
Missionaries are not guaranteed safety among the peoples of earth, but we are guaranteed the presence of Jesus. We know God is able to deliver us, but if not, we still won’t bow. What’s the worst that can happen? We go to our heavenly home and God uses what seems gory for His glory among the people He sent us to love, warn, and woo. After all, martyrdom is God’s idea, not the devil’s. God is the one who sent His only Son to die for the ransom of all peoples. The devil is astute enough to know with Tertullian that “the blood of the martyrs is indeed the seed of the church,” so he distracts, divides, seduces, confuses, and pesters us enough to remove our attention from God’s mission. The devil tends to revert to making martyrs when his bloodlust overcomes his senses. Those that die for Jesus are neither fools nor heroes—how can they be when God is the One who choses that death? “But if not!” is the cry of the missionary. It is the joy that whether by life or by death God will be glorified among the nations.
 Tim Throckmorton, “But If Not.” Circleville Herald. https://www.circlevilleherald.com/comment/columns/but-if-not/article_9501e7de-5131-5f24-b78e-69e48586969f.html (accessed August 19, 2019).