HAVE YOU EVER found yourself in trouble and in desperate need of rescue? It happened to me once when I was at the beach. I had ventured out a tad too far and was surprised to find that I couldn’t feel the ocean floor beneath my feet. At first, my situation seemed under control. I began calmly propelling myself toward the shore, convinced that in next to no time I would touch down on the sandy base where I had been standing moments earlier. I soon realised, however, that I wasn’t making any headway. With increasing alarm, I intensified my efforts—but my struggle was proving futile; I was getting nowhere. Worse, I was becoming tired; my arms were dead weights and my breathing was laboured. I was in difficulty and I knew it. I started to panic.
Thankfully, help was close at hand; all I had to do was ask. I called out to a long-limbed mate who was in the water nearby. He realised the seriousness of my predicament and immediately came to my aid. ‘Here,’ he said with reassuring confidence, ‘hold on to me and I’ll take you closer to the shore.’ I could see that he was able and willing to get me out of trouble, so I put my trust in him and did what he said. In not much more than a minute, I was standing comfortably on the solid seabed, breathing steadily in and out and taking notice of the gentle sea breeze. Phew! I had been saved.
The difference a saviour makes
If you have ever been helped out of a place of critical need, you know the value of a saviour. When all hope seems lost, the very person who can rescue you turns up and is happy to help, no payment required. Hooray! Someone has come to save me! I’m going to be okay! Perhaps you cried tears of relief as the tension of your situation released its grip on you? Sighs. Smiles. Laughter. Declarations of gratitude. Fresh optimism about the future. A new appreciation of life as a gift. Thank you so much! You’ve saved my life! You’re a godsend!
That’s the difference a saviour makes. When you are trapped, oppressed or in difficulty, he rescues you from harm and carries you to a place of safety. When you are broken and wounded, she nurses you back to wholeness. When you are lost and in the dark, he shows you the way home. When you are empty and hungry, she feeds and nourishes you. When you are crushed and in despair, he gives you meaning and hope. When you are rejected and out in the cold, she invites you in to a place of warmth and belonging. When you are fallen and in disgrace, he advocates for you and restores you to a place of dignity.
A more disturbing danger
Most of us need to be saved from adverse circumstances at least once in our lifetime. Yet it isn’t only our circumstances that can turn against us. The day may come (if it hasn’t already) when you or I face a more personal, unsettling, menacing kind of threat.
Imagine: Someone in your circle is trying to bring about your ruin. Toxic rumours are being spread about you. Traps are being set for you. Accusations are being hurled at you. Your words are being twisted. Your work is being undermined. Your friends are being turned against you.
How are you going to survive? Your enemy is as ruthless as a shark coming in for the kill. Whatever else you do, there is one thing you must do.
You must pray.
THREE THOUSAND YEARS ago, there lived a king by the name of David who knew what it was to be hunted. He spent the better part of fifteen years running from his jealous predecessor—a crazed despot named Saul who ached to see him dead. On many occasions, David had to hide or flee to avoid being slain (1 Samuel 19:10-12,18-20; 20:1,24,42; 21:10; 22:1; 23:13-25; 26:1-4; 27:2; see also 2 Samuel 15:13-17; 17:9). At times, he felt overwhelmed, like he was drowning (Psalm 69:1-2,14-15; 144:7). He could easily have given up hope—if not for the fact that he had a mighty Saviour to put his hope in. When the wolves were snarling at David’s door, when the tongues of his accusers were wagging, when the cords of death were entangling him, who did he turn to? He turned to God.
Take a look at these snippets from David’s many prayers for salvation. Read them aloud, as if you are appealing to God Himself. Put some ‘oomph’ into it.
LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ … Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked (Psalm 3:1-2,7). … Save and deliver me from all who pursue me, or they will tear me apart like a lion and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me (Psalm 7:1-2). … LORD, see how my enemies persecute me! Have mercy and lift me up from the gates of death (Psalm 9:13). … Awake, and rise to my defence! Contend for me, my God and Lord (Psalm 35:23). … Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions! (Psalm 58:6). … LORD, save me! (Psalm 116:4).
Can you hear, or rather, can you feel the anguish spilling out of David’s soul? He is fearing imminent death, teetering on the edge of the abyss, grappling to know God as his saving Helper in the midst of trouble. He is throwing himself down before the LORD of Mercy and pouring out his unsanitised innards as if his life depends on it. No vanity. Nothing covered up. Nothing held back. And why not? He isn’t a religious professional putting on a well-mannered performance; he is a little child who desperately needs his Father to hear his cry and spring into life-saving action. LORD, save me!
