And if Not

22 December 2007

Last year my brother made my mom this decorative shelf that has the words "and if not" in raised relief along the front edge. I've been meaning to type out the meaning of it for a while and make it into an attractive presentation for mom to mount near the shelf, so people can figure out what it means. I finally got around to that and was impacted anew by the story behind it.

One of the most dramatic moments of the Second World War occurred when the British army was helplessly stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk. When the German army had launched its surprise offensive into western Europe, the British had little choice but to dispatch their ill-prepared expeditionary force. Unable to stop or even slow the German advance, the tattered British force was quickly pushed across mainland until they were cornered on the shores of France. With the sea at their backs and the unstoppable Germans at their front, the British were facing certain slaughter. Desperately the expeditionary force radioed London to request an emergency rescue, but the Royal Navy simply did not have enough ships to retrieve them. It appeared that the British army would be all but wiped out before the war had really begun. Upon hearing the news, the expeditionary force radioed back a response. Three cryptic words beamed repeatedly across the English channel:

-and if not-

To the eavesdropping Germans, the message probably made little sense, but in London , they knew exactly what the words meant: “Even if we are not rescued from Hitler’s army, we will stand strong and unbowed”. The words came from Daniel 3:16-18 when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego faced down the trial of the fiery furnace. Rather than giving up and conceding to Nebuchadnezzar, they steadfastly proclaimed:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defence
to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to
deliver us from the furnace blazing with fire and out of
your hand O King, let Him deliver us. And if not, be it
known that to you, O King, that we will not serve your gods
but we will…worship our God anyway”.

Thankfully there was no fiery furnace for the British that day. Upon hearing the predicament of their troops, the British people themselves responded by taking off across the channel in anything that could float, from steamers and freighters to fishing boats and row boats. Nearly 350, 000 British and Allied soldiers were delivered that day, and the event has gone down in history as the miracle of Dunkirk. All the same, those three words-their message of defiant faith-remain today as an example for all the faithful who stand steadfast in the face of tribulation.


Carol said...

That is beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I've never heard that story.

Christy said...

I always love to read the Why of unusual blog names - this is the best reason for a blog name I have ever come across, I love the story - one that I have never heard. thanks!

Elisabeth said...

amazing story... i love it!

Anonymous said...

I THOUGHT that sounded like a quote from Daniel! (Though I was puzzled when I opened the page and found a WWII story...)
What an inspiration to me!