Bible: Nevertheless, God rescues

Apr 6, 2020 by

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I almost drowned in the ocean once. I consider myself a strong swimmer, and that afternoon I confidently waded out from the beach and slipped under the waves. Except that those waves began to batter me as a rip current tore me from shore.

Roth

Roth

Just when I had come to the conclusion that this was when and where I was going to die (to my surprise, since it didn’t fit the arc of my life narrative), three lifeguards came out of nowhere, dashed into the surf, formed a human chain in the rough water and tossed me one of those Baywatch orange floaties on a rope. I got rescued.

Esther’s uncle Mordecai hopes in the God who rescues. “Who knows,” he speculated with his beautiful niece, perhaps “you have come to royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Thus Esther was spurred to action, arranging a series of feasts with king Ahasuerus and Haman that culminated in her outing Haman as the kingpin behind the plot to destroy the Jewish people (Esther 7:6).

Events moved quickly from there, and Haman is hanged on the very gallows he had built with such relish to hang Mordecai (7:10).

So too the prophet Isaiah claims Israel’s future beyond the belly of Babylon. “For Jerusa­lem’s sake I will not rest,” says the Lord (Isaiah 62:1). “The nations shall see your vindication,” God continues (62:2). The people shall be given a new name and a new crown — no longer Forsaken and Desolate, but My Delight Is in Her and Married (62:2-4).

The Bible is a rescue story. The Scriptures recount chains of human disasters, strings of sins, idolatries and miscues, followed by God stepping in to rescue his people.

God rescues from kidnapping, from superior military might, from famine, from empire (Genesis 14; Judges 6; Ruth; 1 Kings 19). God rescues the people from slavery and Philistines (Exodus; 1 Samuel 7).

All along the way, God is rescuing the people from themselves — their fickle idolatry, their penchant for cruelty, their recourse to moral expediencies — Isaiah’s “robbery and wrongdoing” (61:8). God’s fourfold promise to save the people ends not with their safety but with their knowing him (Ex. 6:6-7).

All of which makes the Bible not a morality tale but the story of human life with all its waves and rip currents, walked before the Lord in the land of the living (Psalm 116:9). This is us.

Nevertheless, God rescues.

Why does God rescue his people? Moses claimed that if God allowed the people to die in the desert, then Egypt would think God weak (Num. 14:15-16). God’s glorious name was on the line.

But Moses knew that the reason deeper still was God’s faithful heart, “abounding in steadfast love” (Num. 14:18).

One thousand years later, the apostle Paul would echo Moses’ words: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13).

In our language of God-with-us, sometimes we forget God is also for us. God rescues.

God is not merely chaplain to history’s sidewinder contortions. God is active and involved, providentially co-working with human life, or injecting the miraculous, always drawing all things to his good ends for those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

God is not like the idols of the nations: blind, deaf and of no account but for their bloodthirstiness. “You do see!” exclaims the psalmist. “Indeed you note trouble and grief, that you may take it into your hands; the helpless commit themselves to you; you have been the helper of the orphan” (10:14).

God rescues his people, Christ’s church, as it journeys through history — burnt, shot, bled and exiled. Or it’s the church collapsing in on itself from the pressures of culture and the weight of apathy.

Nevertheless, God rescues.

Yet human history is the strange canvas for God’s rescue, and the cross is the stranger sign still.

Rescue meant survival in Esther’s story. And for Isaiah? Yes, it meant a return to the land and Jerusalem restored, “righteousness and praise” springing up before all the nations (Isaiah 61:11).

But there was something more: a nation transformed by their walk through fire and water, a nation that knows God, that is growing deeper into their identity as “the Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord” (62:12).

Brad Roth is pastor of West Zion Mennonite Church in Mound­ridge, Kan., and author of God’s Country: Faith, Hope and the ­Future of the Rural Church ­(Herald Press). He blogs at ­DoxologyProject.com.


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