The resolve of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego resonates with my own experience and articulates my own faith. It is also, I suggest, a resolve that has echoes of our Dissenting spirit.
Firstly, it affirms faith and confidence in the power of the God who “is able to deliver”. Faced with the prospect of the furnace of blazing fire the faith of these three is that God is greater than the flames and is therefore able to deliver them. In common with the Dissenters they affirm that God is also greater than any human king and can deliver them from such.
Secondly, it concedes an “if not”. It is one thing for us to affirm that God “is able” but many of us have had to wrestle with the anguish of instances where despite faith and prayer the desired result has not been the outcome. Hopes may have been raised but, humanly speaking, disappointment has come and faith has been dented. Some of us are even tempted to change “if not” to “when not”.
Thirdly, however, the resolve of these three is that they will hold on to faith – for which, perhaps, read “trust that God holds on to them” – even if not. The fiery furnace of daily life blazes and some do not escape its flames. Their resolve is echoed in the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane as he is about to be thrown into the furnace of Calvary: “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14: 36)
If faith is held on the condition that God rescues us from every furnace it is likely to be short-lived. The resolve of the three – and the One – is that even “if not” we will keep faith and, thereby, discover in the flames and on the Cross that God is with us.