If I Perish, I Perish

I’m not afraid of dying. I fear pain, but not death. Indeed, the older I grow, the more I understand the apostle Paul’s statement that he’s torn between dying and being at home with the Lord, and staying here for the sake of those left behind.

Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.
– Esther 4:16, ESV

There is an amazing backstory to what Esther has said above, and we won’t be going into that here. The book of Esther is not long and you would do well to read through it in one sitting. Suffice it to say, her people were in great peril. Esther is proposing something terribly risky above in her effort to gain relief for her people.

Esther is not being dramatic in saying, “If I perish, I perish.” One does not approach the king of Susa unbidden. To do so is a capital offense. Consider what would happen if you were to walk boldly into the White House and chart a direct course to the Oval Office. You would be ordered to halt, and if you refused to do so . . .

With that same confidence and spirit of defiance, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (a.k.a. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) refused to fall prostrate in worship of the golden image King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, a refusal which necessitated their death.1 When news of their resusal reached the king, he was enraged and ordered that they comply or be thrown into the furnace and burned alive.

If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.
– Daniel 3:17-18, ESV

We can hear faint echoes of “If we perish, we perish,” or “we must obey God rather than men.”2

At the passing of King Belshazzar, Darius was made king, and Darius was kindly disposed toward Daniel, intending to set Daniel over the entire kingdom.3 This, of course, roused the jealousy of all the other high officials in Darius’ kingdom. They plotted against Daniel and managed to persuade the king to sign into law that anyone who prayed to any god other than the king for thirty days would be put to death in the lions’ den.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.
– Daniel 6:10, ESV

Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!”
– Daniel 6:16, ESV

Similar examples are found throughout scripture. Men and women are ordered to forsake God, but refuse to do so and are sentenced to die.

God delivered Esther, Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Daniel. But this is not always the case. Over the years, many have refused to bow the knee or to renounce their faith, and they have paid for that refusal with their lives. Every apostle of Jesus, save one, died as a martyr, the exception being John. Following their example many have died over the centuries, an our brothers and sisters in Christ continue to die this very day for refusing to deny Christ, “for they loved not their lives even unto death.”4

As I write this, Christians in Sudan are undergoing severe persecution, many of them paying with their lives. Beatings, rape, murder, siezure of property, kidnapping. The Sudanese believers are refusing to bow the knee. They refuse to “worship the beast,” preferring to be killed rather than shame the Lord Jesus.

Any one of us could be ordered to make a similar choice. If so, may God infuse us with the courage and grace of Paul to say, “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death,”5 and with Esther, “If I perish, I perish,” and ultimately, with Stephen, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”6

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon

X – @DamonJGray
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1. Daniel 3:5
2. Acts 5:29
3. Daniel 6:3
4. Revelation 12:11
5. Philippians 1:20b, ESV
6. Acts 7:60

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Damon J. Gray

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