David wasn’t asking for a theoretical salvation or for pie in the sky when he died. His need was NOW and his enemies were real; life was in the balance. His prayers, though, weren’t simply an outlet for his desperation. He had faith—faith founded on God’s proven record as a Saviour. God had saved Noah and his family from a worldwide flood (Genesis 6:17-18; see also 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 2:5). He had saved Lot and his family from a deluge of burning sulphur (Genesis 19:15-22; see also 2 Peter 2:7). He had saved Jacob from the wrath of his brother Esau (Genesis 32:11-21; 33:1-4).1 He had saved many lives from famine through Joseph (Genesis 45:5-11; 50:20). He had saved the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 13:31-41; 14:10-31). He had saved Rahab and her family from destruction in Jericho (Joshua 2:1-21; 6:17,22-23). He had saved generations of Israelites from foreign raiders in Canaan.2 He had saved David’s great-grandmother Ruth from poverty and alienation (Ruth 2:14-17; 3:1-4:17). And He had saved Hannah—the mother of the man who would anoint David as king—from the disgrace of childlessness (1 Samuel 1:1-20).
[It was a pattern that would continue for centuries to come. While saving David from Saul and his evil dynasty, God would work through David to save Israel from the Philistines and numerous other enemies—the Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites, the Moabites, various armies in the Negev, the forces of Zobah, and the Arameans (1 Samuel 17:1-51; 23:1-5; 27:8-11; 2 Samuel 3:18; 5:6-7,19-25; 8:1-6,14; 10:7-19; 21:15-22). After David’s time, God would save His people from the Egyptians, the Cushites, the Arameans no less than four times, a combined force of Moabites/Ammonites/Meunites, the Moabites a second time, and the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 12:7; 14:11-15; 1 Kings 20:13,19-21,28-30; 2 Chronicles 20:5-12,22-24; 2 Kings 3:16-26; 7:6-7; 13:5; 19:19,35-36). Yet God’s salvation wouldn’t just play out on a national scale. He would also save individuals who were commonly thought to be nobodies: a prostitute whose baby was about to be killed (1 Kings 3:16-28),3 a woman and her son who had virtually nothing to eat (1 Kings 17:7-16), a widow who was on the brink of losing her two sons to a merciless creditor (2 Kings 4:1-7).]
For David, the evidence was clear: saving helpless victims from adversity and from adversaries was God’s core business. It was a truth that the LORD Himself would one day thunder from the pulpit of heaven:
‘TURN TO ME AND BE SAVED, ALL YOU ENDS OF THE EARTH, FOR I AM GOD, AND THERE IS NO OTHER’ (Isaiah 45:22).
David’s safe Refuge
Yet, to David, God wasn’t just a Saviour in the classic sense—a fearless warrior who rescues defenceless souls from evil. God was his Saviour in a more personal way—a way that found expression in his prayers:
LORD my God, I take refuge in You (Psalm 7:1) … The LORD is my Rock, my Fortress … my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge, my Shield … my Stronghold (Psalm 18:2). … You are my Hiding Place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Psalm 32:7). … Be my Fortress against those who are attacking me (Psalm 59:1). … You have been my Refuge, a Strong Tower against the foe. I long to dwell in Your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of Your wings (Psalm 61:3-4).
David wasn’t being shielded from his enemies in a physical way; his fugitive lifestyle was a constant reminder of his human vulnerability. But as he drew near to God, he recognised that he was being shielded in a more profound way. He wasn’t alone; he would never be alone. He was hidden in the secure Sanctuary of God’s presence, which surrounded him and filled him. By voicing to God the eternal truths that were welling up from God’s Spirit within him—‘In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety’ (Psalm 4:8)—David was choosing to make his home in God rather than in his trouble. He knew God to be the ultimate reality, his permanent Safe Haven. Nothing else was as real; nothing his enemies could throw at him would separate him (Romans 8:35,38) from the One who was a Shield around him (Psalm 3:3; see also Psalm 18:2,30; 144:2). ‘In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?’ (Psalm 56:11; see also Luke 12:4)… Go to Part 2
- Given that Jacob specifically asked God to save him from his brother Esau after having taken his blessing from him by deception (Genesis 27:1-29), we are probably right to infer God’s involvement in Esau’s unexpectedly kind greeting.
- Whenever the Israelites worshipped the gods of the nations around them, God punished them by sending foreign raiders against them. Eventually, in the midst of their suffering, they would cry out to God for deliverance, and He would raise up a Spirit-empowered saviour (called a ‘judge’) to rescue them from their oppression (Judges 2:10-18). In all, God raised up twelve judges: Othniel (Judges 3:7-11), Ehud (Judges 3:12-30), Shamgar (Judges 3:31), Deborah (Judges 4-5), Gideon (Judges 6-7), Tola (Judges 10:1-2), Jair (Judges 10:3-5), Jephthah (Judges 10:6-12:7), Ibzan (Judges 12:8-10), Elon (Judges 12:11-12), Abdon (Judges 12:13-15), and Samson (Judges 13-16).
- On the surface, it was Solomon rather than God who saved the prostitute from losing her baby. Yet we must ascribe ultimate credit for this ruling to God, since He was the source of Solomon’s wisdom (1 Kings 3:12).