But if Not

By Scott Cook I

n 1940, the German army surrounded over 300,000 British and French troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Germans had already forced the capitulation of King Leopold III and his Belgium army, leaving the combined British and French Army

on the verge of collapse. The best they could do was hold the line at Dunkirk and hope for evacuation. It was a dark hour! Then it happened! The Miracle of Dunkirk! A French and English rearguard fended

off the German attack for three days as over 300,000 troops were rescued. Both military and civilian boats were enlisted to save the allied troops. This great rescue began with these words: “but if not.” Today, it is difficult for us to imagine how the whole British nation knew what those

three words meant.

“But if not” is a quote from the King James Version of the Bible, from the book of Dan- iel. King Nebuchadnezzar commanded Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to worship a golden image of the king upon pain of death. The Hebrews reply to the king’s threat is one of the most celebrated lines in Scripture, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor wor- ship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18) The British people were Biblically literate; they knew what the British officer meant. The situation was desperate, it was impossible, and defeat was imminent. Surrender was unthinkable; they would not capitulate; they would fight to the last man. And this decla- ration of courage and strength catapulted the British people to rescue their troops, saving


England from German domination. As we think about the Moderator’s challenge to our General Synod, taken from 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Be watch- ful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong,” I think I can find no better summary of Biblical strength than “but if not.” Biblical strength is “but if not” strength because it does not depend on ability. “Finally, be strong in the Lord,” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “and in the strength of his might.” (Ephesians 6:10) Daniel and his friends were strong in the face of their impending death because they stood not in their strength but in the strength of the King of Glory, Jehovah of Hosts. Biblical strength surpasses all worldly power. Biblical strength is “but if not” strength, and it excels anything the world has to offer because its effective- ness is not contingent upon the outcome. “But if not”-strength empowered Daniel

The Associate Reformed Presbyterian

Synod Emphasis

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