Daniel 3:18
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
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3:8-18 True devotion calms the spirit, quiets and softens it, but superstition and devotion to false gods inflame men's passions. The matter is put into a little compass, Turn, or burn. Proud men are still ready to say, as Nebuchadnezzar, Who is the Lord, that I should fear his power? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not hesitate whether they should comply or not. Life or death were not to be considered. Those that would avoid sin, must not parley with temptation when that to which we are allured or affrighted is manifestly evil. Stand not to pause about it, but say, as Christ did, Get thee behind me, Satan. They did not contrive an evasive answer, when a direct answer was expected. Those who make their duty their main care, need not be anxious or fearful concerning the event. The faithful servants of God find him able to control and overrule all the powers armed against them. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst. If He be for us, we need not fear what man can do unto us. God will deliver us, either from death or in death. They must obey God rather than man; they must rather suffer than sin; and must not do evil that good may come. Therefore none of these things moved them. The saving them from sinful compliance, was as great a miracle in the kingdom of grace, as the saving them out of the fiery furnace was in the kingdom of nature. Fear of man and love of the world, especially want of faith, make men yield to temptation, while a firm persuasion of the truth will deliver them from denying Christ, or being ashamed of him. We are to be meek in our replies, but we must be decided that we will obey God rather than man.But if not - That is, "if he should "not" deliver us; if it should "not" occur that he would protect us, and save us from that heated oven: whatever may be the result in regard to us, our determination is settled."

Be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods ... - This answer is firm and noble. It showed that their minds were made up, and that it was with them a matter of "principle" not to worship false gods. The state of mind which is denoted by this verse is that of a determination to do their duty, whatever might be the consequences. The attention was fixed on what was "right," not on what would be the result. The sole question which was asked was, what "ought" to be done in the case; and they had no concern about what would follow. True religion is a determined purpose to do right, and not to do wrong, whatever may be the consequences in either case. It matters not what follows - wealth or poverty; honor or dishonor; good report or evil report; life or death; the mind is firmly fixed on doing right, and not on doing wrong. This is "the religion of principle;" and when we consider the circumstances of those who made this reply; when we remember their comparative youth, and the few opportunities which they had for instruction in the nature of religion, and that they were captives in a distant land, and that they stood before the most absolute monarch of the earth, with no powerful friends to support them, and with the most horrid kind of death threatening them, we may well admire the grace of that God who could so amply furnish them for such a trial, and love that religion which enabled them to take a stand so noble and so bold.

18. But if not, &c.—connected with Da 3:18. "Whether our God deliver us, as He is able, or do not, we will not serve thy gods." Their service of God is not mercenary in its motive. Though He slay them, they will still trust in Him (Job 13:15). Their deliverance from sinful compliance was as great a miracle in the kingdom of grace, as that from the furnace was in the kingdom of nature. Their youth, and position as captives and friendless exiles, before the absolute world potentate and the horrid death awaiting them if they should persevere in their faith, all enhance the grace of God, which carried them through such an ordeal. They add this,

But if not, to show they did not presume to tie God to this deliverance absolutely, for God is arbitrary, and knows how to deliver, and sometimes to suffer his saints to glorify him by suffering. It was therefore all one to them, which way of the two God would honour himself, they were resolved to venture suffering rather than sinning, and leave the cause to God.

But if not,.... If our God does not think fit to exert his power, and deliver us, which we are well assured he is able to do; if it is not his will, we are content, we are resigned unto it:

be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, be it as it will, whether we are delivered or not; we are not sure of the one, but we are at a point as to the other:

nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up; come life, come death, we are ready; we had rather die than sin: they were all of one mind, and agreed in this matter; a noble instance of spiritual fortitude and courage!

But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
18. But even if He cannot, or will not, do this, still we can never fall down and worship thy gods. The three men shew the same courage, the same unflinching determination not to compromise their faith, which were shewn by the loyal Jews in the age of the Maccabees (1Ma 1:62-63; 2Ma 6:18 ff., 2Ma 6:7 &c.).

Daniel 3:18יכיל denotes the ethical ability, i.e., the ability limited by the divine holiness and righteousness, not the omnipotence of God as such. For this the accused did not doubt, nor will they place in question the divine omnipotence before the heathen king. The conclusion begins after the Athnach, and הן means, not see! lo! (according to the old versions and many interpreters), for which Daniel constantly uses אלוּ or ארו, but it means if, as here the contrast לא והן, and if not (Daniel 3:18), demands. There lies in the answer, "If our God will save us, then ... and if not, know, O king, that we will not serve thy gods," neither audacity, nor a superstitious expectation of some miracle (Daniel 3:17), nor fanaticism (Daniel 3:18), as Berth., v. Leng., and Hitz. maintain, but only the confidence of faith and a humble submission to the will of God. "The three simply see that their standpoint and that of the king are altogether different, also that their standpoint can never be clearly understood by Nebuchadnezzar, and therefore they give up any attempt to justify themselves. But that which was demanded of them they could not do, because it would have been altogether contrary to their faith and their conscience. And then without fanaticism they calmly decline to answer, and only say, 'Let him do according to his own will;' thus without superstitiousness committing their deliverance to God" (Klief.).
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